Does existence really precede essence?

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Arjuna
 
Reply Sat 22 Aug, 2009 01:58 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;84848 wrote:
Existentialism sees man as being required to invent himself with reference to a world which has been rendered devoid of meaning or value. Everything arises as an outcome of chance and necessity.


What you describe there sounds like the viewpoint of a robot. The word robot originated with 20th century preoccupation with the idea of justice in regard to slaves...even if called free laborors. One could argue that this idea has been shaping human life since Moses' dog was a pup. Marx prophesied that there'd be a global proletariat revolution. How could he have foreseen that in the wealthiest nations, manufacturing would actually be done by... robots. They don't go on strike unless you program them to. We live in the wake of all this and it's part of who we are.. how we relate to each other and how we see the world... which is the beginning of existentialsm.

At Nuremburg, according to folklore, the Nazi's were asked to explain themselves. They said: we were soldiers. We did what we were told. This is true: soldiers do follow commands. The role is like a robot: programmed and determined. The Nazi's seem to have been identifying entirely with the role. How could they not have realized that a human has a choice as to whether he's going to invest himself into the role of soldier? The previous world war had ended with a mutiny in the German navy.

To where does a person go when he abandons one role and adopts another? Some existentialists would say the realm of the spirit... the part of us that is beyond any role. And then once again: "the spirit comes to rest in the sanctuary of the form.." -SK

Is this how reality actually works? Is there really a realm of spirit? The way I think of it, the point of existentialism is that trying to be definitive is all well and good, but if it's our only goal... then we're like a someone who's permanently on vacation. Home is vacant. We aren't paying attention to the only thing we really know: what it feels like to be alive.
 
jgweed
 
Reply Sat 22 Aug, 2009 05:13 pm
@hue-man,
Existentialism seems by its very nature to imply an involvement with the world, even if by doing so one must accept a certain amount of ambiguity in one's choices and projects. Far from being an Oriental quietism that turns inward and molds the self to the world, existentialism turns outward and attempts to change it; hence its many attempts to present itself in drama, literature, and public lectures; hence its involvement (with sometimes questionable results) in contemporary social and political issues.

It is an attempt to give an account of the world as men and women live in it, and presents to us a concrete ethics of responsibility to ourselves and to others, however hesitant and tentative the moral values to which it adheres.


Its home is far from vacant, it is filled with life and people looking for ways to live in it.
 
hue-man
 
Reply Sat 22 Aug, 2009 05:56 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;84848 wrote:
I think it misunderstands the nature of authenticity, as in 'authentic being'. Growing in the shadow of the 'death of God', existentialism sees man as being required to invent himself with reference to a world which has been rendered devoid of meaning or value. Everything arises as an outcome of chance and necessity. Herocially, realising that life is at best like the toil of Sisyphus in a vast realm of meaningless matter and interacting impersonal forces, man must toil to generate meaning in the only way possible, as an act of free choice and an expression of his defiant will. Hence 'nausea', 'vertigo' 'no exit' and all of the other symbols of enslavement and entrapment betokening our having been 'thrown' into an existence where the only meaning possible is that consciously created by the ego. But in my view this was all historically determined as an expression of our reaction against religious authoritariasm and the tremendous shadow it has left on the collective psyche of Europe. Hence the idea of the 'God-shaped hole in existence', of which there is a Buddhist analysis in this essay by David Loy.


So it's failure, as you see it, is its incomplete view of life?

I agree, as I believe that its failure is rooted not in its recognition of the absurd, but in its acceptance of absurdity as the last word. The meaning of life is in the valuation of the struggle.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Sat 22 Aug, 2009 07:34 pm
@hue-man,
It has important lessons and there are some great existential thinkers - Viktor Frankl comes to mind. But I think its day has passed.

---------- Post added 08-23-2009 at 12:09 PM ----------

Was Erich Fromm existentialist? Cause I really like him. I think Man for Himself is a great book.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Sun 23 Aug, 2009 03:48 am
@hue-man,
actually it might be Camus I am reacting against. All that Gauloise smoke and coffee and sittting around coffee shops late at night talking about the meaningless of it all. I can see a straight line from the radical Philosophes of the enlightenment to Camus. They will beat you in any argument, but I don't like where they are coming from.
 
hue-man
 
Reply Sun 23 Aug, 2009 08:40 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;85103 wrote:
actually it might be Camus I am reacting against. All that Gauloise smoke and coffee and sittting around coffee shops late at night talking about the meaningless of it all. I can see a straight line from the radical Philosophes of the enlightenment to Camus. They will beat you in any argument, but I don't like where they are coming from.


Absurdists will not beat you in an argument if you understand the validity of their arguments. The validity of absurdism is in the fact that the universe is somewhat nonsensical to the human psyche, which is why we have the tendency to resort to metaphysical nihilism and create Gods to fill that metaphysical void. Absurdism has some good points, but it forgets that the saying that "the universe is absurd" is only an opinion; a sentiment. Maybe it is we who are absurd, but the universe certainly isn't. Absurdism is simply an incomplete view of life and existence. It mistakes an important insight to be the last word.
 
jgweed
 
Reply Sun 23 Aug, 2009 09:14 am
@hue-man,
The philosophical position that the world in which we live does not have a knowable, objective meaning, especially in relation to value and ultimate truth, and that value and meaning are the result of human interpretation and perspective seems to be far more than "an opinion; a sentiment." Further, that we must accept that we have limited knowledge of the world, and that we must therefore and nevertheless take responsibility for the various meanings and values by which we live and act, does not seem an incomplete view of life once this position is fully elaborated, but a complex and, at least to some philosophers, realistic position.
 
hue-man
 
Reply Sun 23 Aug, 2009 09:32 am
@jgweed,
jgweed;85142 wrote:
The philosophical position that the world in which we live does not have a knowable, objective meaning, especially in relation to value and ultimate truth, and that value and meaning are the result of human interpretation and perspective seems to be far more than "an opinion; a sentiment."


I don't know what you were reading, but I didn't say that the position that value and meaning are a result of human interpretation is an opinion or sentiment, as I consider it knowledge. I said that the position that the universe is absurd is an opinion or sentiment.
 
jgweed
 
Reply Sun 23 Aug, 2009 09:49 am
@hue-man,
Perhaps then, the mistake was mine, because the usual definition of existential "absurdity" is that the world in which we life does not have a knowable, objective meaning, especially in relation to value and ultimate truth... and so on. I must have overlooked that you were using the same term, apparently, with different meanings.
Sorry,
John
 
hue-man
 
Reply Sun 23 Aug, 2009 09:52 am
@jgweed,
jgweed;85150 wrote:
Perhaps then, the mistake was mine, because the usual definition of existential "absurdity" is that the world in which we life does not have a knowable, objective meaning, especially in relation to value and ultimate truth... and so on. I must have overlooked that you were using the same term, apparently, with different meanings.
Sorry,
John


I was speaking of absurdism as it pertains to the supposed despair and meaninglessness of life.
 
Shlomo
 
Reply Tue 6 Oct, 2009 01:23 pm
@hue-man,
Existence is evolution of essence
 
Aedes
 
Reply Tue 6 Oct, 2009 01:29 pm
@hue-man,
hue-man;84514 wrote:
The defining tenant of existentialism is the belief that existence, the being of a person, precedes the essence or nature of a person. In other words, there is no human nature. This sounds like the blank slate interpretation of human nature.

Is this proposition really true; can it be verified; or is this just another attempt to escape the firm clutches of determinism?


Shylock, from The Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare wrote:
I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands,
organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same
food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases,
heal'd by the same means, warm'd and cool'd by the same winter
and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If
you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?
And if you wrong us, do we not revenge? If we are like you in the
rest, we will resemble you in that.


This is an Elizabethan version of existentialism. All the "essential" features of Jews that Shylock has experienced in the scorn he experiences from the other characters, he argues are subordinate to what they all have in common as humans.

Existentialism is about our common denominators. Before we're a good or a bad human, we are human. Before we are human, we are existing things.
 
Mentally Ill
 
Reply Sun 22 Nov, 2009 01:50 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;84649 wrote:
it is obvious that people are born with talents, predispositions, characteristics, inclinations, and all kinds of other attributes.


I don't see this as obvious, or even something that could be proved. If you're simply assuming that because people grow to have different talents, that they must have entered this world with those talents, I'm going to have to flat out reject your opinion.
But, if there is a reputable study to support your opinion, I will give it an honest read before I make judgment.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Sun 22 Nov, 2009 02:24 am
@hue-man,
So - OK I haven't got a study on hand - how come it is that out of all the people who train for the 100 meters final, only one of them becomes the world title holder? Is it all training? Don't attributes have something to do with it?

I know that people are all supposed to be born equal, but it can't be true, because 'equal' means the same, and we're not all the same. Sure, everyone should be treated equally, but that doesn't mean that everyone is the same does it? Aren't there 'born runners' and 'born pianists'?
 
Mentally Ill
 
Reply Sun 22 Nov, 2009 03:04 pm
@jeeprs,
Everyone is not equal, but that doesn't mean you are born with talents.
My genetic make up is responsible for my body type, but not how I train my body, see?
Certain body types are more suited for certain athletic activities, but they still have to train and develop the talent in order to utilize their body correctly.

"how come it is that out of all the people who train for the 100 meters final, only one of them becomes the world title holder?"

It's because there can only be one first place. But take a look at second place and third place, they're not losing by much. Look at the next 100,000 best 100 meter sprinters in the world, they're still doing very well.

I personally believe that superior athletes, like Michael Jordan for example, are great not because of their talents (hand-eye coordination, jumping ability, passing, etc...), but because of their will power. Mind over matter type of deal. Jordan wanted to win more than everyone else and he made it happen.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Sun 22 Nov, 2009 06:03 pm
@hue-man,
well - not convinced. (There is a book around called Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell that supports your case, or anyway, downplays the sole importance of genetic inheritance.)

I am still inclined to believe in the existence of 'archetypes' as decribed by Jung. It seems to me that there are personality profiles, or types, that are born into the world. Certainly training and positive thinking will come into play, but you can't tell me there aren't people born with aptitudes and talents. Take a whole year at school and teach them all music. Some wlll excel at music, and it is not just because the want to, or work harder at it. They may practise hard and work hard, but some kids have musical ability, and some don't. It seems harsh, unfair, but that is life.
 
Mentally Ill
 
Reply Sun 22 Nov, 2009 06:57 pm
@jeeprs,
Well, we'll have to agree to disagree until a psychologist proves one of us right.
I'll end my argument with this last assertion:
There is no limit to the number of factors influencing success and failure for every different case study. To say that because some students excel at music and some succeed does nothing to prove the notion that it is due to genetic predispositions. Unless you carefully analyze every factor influencing every students life at the time (from how much their parents support them all the way down to what television program they watched that morning) then you can not determine whether or not they have archetype abilities.
It seems to me that it would be wiser for you to rid yourself of notions that you're simply "inclined to believe" and actually examine each situation with scientific and philosophical precision.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Sun 22 Nov, 2009 07:07 pm
@hue-man,
well if I had time, aside from the multitude of things that I actually am responsible for and do have to study, I probably would. I think you have put forward a pretty good argument, but I am afraid I will always believe that talent exists, is inborn, and makes a difference. And in the social sciences, you can nearly always find a study to support whichever view you're inclined to believe. As it is, I only have two sons to raise, and am not an educator, so what I believe about it probably has little consequence in the real world, but thanks for your viewpoint.
 
IntoTheLight
 
Reply Mon 23 Nov, 2009 01:54 am
@hue-man,
hue-man;84514 wrote:
The defining tenant of existentialism is the belief that existence, the being of a person, precedes the essence or nature of a person. In other words, there is no human nature. This sounds like the blank slate interpretation of human nature.


Accurate, IMHO.

Quote:

Is this proposition really true; can it be verified; or is this just another attempt to escape the firm clutches of determinism?


I think that modern psychology demonstrates the uniqueness of each human being and that, regardless of their enviroment, they will neccessarily fufill their own relativistic view of reality.

-ITL-
 
Habidoug
 
Reply Sat 12 Dec, 2009 10:07 pm
@richrf,
Have you heard of the 3year old who asked her parents for permission to see her newborn brother privately" Permission was granted as aroom listening device was active. She said: "tell me about God, I have almost forgotten."










richrf;84545 wrote:
Hi hue-man,

As far as I can tell there is no end to the debate concerning determinism and what is called free will. Everyone seems to have a different interpretation of these terms anyway. I fall on the ability to choose direction side of the debate, since it is much more in line with my own observations of life.

In regards to existentialism, I think that it does attempt to place the onus of responsibility of a person actions onto the person, making it a much more practical way of living. Einstein, for example, was a determinist up until the law was in question, and then he believed in punishment - and he accepted the contradiction, which was honest of him.

For myself, I believe we come into this life with certain memories, characteristics, abilities, thoughts, which are subject to change depending upon what we learn.

Rich
 
 

 
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