• schopenhauer1
    6.2k
    So with the coronavirus severely affecting all of civilization around the world pretty much, this gets into some interesting issues around meaning and such. Specifically, it may point to a sort of intuitive truth about the correctness of pessimism. Here are several conclusions perhaps people might come to:

    1) With pandemics becoming very real for people, maybe they will see that life entails much suffering. This may make people think twice about putting another person into the world who will also very likely face suffering. The widespread nature of a virus was not something most people (outside of scientific communities, CDC, and the like) thought about much nor expecting to deal with on such a deep scale. Now people are looking at mass issues of mortality and suffering on a social scale. What does that say that we are always faced with sufferings and death, to put another person through this very real possibility? What does that say about the indifference of the universe to human dignity, ingenuity, and desires?

    2) Perhaps the social isolation will provide the absurdity people were perhaps overlooking of human life. Those stuck with their family members, may start to resent having to be with them.. Yet that is the full consequence of having a family to its logical extent, yet it is something most people resent. The absurdity of seeing the same people over and over, and never getting away. Then there is the isolated single person who can't visit friends, form romantic relationships, and the like except through the weaker means of an electronic medium. These people may just see the daily routines played out over and over.. What is the point of it? It becomes absurd.

    3) Utilitarian calculations of economic collapse and the risk of losing more lives to the virus makes humans seem like absurd paws or data points in a larger, meaningless system of repetition. Round and round the economic wheels churn, but for who and why? Wealth creation? Economic survival of the individual? Survival of the state? The species? Why does this circular economic flow of activity need to be perpetuated at all? It is just more repetition that stems from our individual repetitive functions of needing to deal with survival, comfort, and entertainment. In other words, you are here to keep the company going, to keep you paid, which means you buy stuff that makes money for other companies that employs individuals, and on and on it goes....circular flows of economic activities churning and churning in circles, creating more people, creating the illusions that there is something more to work for.

    Perhaps people will generally see the human project as not as fantastic as they thought. Perhaps it is an absurd repetition of behaviors to keep oneself surviving, comfortable, and entertained. But the unique circumstances of isolation and social distancing, may give people more time to ponder and think about this understanding. Perhaps humanity will willingly work together to end the pointless repetition and suffering for future generations.
  • Teller
    26
    Herr Schopenhauer- your well thought out post is a masterpiece. Well done.
    I would, if I may, take a small issue with your thoughts in Section 1. If I understand you correctly, you are questioning the ethics of procreation in this time of uncertainty, fear, illness and death. I would say it may be wise to stop and take time to reflect on the nature of Nature.
    Human beings in their wisdom or lack of it, have given us the present world. Humans will have to deal with it. I would like to think that you might not want ALL Nature to cease replicating just because of questionable human behaviour.
    This may be a good time for us to reflect on the fact that we are as much a part of Nature as anything in our existence. It might be a good time to keep this in mind.
  • jjAmEs
    184
    creating more people, creating the illusions that there is something more to work for.schopenhauer1

    I relate to your grim vision. But creating more people is creating genuine work. People love their children. They will work for and even die for their children. It's a grand system of cub-petting. Petting cubs justifies life and necessitates the justification of life as that same time. I'm joking but serious. The grim old sages saw all of this long ago. It's a snake swallowing its own tail, with no external justification.

    It is aesthetically justified or aesthetically rejected. A few of us resist the urge to breed, but we are the exceptions. And we miss out on the basic justification of existence perhaps, cub-petting. The father sends forth his son like an arrow from the grave. The life of the child is the death of the parent and the purpose of the parent. The rest is vanity, entertainment, sex tourism. I'm 50% joking, but only 50%. Not that it matters or will put a dent in the circle of life. People will keep breeding. I assure you. And even the poor, the least secure, will keep breeding.

    Do you know this author? He treats the declining birth rate in sophisticated nations. Many of us want to remain children rather than have them. I chose this path. This is the narcissistic path.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michel_Houellebecq

    Here's something relevant too, I think.

    The proletarii constituted a social class of Roman citizens owning little or no property. The origin of the name is presumably linked with the census, which Roman authorities conducted every five years to produce a register of citizens and their property from which their military duties and voting privileges could be determined. For citizens with property valued 11,000 assēs or less, which was below the lowest census for military service, their children—proles (from Latin prōlēs, "offspring")—were listed instead of their property; hence, the name proletarius, "the one who produces offspring". The only contribution of a proletarius to the Roman society was seen in his ability to raise children, the future Roman citizens who can colonize new territories conquered by the Roman Republic and later by the Roman Empire. The citizens who had no property of significance were called capite censi because they were "persons registered not as to their property...but simply as to their existence as living individuals, primarily as heads (caput) of a family."[2][note 1]

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proletariat
  • schopenhauer1
    6.2k
    Herr Schopenhauer- your well thought out post is a masterpiece. Well done.Teller

    Thank you kind sir!

    I would, if I may, take a small issue with your thoughts in Section 1. If I understand you correctly, you are questioning the ethics of procreation in this time of uncertainty, fear, illness and death. I would say it may be wise to stop and take time to reflect on the nature of Nature.
    Human beings in their wisdom or lack of it, have given us the present world. Humans will have to deal with it. I would like to think that you might not want ALL Nature to cease replicating just because of questionable human behaviour.
    This may be a good time for us to reflect on the fact that we are as much a part of Nature as anything in our existence. It might be a good time to keep this in mind.
    Teller

    So this may not surprise you, but I question the ethics of procreation at any time. I consider my views as antinatalist- that is to say, I think that having children is not a good idea due to reasons of suffering for the future generation. I just think that in this time in particular, this would be an impetus for others to also start holding this view, especially due to the more apparent suffering that one can currently see on a mass societal level.

    We are a part of nature, true. But we are not bound to replicate more people into its indifference. And precisely because of our nature in Nature, we cannot but repetitively and absurdly survive, maintain our comfort, and try to entertain ourselves. These three seemingly innocuous things lead to the striving, internalized strife that Schopenhauer discusses at length. He doesn't split it so distinctly in those nice three categories (that's my bit), but I think those cover the major forces behind most of our willful (and subconscious) needs and wants. Even religion and finding meaning falls under "entertainment" here. These survival/comfort/entertainment pursuits create the epiphenomenal organizations of societal institutions which we then become ensnared in to keep our personal pursuits of survival, comfort, and entertainment continuously going. Thus we become enmeshed in keeping this gargantuan meaningless system that uses its participants from its epiphenomenal need to maintain its power, control, and legitimacy, in order for people to pursue the basic human conditions of survival, comfort, and entertainment.
  • schopenhauer1
    6.2k
    People will keep breeding. I assure you. And even the poor, the least secure, will keep breeding.jjAmEs

    This seems to be true. The justifications for why don't seem to be reflected on much. Ones own vain pursuit of some goal. The next generation somehow has to be created, but why? It's all the same absurd repetition and there is a lot of suffering outside just internal wills that are not satisfied. Things like pandemics, for example. But the number and ways is seemingly endless.

    Do you know this author? He treats the declining birth rate in sophisticated nations. Many of us want to remain children rather than have them. I chose this path. This is the narcissistic path.jjAmEs

    Yes I have heard of him, but never actually read any of his books. Can you explain the part of narcissism? That doesn't make sense to me at all. The view that being a parent makes you an X type of person (put any description there), seems like a way to perpetuate the whole scheme of having more children in the first place. And wouldn't that be narcissistic to prove you are X type of person by procreating a whole new life?

    Why keep the scheme going? Why keep the absurd repetition going to yet another life? I mean, we get the picture.. survival, comfort, entertainment, repeat. But doe we HAVE to keep repeating!
  • jjAmEs
    184
    The view that being a parent makes you an X type of person (put any description there), seems like a way to perpetuate the whole scheme of having more children in the first place.schopenhauer1

    All I intended was a rough generalization. I was thinking of others like myself, married but childless. I have more time for books, music, hobbies. I'm not old but I'm no longer young. To age without children has a certain flavor. I've always seen myself as a writer type, but I've dodged a fundamental human experience. Some of my peers have children. Others committed suicide directly or through heroin.

    Houellebecq is fascinated by the sexual revolution and its consequences. These days some of us avoid the responsibility of raising children and do what we can to remain attractive and adventurously sexual into our 40s and beyond. (I'm not so adventurous these days, mostly because sex creates so much embarrassment. I'm too proud for the machinations, and it fouls up the peaceful vibe of monogamy. Too bad the holodeck isn't real yet.) Neotony is stretched to its limits. Instead of having children, one remains as childlike as possible in the positive sense. One is one's own child. One lives for one's own accomplishments and reputation rather than vicariously through the success of the child. In that sense, parents are no less narcissistic. Indeed, 'doing it for the children' is nice justification of household selfishness. Kids play a huge role in justificatory rhetoric, as I'm sure you know.
  • jjAmEs
    184
    A recurrent theme in Houellebecq's novels is the intrusion of free-market economics into human relationships and sexuality. The original French title of Whatever, Extension du domaine de la lutte (literally "broadening of the field of struggle"), alludes to economic competition extending into the search for relationships. As the book says, a free market has absolute winners and absolute losers, and the same applies to relationships in a society that does not value monogamy but rather exhorts people to seek the happiness that always eludes them through the path of sexual consumerism, in pursuit of narcissistic satisfaction. — link
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michel_Houellebecq

    I read his Platform first, which involves sex tourism and starts something like Camus' The Stranger.

    His sci-fi The Possibility of an Island touches on something worth discussing, namely immortality. Some thinkers have tried to justify the trauma of human existence in terms of the coming attainment of immortality or utopia through technology. The old-fashioned version of this is just Heaven, but intellectuals secularized it. To me this is the gist of Hegel and the gang. Christianity is transformed into a secular religion of earthly progress. It's already in Bacon's last utopian work and Descartes' 'lords and masters of nature.' History is a nightmare from which we shall awake, one way or another --to utopia or a blessed extinction. John Gray writes some devastating lines on the still dominant religion of progress. Somehow or another we'll become The Federation. That's the secular dream. It justifies earthly suffering as a necessary prologue. All our errors are half-truths that accumulate to the genuine truth at/as the end of history.
  • jjAmEs
    184
    Even religion and finding meaning falls under "entertainment" here. These survival/comfort/entertainment pursuits create the epiphenomenal organizations of societal institutions which we then become ensnared in to keep our personal pursuits of survival, comfort, and entertainment continuously going. Thus we become enmeshed in keeping this gargantuan meaningless system that uses its participants from its epiphenomenal need to maintain its power, control, and legitimacy, in order for people to pursue the basic human conditions of survival, comfort, and entertainment.schopenhauer1

    I really have and continue to endure this vision. It's one lens on reality among others. I'd just add that 'meaningless' only makes sense if 'meaning' is grasped as some trans-biological vague thing that perhaps cannot be specified. Personally I think time is involved here. All things are perishable, therefore all things are meaningless. That seems to be the implicit logic. It's as if that we future-oriented beings crave/suppose something like a point at infinity (an eternal God or his surrogate) in order to feel grounded in our doings.

    To me this connects with even non-parents depending on the endurance of the cub-petting system. If I fantasize that I'm clever enough to contribute to human progress (be a scientist or an artist), then I need posterity as the ground of my project. If we all knew that an asteroid would wipe us out in a few months, that would radically change the human situation. We'd be cast into the Dionysian mode of living for the moment that people belch about insincerely otherwise. The argument against the vices in which we find our ecstasy is the future. All work and discipline is aimed at the stage of the future. We postpone enjoyment. I don't eat ice cream now because I want to be seen as attractive on the beach later. I study boring tech stuff now so I'll live in a nice condo later. Perhaps now more than ever our enjoyment is in being seen a certain way, in a virtuality of success. Happiness is the glamour of being envied. It's more important to look rich than to be rich, given a certain level of actual security. And so on. Kundera writes beautifully on this in Immortality.
  • schopenhauer1
    6.2k
    One is one's own child. One lives for one's own accomplishments and reputation rather than vicariously through the success of the child. In that sense, parents are no less narcissistic. Indeed, 'doing it for the children' is nice justification of household selfishness. Kids play a huge role in justificatory rhetoric, as I'm sure you know.jjAmEs

    Yes that was my point. But a decision to be childless will affect no future person.
  • schopenhauer1
    6.2k
    I really have and continue to endure this vision. It's one lens on reality among others. I'd just add that 'meaningless' only makes sense if 'meaning' is grasped as some trans-biological vague thing that perhaps cannot be specified. Personally I think time is involved here. All things are perishable, therefore all things are meaningless. That seems to be the implicit logic. It's as if that we future-oriented beings crave/suppose something like a point at infinity (an eternal God or his surrogate) in order to feel grounded in our doings.jjAmEs

    Well the repetition of the same. We basically understand what the human condition is. Why keep perpetuating it. If humanity can realize the absurdity as a whole community and instead of forcing people into the work of life, slowly diminish that work for future generations by simply not having them. You survive, get more comfortable with your environment, and then entertain yourself. It rally doesn't have be done again and again. Even the "goods" of life (basically physical pleasure, aesthetic pleasure, feelings of accomplishment, relationships, flow states) are just the same chasing after wind over and over. Let's just realize that its worn its welcome this existence thing. Politics and economies and such just reiterate what we really are culling. Culling is the key word. Culling.
  • Inyenzi
    76
    Perhaps humanity will willingly work together to end the pointless repetition and suffering for future generations.schopenhauer1

    I think you give humanity too much credit. If somebody was already planning on bringing children into a world and life that involves work, suffering, sickness, need, grief, etc - into a life that culminates in an inevitable death - then I highly doubt the existence of just another way among many to suffer (covid-19) will be the tipping the point that sways them into antinatalism.

    619d025b-db4f-4d43-a118-e192427d348b-screen-shot-2020-03-23-at-112936-am.png?w=960&h=540&fit=crop&crop=faces&auto=format%2Ccompress&cs=srgb&q=70

    5e71fbd591fcd_0x0.png
  • A Seagull
    621


    Thank you for your pessimistic view of the world... happily I can ignore it.

    If people want to wallow in misery, it is really no business of mine.
  • schopenhauer1
    6.2k
    I think you give humanity too much credit. If somebody was already planning on bringing children into a world and life that involves work, suffering, sickness, need, grief, etc - into a life that culminates in an inevitable death - then I highly doubt the existence of just another way among many to suffer (covid-19) will be the tipping the point that sways them into antinatalism.Inyenzi

    True points.
  • VagabondSpectre
    1.9k
    Perhaps humanity will willingly work together to end the pointless repetition and suffering for future generations.schopenhauer1

    I don't have much to disagree with other than to say it's all a matter of opinion, but I thought I would point out that it is these kinds of crises that cause baby booms.

    If your position holds, then it's almost an irony that as our mistakes and circumstances clarify and worsen -as the hole deepens- we inevitably start digging with greater fervor.

    Of course, it's a necessary jerk from an evolutionary-survival perspective...
  • TheMadFool
    12.7k
    Perhaps if we view the human project as a relay race rather than an individual race, it'll make more sense. There's the finish line - end of all suffering for humans and, if possible, for all living things. Our forbears began roughly 2 million years ago, did their bit towards ending suffering and passed on the baton to the next generation and it in turn did the same and here we are, at the present moment, playing our part in this chain of lives with the express purpose of ending the pain and suffering that comes with living.

    Pandemics, disasters, wars, etc. are a part of this journey as much as sprains, fractures and even deaths are part of a relay race; the person who began the race and the person in the middle of the run will not make it to the finish line but, with courage, determination and a little bit of luck, someone will.
  • jjAmEs
    184
    If humanity can realize the absurdity as a whole community and instead of forcing people into the work of life, slowly diminish that work for future generations by simply not having them.schopenhauer1

    Absurd in relation to what, though? Do you see the self-eating snake? For some it's aesthetically justified. For these the extinction is the ultimate threat and not the ultimate release.

    What is this vague sense of something that should be there that would be all things from absurdity? What is the meaning that would rescue humanity from meaninglessness? Even God seems like a vague approximation and not the god-shaped hole itself. Against what background are the doings of man absurd? What's he seen that he likes better? If not simply a more user-friendly environment? A new and improved Garden Of Delights?


    I thought you might like this.
    ..we are approaching a time when, in Moravec's words, 'almost all humans work to amuse other humans.' In rich countries, that time has already arrived. The old industries have been exported to the developing world. At home, new occupations have evolved, replacing those of the industrial era. Many of them satisfy needs that in the past were repressed or disguised. A thriving economy of psychotherapists, designer religions and spiritual boutiques has sprung up. Beyond that, there is an enormous grey economy of illegal industries supplying drugs and sex. The function of this new economy, legal and illegal, is to entertain and distract a population which - though it is busier than ever before - secretly suspects that it is useless. Industrialisation created the working class. Now it has made the working class obsolete. Unless it is cut short by ecological collapse, it will eventually do the same to nearly everyone. — John Gray
    https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/John_Gray_(philosopher)
  • jjAmEs
    184
    Yes that was my point. But a decision to be childless will affect no future person.schopenhauer1

    I hear you, and I feel a certain relief in not having forced someone into this maze. A different personality might feel guilty for not giving a new soul the opportunity of this maze. I've known great ecstasy and terrible suffering. I can't make a final judgment on life, though 'in youth is pleasure' makes sense to me. I'm losing the highs and the lows. It's the self-important dreams of youth that help light up life. The path of the grim sage is a strange one, and its haunted by divine laughter. 'Nothing is funnier than unhappiness.' I experience my own dark lines as a kind of stand-up comedy. As long as I stick around to gripe, I'm still invested. The gloomy existentialist still hopes for a piece of tail. The ideological violence is the rattle of a peacock feather, a seductive virtual eye of quasi-renunciation and pseudo-transcendence.

    Life is a jest; and all things show it. I thought so once; and now I know it.

    'My Own Epitaph' John Gay

    I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.

    https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/kohelet-ecclesiastes-full-text

    All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

    Worstward Ho! (Beckett)

    This vid can be interpreted as a parody of metaphysics (also Beckett):

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TXoq_H9BrTE

    This is nice too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SpgOcWZHEcY

    This last one is insanely concentrated: life is a mouth that can't shut up.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4LDwfKxr-M
  • jjAmEs
    184
    Perhaps if we view the human project as a relay race rather than an individual race, it'll make more sense.TheMadFool

    That seems to be the essence of Hegel, and the critics find it Panglossian.

    Enlightenment thinkers rejected the religious interpretation of history but brought in their own teleology, the idea of progress—the idea that humanity is moving in the direction of better and more perfect civilization, and that this progression can be witnessed through study of the history of civilization (Condorcet 1795; Montesquieu 1748). Vico's philosophy of history seeks to identify a foundational series of stages of human civilization. Different civilizations go through the same stages, because human nature is constant across history (Pompa 1990). Rousseau (1762a; 1762b) and Kant (1784–5; 1784–6) brought some of these assumptions about rationality and progress into their political philosophies, and Adam Smith embodies some of this optimism about the progressive effects of rationality in his account of the unfolding of the modern European economic system (1776). This effort to derive a fixed series of stages as a tool of interpretation of the history of civilization is repeated throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; it finds expression in Hegel's philosophy (discussed below), as well as Marx's materialist theory of the development of economic modes of production (Marx and Engels 1845–49; Marx and Engels 1848). — link

    The 'religion' of progress seems to be our secular replacement for a religion involving afterlife.
  • TheMadFool
    12.7k
    The 'religion' of progress seems to be our secular replacement for a religion involving afterlife.jjAmEs

    Indeed, it does seem an optimistic point of view, this "religion" of progress but can we deny that progress has been made and not feel one has lied in doing so?

    If one compares the present to the past in terms of very broad categories like disease and death then there has been absolutely no progress - our ancestors did suffer from disease and did die and so do we. However, if one goes into the details, the diseases that our ancestors suffered from and died from are very different to those we experience; perhaps the notion of progress lies in such kinds of differences.
  • jjAmEs
    184


    I agree that there has been progress in many ways. What's strange is perhaps the sense of the finitude of the world. We're all trapped down here with the same virus and the same global warming and other global threats.

    I wrote:

    Some thinkers have tried to justify the trauma of human existence in terms of the coming attainment of immortality or utopia through technology. The old-fashioned version of this is just Heaven, but intellectuals secularized it.... Christianity is transformed into a secular religion of earthly progress. It's already in Bacon's last utopian work and Descartes' 'lords and masters of nature.' History is a nightmare from which we shall awake... — me

    You wrote:

    Our forbears began roughly 2 million years ago, did their bit towards ending suffering and passed on the baton to the next generation and it in turn did the same and here we are, at the present moment, playing our part in this chain of lives with the express purpose of ending the pain and suffering that comes with living.

    Pandemics, disasters, wars, etc. are a part of this journey as much as sprains, fractures and even deaths are part of a relay race; the person who began the race and the person in the middle of the run will not make it to the finish line but, with courage, determination and a little bit of luck, someone will.
    TheMadFool

    Key to your vision seems to be an identification with that last runner who finally makes it at the end and justification of history. But clearly we enjoy a pleasure in anticipation now. Part of the joy in art and science is the joy in the joy that others will take in it. And this works even if humanity never escapes but only reduces suffering sufficiently so that life is clearly worth it. That few commit suicide suggests that most of us act as if life is already worth the suffering, though admittedly it's taboo and uncomfortable to check out early.

    Anyway, I don't reject the religion of progress but only enjoy talking about it from the outside, making it explicit to take a certain distance from it. What is this pleasure taken in distancing? Such transcendence seems basic to the pugnacious philosophical personality.

    Most people today think they belong to a species that can be master of its destiny. This is faith, not science. We do not speak of a time when whales or gorillas will be masters of their destinies. Why then humans?
    ...
    Our lives are more like fragmentary dreams than the enactments of conscious selves. We control very little of what we most care about; many of our most fateful decisions are made unbeknownst to ourselves. Yet we insist that mankind can achieve what we cannot: conscious mastery of its existence. This is the creed of those who have given up an irrational belief in God for an irrational faith in mankind.
    ...
    Like most philosophers, Kant worked to shore up the conventional beliefs of his time. Schopenhauer did the opposite. Accepting the arguments of Hume and Kant that the world is unknowable, he concluded that both the world and the individual subject that imagines it knows it are maya, dreamlike constructions with no basis in reality. ... Schopenhauer accepted the sceptical side of Kant's philosophy and turned it against him. Kant demonstrated that we are trapped in the world of phenomena and cannot know things in themselves. Schopenhauer went one step further and observed that we ourselves belong in the world of appearances. Unlike Kant, Schopenhauer was ready to follow his thoughts wherever they led. Kant argued that unless we accept that we are autonomous, freely choosing selves we cannot make sense of our moral experience. Schopenhauer responded that our actual experience is not of freely choosing the way we live but of being driven along by our bodily needs - by fear, hunger and, above all, sex.
    ...
    Even the deepest contemplation only recalls us to our unreality. Seeing that the self we take ourselves to be is illusory does not mean seeing through it to something else. It is more like surrendering to a dream. To see ourselves as figments is to awake, not to reality, but to a lucid dream, a false awakening that has no end.
    — Gray

    Is John Gray right? If he's right, then he can't be right. He's one more dreamer. To me there's a kind of dark stand-up comedy in grim intellectualizing. I think Beckett had it right when he labelled Waiting For Godot a tragicomedy. What we have are speech acts which are ambiguous with respect to their earnestness. Derrida made a big deal of this in Limited Inc on page 106, with his own kind of serious joke against the serious/non-serious distinction. I think the OP is relatively earnest and its author fairly anti-Nietzschean. But I relate to the madness, irony, and endless ambiguity of Nietzsche.

    We are never quite sure who we are or what exactly we mean. The words pour forth, speech acts that we are never done reinterpreting with...speech acts which we are never done reinterpreting...with ....
  • TheMadFool
    12.7k
    This is the creed of those who have given up an irrational belief in God for an irrational faith in mankind. — Gray

    This touches a chord - I count myself among those who've lost their faith in humankind. Nevertheless, faith, by definition, is irrational and therein lies the rub. We have faith, not because we have good reasons to believe but, on most occasions, no or even bad reasons to believe.

    Faith in humankind springs, in my humble opinion, from that quintessential life-trait, hope, that every living organism possesses and hope is, in essence, that which opposes what we call brute facts of life and the world at large. Our nature, perhaps the reason why Gray thinks faith in mankind is irrational, is not a secret to us. We recognize ourselves quite well in the mirror as the beast that no one should trust or believe or have faith in. Nevertheless, within us, perhaps in the same place where hope resides, there's this belief that we can be better, that we can overcome those qualities in us that make us such poor candidates for faith and trust and build on those that make us worthy of the same. It seems, therefore, that to call faith in humankind irrational is, in some ways, to ignore the complexity of being human. I imagine the human condition to be like the Beast in Beauty and the Beast: the Beast, although mostly driven by selfish motives, has within him the seeds of love and compassion, things that transform him from a hopelessly unlikeable character into one who's worthy of Beauty's faith, trust and love. I'm not saying we're not like the Beast but I am saying the Beast is a tad bit more complex than what Gray makes him out to be.
  • schopenhauer1
    6.2k
    I don't have much to disagree with other than to say it's all a matter of opinion, but I thought I would point out that it is these kinds of crises that cause baby booms.VagabondSpectre

    Ironic, right?

    If your position holds, then it's almost an irony that as our mistakes and circumstances clarify and worsen -as the hole deepens- we inevitably start digging with greater fervor.

    Of course, it's a necessary jerk from an evolutionary-survival perspective...
    VagabondSpectre

    I don't see procreation related to survival or innate instincts in humans. We can decide not to do it. If it is a thought-preference, it is not an innate urge, like most other animals. Rather "I'm bored, and this feels good" is a preference of an individual based on predispositions for pleasure and avoiding boredom.
  • schopenhauer1
    6.2k
    Perhaps if we view the human project as a relay race rather than an individual race, it'll make more sense. There's the finish line - end of all suffering for humans and, if possible, for all living things. Our forbears began roughly 2 million years ago, did their bit towards ending suffering and passed on the baton to the next generation and it in turn did the same and here we are, at the present moment, playing our part in this chain of lives with the express purpose of ending the pain and suffering that comes with living.

    Pandemics, disasters, wars, etc. are a part of this journey as much as sprains, fractures and even deaths are part of a relay race; the person who began the race and the person in the middle of the run will not make it to the finish line but, with courage, determination and a little bit of luck, someone will.
    TheMadFool

    I'm mainly in agreement with @jjAmEs. I would also add that using individuals to try to get to some utopian/heavenly realm on Earth, is still using their suffering. Also, our human natures are pretty much fixed, whatever the material circumstances. The striving dissatisfaction Schopenhauer described would make the efforts to alleviate suffering for naught. To equivocate actual release from suffering with smply economic circumstances would be a false attribution.
  • schopenhauer1
    6.2k
    Absurd in relation to what, though? Do you see the self-eating snake? For some it's aesthetically justified. For these the extinction is the ultimate threat and not the ultimate release.

    What is this vague sense of something that should be there that would be all things from absurdity? What is the meaning that would rescue humanity from meaninglessness? Even God seems like a vague approximation and not the god-shaped hole itself. Against what background are the doings of man absurd? What's he seen that he likes better? If not simply a more user-friendly environment? A new and improved Garden Of Delights?
    jjAmEs

    The absurdity comes from the repetition of human affairs- it all comes back to surviving, maintaining comfort, entertainment in some cultural context. We know what it is, we have seen it billions of times, yet we want more people to be born to experience this same thing.
  • schopenhauer1
    6.2k
    I hear you, and I feel a certain relief in not having forced someone into this maze. A different personality might feel guilty for not giving a new soul the opportunity of this maze. I've known great ecstasy and terrible suffering. I can't make a final judgment on life, though 'in youth is pleasure' makes sense to me. I'm losing the highs and the lows. It's the self-important dreams of youth that help light up life. The path of the grim sage is a strange one, and its haunted by divine laughter. 'Nothing is funnier than unhappiness.' I experience my own dark lines as a kind of stand-up comedy. As long as I stick around to gripe, I'm still invested. The gloomy existentialist still hopes for a piece of tail. The ideological violence is the rattle of a peacock feather, a seductive virtual eye of quasi-renunciation and pseudo-transcendence.

    Life is a jest; and all things show it. I thought so once; and now I know it.

    'My Own Epitaph' John Gay

    I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.

    https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/kohelet-ecclesiastes-full-text

    All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

    Worstward Ho! (Beckett)

    This vid can be interpreted as a parody of metaphysics (also Beckett):

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TXoq_H9BrTE

    This is nice too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SpgOcWZHEcY

    This last one is insanely concentrated: life is a mouth that can't shut up.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4LDwfKxr-M
    jjAmEs


    I like that one.

    Your needs and wants require others to work. Their needs and wants require you to work. I don't just mean in the economic sense, though that can be literally taken that way. Rather, our needs requires others- this shows in our inability to survive through infancy and childhood with absolutely no human interaction. Let's look at the chain of events parents are doing by having children:
    1) The children rely on the parent for survival at the very beginning.
    2) The parents rely on neighbors, childcare, family to help raise the child
    3) The parents rely on the school systems to look after child, socialize them with peers and disciplined authority, as well as learning to do work in a timely fashion
    4) That is another person who will need to buy goods and services, and then need to work under owners, managers, or in some cases the customers themselves

    All of this work that we end up making each other do, to maintain our survival, comfort, and entertainment. Again, why should we keep make each other do all of this? Why should we socialize more people into the world with their needs and wants? Can you see why this makes me think that we are being used possibly more than we are using? Here we are, not of our own devices keeping the big ship going that keeps our unending needs and wants satiated.

    We are forced to deal with ourselves and others. We cannot just be. As Schopenhauer stated:

    Boredom is certainly not an evil to be taken lightly: it will ultimately etch lines of true despair onto a face. It makes beings with as little love for each other as humans nonetheless seek each other with such intensity, and in this way becomes the source of sociability. — Schopenhauer WWR

    And here:

    Human life must be some kind of mistake. The truth of this will be sufficiently obvious if we only remember that man is a compound of needs and necessities hard to satisfy; and that even when they are satisfied, all he obtains is a state of painlessness, where nothing remains to him but abandonment to boredom. This is direct proof that existence has no real value in itself; for what is boredom but the feeling of the emptiness of life? If life—the craving for which is the very essence of our being—were possessed of any positive intrinsic value, there would be no such thing as boredom at all: mere existence would satisfy us in itself, and we should want for nothing. But as it is, we take no delight in existence except when we are struggling for something; and then distance and difficulties to be overcome make our goal look as though it would satisfy us—an illusion which vanishes when we reach it; or else when we are occupied with some purely intellectual interest—when in reality we have stepped forth from life to look upon it from the outside, much after the manner of spectators at a play. And even sensual pleasure itself means nothing but a struggle and aspiration, ceasing the moment its aim is attained. Whenever we are not occupied in one of these ways, but cast upon existence itself, its vain and worthless nature is brought home to us; and this is what we mean by boredom. The hankering after what is strange and uncommon—an innate and ineradicable tendency of human nature—shows how glad we are at any interruption of that natural course of affairs which is so very tedious.

    That this most perfect manifestation of the will to live, the human organism, with the cunning and complex working of its machinery, must fall to dust and yield up itself and all its strivings to extinction—this is the naïve way in which Nature, who is always so true and sincere in what she says, proclaims the whole struggle of this will as in its very essence barren and unprofitable. Were it of any value in itself, anything unconditioned and absolute, it could not thus end in mere nothing.
    — Schopenhauer, On the Vanity of Existence
  • jjAmEs
    184


    Ah yes, I understand that view. I've playfully summarized it as a system of cub-petting. Life is justified by the joys of parenting, but parenting generations the lives that must be justified in the first place. On the level of pure concept, I don't see how a decision for or against the system is possible.

    Since we are semi-conscious animals, breeding is only occasionally a conscious decision. But many do consciously affirm the net value of life (expected value > 0 ) and then have children. Are they wrong? I don't think it's a 'mathematical' question.

    Your needs and wants require others to work. Their needs and wants require you to work. I don't just mean in the economic sense, though that can be literally taken that way.schopenhauer1

    Right. We're social animals. We exist in and through and for one another. Maybe even bitter Schopenhauer-style philosophers contribute to the survival of the species. We create the strange and fascinating 'imploding' conceptual art of maximum distancing. Isn't this connected to God on the cross somehow? Hasn't religion also seen the world as run by Satan? Or a breeding pen ?

    According to Buddhist tradition, after several years of mendicancy, meditation, and asceticism, he awakened to understand the mechanism which keeps people trapped in the cycle of rebirth. — link

    What if all the gooey stuff has been added on? and the insight was pessimist with a goal of detachment and transcendence? How old is this recognition of absurdity and what keeps it going? The dream machine. I've harped on cub-petting, but it's just as much as system of lust and ambition. Lust is directly connected to reproduction, while ambition can be associated with sublimated parenthood and the cruel joy of being superior in status. A pile of dogs, all tying to climb to the top and evade death through puppies.

    But you haven't addressed the comic pleasure we take in putting it like this.
  • jjAmEs
    184
    The absurdity comes from the repetition of human affairs- it all comes back to surviving, maintaining comfort, entertainment in some cultural context. We know what it is, we have seen it billions of times, yet we want more people to be born to experience this same thing.schopenhauer1

    OK, but what's the problem with repetition? Heaven sounds repetitive. I think I'd be pretty if I lived in an almost ideal world and never aged or got sick. Brave New World. I'll chew my sex-hormone gum and go to the feelies. I'd look forward to a different pneumatic girl every weekend (which is really a repetition). Occasionally one of us would die by accident, and we'd pity them. So we'd cook up another semi-immortal in the test tubes. (This is better than the Brave New World situation, but similar.)

    What I think you are neglecting is the genuine joy to be had in sex, drugs, music, good weather. Life has its profound joys, but they come at a cost. And to me aging and disease and scarcity are a big part of that --so the utopian dreams aren't completely absurd. They just ignore how difficult the political problem is and how greedy and aggressive the human being is. We also take pleasure in the suffering and humiliation of others. As Schopenhauer saw, we are the demons who run hell as well as its prisoners. But we also run Sensual Adventureland for one another. A young, rich, and beautiful person in the 21st century has plenty to stick around for. As they age, things may change. But some are born to sweet delight, however fragile and temporary.
  • Merkwurdichliebe
    1.9k
    Why keep the scheme going? Why keep the absurd repetition going to yet another life? I mean, we get the picture.. survival, comfort, entertainment, repeat. But doe we HAVE to keep repeating!schopenhauer1

    You make a great point in this thread. The pessimism is absolutely warranted. But not many will vibe with your position since, I'm willing to bet, many, if not most on TPF, (just as in the world) are already heavily invested and their interests deeply embedded in the scheme. The positive thing I take from all the absurdity: at least I now know with absolute certainty that the present generation is as stupid as I had previously suspected.
  • Pfhorrest
    4.6k
    what's the problem with repetition?jjAmEs

    I think this gets at a key point: “heaven” is as much (if not more so) a matter of our internal states as external ones. If you could have absolutely anything you wanted in all of its possible variety, all of it good, and yet you would still be bored and so displeased eventually, then there is still something you don’t have: interest, an internal quality, the opposite of boredom. It’s like if all the sex you could possibly want were available but you had no libido and that made you unhappy: the solution isn’t some weird new kind of sex, it’s the restoration of your libido.

    If you could be of a mental state where everything around you is perceived either as a delightful pleasure (however small some of them may be) or an interesting challenge (however daunting some of them may be), then you could be happy all the time, in any circumstance. And feeling like that, life would seem worth living, and perpetuating. If life doesn’t seem worth living or perpetuating, perhaps the problem is not with the world (though it undoubtedly has plenty of problems too), but with you.
  • jjAmEs
    184
    “heaven” is as much (if not more so) a matter of our internal states as external onesPfhorrest

    We agree, and I think most people would agree. That's the genius and mischief of drugs. Just push that button directly and the rest of the world falls into place --until it all falls apart.

    the solution isn’t some weird new kind of sex, it’s the restoration of your libido.Pfhorrest

    I agree with this too. It's largely about libido. A person can 'fall out of love with life.' This is what I meant by my Tiger King inspired notion of the cub-petting system. Life is aesthetically justified, especially perhaps (at least for many) by the profound joys of parenthood (which I've heard plenty about but never experienced.) Then there's sexuality, connected to the 'immortality' of the species in the same way, and art-science-culture, which arguably is a sublimation of the others.

    Of course we should consider that frustrated libido could be a torment. Imagine the plight of a homosexual in a violently homophobic society. Or just the plight of an overweight and unattractive girl in high school. Or even the plight of the old lecher who is finally falling apart. Aging sucks, and the old are too ugly and useless to us to excite much pity.


    It makes sense to me that pessimism is related to Buddhism and 'spiritual' renunciations of worldliness in general. 'Thou shalt enjoy.' 'Thou shalt consume.' There's a pill for the malfunctioning soul. 'It's not our problem, it's yours.' So here's advice and maybe a pill. I'm no better in this regard. I've been around desperate people and mostly I just clutched my valuables and guarded my own fragile happiness. I've regurgitated my philosophers to those with more chance of pulling through, but my strategy is more about meeting pessimism or despair half-way. The world is disgusting and absurd. That's not an illusion. But there are nice things too. I'm not necessarily correct when I give advice from my fragile happiness to their despair. It's just what people do when they are less troubled than those they are talking with, which is reach for the platitudes or profundities or black humor and demonstrate concern --which is stuff that may not help at all, since it's all deeper than mere thoughts.

    Mind you that I was sick lately (probably our famous virus itself). It was bad, but I had enough energy to read the news and see the world through that lens of suffering and impotence. To me it's a reminder that the bright philosophy that we tend to think of as a cause is perhaps more of an effect. Which I guess supports the notion that anti-natalism is the flower of suffering. In general we might say that humans vote for eternal recurrence simply by being immersed in the life cycle, happy monkeys who don't think to question and object to the system as a whole but only various obstacles. There's an industry devoted to the sanctity of the obstacle course itself (books and pills and conversations). And Beckett and Kafka and other dark comedians are a special slice of that, right on the edge of sanity, ambiguous.
  • schopenhauer1
    6.2k
    You make a great point in this thread. The pessimism is absolutely warranted. But not many will vibe with your position since, I'm willing to bet, many, if not most on TPF, (just as in the world) are already heavily invested and their interests deeply embedded in the scheme. The positive thing I take from all the absurdity: at least I now know with absolute certainty that the present generation is as stupid as I had previously suspected.Merkwurdichliebe

    Right on. As Schopenhauer stated, people like to have something to struggle for- I suspect the "interests deeply embedded" part. It's an illusion, to just keep the merry-go-round.
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