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Nihilism, Modernism, and Value



Back in the fall of 1990, I gave the four annual Alexander Lectures at the University of Toronto, by invitation of University College, on a topic of my own devising.

They seemed to be reasonably well received, but they weren’t publishable as they stood, and the death of my wife, the artist Carol Hoorn Fraser, soon gave me more important matters to attend to, some of which can be gathered from the other side of this site, which can be reached through the top-left logo.

Recently I went back to them, and one thing led to another, and here is the result, courtesy of my nice new Apple iBook, which feels a bit like Borges’ Aleph, the place where all places exist simultaneously.


I have kept the lecture form, clarified the argument in places, broken up paragraphs in the interests of readability, added a few more examples, dropped one lecture (the third) that didn’t satisfy me, eliminated some irrelevancies, and, well, done what I could to ensure greater readability.

I have also provided a bibliography of works referred to in the text, with an indication after each item of which pages in the sources the quotations came from. Numbered footnotes are a nuisance to do, and putting citation numbers after quotations has always seemed awkward to me. Besides, this isn’t an academic performance.


I haven’t tried to catch up on my secondary reading during this rewriting, not wishing to get tangled up in agreements and disagreements. So I haven’t gone yet to promising-sounding books like Karen Carr’s The Banalization of Nihilism (1992), Eugene Rose’s Nihilism (1994), and Alan Pratt’s The Dark Side; Thoughts on the Futility of Life (1994).

But at least I have read all the works that I refer to.


Nihilism, Modernism, and Value is for Michael Kirkham, Bill Keith, and Tom Adamowski.

Halifax, Nova Scotia
June 2001


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Preface Nihilism Peaks Together Bibliography