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Re: Down the rabbit hole

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  • Jim
    Hi Tom, Thank you for your response. I have a good deal of sympathy with what you write. As I said to Polly, being a tortured individual is not a good state of
    Message 1 of 171 , Jan 11, 2010
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      Hi Tom,

      Thank you for your response.

      I have a good deal of sympathy with what you write.

      As I said to Polly, being a tortured individual is not a good state of affairs. It is better – for all of us – to be happy rather than in torment and suffering.

      But there are some complications.

      First complication – as I wrote to Polly – surely it is better to be an unhappy Socrates than a happy fool.

      Relatedly, it is all very well the Buddha arguing that we should strive to eliminate suffering in ourselves, but sometimes unhappiness is the appropriate reaction.

      I read in my newspaper today a story of British soldiers torturing a sixty-two-year-old Iraqi woman, before killing her. Surely stories like this should make me unhappy.

      Yes, more often than not, I cause my own suffering through my bad behaviour, but the world can be an ugly, brutal place, and surely it is appropriate for us to suffer when we hear about murders, rapes, untimely deaths, and the like.

      Jim



      --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "tom" <tsmith17_midsouth1@...> wrote:
      >
      > Jim,
      >
      > You write"
      > Is it a bad thing to be a tortured individual? - What do you think
      > should be the ideal? A life in which I am totally comfortable and happy,
      > and I do not have to struggle for anything? If we were all totally
      > comfortable and happy and had no obstacles to struggle to overcome,
      > would there be any good philosophy written, or good literature or art
      > produced?"
      >
      > I tend to think being a tortured individual is somewhat of a bad thing. To me the goal of a philosophy should be the transformation of a tortured individual at least into a less tortured state. Here, is a quote from Buddha which I am in synch with.
      >
      > I teach one thing and one only:
      > that is, suffering and the end of suffering.
      >
      > Of course, ideals are often not fully realized;but if leading figures in a movement are more tortured than Joe or Jane Blow, to me it doesn't speak well for the movement. It reminds me of the quote"Physician, heal thyself.".
      >
      > I think the ideal would be a life in which I am totally comfortable and happy. I certainly don't claim to have achieved it, but I like it as an ideal.
      >
      > Peace,
      > Tom
      >
      >
      > ----- Original Message -----
      > From: Jim
      > To: existlist@yahoogroups.com
      > Sent: Sunday, January 10, 2010 6:38 AM
      > Subject: [existlist] Re: Down the rabbit hole
      >
      >
      >
      >
      > Hi Polly,
      >
      > Thank you for your challenging responses to my thoughts.
      >
      > I have reformatted our conversation, and put my latest responses in blue
      > below. (I'm not sure if this will come out in blue on Existlist.)
      >
      > Polly (50150): A belief held one way or the other will have consequences
      > for how the passing
      > parade of phenomena is "lived". What becomes clear to me about such
      > basic beliefs is that there is no freedom to change them by action.
      > Beliefs are changed by understanding, and that is not at anyone's beck
      > and call, IMO.
      >
      > Jim (50153): Perhaps I do not have the freedom to change my beliefs by
      > my action, but I do have the freedom to choose to live my life as if a
      > particular belief is true (or false).
      >
      > Polly (50156): I think it would be possible to test your hypothesis. Do
      > you have the freedom to choose something to be true one minute, and
      > false the next?
      >
      > Jim (now): No I don't. But I am not choosing beliefs to be true (or
      > false). I am acting on the assumption that certain beliefs are true (or
      > false). Acting on the assumption that a particular belief is true is not
      > a spur of the moment thing - it takes practise over a long period of
      > time.
      >
      > Jim (50153): For example, I don't know if I have free will or not.
      > However, I can choose to
      > base my decisions and my attitude to myself on the assumption that I do
      > have
      > free will.
      >
      > Polly (50156): But can you choose to assume that you do not have free
      > will? If you
      > cannot, isn't your assumption of free will in fact a given, rather
      > than a choice?
      >
      > Jim (now): When I backslide and start blaming other people for my own
      > failures and abdicate responsibility for my own decisions and actions, I
      > am tacitly relinquishing my assumption that I have free will. I could
      > even "give up", embrace hard determinism and live my life as if
      > I had no responsibility at all for my own actions. This seems to me to
      > be a possibility, a possibility I must guard against. So I don't
      > think my assumption about my having free will is "a given".
      >
      > Jim (50153): My decision to live as if I had free will entails that I
      > accept full responsibility for my actions and the course of my life.
      > This sort of "existential decision" is the sort of subjective leap
      > advocated by Kierkegaard, amongst others.
      >
      > Polly (50156): Yes, there are major consequences that follow on from the
      > assumption of free will. Do you think it would be unfair of me to
      > characterise the major existentialist thinkers as tortured individuals?
      >
      > Jim (now): Perhaps Kierkegaard was a tortured individual. But I do not
      > think Nietzsche, Heidegger or Sartre were tortured individuals.
      >
      > Is it a bad thing to be a tortured individual? - What do you think
      > should be the ideal? A life in which I am totally comfortable and happy,
      > and I do not have to struggle for anything? If we were all totally
      > comfortable and happy and had no obstacles to struggle to overcome,
      > would there be any good philosophy written, or good literature or art
      > produced?
      >
      > Jim (50153): For me, I live my life as if there is an absolute
      > difference between an act and an event.
      >
      > Polly (50156): I sincerely appreciate your post, Jim, and I am very glad
      > to see more people posting. It brings to mind a saying from my childhood
      > (probably Biblical but that is not relevant), "there is wisdom in a
      > multitude of counsellors".
      >
      > Jim (now): Yes, I agree.
      >
      > Jim
      >
      > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >
      > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      >
    • Jim
      Hi Polly, You write: Philosophy, if it is not reflected in what people do, is more akin to armchair trivia. Socrates philosophy was to drink hemlock when
      Message 171 of 171 , Jan 28, 2010
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        Hi Polly,

        You write:

        "Philosophy, if it is not reflected in what people do, is more akin to armchair trivia. Socrates' philosophy was to drink hemlock when push came to shove; all conceptual thinking notwithstanding."

        Yes, I completely agree with your first sentence. I certainly try to act in line with my philosophical views which combine elements of virtue ethics with existentialism.

        Socrates certainly lived his philosophy. He drank the hemlock as he argued that it was the just thing to do, rather than save his skin by escaping the death sentence passed on him by the Athenian Justice System.

        Unlike you, I have a very high opinion of Socrates who was courageous enough to speak out and act as he felt he should, even when it was dangerous for him to do so.

        In my last post to you, I wrote:

        "I am interested in the sort of questions Socrates asked. I am primarily interested in the two questions: "What am I?" and "How should I live?" I am certainly not interested in the question "What is a question?".

        You replied:

        "That's fine, of course. It does however mean you will not be able to come anywhere near Descartes or his method of doubt, or proceed beyond him. Or in other words, you are rather fond of your ideal, a priori world, and you fully intend to cling to it for dear life."

        I am not sure why you say that I have an "ideal, a priori world, and … fully intend to cling to it for dear life." My ethical views are a posteriori, as they are based on my experience of what actions and attitudes cause human beings either benefit or harm.

        I am not sure what "a priori" beliefs you are thinking of.

        You suggest that to be consistent with my own outlook, I need to put some time and effort investigating the question "What is a question?"

        However, I think if I did spend time studying this question, I would be guilty of the "armchair trivia" you rightly criticise above. Further, I have already said that I know what a question is. Why should I spend time and effort examining a phenomenon I already fully understand?

        Philosophy, in my view, is all about starting off with the things one knows, and trying to learn significant things one does not know, all the while applying one's knowledge in one's actions in the world.

        As I say above, I am not aware of clinging to unexamined attitudes and beliefs "for dear life", but if you and others think I am guilty of that so be it.

        It seems to me that you do not favour asking philosophical questions, nor trying to provide philosophical answers. Such conceptual activity only prevents the person from gaining uncluttered access to the real.

        You criticise Socrates, but surely you must criticise all philosophers (including all existentialists) for promoting the very thing you think is most harmful to human beings – conceptual thinking.

        Jim
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