Friday, August 29, 2014

Why Woody Allen is not a nihilist even though he thinks he is

Fr. Robert Barron on recent comments by Woody Allen:
I was chagrined, but not entirely surprised, when I read Woody Allen’s recent ruminations on ultimate things. To state it bluntly, Woody could not be any bleaker in regard to the issue of meaning in the universe. We live, he said, in a godless and purposeless world. The earth came into existence through mere chance and one day it, along with every work of art and cultural accomplishment, will be incinerated. The universe as a whole will expand and cool until there is nothing left but the void. Every hundred years or so, he continued, a coterie of human beings will be “flushed away” and another will replace it until it is similarly eliminated. So why does he bother making films—roughly one every year? Well, he explained, in order to distract us from the awful truth about the meaninglessness of everything, we need diversions, and this is the service that artists provide. In some ways, low level entertainers are probably more socially useful than high-brow artistes, since the former manage to distract more people than the latter. After delivering himself of this sunny appraisal, he quipped, “I hope everyone has a nice afternoon!”
Fr. Barron then goes on to argue that the mere fact of Allen's aesthetic sense is a sign that he can't believe in his own nihilism, since beauty assumes the transcendent. The same goes, he says, for morality--morality too, positing, as it does, an ought--necessarily implies an order outside the physical. Barron could have added that truth itself implies a transcendent order, since truth is itself a metaphysical concept.

In fact, anyone who claims that nihilism is true is denying his own assertion, since any meaningful statement implies a metaphysical order. In George Steiner's words, any meaningful statement is a "wager on transcendence."

Read more here.

1 comment:

KyCobb said...

IMHO, you have meaningfulness reversed. If everything is eternal, ultimately nothing you do matters at all. Anything you do will simply fade into utter insignificance as eternity carries on interminably. For you to matter, for your actions to really count for something, there has to be a limit to your days so you can actually make a difference. And why would anyone worry about whether there is someone around to care about what you did a million or a billion years from now? All that really matters is what positive difference you can make in the lives of the people you know today.