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Visiting European doctoral students help lead Nietzsche/nihilism panel

Salt Lake Community College was host March 27 to the discussion titled, “The Moral Challenges of Nietzsche’s Nihilism,” presented by the College’s International Philosophical Conference Project.

The late German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche is commonly thought to have written the most about nihilism, which for Nietzsche most often was applied to ideas of meaning, purpose, truth and value – or lack of one or more those – in life.

To help tackle such a heady topic, the College brought in doctoral students Michiel Meijer from the University of Antwerp in Belgium and Hedwig Gaasterland from Leiden University in The Netherlands. Meijer sought to answer the question, “How to go beyond nihilism?” Gaasterland spoke on “The fatality of nihilism.” SLCC alum Betty Stoneman brought the perspective she called “Slave morality and the uberfrau.”

The main discussion revolved around what Gaasterland described as “Truth” with a capital T.

“I found it remarkable that students in Salt Lake City are so interested in that topic – it is, indeed, a most important question to what extent we can still achieve some truth in this post-Kantian, post-modern age,” Gaasterland said after the event. “Surprisingly, the students seemed to think we can, especially through science. Although I do not think we can actually achieve ‘Truth,’ neither philosophically nor scientifically, the discussions did stimulate me to further sharpen my thoughts on that topic.”

Meijer was also surprised by the quantity, level and variety of engagement from students.

“The strong attachment to the truths of science came unexpected for me too,” Meijer said. “Since SLCC is an arts college, I had expected students to be more open and pluralistic, and more well-disposed toward the rejection of the notion of absolute truth. … It made me rethink my analysis of how far nihilism has entered modern culture.”

The Philosophical Conference Project at SLCC is described as “an ever evolving platform created for the purpose of exploring philosophical ideas.” Any and all college students from around the world are encouraged to participate in the ongoing project. For more information about the Philosophical Conference Project, visit

Prior to this latest conference, Meijer and Gaasterland took a tour of the Center for Arts and Media with Richard Scott, interim dean for the School of Arts, Communication and New Media, and SLCC associate philosophy professor Dr. Alexander Izrailevsky.

“I found the atmosphere in the college stimulating – there was a positive and enthusiastic vibe all the time we were there,” Gaasterland said. “Moreover, I was impressed by the high standard of all the technical possibilities in the Center for Arts and Media, especially the recording room, in which the acoustics can be adjusted, I found fascinating.”

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