Don’t Stare into the Abyss: The Philosophy of the Void

abyssAbout fifteen years ago my friends and I discussed one of Nietzsche’s famous aphorisms in from Beyond Good and Evil:

He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.

This almost mystical utterance has kept me thinking for years—until recent. The solution came to me from reading a book about the boundaries of thinking by Dutch philosopher Jan Bor. He quoted Chinese Taoist philosopher Zhuangzi:

Leap into the boundless and make it your home!

Jan Bor also mentioned Dutch poet Lucebert who wrote:

… who falls into the abyss becomes an airman—free and floating.

It dawned to me that the only way to stop staring into the abyss is to jump into it. The staring seems to refer to trying to locate firm ground down in the dark depths of the chasm. This is what philosophy has been doing for most of the 2500 years it has been around as we know it. Many philosophers have attempted to find some solid foundation for knowledge. Descartes’ thought experiment in his Meditations is a great example of somebody jumping into the abyss, or as he put it, into deep water. This leap takes great philosophical courage and Descartes tries hard to: “either to plant [his] feet firmly on the bottom or sustain [himself] by swimming on the surface”. As I argued previously, I don’t think that Descartes has succeeded in planting his feet firmly on the bottom and should be content with simply floating in the water.

The solution to Nietzsche’s aphorism is to take the same leap of faith, just like Descartes did, but not to hitherto find firm ground, but to make the void your home, or in the words of Lucebert, become an airman—free and floating.

This comes close to the concept of the metaphysical hot air balloon I have theorised about some time ago. Jumping into the abyss and accepting there will be no firm ground removes the fear of falling to your death. The eternal free fall, a state of blissful weightlessness, will be the result of taking this leap into the abyss. The warning signs should be removed—be brave and practice some philosophical base-jumping!

3 thoughts on “Don’t Stare into the Abyss: The Philosophy of the Void

  1. re staring into the abyss…

    What you gotta do, is when the abyss starts staring back, you’ve got it’s attention. Now, quick, knee it in the nuts before it starts getting any ideas, and kick it again in the face before it catches its breath.

    This establishes right relationship between you and the abyss from the beginning, and prevents problems from developing later.

    Nietzsche was a momma’s boy and just didn’t GET the kind of stuff he was studying.

  2. Actually, what Nietzsche is talking about here is mankind’s tendency to become what he hates while he is busy fighting it.

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