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Re: Das last man

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  • 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 1 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)

      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.

    • 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 2 of 24 , Nov 1, 2007

        "[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

        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

        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.


        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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