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Re: [existlist] Camus on nihilism and despair

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  • George Walton
    Albert Camus (1913–60), French-Algerian philosopher said: Nihilism is not only despair and negation, but above all the desire to despair and to negate. A
    Message 1 of 42 , Jan 1, 2005
      Albert Camus (1913�60), French-Algerian philosopher said:

      "Nihilism is not only despair and negation, but above all the desire to despair and to negate."

      A point of view always seems to lie inextricably embedded in the murky middle somewhere between a particular philosophy of life and whatever particular circumstantial convulsions you happen to be caught up in at the time.

      In other words, you can have a brutally cynical and pessimistic philosophy of life yet be deeply enscounced in a comfortable, satisfying lifestyle. You may be loved and valued and respected. You may be fullfilled sexually, in perfect health and embarked on a career you find stimulating and rewarding. And as long as you are immersed successfully "out in the world" it is easy enough to distract yourself from philosophical qualms.

      Or, instead, you can have a generally optimistic, cheery philosophy of life and then suddenly fall into a circumstantial abyss from which you cannot seem to escape. As your existential worries and woes accumulate day after day you may begin to notice how little your benevolent philosophy is contributing to resolving the crisis. Or even in comforting you.

      Most of us, of course, flipflop back and forth between the two extremes. Sometimes we are able to concentrate on philosophical questions and other times they are the farthest thing from our minds.

      For example, how many people in the path of those tsunami waves in South Asia are able to take comfort in a benevolent philosophy of life? Some, perhaps. Especially those able to anchor their's to God or some sort of religous salvation. But most are preoccupied with other things. Like coping with enormous grief and desolate feelings of loss. Or with literally surviving to the next day.

      I believe it is important for the philsophically minded to occasionally ask themslees, "how would my philosophy fare if it was me in the path of the tsunami?"

      When push comes to shove, feelings of despair and negation sometimes make perfect sense. And for each individual, immersed in his her own set of existential variables, it will always be something they have to work out for themselves. It is foolish to suppose you can really understand why others react as they do to life's trials and tribulations.

      And it can be especiallly foolish to suppose you really understand why you react as you do to your own.


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    • Monte Morris
      Louise, sorry for the late reply. My job has kept me (mostly) away from e-mail these last few weeks and I m still only skimming subject headings. Suicide is
      Message 42 of 42 , Jan 14, 2005
        sorry for the late reply. My job has kept me (mostly)
        away from e-mail these last few weeks and I'm still
        only skimming subject headings.
        Suicide is indeed looked at differently in Japan than
        in the west, and it is culturally different. THe west
        has an idea of sin attached to taking one's own life,
        a by-product of Judeao-Christian teaching.
        In Japan, sometimes suicide is considered the
        honorable choice in the face of failure, a remnant of
        the Samurai honor code. Now, those who lose their
        jobs, or who are failing at work, or who blame
        themselves for bad marriages, or the way thier
        children turn out, may commit suicide.
        Furthermore, some high school students are known to
        commit suicide if they don't get into the college of
        their choice.
        Indeed, Japan needs to take a harder look at the
        stress in their lives and find ways to address the
        problem of suicide and other incidents of irrational
        --- louise <hecubatoher@...> wrote:

        > Monte,
        > A few weeks ago one of those invaluable little
        > 'Newsnight' features
        > really surprised and, indeed, moved me, by
        > explaining what a totally
        > different attitude to suicide prevails in Japanese
        > culture as
        > compared with that in Christendom, where there is a
        > strong residual
        > association with shame or sin or guilt or cowardice
        > in many people's
        > minds, when the subject is even mentioned. It seems
        > that in Japan
        > it's much more of a 'lifestyle' choice, absolutely
        > morally neutral,
        > though of course that universally human phenomenon
        > of compassion
        > means that there are some Japanese putting their
        > time into trying to
        > help those in spiritual despair or delusion. I
        > think the first step
        > for us all is to recognise that we do not understand
        > other people,
        > nor what is best for them. Patient endurance,
        > lively curiosity,
        > faith whether accompanied by religious beliefs or
        > not, an instinct
        > for reticence, a boldness to speak when needful, all
        > these things
        > contribute to the hope for cross-cultural harmony.
        > A sense of
        > humour is nice to have, but it's not one of the
        > essentials. On a
        > personal level, no-one ever hurt my feelings by
        > failing to have a
        > sense of humour.
        > Louise
        > --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, Monte Morris
        > <monteamorris@y...>
        > wrote:
        > > Bill,
        > > I don' have a whole lot of time to reply to this
        > > e-mail about the cult and cult mentality in Japan,
        > but
        > > a lot of the problems of cults is a by-product of
        > how
        > > Japan's society is structured.
        > > Approaching the idea of japanese religious
        > > organizations with a western mentality distorts
        > what
        > > is really going on here.
        > > Many members of these "cults" are people who feel
        > > ostracized by their society and the way it is
        > > structured. There is some excellent scholarly
        > books
        > > written on cults in Japan and the way these people
        > > think.
        > > The cult who committed the subway attack wasn't
        > done
        > > in unison and there was in fact a large amount of
        > > dissent.
        > > Further, this sort of violent act on such a
        > dramatic
        > > scale is not the only one to have happened
        > recently in
        > > Japan. A high school boy hijacked a bus with a
        > machete
        > > and killed several women on board and severely
        > > mutilated several others, while holding a small
        > child
        > > hostage with the machete to her throat.
        > > I believe the problems in Japan are not
        > "religious"
        > > per se and looking for those problems in a
        > religious
        > > context serves to distort the problem---Japan has
        > > deeper societal problems to deal with.
        > > --Monte

        --Monte Morris
        Philosopher wannabe
        "Needs to find a good quote"

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