• Arne
    815
    He had all the symptoms. His primary concern was on the existence of the individual. Anxiety, dread, authenticity. . . . He was a significant influence on Heidegger.
  • 0 thru 9
    1.5k
    This little parable is Buddhist in origin or is traditionally, but it feels very “existential” to me…

    Pema Chödrön, in her The Wisdom of No Escape: How to Love Yourself and Your World describes it as a story of a woman running away from tigers. She runs and runs and the tigers are getting closer and closer. When she comes to the edge of a cliff, she sees some vines there, so she climbs down and holds on to the vines. Looking down, she sees that there are tigers below her as well. She then notices that a mouse is gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries close to her, growing out of a clump of grass. She looks up and she looks down. She looks at the mouse. Then she just takes a strawberry, puts it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly.


    Was Buddhism possibly a kind of proto-existentialism in some general way? :chin:

    Beatniks love both, if that shows anything lol. Maybe jazz music is existential too? :cool: :ok:
  • Chet Hawkins
    268
    ↪Rob J Kennedy
    I think that it is problematic to try to describe oneself as being or not being an existentialist. Having read the ideas of some of the writings, such as Camus, Nietzsche and Sartre, I embrace some aspects of the philosophy, possibly the nature of existentialist anxiety, but I wouldn't go as far as to define myself as an existentialist, anymore than I embrace aspects of Buddhism but don't call myself a Buddhist.

    Labels of philosophical thinking are useful for navigating ideas but not in a boxed way. I am often left perplexed by equal opportunities parts of forms, asking about religion. I often end up ticking the 'other' box and thinking that an essay would be more appropriate. It may be that the spirit of existentialism is opposed to boxes and labels, in the pursuit of freedom itself.
    Jack Cummins
    Hear! Here!

    Their! There!

    And everywhere in between!
  • Corvus
    3k
    He's been called the Grandfather of existentialism. He drew attention away from grand project building (like Hegel) to the experience of being alive: to that 'quality of being that comes to rest in the sanctuary of the form.'frank

    He had all the symptoms. His primary concern was on the existence of the individual. Anxiety, dread, authenticity. . . . He was a significant influence on Heidegger.Arne

    K. seem to have had close connection to Christianity and God in many of his writings. How does his concept of God fit into existentialism?
  • Paine
    2.1k

    His view of the condition of truth being found outside of what 'belonged' to oneself was brought together with needing to make decisions that shaped what life will be. Our ability is directly involved with those choices.
  • Chet Hawkins
    268
    Yet it seems to me that Heidegger, Sartre, and Nietzsche are saying that existence is our essence, i.e., being-in-the-world is our essence, freedom is our essence, will to power is our essence.
    — Arne
    I've always thought existence – how one actively exists – creates (one's) essence – becomes who one is. They (usually) reject the notion of "our essence" which is why (most) "existentialists" also deny the (non-subjective) designation. In any case, "being-in-the-world", "freedom" and "will-to-power" do not seem to me, according to primary sources, either synonymous with each other or equivalent to "existence".
    180 Proof
    I mean, what is the difference to you? I am not specifically ... after ... you, on that point, more curious. But the thing is, can just being be wrong?

    I think that the final answer there is no, which to me confuses subjectivists and often has them say, well then you are a subjectivist. Nope.

    Being in the world, being here, alive, involves will to power. It also involves freedom. Now, the thing is, each of those is on a scale.

    Even being in the world, physically present, can be a tragic thing, because you can be a corpse. If you then say, that is not you, then you lose. Because that is what being-in-the-world must mean right? Alive? Or does it? With my model all particles are alive. That means the corpse IS alive in its own way. Even the atoms are choosing. Their moral agency is super low though. The extreme moral agent, the human identity is dead.

    But then you could say, ok well that's on/off. The other two differ in that freedom is a scale. Will-to-power is a scale. And let's say then RELATIVE to others you are either an exemplar and 'winning' or you are failing. So, again, a scale.

    For the most part though, in my model and belief, the latter two are mostly involving desire, a single emotion. Being in essence in the world in my model is anger, which is responsible for mass itself.

    And then thought has no connection to the world, without both the body and the will-to-power intact. So fear (thought) requires desire and anger.

    ---

    So, to me, there is no particle in the entire metaverse that does not partake of this same math, this same model, choice. Free will and choice are the only essence in existence. We make far too much of some things. But it is true that evolution drives the formation, the integration, of entities with more and more moral agency.

    That moral agency though is an absolute value +- the effect number. It means the great moral possibility ONLY comes with the risk of equal evil.
  • Arne
    815
    K. seem to have had close connection to Christianity and God in many of his writings. How does his concept of God fit into existentialism?Corvus

    Though Kierkegaard was the first existential philosopher I read seriously, it has been many years But I will do the best I can from memory.

    For Kierkegaard, an existentialist scorn for philosophical system building is accompanied by an existentialist scorn for theological system building. (including and maybe especially the hierarchically organized Christian religion throughout Europe.).

    And just as philosophy should focus upon how to live an authentic life, so too should Christian theology focus upon how to live an authentic Christian life. He considered as absurd the philosophical and theological attempts to prove/disprove the existence/nonexistence of God. Instead, the commitment to live an authentic Christian life must be rooted in a "leap of faith." And so one who lives an authentic Christian life is the Knight of Faith.

    I hope that helps.
  • Arne
    815
    Even being in the world, physically present, can be a tragic thing, because you can be a corpse. If you then say, that is not you, then you lose. Because that is what being-in-the-world must mean right? Alive? Or does it? With my model all particles are alive.Chet Hawkins

    For Heidegger, a corpse cannot be "in" the world. The only entity that can be "in" the world is Dasein. Any entity not having the characteristics of Dasein (such as a corpse) are "within" the world that Dasein is "in".
  • Arne
    815
    So, to me, there is no particle in the entire metaverse that does not partake of this same math, this same model, choice. Free will and choice are the only essence in existence. We make far too much of some things. But it is true that evolution drives the formation, the integration, of entities with more and more moral agency.

    That moral agency though is an absolute value +- the effect number. It means the great moral possibility ONLY comes with the risk of equal evil.
    Chet Hawkins

    Nietzsche might be a good fit. And I recommend reading his books in the order in which they were published. There is a consistency in the development of his thought from the first book to the last.
  • Chet Hawkins
    268
    For Heidegger, a corpse cannot be "in" the world. The only entity that can be "in" the world is Dasein. Any entity not having the characteristics of Dasein (such as a corpse) are "within" the world that Dasein is "in".Arne
    The undead then, a being, yet sans the curriculum vitae! En soi! La mort c'est tout!

    But most philosophers use that word, Dasein, in a selfish way to show humans as some sort of unique entity. I claim they/we are only a natural and inevitable progression of essence from the beginning of time and natural law. And further the specific form and general state of humanity hovers around an absolute value based on the fractal ramifications of evolution, arbitrary, despite all delusions to the contrary. Some fellow with a razor might shave away the silliness, the conceit. The simplest explanation is that there is nothing special going on here.

    That Enneatype 4 delusion, the need to be special is, after all, an immoral aim. You belong, we all belong, and cannot be made to un-belong; despite over-expressed desire, denying the actual essence, the anger infusion, as desire recoils from its own reflection when it sees improperly, ... unworthiness.

    Now, step back son, yah bother me! You pays yer money! You takes your chances!
  • Chet Hawkins
    268
    Nietzsche might be a good fit. And I recommend reading his books in the order in which they were published. There is a consistency in the development of his thought from the first book to the last.Arne
    Sadly, and apparently it is not evident that I have read quite a bit of it. And gleaned much over the years when I was forced to look up his own words rather than accept others' interpretations. Thankfully, that process left me convinced I was not as deluded as some suspect. But you know, I've always had a penchant for maladroit grandiosity.

    It may be time to take on the polluted rivers again!
  • Corvus
    3k
    His view of the condition of truth being found outside of what 'belonged' to oneself was brought together with needing to make decisions that shaped what life will be. Our ability is directly involved with those choices.Paine

    He considered as absurd the philosophical and theological attempts to prove/disprove the existence/nonexistence of God. Instead, the commitment to live an authentic Christian life must be rooted in a "leap of faith." And so one who lives an authentic Christian life is the Knight of Faith.Arne

    Great points. Thanks for your replies. :cool: :up:
  • Patterner
    599
    I've never read anything about existentialism, but I agree with both of these.

    One definition said: "The existentialists argued that our purpose and meaning in life came not from external forces such as God, government or teachers, but instead is entirely determined by ourselves."BC
    The definition that I am working off of is this:

    a philosophical theory or approach which emphasizes the existence of the individual person as a free and responsible agent determining their own development through acts of the will.
    Chet Hawkins
  • frank
    14.6k
    :up: It overlaps with positive nihilism.
  • Patterner
    599

    Thanks. I'm sightly familiar with nihilism. Not enough to have ever heard of positive nihilism.
  • ENOAH
    512
    Of what value is a philosophical idea if it does not change lives?jgill

    As it is for just sitting, in Soto Zen, the reward is in the doing.
  • ENOAH
    512
    Has any existentialist ever existed?Corvus

    The question has a second, and more apt meaning if the emphasis on "existed" is interpreted, not as "were there any (existentialists)" but rather, did any who wrote "existentialism" do existentialism? Did any make the final movement which they themselves called for: I e., the leap, the becoming authentic, and so on?
  • frank
    14.6k
    Thanks. I'm sightly familiar with nihilism. Not enough to have ever heard of positive nihilism.Patterner

    Nihilism starts when people stop grasping for distractions that keep them from facing the fact that "All is vanity.". All that stuff that keeps people struggling and fretting doesn't really mean anything.

    From there, you can be happy about it because your heart has been unburdened, or you can be sad because... your heart has been unburdened.

    Nihilist discussion groups spend a lot of time talking about both ends of it. Existentialism comes up for obvious reasons.
  • Patterner
    599

    Perhaps I'm not slightly familiar with nihilism. I thought it meant I am the only thing that exists. But I don't want to derail the thread.
  • jgill
    3.6k
    As it is for just sitting, in Soto Zen, the reward is in the doing.ENOAH

    The meditator strives to be aware of the stream of thoughts, allowing them to arise and pass away without interference.
    (Wiki)

    Without interference, perhaps, but philosophical thoughts are posted here on the Forum before they pass.
  • fdrake
    5.9k
    How does his concept of God fit into existentialism?Corvus

    Where Kierkegaard intersects with existentialist themes is about man's relationship to God rather than about God. I feel the need to write, when talking about this, when K. writes man he definitely means men rather unfortunately.

    Here's an inaccurate summary based off of reading Fear and Trembling many years ago and Sickness Unto Death in January.

    You realise you've very small compared to God and depend upon Him for your salvation from the finitude you're condemned to. You are only welcomed into Heaven through the sustained affirmation of God in your life. Your choice to love God above all else must occur indifferently to reason, as a judgement to love God for a reason debases Him and your soul by confining them to the wretched vicissitudes of our concerns. If instead you embrace God, you don't confine yourself or the world into those horrible and false auspices of perspective.

    Each of those sentences can be secularised if you feel like buggering poor K.

    You're finite, and thrown into a world. You'll only find this world welcoming if you somehow affirm what is sacred in it as its highest value. You need to do this as an expression of your "essence" - your soul, which is also kinda sorta just saying that you are - you "exist" - as you were made. And you can come up with all kinds of copium for whatever.

    Finitude. affirmation, essence=existence, authenticity and inauthenticity, absurd paradoxes in the heart of everything... the infinity of God, how very unreasonable that appears, and how nevertheless you must believe are the OG existentialist themes. Though Big K is a Trope Maker rather than Trope Codifier.

    I don't think anyone in thread is claiming otherwise, but I need to say: it's also quite reductive to unify the existentialists as anything but a bunch of people who talk a lot about the fundamental aspects of being human from a humanised perspective. Kind of similar to saying that postmodernist philosophers all say the same thing.
  • ENOAH
    512
    Without interference, perhaps, but philosophical thoughts are posted here on the Forum before they pass.jgill

    I was carelessly using Soto as an analogy. I.e., like for Soto, the reward in Zazen is not in the purported goal of Satori, but rather, in the sitting itself. The sitting is Enlightenment.

    Thus your point too, might be addressed as follows.

    If you are after "mindfullness" whatever that is, let the [philosophical] thoughts [posted here, or otherwis] just pass without interference.

    If, on the otherhand, philosophy is what you're after, do philosophy (which necessarily requires "interference"), not with a goal in mind, but simply for the sake of doing philosophy. As suggested below:

    "If God were to hold all Truth concealed in his right hand, and in his left only the steady and diligent drive for Truth, albeit with the proviso that I would always and forever err in the process, and to offer me the choice, I would with all humility take the left hand."
    Gotthold Lessing
  • jgill
    3.6k
    It captured and reinforced the liberation experienced by many people as WW2 ended.Ludwig V

    Indeed, I came upon it a bit later, in the late 1950s, and it became popular among young, adventurous men - particularly from California - looking for a path forward that was new and exciting. I suspect its popularity dwindled during the Korean and Vietnam wars when one's path to an exciting and adventurous life either threaded for many through dense jungles or for others freezing cold and was not a freely chosen one.

    The Golden age of climbing is now seen by many as the mid 1950s and early 1960s, especially regarding Hillary's conquest of Everest and similarly impressive feats in Yosemite Valley. I got caught up in that adventurous period and, like others, discovered existentialism - an approach to life that correlated well with climbing. But, its popularity dwindled, I suspect, during the decades that followed, especially the Vietnam conflict. I really don't know. It worked for me all the rest of my life.

    Though it is true that the world that I am part of and which makes me what I am is a not a matter of choice, but of chance, in a senseLudwig V

    That's the obvious bug in the ointment, of course. I can only reflect on my own upbringing. As an only child of an roaming academic, I felt a sense of individual responsibility that allowed me to expand my thinking beyond traditional bounds. And when I chose to become a climber through a fluke during my junior year in high school in Georgia, my parents were shocked, but composed. However, when I joined a fellow young climber from Atlanta and we drove to Colorado in the summer of 1954, my father later revealed to me he bought burial insurance for his son.

    On the other hand, a friend roughly my age grew up in difficult circumstances, with an absentee and violent father, and he also chose the existentialist path. And another, coming from very humble circumstances, also without a father, may have considered himself an existentialist, but I don't recall talking about the subject. The first of these became known as the most revered climber of that era and in later life created a prominent clothing company. The second became a billionaire.

    The complete last sentence of Hazel Barnes' quotation is "Existentialists values intensify consciousness, arouse the passions, and commit the individual to a cause of action that will engage their total energies." A promise of relief from the real pains of anxiety in a meaningless world and also a promise of trouble and fear. But perhaps that's just meLudwig V

    Barnes seems to view existentialism in a extreme form. It provides a focus - or more than one - and a feeling of the power of an individual to control much in his life. Not all of it by any means. How much of this feeling of control exists before the acceptance of this philosophy varies.

    Finally, looking back at the first sentence in Hazel Barnes' quotation - "The function of Existentialists values is to liberate humankind from craven fear, petty anxiety and apathy or tedium." - I notice the powerful rhetoric that she chooses to attach to "humankind", "fear" and "anxiety". This is not existentialist cool at all, is it?Ludwig V

    All I can say is that her comments seem bizarre and don't fit those who I knew who considered themselves existentialists.
  • Chet Hawkins
    268
    I've never read anything about existentialism, but I agree with both of these.

    One definition said: "The existentialists argued that our purpose and meaning in life came not from external forces such as God, government or teachers, but instead is entirely determined by ourselves."
    — BC
    The definition that I am working off of is this:

    a philosophical theory or approach which emphasizes the existence of the individual person as a free and responsible agent determining their own development through acts of the will.
    — Chet Hawkins
    Patterner
    Well, My own perspective agrees that 'God' is a weird way to think of things. But 'Truth', 'Love', and 'All' work just fine for the same thing without the casting a deity in your own image or culture's wishes thing.

    Morality to me, is all that there is in the universe and Nihilism, positive or not, is immoral. Meaning is all there is here, including instantiated meaning, e.g. choosers, like humanity. That IS what being-in-essence means, the ability to choose. But since to me the entire universe, every particle is possessed of this being-in-essence, it strikes me as a term, like so many, that adds more confusion than it clears up.

    You can decide to get all wonky about locus of choice. That is what most Nihilists and ... maybe you ... or BC seem to be doing to me, with comments about what God, teachers, and government cant or should not or <whatever> verb you use - do.

    The ONLY key point is ... is morality objective as a law of the universe. To me the answer is obviously yes because nothing could connect or stay together or act in any meaningful way without that truth in place. So, demanding that YOU are the only one who can deliver a should to you, is colossally missing the point. This is multiplied in impact when it is also realized that objectively, we are all part of 'All' and cannot be separated in any way from 'All'. To me that underscores a relationship with all of reality wherein and whereby effectively 'You ARE me and I AM you'. And that erases the dubious and entirely immorally selfish perspective of 'only I can decide blah blah' or if you like empowers it. But that means it empowers EVERYTHING, every atom, every teacher, every government, me, you, and the kitchen sink as not an 'external' source of impact on you, but an intimate connected part of you, demanding you get real and stay moral for the genuine happiness of 'All'.
  • frank
    14.6k
    It captured and reinforced the liberation experienced by many people as WW2 ended.Ludwig V

    Part of that was the Nuremberg trials in which Nazi soldiers were asked to explain their actions. According to folklore, they said they were soldiers, and they were doing as they were told. The basis for rejecting this answer from the Nazis is that it puts all the blame on the role these men were playing, as if they were nothing but the role.

    Existentialism starts with a separation between the role you're playing and some other amorphous thing: call it Being, spirit, etc. The point is that you have a choice regarding the role you invest yourself in. You're something beyond any particular role. So the Nazi soldiers could have divested the role of soldier and become something else. It's from an existentialist standpoint that we reject racism, sexism, eugenics, religious intolerance, etc. We start morality from a focus on the subject.

    Those who reject subjectivism are saddled with a foundation that welcomes racism, whether they realize that or not.
  • Arne
    815
    But most philosophers use that word, Dasein, in a selfish way to show humans as some sort of unique entity. I claim they/we are only a natural and inevitable progression of essence from the beginning of time and natural law.Chet Hawkins

    I agree. People act as if Heidegger is handing out awards to entities having the characteristics of Dasein. Perhaps the check is in the mail.

    But that a pre-ontological being is in a unique position when it comes to describing its own ontological structure strikes me as a no brainer.
  • Ludwig V
    945
    Existentialism starts with a separation between the role you're playing and some other amorphous thing: call it Being, spirit, etc. The point is that you have a choice regarding the role you invest yourself in.frank
    Yes. It's an important idea, at least in Sartre. This is where the tricky ideas of bad faith and authenticity come in. (I don't know the others well enough to be sure how they deal with this. I'm sure you are aware of the difficulties about these ideas. I would have included it in my post, but, to be honest, I felt it was long enough already and I was a bit short of time.

    Part of that was the Nuremberg trials in which Nazi soldiers were asked to explain their actions. According to folklore, they said they were soldiers, and they were doing as they were told.frank
    There's much I don't know about Nuremberg, but they did choose to concentrate on the highest officials. I don't know whether they just didn't bother with the rank and file, or felt it would have been unfair to regard them as being as much responsible for what went on as the those in command. I do know that Eichmann tried this defence when he was tried in Israel and it was rightly rejected.

    I agree that the distinction between the role I'm playing and who I am is very important here. But I don't think it was specifically based on existentialism, though it's more than likely that Hannah Arendt would have discussed it in her writing on Eichmann's trial.
  • Chet Hawkins
    268
    I agree. But Heidegger's concern is to describe the only entity that any of us really can describe from the inside, ourselves. If it turned out that some other species had the characteristics of Dasein, Heidegger would probably find it interesting but it would make no difference to his philosophy as set out in Being and Time. If some unknown species anywhere in the universe had the characteristics of Dasein, then they would be "in" the world.Arne
    I mean ... it's confusing that you say this. You say you agree and then disagree.

    The entire freaking point is that we are not that special and accepting that we both are and are not at the same time, is the right moral choice, in other words, a wise balance.

    To admit to this false exceptionalism is to fall prey to a basic form of self-indulgence, pride, and thereby fail.

    Again, ALL other species do have the seed of this thing, and only that truth led by pains imaginable, to us. {I detest when people say 'beyond your imagination', because almost nothing is}.

    We are ourselves only the seeds of hopefully better selves. But it does give one pause. Perhaps the Fermi paradox represents the universal failing AT THIS STAGE of moral aims. Rare indeed must be the species that transcends that hurdle. Desire is overwhelming us all. Religion was an insufficient opiate. Now we have cut out the middleman. Gummies and porn are far more effective. And the new monarchy of inherited Old Money is putting the fate of the human world into less and less capable inheritors who grew up on the teat of excess and privilege. It's not looking very Dasein up in here. This is the age of the Orc!, The Formorian!

    It is telling indeed that you say 'within' which is the clarion call of desire, chaos, self-indulgence. Wisdom counsels instead that without IS within. Wisdom is about balance. And there is no balance between good and evil. That has always been another self-indulgent delusion tempting us to be cowardly, lazy, and self-indulgent by turns. The real balance is between order and chaos and the good is only achieved by maximum effort allowing both to soar while remaining balanced.

    That is why the more careful redefinition of Existentialism is needed. In fact, the old waves of philosophy of course hinted at some truths, but we MUST do BETTER. Grow or die!
  • Ludwig V
    945
    Indeed, I came upon it a bit later, in the late 1950s, and it became popular among young, adventurous men - particularly from California - looking for a path forward that was new and exciting.jgill

    Yes, a new and exciting path forward was very much the theme at the time. I was aware of it in the late fifties and early sixties. Without realizing it at the time, my existential choice was made in the late sixties when I abandoned a conventional career I had started in favour of philosophy. It was a quite revolutionary step in my life, but was not consciously based on existentialism. I jjust hated the social environment I was working in. I didn't look seriously at existentialism until some ten years later when I found myself teaching Being and Nothingness to undergraduates. That was quite an eye-opener for me, and it has remained influential even though I never signed up, as it were. The intellectual influences in the late sixties were indeed different; that's a complicated question.
  • Arne
    815
    I agree. But Heidegger's concern is to describe the only entity that any of us really can describe from the inside, ourselves. If it turned out that some other species had the characteristics of Dasein, Heidegger would probably find it interesting but it would make no difference to his philosophy as set out in Being and Time. If some unknown species anywhere in the universe had the characteristics of Dasein, then they would be "in" the world.
    — Arne

    I mean ... it's confusing that you say this. You say you agree and then disagree.
    Chet Hawkins

    I agree with you that some philosophers suggest Heidegger is using Dasein as a way to give some sort of normative status to humans and I disagree with those philosophers.

    Heidegger is not making normative claims. A bird is in the unique position of being a bird. A fish is in the unique position of being a fish. A human being is in the unique position of being a human. And it is from that position that he is describing being a human.

    Heidegger is unable to describe being a bird or being a fish in the same way that he is able describe being a human, i.e., from the inside. Heidegger is not handing out any awards. Being-in-the-world is not a privileged status. It is a fundamental state of being for that being whose mode of being is existence. It comes with no rewards.
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