Existential Questions Discussed Analytically

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Reply Wed 3 Dec, 2008 08:57 pm
Existentialism as a movement in Continental Europe is history, that's for sure. But can Existential Questions be discussed analytically? That is to say, can and should the questions and writings posed by Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Sartre and the others be converted into the analytic tradition?

I know Hubert Dreyfus, Brian Leiter, Anthony Rudd, Robert Adams, Gregory McCulloch and many others have all tried to convert the existentialists into people putting forward piecemeal premise-conclusion arguments. Adams for example removes the literary aspects in Kierkegaard's Postscript and reduces a chapter into an premise-conclusion argument.

Is this a betrayal of the existentialists' raison d'etre of writing?
 
jgweed
 
Reply Thu 4 Dec, 2008 09:21 am
@Victor Eremita,
As an explanation of K's meaning, putting it in a form allowing of closer analysis of his arguments, is useful. But at the same time, there is a very close relationship in Existentialist philosophy between doctrine, method, and exposition that is not well-served by attempts at explication of "arguments."

Existentialist thinking generally rejects traditional philosophy and its methods as inadequate because they ignore the individual human being existing in his world, favoring other more concrete methods of investigation; thus, there is good reason for their choosing the kind of presentations they do. Sartre, for example, can discuss absurdity and bad faith in Being and Nothingness, but can also make these philosophical positions "come alive" in his short story, The Wall.
Heidegger, especially in his later writings, arrives very slowly to his final position, and the anaconda-like progression contains the force of his argument. One can certainly condense this journey he shares with his readers into something resembling a traditional argument, but only at the cost of ignoring his reasoning (as it were) that his exposition details.
 
Gwyniviere
 
Reply Thu 4 Dec, 2008 11:58 pm
@jgweed,
Yes!!! Another good example would be Gulliver's Travels.
 
democritus
 
Reply Sun 8 Mar, 2009 07:10 am
@Victor Eremita,
Victor Eremita wrote:
can Existential Questions be discussed analytically?

Why not? Let us see what the questions are. Give us a few examples Victor Eremita so that we may discuss. I am particularly interested in Atheistic Existentialism.

thanks,
democritus
 
Victor Eremita
 
Reply Sun 8 Mar, 2009 09:42 pm
@Victor Eremita,
Here's some:

Why is there something rather than nothing? - Heidegger
What must be the Being of a man if he is to be responsible for and capable of bad faith? - Sartre
Is the past more necessary than the future? - Kierkegaard
 
democritus
 
Reply Mon 9 Mar, 2009 06:25 am
@Victor Eremita,
Victor Eremita wrote:
Here's some:

Why is there something rather than nothing? - Heidegger
What must be the Being of a man if he is to be responsible for and capable of bad faith? - Sartre
Is the past more necessary than the future? - Kierkegaard


Thank you for the prompt reply Victor Eremita.

Heidegger's question "Why is there something rather than nothing?" implies two things:

Premise One: Something exists.
Premise Two: Nothing doesn't exist.

The question "why" has no answer if one prefers the materialist view.
The question "why" seems to have an answer if one prefers the idealist view.

Sartre's question "What must be the Being of a man if he is to be responsible for and capable of bad faith" is a very badly worded question. Let us try to rephrase and analyse the question:

"What must be the Being of a man" may be rephrased as <What is the dilemma, contradiction or paradox of a man> and let us see this question with the second part of the sentence: "if he is to be responsible for and capable of bad faith?"

Premise One: What is the dilemma, contradiction or paradox of a man

Premise Two: Who is responsible for his action [he has free will and probably knows what he is about to do and the consequences of his action]

Premise Three: And is capable of wrong doing? [wrong-doing exists - hidden premise].

The answer to this question may probably be hidden in the origin of Man. A bird of prey becomes a bird of prey in the evolutionary history of the universe and it is not a wrong-doing for him to hunt a little bird. Whereas human beings have also been subjected to the same evolutionary process and their superior cognitive development has brought about new rules of engagement with others. Cognitive development, as we know, is not a homogeneous development in every man and woman.

One answer to the question of "Why does man do wrong if he knows it is wrong" is probably he thinks he can get away with it. Particularly as the prevailing ideology and political structure encourage it.

Wrong doing is a mistaken view - man do not see that wrong doing is against his self interest.

Kierkegaard's question "Is the past more necessary than the future?" also needs some rephrasing:
We need to ask "necessary" for what?

Premise One: Knowing past [empirical knowledge - history, geology, archaeology, cosmology etc] is essential information to understand the situation we are in.

Premise Two: Predicting future [theories and ideas] is natural progression of the cognitive development, useful and necessary occupation for the survival of humankind.

I am not quite sure if there are more hidden questions I haven't touched on yet? More questions please.

Thanks,
democritus
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Mon 9 Mar, 2009 03:29 pm
@democritus,
A quick question regarding the rephrasing of "What is the Being of man...".

I'm not sure that we can rephrase it as "What is the dilemma/paradox" because the original mentions Being, which would place us in the realm of ontology. Does replacing "Being" with "dilemma/paradox" maintain the meaning of the question?
 
democritus
 
Reply Tue 10 Mar, 2009 05:05 pm
@democritus,
Victor Eremita wrote:
What must be the Being of a man if he is to be responsible for and capable of bad faith? - Sartre


democritus wrote:
Sartre's question "What must be the Being of a man if he is to be responsible for and capable of bad faith" is a very badly worded question. Let us try to rephrase and analyse the question:
"What must be the Being of a man" may be rephrased as <What is the dilemma, contradiction or paradox of a man> and let us see this question with the second part of the sentence: "if he is to be responsible for and capable of bad faith?"


Didymos Thomas wrote:
Does replacing "Being" with "dilemma/paradox" maintain the meaning of the question?

I hope so Didymos Thomas, the centre theme of J.P.Sartre's Existentialism is the free will and he talks about the angst, anguish, abandonment, despair etc by making these free choices. He says "man is in anguish" Like Marx, Sartre was a product of a particular time in History - he epitomises the post-war reflection in Europe.

He speaks in very abstract and sometimes very obscure language in his philosophical writings but his version of existentialism maintains materialist rationalist and humanist view.

Do you have an alternative?

Thanks
democritus
 
nameless
 
Reply Tue 10 Mar, 2009 09:19 pm
@Victor Eremita,
Victor Eremita;52620 wrote:
Here's some:

Why is there something rather than nothing? - Heidegger

'Because' we have brains that seek patterns and, due to Perspective, imagine 'cause and effect' and thus seek a "why", when, other than to/as the individual 'reason seeking brain', there is no 'why', there simply 'is'.

Quote:
What must be the Being of a man if he is to be responsible for and capable of bad faith? - Sartre

He must be egoPerspective, pridefully imagining that he is a 'creator god', with 'will' and 'freedom to decide', and to make 'willful choices' in that 'freedom'. It is this delusion that is man's bondage (guilt, shame, blame, judgement, vengence, violence, alienation, disappointment...), and the moments without that prideful egoic fantasy is the "'free' that 'Truth' sets you"! (Of course, no believer in 'freewill/choice' can understand this but, perhaps, intellectually...)

Quote:
Is the past more necessary than the future? - Kierkegaard

That is mere ignorance of modern science (and logical thought and simple 'mindfulness') and millennial mystical understanding.
The fantasy of a 'past' and a 'future' is just that, a fantasy, an illusion, an ignorance. One is not, nor can one ever be, anywhere but 'Here!' and 'Now!'
It seems a very naive question.
Even if there were a past as imagined, and a future, what kind of horses patooty question is that; 'Which is more 'necessary'?' Necessary to whom? To what? Where? When? Why? Define necessary! Is Now! necessary? To whom?
One of the horrors of speaking, is that someone might be actually listening and will write BS like this down to remain to haunt your memory throughout the ages!
Finding the question chiselled on his tombstone would put it in a different light, no?
 
Victor Eremita
 
Reply Wed 11 Mar, 2009 02:34 am
@Victor Eremita,
The flip side to the question, "Is the past more necessary than the future", is "Does the Possible become more Necessary by becoming Actual"? For Kierkegaard, the necessary is not an experiential concept, but an a priori concept. So for SK, a necessary thing cannot come into existence, as necessary things must already exist; unlike contingent and possible things which may or may not come into existence. But does this make contingent things that DO come into "real existence" more necessary (or come closer to necessity) than those that do not come into existence but stay in conceptual existence?

Anyways, here are some more existential questions:

Does truth always involve communication? - Arendt

Must I always reason from existence, not toward existence? - Kierkegaard
{"I do not for example prove that a stone exists, but that some existing thing is a stone. The procedure in a court of justice does not prove that a criminal exists, but that the accused, whose existence is given, is a criminal."}

Does identity form social gender? - Beauvoir
 
democritus
 
Reply Mon 6 Apr, 2009 06:51 am
@Victor Eremita,
Victor Eremita wrote:
....does [it] make contingent things that DO come into "real existence" more necessary (or come closer to necessity) than those that do not come into existence but stay in conceptual existence?
Thank you Victor Eremita for providing us debating points but since you put the above question I expect you to come up with the answer please.

[ 1 ] Does the Possible become more Necessary by becoming Actual"? - Kierkegaard
There are almost endless "flip sides" for mystics and mysticism fans. Therefore, whatever an answer you reason to a specific question, mystics usually come up with another answer to prove that you have been wrong since the keys to all questions are kept within the hand of those mystics, gurus, rabbis etc who may change the rules of the argument to suit their cause. Therefore, mystical and theological arguments should never enter philosophy pages. It is distraction and waste of time.

As a straightforward logical thinking individual, this is not a sentence with meaning since the words "possible", "necessary" and "actual" have meaning only within a defined concept, and this sentence does not give us a clue of what the concept is. However, I understand that Kierkegaard is making a version of the ontological argument for the existence of God which should have been understood to be useless by now.

[ 2 ] Does truth always involve communication? - Arendt
I am not quite sure of the existentialist nature of this question but my answer is: The truth of the matter is independent of the observer. Therefore, answer to this question is NO. However, communication is the means for the realisation of such matters by the observer(s).

[ 3 ] Must I always reason from existence, not toward existence? - Kierkegaard
This is a question, I believe, that says a lot about the Man who starts his reasoning on a priory premise that "God exists" and shows his doubt and perhaps resentment that this priory premise may need some reasoning before accepting it as a true premise. To do that we need to go to Descartes' "I think therefore I exist".There is no "a priory" premise here. Why then do we need to accept "God exists" as a priory premise and build everything on this questionable foundation? This is a theological question, not philosophical.

[ 4 ] Does identity form social gender? - Beauvoir
Identity or "self" together with "freedom" are the main components of the existentialist philosophy and "self" obviously connected to "gender" which reflects the phyisical and mental state of the self in a certain way. But I am not quite sure what "social gender" means.

Existentialism could have been real fun if only we were not distracted with non-existentialist, non-logical and non-philosophical questions.

Thanks,
democritus
 
Victor Eremita
 
Reply Mon 6 Apr, 2009 03:12 pm
@democritus,
democritus wrote:
Thank you Victor Eremita for providing us debating points but since you put the above question I expect you to come up with the answer please.

Ah nah, that's SK's job, where he answers his own question in the Philosophical Fragments!

Quote:

[ 1 ] Does the Possible become more Necessary by becoming Actual"? - Kierkegaard
There are almost endless "flip sides" for mystics and mysticism fans. Therefore, whatever an answer you reason to a specific question, mystics usually come up with another answer to prove that you have been wrong since the keys to all questions are kept within the hand of those mystics, gurus, rabbis etc who may change the rules of the argument to suit their cause. Therefore, mystical and theological arguments should never enter philosophy pages. It is destruction and waste of time.

As a straightforward logical thinking individual, this is not a sentence with meaning since the words "possible", "necessary" and "actual" have meaning only within a defined concept, and this sentence does not give us a clue of what the concept is. However, I understand that Kierkegaard is making a version of the ontological argument for the existence of God which should have been understood to be useless by now.

SK gets his meanings for those words from the Kantian vocabulary. And like Kant, SK rejects the ontological argument.
Quote:

[ 2 ] Does truth always involve communication? - Arendt
I am not quite sure of the existentialist nature of this question but my answer is: The truth of the matter is independent of the observer. Therefore, answer to this question is NO. However, communication is the means for the realisation of such matters by the observer(s).

Arendt works from political theory, attempting to integrate existential concepts of freedom and authenticity into politics. For Arendt, truth does involve communication in the political arena; one defines oneself through communication (indirect and direct) from Others.

Quote:

[ 3 ] Must I always reason from existence, not toward existence? - Kierkegaard
This is a question, I believe, that says a lot about the Man who starts his reasoning on a priory premise that "God exists" and shows his doubt and perhaps resentment that this priory premise may need some reasoning before accepting it as a true premise. To do that we need to go to Descartes' "I think therefore I exist".There is no "a priory" premise here. Why then do we need to accept "God exists" as a priory premise and build everything on this questionable foundation? This is a theological question, not philosophical.

Well, Kierkegaard doubts that we can ever prove existence. For him its impossible to transist from mere attributes to existence. For example,
I think therefore I exist has hidden premises

I think
Thinking things exist
--------
I exist

The "I" has already been pre-assumed in the premises. And for SK, proving existence from attributes like 'thinking' is like proving all thinking things exist. Kierkegaard would rather demonstrate existence, than futilely proving existence.

Quote:

[ 4 ] Does identity form social gender? - Beauvoir
Identity or "self" together with "freedom" are the main components of the existentialist philosophy and "self" obviously connected to "gender" which reflects the phyisical and mental state of the self in a certain way. But I am not quite sure what "social gender" means.


Beauvoir asks whether identity alone is enough to create gender; or that it is the case that "one is not born a woman, one becomes woman". I would answer in the negative, citing the Bruce Reimer case.
Quote:

Existentialism could have been real fun if only we were not distracted with non-existentialist, non-logical and non-philosophical questions.

Part of the allure is that Existentialism isn't just philosophy, it's also literary, political, psychological and in some versions, theological.
 
ACB
 
Reply Wed 8 Apr, 2009 07:04 pm
@Victor Eremita,
Much confusion can arise from the ambiguity of words. For example:

Victor Eremita wrote:
For Arendt, truth does involve communication in the political arena; one defines oneself through communication (indirect and direct) from Others.


'Truth' can mean either 'the fact of the matter' or 'a statement corresponding to the fact of the matter'. In the first meaning, truth clearly does not always involve communication; in the second meaning, maybe it does.

Quote:
And for SK, proving existence from attributes like 'thinking' is like proving all thinking things exist. Kierkegaard would rather demonstrate existence, than futilely proving existence.


Surely existence necessarily follows from any attribute. Where an attribute is present, something must possess it; and whatever possesses it must exist (by virtue of the meaning of the word 'exist'). How could thinking exist, but not the thing doing the thinking?

Furthermore, if 'essence' (another vague word!) means 'the possession of attributes', then it is difficult to see how existence can precede it, since everything must have some attribute, otherwise it would be nothing. The definition of 'essence' needs to be precisely agreed before it can be usefully discussed.

Quote:
Beauvoir asks whether identity alone is enough to create gender; or that it is the case that "one is not born a woman, one becomes woman"


Again, it entirely depends on what one means by 'gender' and 'woman'.

Quote:
Part of the allure is that Existentialism isn't just philosophy, it's also literary, political, psychological and in some versions, theological.


Literary appeal is one thing; but if it is to be judged on a political, psychological or theological basis it ought to be philosophically sound, i.e. clear, coherent and rational. It is therefore a good idea to discuss it analytically, in order to correct any inconsistencies, vagueness or unfounded assertions. There is no reason why philosophy cannot be both rigorous and stylish!
 
Victor Eremita
 
Reply Wed 8 Apr, 2009 09:38 pm
@ACB,
ACB wrote:
Much confusion can arise from the ambiguity of words.

Short of reproducing the entire chapter or book, it's quite true, and especially when we're mixing the existential and non-existential meaning of words.

Quote:

Surely existence necessarily follows from any attribute. Where an attribute is present, something must possess it; and whatever possesses it must exist (by virtue of the meaning of the word 'exist'). How could thinking exist, but not the thing doing the thinking?

Furthermore, if 'essence' (another vague word!) means 'the possession of attributes', then it is difficult to see how existence can precede it, since everything must have some attribute, otherwise it would be nothing. The definition of 'essence' needs to be precisely agreed before it can be usefully discussed.

Quite true, but we do not prove existence, that must be implied in the premises. Kierkegaard's example is of a king and his subjects. Do his subjects attempt to prove the king's existence? No, they demonstrate it by bowing.

In other words, let's say you're in a room. "x" walks in the room. "x" has attributes like bald head, average frame, arms, legs, and "x" says his name is Jean Luc Picard.
So in argumentative form:

"x" exists
"x" has attributes "walks", "bald head", "average frame", "says his name is Jean Luc Picard" ...etc.
---------
Therefore "x" is Jean Luc Picard

Do we say Picard exists? Yes, but we reasoned FROM existence, not towards it. "x" exists first, then we show how "x" is Picard.

Quote:

Again, it entirely depends on what one means by 'gender' and 'woman'.


male/female-natural gender
man/woman-social gender

Quote:

Literary appeal is one thing; but if it is to be judged on a political, psychological or theological basis it ought to be philosophically sound, i.e. clear, coherent and rational. It is therefore a good idea to discuss it analytically, in order to correct any inconsistencies, vagueness or unfounded assertions. There is no reason why philosophy cannot be both rigorous and stylish!


If only that were the case all the time!
 
ACB
 
Reply Thu 9 Apr, 2009 07:10 am
@Victor Eremita,
Victor Eremita - Thanks for your reply. There is just one point I'd like to pick up.

Victor Eremita wrote:

"x" exists
"x" has attributes "walks", "bald head", "average frame", "says his name is Jean Luc Picard" ...etc.
---------
Therefore "x" is Jean Luc Picard

Do we say Picard exists? Yes, but we reasoned FROM existence, not towards it. "x" exists first, then we show how "x" is Picard.


I would use the following terms:
EXISTENCE = "x" exists.
IDENTITY = "x" is Picard (or whoever).

Now, I maintain that 'x exists' is necessarily implied by (i.e. is already contained in) the premise 'x has attributes....', so 'x exists' is a superfluous premise. I would therefore reason as follows:

1. "x" has attributes "walks", "bald head" etc.
2. [hidden premise] Whatever has these attributes is Picard.
3. Therefore "x" is Picard.

So we have reasoned directly from ATTRIBUTES to EXISTENCE, and indirectly (via the hidden premise) from ATTRIBUTES to IDENTITY.

From the identity statement 'x is Picard' we get, of course, a further existence statement: 'Picard exists'.
 
Victor Eremita
 
Reply Thu 9 Apr, 2009 01:34 pm
@Victor Eremita,
Kierkegaard would argue that you're merely developing the definition of a concept:
Quote:
"If one wanted to demonstrate Napoleon's existence from Napoleon's works, would it not be most curious, since his existence certainly explain the works but the works do not demonstrate his existence unless I have already in advance intepreted the word "his" in such a way as to have assumed that he exists. But Napoleon is only an individual and to that extent, there is no absolute relation between him and his works-thus someone else could have done the same works. Perhaps this is why I cannot reason from the works to existence. If I call the works Napoleon's works, then the proof is superfluous, since I've already mentioned his name. If I ignore this, I can never demonstrate from the works, that they are Napleon's but demonstrate purely ideally, that such works are the works of a great general, etc."


So for "x", SK would inquire how you can show that the attributes of "x" belongs precisely to Picard and not someone else that could possess the same attributes of "x"? You're hidden premises are still presupposing Picard's existence.
 
ACB
 
Reply Thu 9 Apr, 2009 04:14 pm
@Victor Eremita,
Victor Eremita - Thank you for the quote. Before I go any further, I would be grateful for a little clarification.

In his first sentence, SK seems to be saying that Napoleon's works do not entail Napoleon's existence; but his fourth sentence implies that they do. The first two sentences also seem to say that "his" is not equivalent to "Napoleon's", even though no other person has been mentioned. Grammatically, "his" can only refer to Napoleon here. Someone else could indeed have done the same works, but then they would not be his works, and we would not call them such if we were in doubt. It is up to us to judge whether the works belong to Napoleon, but if they do he must logically exist. Or am I missing something?

Regarding your final paragraph:

1. 'x has attributes' does not of itself entail that Picard exists, but it does entail that x exists (i.e. that whatever has the attributes exists).

2. My argument does not purport to prove that the attributes of 'x' belong to Picard. My second (hidden) premise could indeed be false.

3. My hidden premise does not presuppose Picard's existence. It might have been that nothing possessed the attributes in question, in which case Picard would not necessarily have existed.
 
Victor Eremita
 
Reply Thu 9 Apr, 2009 04:39 pm
@Victor Eremita,
Thanks for the post. I'm leaving for today, but to briefly explain, for Kierkegaard, the cogito is psychologically appealing, but either logically trivial or logically fallacious.

If you see "x" doing philosophy, Victor Eremita's existence can explain "x" doing philosophy (it could be Victor Eremita doing philosophy), but you can't logically prove "x" doing philosophy entails Victor Eremita's existence; it could be VideCorSpoon doing philosophy or Justin doing philosophy. But what you can do is prove existence purely ideally that "x" doing philosopy exists, But you are not logically proving that just because "x" is doing philosophy that you prove a particular individual's existence! Here's where the psychological aspect kicks in.... it looks like Victor Eremita, speaks like Eremita, walks like Eremita therefore it is Victor Eremita, dure... who else could we be talking about?! But that's psychological, not logical.
 
MJA
 
Reply Sun 12 Apr, 2009 09:23 am
@Victor Eremita,
[quote=Victor Eremita]Here's some:

Why is there something rather than nothing? - Heidegger
What must be the Being of a man if he is to be responsible for and capable of bad faith? - Sartre
Is the past more necessary than the future? - Kierkegaard[/quote]

Fun questions Victor, thanks.

I would answer them this Way.

1)What is nothing? I don't think there is such a thing.
And if there is such a thing as nothing then nothing is surely something.

2)As for the faith question: Being a man of theory or faith, is a man of uncertainty, and being a man of truth is absolute. I prefer the later although I have tried and been taught them All. Truth is good for me.

3)And the last question I would answer: Now is the most important time of All.

=
MJA
 
ACB
 
Reply Sun 12 Apr, 2009 02:39 pm
@Victor Eremita,
Victor Eremita wrote:
If you see "x" doing philosophy, Victor Eremita's existence can explain "x" doing philosophy (it could be Victor Eremita doing philosophy), but you can't logically prove "x" doing philosophy entails Victor Eremita's existence; it could be VideCorSpoon doing philosophy or Justin doing philosophy. But what you can do is prove existence purely ideally that "x" doing philosopy exists, But you are not logically proving that just because "x" is doing philosophy that you prove a particular individual's existence! Here's where the psychological aspect kicks in.... it looks like Victor Eremita, speaks like Eremita, walks like Eremita therefore it is Victor Eremita, dure... who else could we be talking about?! But that's psychological, not logical.


Thank you for clarifying this. So Kierkegaard is saying:

(a) the existence of "x" does not prove that of a particular individual [but isn't that obvious?];

and either:

(b1) if "x" is observed to have many of Eremita's attributes and no contrary ones, then "x" is probably Eremita;

or:

(b2) if "x" in fact has all of Eremita's attributes (and therefore no contrary ones), then "x" is certainly Eremita.

Is it (b1) or (b2)? And why does he bother to assert (a)? Surely nobody would claim that "Someone exists (or someone's works exist), therefore Napoleon exists"!
 
 

 
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