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Re: Redesign of The Existential Primer

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  • Herman B. Triplegood
    Aija: and if that is not good enough, just be a buddhist.:) Hb3g: Well, yes, Aija, something along those lines. But I would go Zen on it, mix it up with
    Message 1 of 24 , May 25, 2008
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      Aija: and if that is not good enough, just be a buddhist.:)

      Hb3g: Well, yes, Aija, something along those lines. But I would go Zen
      on it, mix it up with existentialism, bake it in skepticism, and serve
      it spiced with a bit of nihilism just for flavor.

      Knowledge is a bad idea...

      Hb3g
    • louise
      However light-hearted this particular exchange, the thought that knowledge is a bad idea is rather chilling, I would say. Whatever, Herman, do you mean??
      Message 2 of 24 , May 25, 2008
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        However light-hearted this particular exchange, the thought that
        knowledge is a bad idea is rather chilling, I would say. Whatever,
        Herman, do you mean??

        Louise

        --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "Herman B. Triplegood" <hb3g@...>
        wrote:
        >
        > Aija: and if that is not good enough, just be a buddhist.:)
        >
        > Hb3g: Well, yes, Aija, something along those lines. But I would go
        Zen
        > on it, mix it up with existentialism, bake it in skepticism, and
        serve
        > it spiced with a bit of nihilism just for flavor.
        >
        > Knowledge is a bad idea...
        >
        > Hb3g
        >
      • Herman B. Triplegood
        Well, I have been spending a lot of time over the past two or three months reviewing Kant and Hegel, and Descartes. This has brought up, for me, the thought
        Message 3 of 24 , May 25, 2008
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          Well, I have been spending a lot of time over the past two or three
          months reviewing Kant and Hegel, and Descartes.

          This has brought up, for me, the thought that there is this
          dialectical tension that has been going on between the quest for
          scientific knowledge and human freedom during the modern period.

          Kant, by the way, engaged in his Critique of Pure Reason in order to
          save freedom from science. No kidding. He says it right there in the
          preface to the first Critique.

          In a way, Kant is a skeptic. In fact, Kant exactly fits Sextus
          Empiricus' definition of what a skeptic is.

          Sextus Empiricus has also been on my mind as of late. He's really
          interesting. Sextus Empiricus undertook a total deconstruction of
          theoretical reason. His work became generally available during the
          early Enlightenment, and it directly influenced major thinkers like
          Hobbes, Descartes, Hume, and even Kant.

          But Sextus was worrisome, and nobody from that period really went all
          the way with Sextus' Pyrrhonistic outline. They always stopped short
          at some kind of self-certainty, a la Descartes, for instance, and
          they were just not willing to take the skeptical project all the way
          into the deconstruction of reason that Sextus proposed. Mainly, that
          was because, during the Enlightenment, the self became identified
          with reason.

          The question that I find myself asking, now, is, why is skepticism
          possible?

          I suspect that it has something to do with Kant's interest in saving
          freedom from science, and it has something to do with the thought
          that knowledge, when it excludes all existential conditions, except,
          of course, the mind, really is a bad idea, because, freedom gets
          excluded, and freedom is an existential condition for having a mind.

          So, the line was drawn in the proverbial sand. Go this far, but go no
          further. We dare not deconstruct the mind. The paradigm for knowledge
          acquisition, these days, is taken to be science. When we think of
          knowledge, we usually think of science. We tacitly, or even openly,
          submit ourselves willingly to the social authority of science, and,
          to the idea of progress through science. But what price do we pay for
          living under the authority of science? What price do we pay for
          having progress?

          I think that price may very well be freedom, the very thing that we
          expected science to make possible for us.

          Science gives us knowledge. Knowledge is power. Think technology.

          But power does not guarantee freedom.

          Now does it?

          It is a Catch-22 situation.

          Hb3g

          --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "louise" <hecubatoher@...> wrote:
          >
          > However light-hearted this particular exchange, the thought that
          > knowledge is a bad idea is rather chilling, I would say. Whatever,
          > Herman, do you mean??
          >
          > Louise
          >
          > --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "Herman B. Triplegood" <hb3g@>
          > wrote:
          > >
          > > Aija: and if that is not good enough, just be a buddhist.:)
          > >
          > > Hb3g: Well, yes, Aija, something along those lines. But I would
          go
          > Zen
          > > on it, mix it up with existentialism, bake it in skepticism, and
          > serve
          > > it spiced with a bit of nihilism just for flavor.
          > >
          > > Knowledge is a bad idea...
          > >
          > > Hb3g
          > >
          >
        • mary.jo11
          Oh puh-leeze! Neo-Luddites with laptops? Hermes, If you extract from the circle of definitions for the words faith, belief, etc. you re left with merely rely
          Message 4 of 24 , May 26, 2008
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            Oh puh-leeze! Neo-Luddites with laptops?

            Hermes,

            If you extract from the circle of definitions for the words faith,
            belief, etc. you're left with merely rely and trust. From the moment I
            awake until I sleep, I rely on the laws of science, including
            medicine. It's very insincere to say that scientific knowledge limits
            freedom. No thanks. If you want to separate the scientific perspective
            of knowledge, then you must also separate the religious perspective.
            What's left? Perhaps politics and economics. If I can't afford to
            live, what good is freedom? Sartre, Camus, and Beauvoir died in my
            lifetime. And despite their foolish flirtations with socialism and
            communism, I'll stick them, Einstein and a dose of Machiavelli.

            Mary
          • Bobconkawi@aol.com
            Mary--If you recall Camus s The Rebel, you will note that he had little respect for Communism. That s why Sartre and some others turned against him after the
            Message 5 of 24 , May 26, 2008
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              Mary--If you recall Camus's The Rebel, you will note that he had little
              respect for Communism. That's why Sartre and some others turned against him
              after the book was published. Of course, he said he was not an Existentialist,
              too. -Bob



              **************Get trade secrets for amazing burgers. Watch "Cooking with
              Tyler Florence" on AOL Food.
              (http://food.aol.com/tyler-florence?video=4&?NCID=aolfod00030000000002)


              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            • Herman B. Triplegood
              Mary: If you extract from the circle of definitions for the words faith, belief, etc. you re left with merely rely and trust. Hb3g: Kant was not referring to
              Message 6 of 24 , May 26, 2008
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                Mary: If you extract from the circle of definitions for the words
                faith, belief, etc. you're left with merely rely and trust.

                Hb3g: Kant was not referring to religious faith when he said that he
                had to limit knowledge in order to make room for faith. By "faith" what
                Kant meant was the ability to recognize free will. He couched it in
                moral terms. But that was in harmony with the terms and conditions of
                of the conversation about the relation between the new scientific world
                view and our consciousness of freedom at that time. Religion was a
                relevant part of that conversation. But it was relevant precisley
                because Kant shared, along with his interlocutors in the conversation,
                the desire to be free of religious authoritarianism.

                None of the Enlightenment thinkers wanted to just supplant religious
                authority with a new kind of scientific authority. They wantd to be
                free from all forms of dogmatism. They wanted to be free to question,
                to understand, and to really know.

                Mary: From the moment I awake until I sleep, I rely on the laws of
                science, including medicine. It's very insincere to say that scientific
                knowledge limits freedom. No thanks.

                Hb3g: But to assume that the social authority of science should not be
                called into question does limit our freedom. That social authority is
                founded upon an epistemological likely story (progress) that is treated
                as forbidden territory for any critique. That is dogmatism.

                Mary: If you want to separate the scientific perspective of knowledge,
                then you must also separate the religious perspective.

                Hb3g: I agree. I gave the religious perspective a chance; more than you
                know. But I have reaffirmed my secularism. People do experiment with
                perspectives, and they do change their minds. I think that is a good
                thing.

                Mary: What's left?

                Hb3g: I don't know yet. The answer to that question must be: We have to
                go there in order to find out. What is left if we take Sextus Empiricus
                seriously?

                Mary: Perhaps politics and economics.

                Hb3g: No. That is just the same old likely story: progress.

                Mary: If I can't afford to live, what good is freedom?

                Hb3g: If you are not free, what is the point of living? Isn't the whole
                point of existentialism freedom from every kind of authority? Including
                the authority of science and its vision of endless progress? Why is it
                so upsetting to call science and progress into question?

                Mary: Sartre, Camus, and Beauvoir died in my lifetime. And despite
                their foolish flirtations with socialism and communism, I'll stick
                them, Einstein and a dose of Machiavelli.

                Hb3g: I never refuse to read anybody, or to listen to anybody. That
                includes the people you just mentioned, and it includes Kant and
                Sextus, and it includes you Mary. But I can't just download people's
                thoughts into my brain, and access them instantaneously. I am getting
                there. It takes time to read, and think, and to debate with you and
                others. Kant and Sextus are, in my opinion, important groundwork for
                understanding what's up with modernity. Being on this list is important
                to my understanding of how modern people, including me, think and react.

                I am always just a learner. Sometimes I think, and sometimes I just
                grope around in the dark. Sometimes, on here, I am thinking out loud.
                Sometimes, on here, I am just groping around in the dark.

                Hb3g
              • Exist List Moderator
                ... Curiously, the Marxists -- especially the Chinese and Soviet Communists -- initially rejected anything abstract. There was a very violent reaction to
                Message 7 of 24 , May 26, 2008
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                  On May 24, 2008, at 10:47, mary.jo11 wrote:

                  > Existential art is modern, often abstract. Ingmar Bergman for film and
                  > Alberto Giacometti sculpture, Edward Hopper for painting, etc. Modern
                  > art evokes and also engages on an intellectual, rather than merely
                  > emotional and aesthetic levels. Mary


                  Curiously, the Marxists -- especially the Chinese and Soviet
                  Communists -- initially rejected anything abstract. There was a very
                  violent reaction to postmodernism and abstract art in the USSR, to the
                  point of sending the artists away to "mental health" sanitariums and
                  education camps.

                  Some of the Frankfurt school started to accept jazz in the 50s and
                  60s. This was considered a "radical" notion, and definitely not part
                  of what was the leftist orthodoxy of the time. Now, the left is all
                  about radical art. Strange how things changed.

                  Personally, I love Soviet-era posters and murals. There are several
                  great examples in Los Angeles of the "Heroic Worker" mural. The LA
                  Times building had one inside, as did the Union Station complex. The
                  LA Times murals were covered some years ago, but they have restored
                  some Diego Rivera works that were found downtown.

                  The Rockefeller Plaza in NYC is also a great example. Ah, for a bit of
                  art with a clear message: worker, scientist, scholar, all depicted
                  clearly and positively. I never did get ink-blot paintings, but I like
                  some montage work and a handful of color experiments. Beyond that, I
                  think art shouldn't confuse and confound so purposefully.

                  Existentialists used literature to educate. There is a message, not
                  random words tossed about, in Waiting for Godot or Nor Exit. Too
                  experimental and you never appeal beyond the over-educated university
                  set.


                  - 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
                • louise
                  ... us ... Hmm, what about ... For the existentialist, beauty is the embrace of destiny. In order to be true to the spirit of such an individualist outlook on
                  Message 8 of 24 , May 27, 2008
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                    --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "Herman B. Triplegood" <hb3g@...>
                    wrote:
                    >
                    > If I were to ask an existentialist the question, "What is art? what
                    > would the answer be?
                    >
                    > Well, probably just about as many answers as there are
                    > existentialists.
                    >
                    > Okay, let me toss out two classic theories of art in order to give
                    us
                    > a basis for comparison and maybe get a conversation going:
                    >
                    > Kant: Natural beauty is the model for artistic beauty.
                    >
                    > Hegel: Artistic beauty is a uniquely human phenomenon which is not
                    > reducible to the natural.
                    >
                    > Existentialist: ?
                    >
                    > Hb3g

                    Hmm, what about ...

                    For the existentialist, beauty is the embrace of destiny.

                    In order to be true to the spirit of such an individualist outlook on
                    human life, however, there should be an entire chorus, or, as you
                    say, conversation, of possible answers. Nietzsche was right to see
                    the danger of his own thinking. He embraced its necessity, with his
                    amor fati, and took the consequences of all his venturing, as those
                    of us who come after will continue to take the consequences. L.

                    >
                    > --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "C. S. Wyatt" <existlist1@>
                    > wrote:
                    > >
                    > > --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "Herman B. Triplegood" <hb3g@>
                    > wrote:
                    > > >
                    > > > It looks great. I especially like the timeline given under
                    > context.
                    > > > It adds historical texture and helps to paint the bigger
                    picture.
                    > > >
                    > > > What about literature? I would love to see some of that. And
                    > maybe
                    > > > some material on art?
                    > > >
                    > > > Hb3g
                    > >
                    > > I just started the revision of the John S. Barth page. I'm going
                    to
                    > work through the letters,
                    > > as best I can, trying to do one or two updates a week. Some will
                    > certainly take longer!
                    > > Barth lets me mention film (yeah!) and I wouldn't mind adding
                    some
                    > works I consider
                    > > "existential" from various European filmmakers. ("Invincible"
                    comes
                    > to mind as an example
                    > > film? Maybe "Wave Rider" ?)
                    > >
                    > > Darn, I can't recall the names of the various filmmakers I was
                    > considering. I have them all
                    > > written down. Experimental films, by major directors. (It's late,
                    > here.)
                    > >
                    > > My updates to the Primer will be done alongside my updates to the
                    > main Tameri.com site.
                    > > It's a lot to be doing during the summer.
                    > >
                    > > - CSW
                    > >
                    >
                  • mary.jo11
                    Herman B. Triplegood wrote: Hb3g: But to assume that the social authority of science should not be called into question does limit our freedom.
                    Message 9 of 24 , May 27, 2008
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                      "Herman B. Triplegood" <hb3g@...> wrote:

                      "Hb3g: But to assume that the social authority of science should not
                      be called into question does limit our freedom. That social authority
                      is founded upon an epistemological likely story (progress) that is
                      treated as forbidden territory for any critique. That is dogmatism."

                      Thanks for the tussle. It provides me the opportunity to focus in the
                      midst of my relocation stresses.

                      Perhaps you're overlooking that Sartrean existentialism was founded in
                      this skepticism. The responsibility of the individual to wrest the
                      freedom to choose, to rebel against given values. Critique IS the
                      domain of the existentialist, and society IS anathema when conformity
                      is required. But society is a plurality of perspectives. There is no
                      social dogma. What is "the social authority of science?" Are you
                      speaking strictly of public mental health policies? Or are you
                      concerned with technologies used for surveillance?

                      Perhaps you're also forgetting that rigorous scientific method is
                      itself an endless process of critique; is willing to analyze and
                      incorporate new findings; policing itself along with citizens who
                      press authorities with ethical concerns. But religious dogma,
                      political influence, or corporate profits should not thwart progress
                      either. The task for the individual is to evaluate and act. In what
                      universe does EVERYONE think how we want them to think?

                      All of this assumes agency and responsibility for oneself. In most
                      Western nations no one forbids examination or activism/advocacy, but
                      it's naïve to expect no opposition. In Sartre's Truth and Existence he
                      stresses the will to know vs. the will to ignorance. Freedom is Being
                      in the process of verification, a process similar to evolution. That
                      which survives IS a truth in itself, however temporary. Existential
                      angst arises from knowing we can't possibly verify everything for
                      ourselves. Freedom has limitations.

                      Mary
                    • Herman B. Triplegood
                      Mary: Well, you are giving me a mental workout too. The best of luck to you on your relocation effort. Okay, I am just trying to formulate some of the Aha!
                      Message 10 of 24 , May 28, 2008
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                        Mary:

                        Well, you are giving me a mental workout too. The best of luck to you
                        on your relocation effort.

                        Okay, I am just trying to formulate some of the "Aha!" moments that I
                        have had lately. None of it is perfect. All of it is subject to
                        reconsideration. The learning never stops. That's for sure.

                        The fact that existentialism is founded upon classical skepticism is
                        a fact that is to existentialism's credit. As you may know, there is
                        this crazy idea, floating around out there, that portrays skepticism
                        as a denial of knowledge. That is simply downright not true.
                        Skepticism does not attack knowledge. That would be absurd.
                        Skepticism attacks the confusion and conflation of belief with
                        knowledge. I have no doubt that Sartre clearly understood this and
                        that Sartre clearly understood the intrinsic value of skepticism.

                        I think that my "knowledge is a bad idea" statement is vulnerable to
                        this kind of caricatured interpretation, and that it was not a very
                        good choice of words for the thought that I was having at the time.
                        What I had in mind there, and did not make clear enough, is something
                        more like this: belief is a bad idea. Or, something along these
                        lines: belief in total knowledge is a bad idea.

                        As for your second point, where you talk about how science is an
                        endless process of critique, I have to ask the question, what use is
                        a critique, really, if it never arrives at a definitive positive
                        outcome? In argumentation, we do not allow an infinite regress
                        because such a regress can never achieve a firm ground. Why is it,
                        then, when we talk about progress in the name of science, we are
                        quite happy with allowing an infinite progress, there, and we never
                        think to question the logical validity of the idea of an infinite
                        progress, let alone, the real feasibility of an infinite progress.

                        Obviously, when we are talking about the endless progress of science,
                        and, along with it, the endless progress of technology, and of the
                        human condition, which we take to be a steadily improving state, we
                        are talking about a movement toward a goal, here, a telos, which is,
                        presumably, the greatest good for the greatest number of people.

                        Right?

                        It sure does sound good on paper...doesn't it?

                        But what good is that telos, really, if it is, for all practical
                        purposes, infinitely removed from us, and is, therefore, ultimately
                        unattainable by us? There is something wrong with the idea of an
                        endless progress. It is the same kind of something that is wrong with
                        the thought of endless economic growth. Sooner or later, you reach
                        hard existential limits, to what is actually attainable, in the real
                        world.

                        The idea of endless progress presupposes access to endless resources.
                        That is a huge presupposition. Especially, when you consider the fact
                        that right along with endless progress we are also trying to do
                        endless population growth, endless production, and endless
                        consumption, all at the same time, and in an exponentially escalating
                        fashion.

                        Something has to give.

                        Like it or not, the requirements of adaptation to the real world
                        trump this optimistic vision of endless progress on every count. We
                        ignore the facts at our own peril.

                        Existentialism has carried the spirit of skepticism out of the sphere
                        of merely academic debate, and into the domain of free human
                        activity, where knowledge and freedom count for something and can
                        make a real difference. One cannot help but admire the uncompromising
                        commitment to the radical questioning of all kinds of authority, and
                        all kinds of unexamined belief, that is characteristic of the great
                        skeptical tradition, and that finds its renaissance in the spirit of
                        existentialism. Neither science, nor government, nor economics, can
                        ever be immune to the general critique of authority, and the critique
                        of the status quo, that is a fundamental necessity, according to the
                        necessity of human freedom itself.

                        Philosophy, in general, is fundamentally, the critique of all
                        knowledge, and by that, I mean critique in the positive sense, not
                        just in the negative sense. It is a discipline of thinking, and it
                        includes the moment of skepticism, which is the critical
                        deconstruction of all belief structures. Existentialism, as a
                        philosophy, rightfully belongs to philosophy, but not in the mode of
                        a subordination to philosophy. Rather, existentialism is the self-
                        realization of philosophy, in the authenticity of its radical freedom
                        from knowledge, as well as its radical freedom for knowledge.
                        Existentialism, in general, is the reasoned critique of all human
                        action, and, as such, it includes the moment anarchism, which is the
                        critical deconstruction of all authoritarian structures of human
                        action. It is a discipline of freedom in practical action guided by
                        the light of its own reason. Therefore, existentialism, too, is a
                        discipline of thinking.

                        In existentialism, philosophy self-realizes its transcendental
                        freedom, and this self-realization, I think, clearly indicates that,
                        as important as knowledge is, freedom trumps knowledge on all fronts,
                        because, freedom is the necessary condition for knowledge.

                        The great skeptics understood this. So did Immanuel Kant. This is the
                        insight that is riddled into Kant's solution to the third antinomy of
                        the Critique of Pure Reason, where Kant shows that an order of free
                        ends by and for a community of free subjective agents must co-exist
                        with the natural deterministic order of cause-effect disclosed to us
                        by science if we are to have an accounting for the possibility of
                        knowledge, to the final degree, without remainder, for us.

                        With Kant, this is, as yet, still an obscure insight. It is however,
                        a fateful insight that grew directly out of the spirit of the
                        Enlightenment, the same Enlightenment which gave us that optimistic
                        trust in the goodness of our science, and which cashed out,
                        ultimately, in the very emergence of existentialism as a continuation
                        and intensification of that Enlightenment.

                        Hb3g

                        --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "mary.jo11" <mary.jo11@...> wrote:
                        >
                        > "Herman B. Triplegood" <hb3g@> wrote:
                        >
                        > "Hb3g: But to assume that the social authority of science should not
                        > be called into question does limit our freedom. That social
                        authority
                        > is founded upon an epistemological likely story (progress) that is
                        > treated as forbidden territory for any critique. That is dogmatism."
                        >
                        > Thanks for the tussle. It provides me the opportunity to focus in
                        the
                        > midst of my relocation stresses.
                        >
                        > Perhaps you're overlooking that Sartrean existentialism was founded
                        in
                        > this skepticism. The responsibility of the individual to wrest the
                        > freedom to choose, to rebel against given values. Critique IS the
                        > domain of the existentialist, and society IS anathema when
                        conformity
                        > is required. But society is a plurality of perspectives. There is no
                        > social dogma. What is "the social authority of science?" Are you
                        > speaking strictly of public mental health policies? Or are you
                        > concerned with technologies used for surveillance?
                        >
                        > Perhaps you're also forgetting that rigorous scientific method is
                        > itself an endless process of critique; is willing to analyze and
                        > incorporate new findings; policing itself along with citizens who
                        > press authorities with ethical concerns. But religious dogma,
                        > political influence, or corporate profits should not thwart progress
                        > either. The task for the individual is to evaluate and act. In what
                        > universe does EVERYONE think how we want them to think?
                        >
                        > All of this assumes agency and responsibility for oneself. In most
                        > Western nations no one forbids examination or activism/advocacy, but
                        > it's naïve to expect no opposition. In Sartre's Truth and Existence
                        he
                        > stresses the will to know vs. the will to ignorance. Freedom is
                        Being
                        > in the process of verification, a process similar to evolution. That
                        > which survives IS a truth in itself, however temporary. Existential
                        > angst arises from knowing we can't possibly verify everything for
                        > ourselves. Freedom has limitations.
                        >
                        > Mary
                        >
                      • mary.jo11
                        Thank you immensely for your meaty response. You ve crafted and posed the significant questions concerning freedom and knowledge. Reading Sartre s Truth and
                        Message 11 of 24 , May 28, 2008
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                          Thank you immensely for your meaty response. You've crafted and posed
                          the significant questions concerning freedom and knowledge. Reading
                          Sartre's "Truth and Existence" I realize why he withheld publication
                          of the essay and notes! The only crumb of a response I can offer on
                          this hectic day is: It's damn scary without the hope of progress :)

                          Mary

                          "Herman B. Triplegood" <hb3g@...> wrote:

                          Mary:

                          Well, you are giving me a mental workout too. The best of luck to you
                          on your relocation effort.

                          Okay, I am just trying to formulate some of the "Aha!" moments that I
                          have had lately. None of it is perfect. All of it is subject to
                          reconsideration. The learning never stops. That's for sure.

                          The fact that existentialism is founded upon classical skepticism is
                          a fact that is to existentialism's credit. As you may know, there is
                          this crazy idea, floating around out there, that portrays skepticism
                          as a denial of knowledge. That is simply downright not true.
                          Skepticism does not attack knowledge. That would be absurd.
                          Skepticism attacks the confusion and conflation of belief with
                          knowledge. I have no doubt that Sartre clearly understood this and
                          that Sartre clearly understood the intrinsic value of skepticism.

                          I think that my "knowledge is a bad idea" statement is vulnerable to
                          this kind of caricatured interpretation, and that it was not a very
                          good choice of words for the thought that I was having at the time.
                          What I had in mind there, and did not make clear enough, is something
                          more like this: belief is a bad idea. Or, something along these
                          lines: belief in total knowledge is a bad idea.

                          As for your second point, where you talk about how science is an
                          endless process of critique, I have to ask the question, what use is
                          a critique, really, if it never arrives at a definitive positive
                          outcome? In argumentation, we do not allow an infinite regress
                          because such a regress can never achieve a firm ground. Why is it,
                          then, when we talk about progress in the name of science, we are
                          quite happy with allowing an infinite progress, there, and we never
                          think to question the logical validity of the idea of an infinite
                          progress, let alone, the real feasibility of an infinite progress.

                          Obviously, when we are talking about the endless progress of science,
                          and, along with it, the endless progress of technology, and of the
                          human condition, which we take to be a steadily improving state, we
                          are talking about a movement toward a goal, here, a telos, which is,
                          presumably, the greatest good for the greatest number of people.

                          Right?

                          It sure does sound good on paper...doesn't it?

                          But what good is that telos, really, if it is, for all practical
                          purposes, infinitely removed from us, and is, therefore, ultimately
                          unattainable by us? There is something wrong with the idea of an
                          endless progress. It is the same kind of something that is wrong with
                          the thought of endless economic growth. Sooner or later, you reach
                          hard existential limits, to what is actually attainable, in the real
                          world.

                          The idea of endless progress presupposes access to endless resources.
                          That is a huge presupposition. Especially, when you consider the fact
                          that right along with endless progress we are also trying to do
                          endless population growth, endless production, and endless
                          consumption, all at the same time, and in an exponentially escalating
                          fashion.

                          Something has to give.

                          Like it or not, the requirements of adaptation to the real world
                          trump this optimistic vision of endless progress on every count. We
                          ignore the facts at our own peril.

                          Existentialism has carried the spirit of skepticism out of the sphere
                          of merely academic debate, and into the domain of free human
                          activity, where knowledge and freedom count for something and can
                          make a real difference. One cannot help but admire the uncompromising
                          commitment to the radical questioning of all kinds of authority, and
                          all kinds of unexamined belief, that is characteristic of the great
                          skeptical tradition, and that finds its renaissance in the spirit of
                          existentialism. Neither science, nor government, nor economics, can
                          ever be immune to the general critique of authority, and the critique
                          of the status quo, that is a fundamental necessity, according to the
                          necessity of human freedom itself.

                          Philosophy, in general, is fundamentally, the critique of all
                          knowledge, and by that, I mean critique in the positive sense, not
                          just in the negative sense. It is a discipline of thinking, and it
                          includes the moment of skepticism, which is the critical
                          deconstruction of all belief structures. Existentialism, as a
                          philosophy, rightfully belongs to philosophy, but not in the mode of
                          a subordination to philosophy. Rather, existentialism is the self-
                          realization of philosophy, in the authenticity of its radical freedom
                          from knowledge, as well as its radical freedom for knowledge.
                          Existentialism, in general, is the reasoned critique of all human
                          action, and, as such, it includes the moment anarchism, which is the
                          critical deconstruction of all authoritarian structures of human
                          action. It is a discipline of freedom in practical action guided by
                          the light of its own reason. Therefore, existentialism, too, is a
                          discipline of thinking.

                          In existentialism, philosophy self-realizes its transcendental
                          freedom, and this self-realization, I think, clearly indicates that,
                          as important as knowledge is, freedom trumps knowledge on all fronts,
                          because, freedom is the necessary condition for knowledge.

                          The great skeptics understood this. So did Immanuel Kant. This is the
                          insight that is riddled into Kant's solution to the third antinomy of
                          the Critique of Pure Reason, where Kant shows that an order of free
                          ends by and for a community of free subjective agents must co-exist
                          with the natural deterministic order of cause-effect disclosed to us
                          by science if we are to have an accounting for the possibility of
                          knowledge, to the final degree, without remainder, for us.

                          With Kant, this is, as yet, still an obscure insight. It is however,
                          a fateful insight that grew directly out of the spirit of the
                          Enlightenment, the same Enlightenment which gave us that optimistic
                          trust in the goodness of our science, and which cashed out,
                          ultimately, in the very emergence of existentialism as a continuation
                          and intensification of that Enlightenment.

                          Hb3g
                        • Herman B. Triplegood
                          Well, a Nietzschean transvaluation of values could remedy that scary feeling. If progress isn t what we thought it was, it stands to reason that a lot of other
                          Message 12 of 24 , May 28, 2008
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                            Well, a Nietzschean transvaluation of values could remedy that scary
                            feeling. If progress isn't what we thought it was, it stands to
                            reason that a lot of other things, like authority, integrity, desire
                            and need, probably aren't either.

                            I'll leave it at that for now. I am in the middlle of a brainstorm. A
                            rather large and involved Aha!

                            Hb3g

                            --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "mary.jo11" <mary.jo11@...> wrote:
                            >
                            > Thank you immensely for your meaty response. You've crafted and
                            posed
                            > the significant questions concerning freedom and knowledge. Reading
                            > Sartre's "Truth and Existence" I realize why he withheld
                            publication
                            > of the essay and notes! The only crumb of a response I can offer on
                            > this hectic day is: It's damn scary without the hope of progress :)
                            >
                            > Mary
                            >
                            > "Herman B. Triplegood" <hb3g@> wrote:
                            >
                            > Mary:
                            >
                            > Well, you are giving me a mental workout too. The best of luck to
                            you
                            > on your relocation effort.
                            >
                            > Okay, I am just trying to formulate some of the "Aha!" moments that
                            I
                            > have had lately. None of it is perfect. All of it is subject to
                            > reconsideration. The learning never stops. That's for sure.
                            >
                            > The fact that existentialism is founded upon classical skepticism is
                            > a fact that is to existentialism's credit. As you may know, there is
                            > this crazy idea, floating around out there, that portrays skepticism
                            > as a denial of knowledge. That is simply downright not true.
                            > Skepticism does not attack knowledge. That would be absurd.
                            > Skepticism attacks the confusion and conflation of belief with
                            > knowledge. I have no doubt that Sartre clearly understood this and
                            > that Sartre clearly understood the intrinsic value of skepticism.
                            >
                            > I think that my "knowledge is a bad idea" statement is vulnerable to
                            > this kind of caricatured interpretation, and that it was not a very
                            > good choice of words for the thought that I was having at the time.
                            > What I had in mind there, and did not make clear enough, is
                            something
                            > more like this: belief is a bad idea. Or, something along these
                            > lines: belief in total knowledge is a bad idea.
                            >
                            > As for your second point, where you talk about how science is an
                            > endless process of critique, I have to ask the question, what use is
                            > a critique, really, if it never arrives at a definitive positive
                            > outcome? In argumentation, we do not allow an infinite regress
                            > because such a regress can never achieve a firm ground. Why is it,
                            > then, when we talk about progress in the name of science, we are
                            > quite happy with allowing an infinite progress, there, and we never
                            > think to question the logical validity of the idea of an infinite
                            > progress, let alone, the real feasibility of an infinite progress.
                            >
                            > Obviously, when we are talking about the endless progress of
                            science,
                            > and, along with it, the endless progress of technology, and of the
                            > human condition, which we take to be a steadily improving state, we
                            > are talking about a movement toward a goal, here, a telos, which is,
                            > presumably, the greatest good for the greatest number of people.
                            >
                            > Right?
                            >
                            > It sure does sound good on paper...doesn't it?
                            >
                            > But what good is that telos, really, if it is, for all practical
                            > purposes, infinitely removed from us, and is, therefore, ultimately
                            > unattainable by us? There is something wrong with the idea of an
                            > endless progress. It is the same kind of something that is wrong
                            with
                            > the thought of endless economic growth. Sooner or later, you reach
                            > hard existential limits, to what is actually attainable, in the real
                            > world.
                            >
                            > The idea of endless progress presupposes access to endless
                            resources.
                            > That is a huge presupposition. Especially, when you consider the
                            fact
                            > that right along with endless progress we are also trying to do
                            > endless population growth, endless production, and endless
                            > consumption, all at the same time, and in an exponentially
                            escalating
                            > fashion.
                            >
                            > Something has to give.
                            >
                            > Like it or not, the requirements of adaptation to the real world
                            > trump this optimistic vision of endless progress on every count. We
                            > ignore the facts at our own peril.
                            >
                            > Existentialism has carried the spirit of skepticism out of the
                            sphere
                            > of merely academic debate, and into the domain of free human
                            > activity, where knowledge and freedom count for something and can
                            > make a real difference. One cannot help but admire the
                            uncompromising
                            > commitment to the radical questioning of all kinds of authority, and
                            > all kinds of unexamined belief, that is characteristic of the great
                            > skeptical tradition, and that finds its renaissance in the spirit of
                            > existentialism. Neither science, nor government, nor economics, can
                            > ever be immune to the general critique of authority, and the
                            critique
                            > of the status quo, that is a fundamental necessity, according to the
                            > necessity of human freedom itself.
                            >
                            > Philosophy, in general, is fundamentally, the critique of all
                            > knowledge, and by that, I mean critique in the positive sense, not
                            > just in the negative sense. It is a discipline of thinking, and it
                            > includes the moment of skepticism, which is the critical
                            > deconstruction of all belief structures. Existentialism, as a
                            > philosophy, rightfully belongs to philosophy, but not in the mode of
                            > a subordination to philosophy. Rather, existentialism is the self-
                            > realization of philosophy, in the authenticity of its radical
                            freedom
                            > from knowledge, as well as its radical freedom for knowledge.
                            > Existentialism, in general, is the reasoned critique of all human
                            > action, and, as such, it includes the moment anarchism, which is the
                            > critical deconstruction of all authoritarian structures of human
                            > action. It is a discipline of freedom in practical action guided by
                            > the light of its own reason. Therefore, existentialism, too, is a
                            > discipline of thinking.
                            >
                            > In existentialism, philosophy self-realizes its transcendental
                            > freedom, and this self-realization, I think, clearly indicates that,
                            > as important as knowledge is, freedom trumps knowledge on all
                            fronts,
                            > because, freedom is the necessary condition for knowledge.
                            >
                            > The great skeptics understood this. So did Immanuel Kant. This is
                            the
                            > insight that is riddled into Kant's solution to the third antinomy
                            of
                            > the Critique of Pure Reason, where Kant shows that an order of free
                            > ends by and for a community of free subjective agents must co-exist
                            > with the natural deterministic order of cause-effect disclosed to us
                            > by science if we are to have an accounting for the possibility of
                            > knowledge, to the final degree, without remainder, for us.
                            >
                            > With Kant, this is, as yet, still an obscure insight. It is however,
                            > a fateful insight that grew directly out of the spirit of the
                            > Enlightenment, the same Enlightenment which gave us that optimistic
                            > trust in the goodness of our science, and which cashed out,
                            > ultimately, in the very emergence of existentialism as a
                            continuation
                            > and intensification of that Enlightenment.
                            >
                            > Hb3g
                            >
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