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Re: [existlist] Das last man

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  • Exist List Moderator
    ... I m wondering, beyond the New Age obscurisms and religion, what ideologies promise one a feel good solution in today s world? In fact, I would argue that
    Message 1 of 24 , Nov 1, 2007
      On Nov 01, 2007, at 7:41, eupraxis@... wrote:

      > "self" that have spawned in the wake of our regime of short
      > attention spans and
      > "feel good" ideologies. So much the worse for us.

      I'm wondering, beyond the New Age obscurisms and religion, what
      ideologies promise one a "feel good" solution in today's world? In
      fact, I would argue that most of the humanities are littered with
      victimology, guilt, and a generally low regard for most (curiously)
      humans.

      Then again, I was based in the notoriously pessimistic Department of
      Rhetoric and now deal with Communications Studies part of the time.
      Read enough communications research, or even too many issues of MIND,
      and you realize people make decisions emotionally, instinctively, or
      through some other process and then rationalize the choice. You're
      left wondering how many people at least try to pause and analyze
      choices -- or analyze after the fact.

      We seem to be conditioned by fear and dread. Probably, this was a
      survival issue. The human most afraid was more likely to be cautious
      and survive. Now, that fear instinct is regularly manipulated by
      political parties ("Do you want to be bombed?" "Your Social Security
      will be cut!" "Terrorists want candidate X to win!" "Children will die
      if Y wins!") with people in fields like my own studying MRIs to learn
      how to better manipulate voters. Of course, we do those for the
      "right" (left?) candidates, so that's okay.

      Of course this has affected my view of free will. It's also influenced
      how suspicious I am of everything, just as my work writing or my
      internships as a reporter shaped me. Three years of defense-related
      work also shaped my cynical outlook.

      > Besides myself and perhaps Louise (or Trinidad), aren't there any
      > folks here
      > who have faced the dark night of the soul, as it were, and have come
      > to
      > understand our self-satisfactions and consumer-wrought sanguinities
      > as a hopeless
      > charade, an empty shell game, a bad comportment to life itself?

      Personally, I don't have a soul -- thankfully sparing me being "saved"
      by various fanatics. My view of hopelessness is much grander than a
      moment. I simply wonder why, with the universe eventually coming to
      either a cold or explosive end (theories vary), we don't make more of
      the brief moments of existence.

      Life is short. You can wallow in misery or you can do something about
      it. You can try to understand the absurd (which I think is beyond
      comprehension) or you can do something to make other "meaningless"
      lives more tolerable. Sure, I also want my life to be tolerable along
      the way.

      Once you know how mortal you are, or if you have generally lived with
      that mortality, then you can either decide (free will, definitely) to
      end the pain of existence, or you can decide to confront the absurd
      and make the most of it.

      My free will is to live. Beyond that, once you choose to exist you are
      forever moderated by the circumstances of your birth -- genetic,
      social, familial, and even fortunate circumstances. Certainly, I had
      no choice when it came to my physical limitations, but I do choose to
      live with them or to wallow in self-pity.

      I'd rather exist... cynicism and all.

      - C. S. Wyatt
      I am what I am at this moment, not what I was and certainly not all
      that I shall be.
      http://www.tameri.com - Tameri Guide for Writers
      http://www.tameri.com/csw/exist - The Existential Primer
    • Herman B. Triplegood
      Reason, or rationality, or just good sense, should prevail. That isn t optimism. That is being reasonable -- as well as pragmatic. All three that you mention
      Message 2 of 24 , Nov 1, 2007
        Reason, or rationality, or just good sense, should prevail. That
        isn't optimism. That is being reasonable -- as well as pragmatic. All
        three that you mention are important for what they have to say about
        this. But Kant is my favorite. He is honest about whar reason can and
        cannot know, and he recognizes that the practical applications of
        reason are of greater importance to us than the merely theoretical
        applications. Yet, he does not disrespect theoretical reason either.
        His view is, in this sense, nicely balanced, and it is kind of
        existential in this way, don't you think?

        Hb3g

        --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, eupraxis@... wrote:
        >
        >
        > Okay.
        >
        > To be perhaps even more infuriating, though...I am not a pessimist
        either, at least in the long view. I agree with Kant and Hegel and
        Nietzsche, each in their own way, that reason or rationality or just
        good sense may actually prevail.
        >
        >
        >
        > WS
        >
        >
        >
        >
        > -----Original Message-----
        > From: jimstuart46 <jjimstuart@...>
        > To: existlist@yahoogroups.com
        > Sent: Thu, 1 Nov 2007 5:23 pm
        > Subject: [existlist] Re: Das last man
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        > Wil: I wasn't thinking of you, actually, but you are correct
        >
        > that "shiny happy people existentialism" is not existentialism. If
        >
        > that describes you, I am sorry for that, but I am confident of my
        >
        > position vis-a-vis the literature, which goes by the ascription
        >
        > of "existentialist" and which has everything to do with the mode of
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        > thought called the same.
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        > Jim: No, I would not describe myself as a "shiny happy person", and
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        > I am not disagreeing with your interpretation of the existentialist
        >
        > literature.
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        > My own philosophical outlook is closest to Kierkegaard's but
        without
        >
        > the theism. This is a pessimistic outlook.
        >
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        > Wil: What you mean by "political correctness" eludes me. What
        >
        > politics would you like espouse that you feel is too politically
        >
        > incorrect, as far as I or anyone else goes? Gulags, extraordinary
        >
        > renditions, waterboarding? Doesn't sound like you. Or are you
        saying
        >
        > that it is all-too "political correct" to mention the 'dark night
        of
        >
        > the soul', rather than champion some Prosac inspired crap about how
        >
        > a day with a big utilitarian smile is like a day without sunshine?
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        > Jim: No, my point was that you seemed to be advocating a version of
        >
        > political correctness which disallowed (or, at least, discouraged)
        >
        > non-existentialist or anti-existentialist viewpoints. My
        alternative
        >
        > was to allow the full range of views, as even the anti-
        >
        > existentialist post can be the catalyst for a good discussion.
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        > Jim
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        ______________________________________________________________________
        __
        > Email and AIM finally together. You've gotta check out free AOL
        Mail! - http://mail.aol.com
        >
        >
        > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        >
      • Herman B. Triplegood
        CSW: I m wondering, beyond the New Age obscurisms and religion, what ideologies promise one a feel good solution in today s world? In fact, I would argue
        Message 3 of 24 , Nov 1, 2007
          CSW: I'm wondering, beyond the New Age obscurisms and religion, what
          ideologies promise one a "feel good" solution in today's world? In
          fact, I would argue that most of the humanities are littered with
          victimology, guilt, and a generally low regard for most (curiously)
          humans.

          Hb3g: It is odd. One would think that the humanities would be a
          humanistic lot. If what you say is true, then, it would appear that
          they are, indeed, a bunch of pessimists. As for the "feel good
          solution", well, one could look at it two ways, just as one could
          look at pessimism two ways. There is blithe optimism that fails to
          see there really is an ugly side. But there is also a more realistic
          optimism that recognizes that we shape what we experience to some
          extent by the attitudes we bring to our experiences. Typically,
          people I have known who are realisically optimistic tend to feel
          better about themslves and their life and, I maintain, probably do
          live better lives. Just as realistically pessimistic people tend not
          to be bamboozled so easily.

          CSW: We seem to be conditioned by fear and dread.

          Hb3g: It is a basic instinct. Usually, whenever something new or
          surprising comes along, our initial reaction to it is a fearful one.
          Understanding comes later. Often, much later.

          CSW: Personally, I don't have a soul -- thankfully sparing me
          being "saved" by various fanatics. My view of hopelessness is much
          grander than a moment. I simply wonder why, with the universe
          eventually coming to either a cold or explosive end (theories vary),
          we don't make more of the brief moments of existence.

          Hb3g: Yeah, I ain't got one of those either. Thank god! HAHAHA! Okay,
          thank fate! Or, whatever! That's better!

          CSW: Life is short. You can wallow in misery or you can do something
          about it.

          Hb3g: Suffering is one of the many problems that just being alive
          presents to us. We ought to deal with it instead of just give in to
          it. That is one of the things I really like about the whole
          Enlightenment scientific attitude. Let's try to mitigate suffering
          rather than elevate it and worship it as our punishment for just
          being alive. Seneca once said that fate guides those who are willing
          and drags the rest along in chains. I think Seneca, of all people,
          would have known the truth to this. He had the misfortune of having
          to be Nero's mentor.

          CSW: Once you know how mortal you are, or if you have generally lived
          with that mortality, then you can either decide (free will,
          definitely) to end the pain of existence, or you can decide to
          confront the absurd and make the most of it.

          Hb3g: But is it really absurd? It seems to me that you have leaped
          from "pain of existence" to "absurd" here, or, perhaps, from "mortal"
          to "absurd", but how, in your thinking, does this really follow? What
          would not being absurd even look like on this account? Living
          forever? Never having a pain of existence? This sounds an awful lot
          like what theological doctrine dangles in front of our face as the
          reward for being in conformity with those expectations of us. The
          problem with either of these notions, being immortal, and being in a
          state of eternal bliss without pain, is that they are impossible.
          They, themselves, are what is absurd. They are absurd when they are
          held up as the ideals upon which the living of a necessarily mortal
          and necessarily often painful life must be based. As such ideals,
          they in fact constitute a denial of life, rather than an affirmation
          of it. Why? Because they demand that life must "live up to" what life
          can never be.

          CSW: My free will is to live. Beyond that, once you choose to exist
          you are forever moderated by the circumstances of your birth --
          genetic, social, familial, and even fortunate circumstances.
          Certainly, I had no choice when it came to my physical limitations,
          but I do choose to live with them or to wallow in self-pity. I'd
          rather exist... cynicism and all.

          Hb3g: Yeah, me too. I would rather exist. but I might change my mind
          about that if I was withering away from a painful cancer. It is
          interesting to observe that it certainly wasn't by means of our free
          will that any of us began to live. We didn't have a choice about
          that. Also, having a "will to live" isn't necessarily always a "free"
          will kind of thing. There is a basic instinct to survive that has
          little, if anything at all, to do with our freely deciding anything.
          We easily forget that. We like to talk ourselves into believing that
          the reason why we continue to live is because we freely choose to do
          so. I do not think that this is really the case. We continue to live
          because we must. That is what living things, by their very nature,
          necessarily, must try to do.

          This is life. This is what life does. Where is the freedom? It looks
          like necessity to me. But, then again, I tend to believe that when we
          come to really understand what freedom is, it looks like necessity.
          That seems to be a paradox. But what if it is a true paradox? Kant
          thought it was a true paradox. He said that both sides of the
          antinomial argument on that point had to be true.

          Hb3g
        • eupraxis@aol.com
          Hb3g, [Kant s] view is, in this sense, nicely balanced, and it is kind of existential in this way, don t you think? Kant had a great influence on the seminal
          Message 4 of 24 , Nov 1, 2007
            Hb3g,

            "[Kant's] view is, in this sense, nicely balanced, and it is kind of
            existential in this way, don't you think?"

            Kant had a great influence on the seminal thinkers of the 20th Century that
            we associate with Existentialism and Phenomenology, but I wouldn't call him an
            existentialist.

            In my opinion, Existentialism-as-such comes out of a distinct period of
            Western European history that was described by its contemporaries as a "crisis" and
            scission (witness the 'fin de siecle' themes at the century's turn). I see
            Nietzsche's 'Death of God' in that light, for example.

            Certainly from the 1840s onwards, the themes of critical breakage are writ
            large in most philosophical, political and scientific writers of note, from Marx
            and Stirner through Darwin and Rutherford and Freud, Einstein, Joyce and
            beyond. But the period between and after the wars was absolutely decisive in the
            trajectory of the genre that understood itself as something cohesive and with
            the familial associations that make up a trend or 'school'.

            Kant sensed his time as one of liberation from medieval backwardness, and as
            achieving "enlightenment" (Aufklarung). It was a Progressive and "philosophe"
            discourse. The crisis of his time was not his own, but was rather the that of
            the faltering medievalism of church and crown. Existentialism's crisis is our
            own.

            Secondly, Existentialism is essentially anti-formalist (which might strike
            someone new to it as odd as he or she is trudging through densely theoretical
            texts like Being and Time or Being and Nothingness). The architecture of the
            first Critique is anathematic to what Existentialism is all about, as is anything
            like a categorical imperative. Heidegger recasts the former's "categories" as
            existentialia in B&T, which retains the rationalizing function of the
            original while not allowing itself the architectonic of Kant's logic. (I see Sartre's
            B&N as more Hegelian than Kantian.)

            And yet, once one begins to see older texts through that oddly jaundiced eye
            of modernity, it is hard not to recast them as if 'contemporary', especially
            when one reads, not as an historian, but as a "user", if I can use that term. I
            read Hegel that way, and Kant too.

            Wil

            In a message dated 11/1/07 8:09:09 PM, hb3g@... writes:


            > Reason, or rationality, or just good sense, should prevail. That
            > isn't optimism. That is being reasonable -- as well as pragmatic. All
            > three that you mention are important for what they have to say about
            > this. But Kant is my favorite. He is honest about whar reason can and
            > cannot know, and he recognizes that the practical applications of
            > reason are of greater importance to us than the merely theoretical
            > applications. Yet, he does not disrespect theoretical reason either.
            > His view is, in this sense, nicely balanced, and it is kind of
            > existential in this way, don't you think?
            >
            > Hb3g
            >
            >
            >




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