• Rob J Kennedy
    35
    As someone who is trying to understand all that is existentialism, I was wondering how many on here consider themselves to be existentialists?

    I got the below descricption of Existentialism from the Americian existentialist, and Sartre transcriber Hazel Barnes. If you dont know her, she has this wonderful 10-part series on existentialsim titled Self Encounter, now on YouTube.

    "The function of Existentialists values is to liberate humankind from craven fear, petty anxiety and apathy or tedium. Existentialists values intensify consciousness, arouse the passions, and commit the individual to a cause of action that will engage their total energies."
    1. Are you an existentialist? (19 votes)
        Yes
        37%
        No
        63%
  • FrankGSterleJr
    91
    I awoke from another very bad dream, a reincarnation nightmare

    where having blessedly died I’m being bullied towards rebirth into human form

    despite my pleas I be allowed to rest in permanent peace.

    My bed wet from sweat, I futilely try to convince my own autistic brain

    I want to live, the same traumatized dysthymic brain displacing me

    from the functional world.

    Within my nightmare a mob encircles me and insists that life’s a blessing,

    including mine.

    I ask them for the blessed purpose of my continuance. I insist

    upon a practical purpose.

    Give me a real purpose, I cry out, and it’s not enough simply to live

    nor that it’s a beautiful sunny day with colorful fragrant flowers!

    I’m tormented hourly by my desire for emotional, material and creative gain

    that ultimately matters naught, I explain. My own mind brutalizes me like it has

    a sadistic mind of its own. I must have a progressive reason for this harsh endurance!

    Bewildered they warn that one day on my death bed I’ll regret my ingratitude

    and that I’m about to lose my life.

    I counter that I cannot mourn the loss of something I never really had

    so I’m unlikely to dread parting from it.

    Frustrated they say that moments from death I’ll clamor and claw for life

    like a bridge jumper instinctively flailing his limbs as though to grasp at something

    anything that may delay his imminent thrust into the eternal abyss.

    How can I in good conscience morosely hate my life

    while many who love theirs lose it so soon? they ask.

    Angry I reply that people bewail the ‘unfair’ untimely deaths of the young who’ve received early reprieve

    from their life sentence, people who must remain behind corporeally confined

    yet do their utmost to complete their entire life sentence—even more if they could!

    The vexed mob then curse me with envy for rejecting what they’d kill for—continued life through unending rebirth.

    “Then why don’t you just kill yourself?” they yell,

    to which I retort “I would if I could.

    My life sentence is made all the more oppressive by my inability to take my own life.”

    “Then we’ll do it for you.” As their circle closes on me, I wake up.

    Could there be people who immensely suffer yet convince themselves
    they sincerely want to live when in

    fact they don’t want to die, so greatly they fear Death’s unknown?

    No one should ever have to repeat and suffer again a single second that passes.

    Nay, I will engage and embrace the dying of my blight!
  • 180 Proof
    14.4k
    Are you an existentialist?Rob J Kennedy
    I guess I'm an absurdist (e.g. epicurean-spinozist).
  • BC
    13.2k
    "The function of Existentialists values is to liberate humankind from craven fear, petty anxiety and apathy or tedium. Existentialists values intensify consciousness, arouse the passions, and commit the individual to a cause of action that will engage their total energies."Rob J Kennedy

    How does existentialism liberate anyone from 'craven [contemptibly lacking in courage; cowardly] fear? Petty anxiety? Apathy? Tedium?

    There are various meditation practices that can 'intensify' consciousness.

    Is arousing the passions and committing the individual to a cause that will engage their total energies a desirable end? What if the cause is evil?

    The program on YouTube dates back to 1961. Nothing wrong with 1961. It's just that "educational television", the video style, soundtrack, and so forth are very dated. I'm an old guy and I remember the period. Ten hours of Hazel the talking head? It sort of looked like more tedium.

    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."

    That sounds nice, but from whence came the content of my mind which was capable of grappling with my purpose and meaning? The church, school, parents, peers, etc. had a lot of opportunity to provide content before I got around to defining purpose and meaning. How we exist in the world isn't our choice either -- not for the formative years, anyway. After one has existed for a couple of decades, one can pompously declare one's authentic purpose and meaning, like it was a revelation.

    Baloney. People do what they can to get through the day in one piece.
  • 180 Proof
    14.4k
    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." [ ... ] Baloney. People do what they can to get through the day in one piece.BC
    :100: :smirk: Like the rest of nature, almost everyone takes paths of least resistance (or effort).
  • Rob J Kennedy
    35
    Well 180 Proof, as it’s the philosophy I have read about the most, and the one that interests me the most, I’d have to say yes.

    I have read about 50% of everything that Simone de Beauvoir wrote, plus books by Robert G. Olson and Hazel Barnes, plus Sartre, whom I find rather impenetrable, especially Being and Nothingness. So, I’ve still a long way to go to understand it better; it does attract me.

    I read the other day that Sartre wrote 17 pages of text for everyday he was alive. And I’d be willing to bet that de Beauvoir did the same. So lots to read, just from those two.
  • Abhiram
    60

    I don't think existential could liberate anyone. Existentialism is not actually a philosophical system . It doesn't have a unified structure. Only common concept is the supremacy of existence over essence and the existential crisis. There can't be a perfect definition for existentialism.
  • Rob J Kennedy
    35
    Well, I don’t agree with you Abhiram.

    Both Sartre and de Beauvoir said that existentialism is best understood through plays, literature and poetry. The unified structure you speak of is completely inherent and obvious in these formats.

    Can you prove there can’t be a perfect definition of existentialism?

    If you’ve read the novels of existentialists writers, you will find in them, the structure of the philosophy of existentialism.

    Rob
  • Banno
    23.5k
    Can you prove there can’t be a perfect definition of existentialism?Rob J Kennedy

    The essence of existentialism...?

    Something's amiss here.
  • Chet Hawkins
    268
    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.

    Since I believe there is nothing but emotion in this metaverse, and that emotion exists to support a single law of nature, free will, choice, then I fairly well agree with existentialism.

    The agency of any individual is only properly moral agency. There is nothing but morality and then choice which is more towards it by intent or less so as a failure of intent, eg immorality.

    The definition should to me be for moral agents and 'individual' is a less than best term. The entire universe is alive and although colloquially 'life' is not a condition or state shared by much of the matter in the metaverse, the real truth is that the universe is entirely alive and possessed of free will down to each and every particle, sub-atomic, macroscopic, etc; all of them. Within ANY scope of examination, that scope may be declared a moral agent and that agent indeed has choice. Free will is the only law of the universe. All other 'laws' or phenomena are only permutations of choice made by all entities in the metaverse.

    Also, it should be stated that 'determining their own development' is confusing. Indeed choice is part of that process of free will, but ANY locus or scope can be examined. And then it would be cautionary to add in the idea that OTHER moral agents also affect ... you ... or any moral agent. So it is technically a delusion for self empowerment only. That assertion is itself overturned if and only if the unity principle is embraced as truth. That principle effectively states that 'You are me and I am you' All separations are delusional and we are all of us only a part of the same all.

    Lastly there should be more clarity on the term 'will' in that definition. My own model of the metaverse suggests to me that the term 'will' relates best only to the emotion of desire. Although that is the default stand in for motivation and intents, my model asserts that to restrict choice to 'will' is blatantly incorrect. There are in fact three emotions and only three. These are fear, anger, and desire. So, my model's definition of existentialism (trying to paraphrase it as intended in a better way) is this:

    a philosophical theory or approach which emphasizes the existence of moral agents as morally responsible via their use of the balance of free will and the only force in the universe, choice. {To clarify further, morally responsible means they can fail and intend immoral choices}
  • 180 Proof
    14.4k
    ... a perfect definition of existentialism?Rob J Kennedy
    FWIW, my very very short take on (the ethical dimension) of existentialism ...
    https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/comment/719420
  • Jack Cummins
    5.1k

    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.
  • Mikie
    6.3k
    "The function of Existentialists values is to liberate humankind from craven fear, petty anxiety and apathy or tedium. Existentialists values intensify consciousness, arouse the passions, and commit the individual to a cause of action that will engage their total energies."Rob J Kennedy

    Pretty awful definition.
  • frank
    14.6k

    There's presently a boom in discussions about existentialism vs nihilism on Reddit. Some of the best subreddits are closed to new members, but there are still good ones around.
  • Rob J Kennedy
    35
    Yes, Jack, I agree. When someone asked me if I was, I was relectant to answer. I think if one was to afirm their loyalities to one philosophy or another, you would have had to spent a lifetime inside that philosophy. I have not.
  • Paine
    2.1k
    Sartre, whom I find rather impenetrable, especially Being and Nothingness. So, I’ve still a long way to go to understand it better; it does attract me.Rob J Kennedy

    I find Transcendence of the Ego by Sartre to be the clearest expression of the idea as a point of departure.

    The view of it as a change of paradigm suffers from what many other attempts do. The effort to defeat classification leads to new classifications.
  • Banno
    23.5k
    To be blunt - my specialist area - those who have answered "yes" to the question in the OP have thereby shown that they have not understood existentialism.
  • Tom Storm
    8.5k
    To be blunt - my specialist area - those who have answered "yes" to the question in the OP have thereby shown that they have not understood existentialism.Banno

    Say some more - only thing I came away with from Sartre was the familiar - existence precedes essence.

    Can one call oneself an existentialist without irony?
  • Banno
    23.5k
    Can one call oneself an existentialist without irony?Tom Storm

    Well, what do you think? :wink:

    You get to decide.
  • Tom Storm
    8.5k
    No idea. Most people who use the term to describe themselves seem to pronounce it more like a magic word than with much knowledge about it. I find it ironic when someone claims to have captured the essential existentialism.
  • Banno
    23.5k
    Your bad faith is showing...


    You have to decide for yourself, not just give me the nod... :wink:
  • Banno
    23.5k
    Just edited my previous post, as is my want.

    I remember the crowds lining the street when Sartre died.

    Were they being ironic?

    Existentialism only works until you take it seriously.
  • Tom Storm
    8.5k
    Existentialism only works until you take it seriously.Banno

    We'll that's not much different from most ideas, I'd suspect.

    How do you take existentialism seriously? That seems to be the real quesion that the OP leads us towards.

    In the 1980's there was a reemergence of existentialism around Melbourne and many people I knew would walk around with copies of Being and Nothingness and Camus' The Outsider, with no more commitment to the ideas inside them that they would have a few years later to the ideas Foucault and Derrida, when copies of their works were carried about.
  • Banno
    23.5k
    ...copies of Being and Nothingness and Camus' The Outsider...Tom Storm

    Candyland sums up their relation... Camus was not an existentialist.
  • jgill
    3.6k
    Many years ago - the late 1950s - as a young man I read Sartre at a time I was looking for a meaningful life. I came away with a very simplistic idea of creating meaning in something that captured my interest, even though few if any others thought it worth pursuing in earnest. I had and have no desire to know more of the erudite philosophy embedding my core understanding. If others say existentialism is far more complex that that, I say, operating along my elementary understanding has worked. If anyone says I didn't understand what I read, I say, so what. What I focused on to give meaning now has meaning for many others. (it's an Olympic sport)
  • Tom Storm
    8.5k
    Candyland sums up their relation... Camus was not an existentialist.Banno

    Didn't matter in 1980's Melbourne.
  • Astrophel
    448
    I read the other day that Sartre wrote 17 pages of text for everyday he was alive. And I’d be willing to bet that de Beauvoir did the same. So lots to read, just from those two.Rob J Kennedy

    Heidegger's Being and Time is by far more important. Sartre is derivative. Not that I didn't find him helpful. I like the way he brought for the "uncanny" nature of contingency of the world in Nausea. Creepy, but fascinating. But the foundational for this is best explored in Heidegger, who is seminal: post modern thinking, most of it, is a response to him.
  • frank
    14.6k
    To be blunt - my specialist area - those who have answered "yes" to the question in the OP have thereby shown that they have not understood existentialism.Banno

    You could dwell on the right way to define it, but when a group of people has latched onto the word because it's become useful in their philosophical grappling, you can just let the meaning drift to whatever they mean by it.

    So when you were in your 20s-30s did you ever wonder about the power of humans to choose who and what they will be? Or did the abysmal events of the 20th Century leave you hopeless?
  • Lionino
    1.8k
    Are you an existentialist?Rob J Kennedy

    Far from being my main interest in philosophy. But it could surprise me in the future.
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