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Thread: Existentialism

  1. #1

    Default Existentialism

    Hello all who are interested enough to read this. I don't have a question or experience to discuss, sort of, but I just wished to discuss existentialism with people who cared about philosophy. So if anyone does care, please feel free to respond. I have known for some time about nihilistic-existentialism and have discussed it at length with others but what brings me to posting this is my recent discovery of Jean Paul Sartre and Sartean existentialism which I find very fascinating. I knew of it but had never really read about it before. I read some of his works for a project and much of what he says resonates with me.

    For those who don't really know what I am talking about, Sartre was a French existentialist who lived in the last century. To simplify some of what he said, each individual is responsible for each and every choice that they make, that what we do constitutes who we are, and condemned to be free. For example, an artist is someone who creates pieces of art and they are defined by the art they create, not the art they wish they could create. A person defines themselves as honest because they tell the truth, they do not tell the truth because they are honest. Our freedom condemns us because in our freedom we must make choices and we define ourselves by what we do. Another thing he focuses on is that we are forever and always alone- as opposed to the saying that no man is an island, we are all islands.

    I am curious as to other people's thoughts on the subject and whether or not you agree or disagree. If you find anything wrong with what I have said, please correct me.

  2. #2

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    When someone first described an existential nihilist to me, my first thought was that it sounded like they really needed a hug.

    Probably why I did poorly in philosophy in school.

    If you get bored with the whole "there's no point to anything in the universe except talking about how there is no point" thing, there's always metaphysical nihilism, where the world might not actually even exist.

  3. #3

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    Existentialism was one of the reasons why i stopped reading books. a good tie-in is the social upheaval of two world wars and the emergence of leisuretime and mass consumerism.

  4. #4

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    I lived in the last century, too. This was a hot topic when I took high school English. Of course, it was just one school of literature and philosophy, but an interesting one. Growing up in the 60s, I think nihilism was something many of us felt in our own personal lives. We had seen what WW II and the Korean war did to our fathers and uncles, and we were looking down the barrel of the Vietnam war, offering us the promise of a miserable death. For many of us, there was no out, only Sisyphus's stone which we were commanded to roll up hill, again and again, into a waiting ambush.

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by BoundCoder View Post
    When someone first described an existential nihilist to me, my first thought was that it sounded like they really needed a hug.
    Ha ha ha! So...you didn't see the optimism in rejecting orthodoxy and in being responsible for defining your own meaning...?

  6. #6
    CrinklySiren

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    I consider myself a Nihilistic Existentialist lol. I think its a beautiful thing. Its not an easy concept to grasp or an easy thought process to swallow, but when you do, (I believe) you feel ultimately free.

    I consider it to be a beautiful and freeing thing. The idea that our lives have no meaning or purpose is just so grand, because it allows us to forge our own paths without feeling like we have a destiny to fulfill. When you consider everything as just a random coincidence that is not fueled by any purpose, it allows you to open your eyes to the wonder that existence really is, to the magic that happens in every day life when two things come together to create one thing that seemed like it was placed right there just for you, when in reality was just two things bound to eventually meet and eventually coincide. I think its grand.

    Though, i don't believe that being an Nihilistic Existentialist means you have to rid yourself of everything because "there is no real point." I believe that you can see that there is no real point, but still feel like your sole purpose is to be alive and enjoy I don't feel like I'm destined to do anything, but i do things because i feel like life should be enjoyed instead of pondered. I find humanity infinitely interesting because we are constantly asking why for everything we can not bring ourselves to understand... when you are able to stop asking why and just embrace the unknown ~ you are truly free.

    The way I see it, I like to learn about new things, but i don't care to put my energy into things that have no explanation. If they happen to somehow GAIN an explanation later on, then its simply one more thing I know now. I honestly think the world would be a significantly better place if more people dabbled in existentialism instead of religion.

    Maybe i'm just an idiot and everything i'm saying here is besides the point or totally unrelated lol. Sorry if i said anything stupid xD

  7. #7

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    Emily,

    What you say is far from being stupid. However, I am hanging onto my understanding of this thread with my fingernails. I am afraid to say that the furthest I ever got with philosophy was reading "Sophie's World" by Jostein Gaarder - http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sophies-Worl.../dp/1857992911

    Well worth a read mind...

    DLE

  8. #8

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    You're spot on, CrinklyEmily, although, to me, it always seemed like the "default" way to live. Being brought up in suburban England where no one (it seems) has any particular religious beliefs, existentialism seemed to describe how people live their lives.

    It's a really interesting way of looking at things, but I'm not 100% comfortable describing myself as an "existentialist". It's not that I particularly disagree with the concept, but it just seems like a description of the human condition; it doesn't tell you anything other than that you are "free", which, if you are atheist, you probably knew already! Unlike detached logic-based philosophies, it doesn't really seem to lead anywhere... but that doesn't mean that it isn't an exceptionally valuable contribution to human knowledge! It just seems like the "no man's land" between philosophy and psychology...

    (Since existentialism deals with the subjective "view from inside", my acceptance of existential freedom doesn't contradict my belief in compatibilist determinism! In case anyone was wondering... )



    Quote Originally Posted by SissyDLE View Post
    However, I am hanging onto my understanding of this thread with my fingernails. I am afraid to say that the furthest I ever got with philosophy was reading "Sophie's World" by Jostein Gaarder
    That was the first philosophy book I ever read! I didn't even know what philosophy was till I read that book (in the mid 90's), and I cried at the realisation that I wasn't the only person to have "philosophical" thoughts. Philosophy wasn't the sort of thing anyone around me ever discussed. I'd heard the word "philosophy", but I had no idea what it meant. Less than a year later, I went back to university to take a degree in the subject.

    As a bit of a lightweight refresher, I read "Existentialism for Dummies" several years ago and was really impressed with how easy-to-read it was, without dumbing down the subject. For anyone interested, I'd really recommend it. The first chapter is here (free PDF on the publisher's website):
    http://media.wiley.com/product_data/...0470276991.pdf

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by tiny View Post
    (Since existentialism deals with the subjective "view from inside", my acceptance of existential freedom doesn't contradict my belief in compatibilist determinism! In case anyone was wondering... )
    That was my only issue with it. I don't think we're all completely free. I am somewhere between believing that no, there is no big point, no grand scheme, there is nothing waiting for us or watching us or rooting for us. We just are right now, and one day we won't be. But I don't think we're all free. There's a nearly mathematical explanation for why I am typing this now, why I am drinking tea, etc. I believe it can help with people providing their own meaning inside a universe of meaninglessness. But what is that, anyway, with the meaning? I mean, if there are exact reasons for what I'm doing and what I'm thinking, my neurochemistry, my biology, my life experiences, my culture, etc. Isn't that, too, what provides this meaning? What makes my quote unquote self-proclaimed meaning more profound than any other meaning when it's all pretty much programming?

  10. #10
    CrinklySiren

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    Quote Originally Posted by Frogsy View Post
    That was my only issue with it. I don't think we're all completely free. I am somewhere between believing that no, there is no big point, no grand scheme, there is nothing waiting for us or watching us or rooting for us. We just are right now, and one day we won't be. But I don't think we're all free. There's a nearly mathematical explanation for why I am typing this now, why I am drinking tea, etc. I believe it can help with people providing their own meaning inside a universe of meaninglessness. But what is that, anyway, with the meaning? I mean, if there are exact reasons for what I'm doing and what I'm thinking, my neurochemistry, my biology, my life experiences, my culture, etc. Isn't that, too, what provides this meaning? What makes my quote unquote self-proclaimed meaning more profound than any other meaning when it's all pretty much programming?
    perhaps it is not us who are free, but our neurological system in its function that is truly free, while our creative minds remain slave to the logic brought on by our controlling brains. It sounds very sci-fi, but when I was shadowing a philosophy class my wife was in, they talked about how freedom isn't real freedom because studies have shown that our brains sometimes act against our instinctual will. So could it be argued that our brains developed a sort of parasitic, host-like existence as we evolved, in order to trade in our instincts for logic? I mean, it has technically advanced us as a species but has also left us prey to things like anxiety, depression, and things that occur when our instincts and our logic clash together.

    I might've gotten a bit too scientific for philosophy lol ~ I will agree that I believe I am fully free in my head, even if in practice im not entirely free. We are all somehow bound by some kind of code, creed or moral standard, so the real question would be what indicates "actual" freedom.

    This is my kind of mature topic thread xD been a while since i felt engaged in here.

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