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Non-mystical musings

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  • fleeting_return
    From an existential viewpoint, I am aware that I am. That is how I have the capacity to be a self. The cat does not have the words to say that she is, and I
    Message 1 of 24 , May 25, 2010
      From an existential viewpoint, I am aware that I am. That is how I have the capacity to be a self. The cat does not have the words to say that she is, and I assume that she is not even able to think or be aware that she is. This is why I find animals to have personalities, but to lack the capacity to be a self. To choose to be oneself, is this not the summation of existential endeavour?

      I do not understand, Wil, why you conceive of the self as an abstraction. Does not the challenge to live in good faith, within the existentialist literature, depend on an implicit conception of the self as lived reality? If I am wrong about this, I am sure you could point me to a text in the canon, or - even better - explain my error in your own words.

      Richard, of course, is using the word SELF in a specialised way, to indicate a mystical knowing, whereby each enlightened self experiences the oneness at the basis of true self. I have had many unusual experiences, but none that gives me any such assurance.

      My own hypothesis here is to suppose that there are multiple unique human beings, to each of which is given the potential to become a self. Kierkegaard presents this kind of material in detail, from a series of perspectives shaped by the categories of Christian faith.

      From an atheistic perspective, would it be true to say that the potential to realise one's self may be contingent, and not at all open to human beings in their universality? Are there, for instance, certain social, economic or medical conditions that for any given individual may shut down the capacity to choose to be oneself? May it be impossible to judge accurately of this matter at all? To my perspective, the difference between good and bad faith is clear, but the existential process of becoming a self remains unexplained. The lived reality of being is* unexplainable, isn't it?

      Louise
    • Jim
      Louise, It is good to hear from you again. Your thoughtful post points to aspects of the human condition which have been neglected in recent months at
      Message 2 of 24 , May 29, 2010
        Louise,

        It is good to hear from you again. Your thoughtful post points to aspects of the human condition which have been neglected in recent months at Existlist.

        Like you, I don't agree with Wil's view that the self is an abstraction. However, it all depends upon what one means by `self'.

        If the self is just that which I am aware of when one says "I am aware that I am", then isn't the self just the individual human being?

        This clearly isn't what you mean by `self' as you write:

        "My own hypothesis here is to suppose that there are multiple unique human beings, to each of which is given the potential to become a self."

        On this view, what is required for a unique human being to become a self? You don't offer an answer to this question, apart from suggesting that Kierkegaard answers the question, from a Christian perspective, in his collection of writings.

        You suggest that a different answer to Kierkegaard's may be available from an atheistic perspective:

        "From an atheistic perspective, would it be true to say that the potential to realise one's self may be contingent, and not at all open to human beings in their universality? Are there, for instance, certain social, economic or medical conditions that for any given individual may shut down the capacity to choose to be oneself? May it be impossible to judge accurately of this matter at all? To my perspective, the difference between good and bad faith is clear, but the existential process of becoming a self remains unexplained. The lived reality of being is* unexplainable, isn't it?"

        I find what Simon Critchley writes about the self in his book "Infinitely Demanding" chimes with my own thoughts on the self. In fact, I find what Critchley writes about ethical experience and ethical subjectivity to be very much in line with Kierkegaard's outlook. (Of course Critchley is both an atheist and an anarchist, so overall he is very far from Kierkegaard in general.)

        Consider these passages:

        "The self is something that shapes itself through its relation to whatever it determiners as its good, whether that is the Torah, the resurrected Christ, the moral law, the community in which I live, suffering humanity, all God's creatures, or whatever. That is, if the demand of the good requires the approval of that demand in order to be experienced as a demand, then that approval is given by a self. Who else could give it? … [A]n ethical subject can be defined as a self relating itself approvingly, bindingly, to the demand of its good. Ethical experience presupposes the existence of an experiencing subject. … [O]ne can go on and argue more forcefully that this demand of the good founds the self; or, better, that the demand of the good is the fundamental principle of the subject's articulation. What we think of as a self is fundamentally an ethical subject, a self that is constituted in a relation to its good, a self – our self – that is organized around certain core values and commitments." ("Infinitely Demanding", pp. 20-21)

        I think here, and elsewhere in his book, Critchley articulates a conception of the self which is something a human being can become, and the crucial aspect in becoming a self is that the human being develops a conscience, such that she conceives of herself as a person who is both capable of acting upon, and capable of failing to act upon, her own conception of what is good, beneficial, necessary for herself and for others.

        Going back to your questions above, I would say that certainly minimal material conditions are necessary before a human being can flourish and pursue her own good in freedom. Such conditions would include sufficient food and water, a minimal level of security and stability in her environment, a minimal level of health, a civilized community, loving parents and/or fiends, a non-abusive upbringing, etc.

        As Bertolt Brecht said "Erst kommt das Essen, dann die Moral" [Food first, then morality].

        Jim




        --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "fleeting_return" <hecubatoher@...> wrote:
        >
        > From an existential viewpoint, I am aware that I am. That is how I have the capacity to be a self. The cat does not have the words to say that she is, and I assume that she is not even able to think or be aware that she is. This is why I find animals to have personalities, but to lack the capacity to be a self. To choose to be oneself, is this not the summation of existential endeavour?
        >
        > I do not understand, Wil, why you conceive of the self as an abstraction. Does not the challenge to live in good faith, within the existentialist literature, depend on an implicit conception of the self as lived reality? If I am wrong about this, I am sure you could point me to a text in the canon, or - even better - explain my error in your own words.
        >
        > Richard, of course, is using the word SELF in a specialised way, to indicate a mystical knowing, whereby each enlightened self experiences the oneness at the basis of true self. I have had many unusual experiences, but none that gives me any such assurance.
        >
        > My own hypothesis here is to suppose that there are multiple unique human beings, to each of which is given the potential to become a self. Kierkegaard presents this kind of material in detail, from a series of perspectives shaped by the categories of Christian faith.
        >
        > From an atheistic perspective, would it be true to say that the potential to realise one's self may be contingent, and not at all open to human beings in their universality? Are there, for instance, certain social, economic or medical conditions that for any given individual may shut down the capacity to choose to be oneself? May it be impossible to judge accurately of this matter at all? To my perspective, the difference between good and bad faith is clear, but the existential process of becoming a self remains unexplained. The lived reality of being is* unexplainable, isn't it?
        >
        > Louise
        >
      • eupraxis@aol.com
        Jim & Louise, Sorry for my delay in answering Louise s original post. Since Jim has offered some comments, I will offer what I can as observations here. Jim:
        Message 3 of 24 , May 29, 2010
          Jim & Louise,

          Sorry for my delay in answering Louise's original post. Since Jim has offered some comments, I will offer what I can as observations here.

          Jim: "Like you, I don't agree with Wil's view that the self is an abstraction. However, it all depends upon what one means by 'self'.

          Response: It also depends upon what one means by 'abstraction'. More, later.
          ---
          Jim: "If the self is just that which I am aware of when one says "I am aware that I am", then isn't the self just the individual human being?

          Response: If that is your 'self', then you have made of 'self' the coefficient of a certain kind of objectification, a reification of an act of thought. But what else is an abstraction?
          ---
          This clearly isn't what you mean by `self' as you write:

          Jim, cites Louise: "My own hypothesis here is to suppose that there are multiple unique human beings, to each of which is given the potential to become a self." [and Jim's answer:] "On this view, what is required for a unique human being to become a self? You don't offer an answer to this question, apart from suggesting that Kierkegaard answers the question, from a Christian perspective, in his collection of writings."

          Response: Actually, a Self in this sense would be a certain act or, to loosely cite Badiou, an Event. A Self is thus always a quantum effect, as it were, which comes forth only when observed, only when such a 'differentializing' makes of it a necessity -- only, then, when it asserts itself as that which is in contradistinction to something else, to everything else, and especially to the moment of its 'will-to-power'. Rather than being the quasi-Cartesian subject gleaned in an act of regressive self-regard, as if a self-subsistent but enigmatic kernel, the Self would be a counter-moment, an exception.
          ---
          You suggest that a different answer to Kierkegaard's may be available from an atheistic perspective:

          Louise: "From an atheistic perspective, would it be true to say that the potential to realise one's self may be contingent, and not at all open to human beings in their universality? Are there, for instance, certain social, economic or medical conditions that for any given individual may shut down the capacity to choose to be oneself? May it be impossible to judge accurately of this matter at all? To my perspective, the difference between good and bad faith is clear, but the existential process of becoming a self remains unexplained. The lived reality of being is* unexplainable, isn't it?"

          Response: Yes. By and large, yes.
          ---
          Jim's response: Citing Critchley, "The self is something that shapes itself through its relation to whatever it determines as its good, whether that is the Torah, the resurrected Christ, the moral law, the community in which I live, suffering humanity, all God's creatures, or whatever. That is, if the demand of the good requires the approval of that demand in order to be experienced as a demand, then that approval is given by a self. Who else could give it? … [A]n ethical subject can be defined as a self relating itself approvingly, bindingly, to the demand of its good. Ethical experience presupposes the existence of an experiencing subject. … [O]ne can go on and argue more forcefully that this demand of the good founds the self; or, better, that the demand of the good is the fundamental principle of the subject's articulation. What we think of as a self is fundamentally an ethical subject, a self that is constituted in a relation to its good, a self – our self – that is organized around certain core values and commitments." ("Infinitely Demanding", pp. 20-21)

          Response: That is to say [and foregoing any other comments for now], as an abstraction. That is what an abstraction is, literally, to draw from something.
          ---
          Jim: "I think here, and elsewhere in his book, Critchley articulates a conception of the self which is something a human being can become, and the crucial aspect in becoming a self is that the human being develops a conscience, such that she conceives of herself as a person who is both capable of acting upon, and capable of failing to act upon, her own conception of what is good, beneficial, necessary for herself and for others."

          Response: You say, "can become". And what then? Is one then a Self in perpetuity, like achieving a rank or promotion? And why just an ethical matter? Wouldn't I be a Self when my life is threatened, or when my job or livelihood, or my rights or hearth, etc., are compromised? Are only "good" Selves Selves? Can one not be a Self when apprehending evil. Was Sade not a Self in his moment of radicality? I suspect a tinge of moralism here, and I mean that in the pejorative sense.

          Wil





          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • Jim
          Wil, Let me comment of the sections from your post. First: Jim (previously): If the self is just that which I am aware of when one says I am aware that I
          Message 4 of 24 , May 29, 2010
            Wil,

            Let me comment of the sections from your post.

            First:

            Jim (previously): "If the self is just that which I am aware of when one says "I am aware that I am", then isn't the self just the individual human being?

            Wil: If that is your 'self', then you have made of 'self' the coefficient of a certain kind of objectification, a reification of an act of thought. But what else is an abstraction?

            Response: No, a human being is a physical organism, a material object, not an abstraction. If you cannot admit to the list of concrete things that exist in the universe, the exiting human beings, then you seem to be guilty of an idealism as extreme as Polly's.

            If human beings count as abstractions in your ontology, please give me an example of something which is not an abstraction.

            Second:

            Jim (previously): "I think here, and elsewhere in his book, Critchley articulates a conception of the self which is something a human being can become, and the crucial aspect in becoming a self is that the human being develops a conscience, such that she conceives of herself as a person who is both capable of acting upon, and capable of failing to act upon, her own conception of what is good, beneficial, necessary for herself and for others."

            Wil: You say, "can become". And what then? Is one then a Self in perpetuity, like achieving a rank or promotion? And why just an ethical matter? Wouldn't I be a Self when my life is threatened, or when my job or livelihood, or my rights or hearth, etc., are compromised? Are only "good" Selves Selves? Can one not be a Self when apprehending evil. Was Sade not a Self in his moment of radicality? I suspect a tinge of moralism here, and I mean that in the pejorative sense.

            Response: Good, this gets to the heart of the matter, and is a valid objection to what I wrote.

            I think for Kierkegaard, the individual's journey through life is a journey of perpetually becoming a self, but never actually arriving at full selfhood. For Kierkegaard, one always has an ethical task, one can never achieve the ultimate goal, and then sit back and rest upon one's laurels.

            For Critchley, I think his conception of "self" does involve the idea that one can become a self, like achieving a rank or promotion. One becomes a self when one is able to formulate one's own conception of the good, and, as a result, one's super-ego issues infinite demands upon the poor finite ego. Demands that the ego cannot possibly meet. Thus, Critchley talks of the "divided self". Such a self approves of an infinite (ethical) demand, which it does not have the resources to meet.

            Critchley says of his conception of the self, that it involves "a formal conception of the good", so any conception of the good can be fitted into to the placeholder to give a substantial conception. Consider this quote:

            "The self is something that shapes itself through its relation to whatever it determiners as its good, whether that is the Torah, the resurrected Christ, the moral law, the community in which I live, suffering humanity, all God's creatures, or whatever."

            Critchley does mention de Sade, and he says even he can count as a self according to the formal definition:
            "This … thesis is best argued negatively, through the experience of failure, betrayal and evil. Namely, that if I act in such a way that I know to be evil, then I am acting in a manner destructive of the self that I am, or that I have chosen to be. I have failed myself or betrayed myself. Once again, such a claim is quite formal and does not presuppose any specific content to the good, let alone any moralistic prudishness. For example, my good could be perpetual peace or permanent revolution, merciful meekness or bloody vengeance, the Kantian moral law or the Sadean droit de jouir, where the Divine Marquis believed that one's right to have an orgasm with whosoever one chose whenever one felt so inclined required the construction of specifically designed sex houses in the street of Paris. The point here is that the ethical subject is constituted in relation to a demand that is determined as good, and that this can be felt most acutely when I fail to act in accordance with that demand or when I deliberately transgress it and betray myself. I can be as much a failing Sadist as a failing Kantian" ("Infinitely Demanding, pp. 21-2)

            So I don't think Critchley is guilty of the moralism you dislike, but I think, arguably, Kierkegaard is.

            As for myself, I acknowledge that in my last post I was rather conflating the two different conceptions of self put forward by Kierkegaard and Critchley.

            I think I can, perhaps, have both the Kierkegaard and Critchley selves, if I accept the formal definition of self from Critchley, but make the point that some of us are more sensitive both to injustices in the world, and the still small voice of our own conscience. So to the extent that some of us (probably not me!) are more sensitive to the ethical demands that confront us, those individuals have more substantial selves than those who are less sensitive to the ethical aspect of existence.

            Jim
          • Herman
            Hi Jim, ... It seems you have changed your mind, perhaps. Polly
            Message 5 of 24 , May 29, 2010
              Hi Jim,

              On 30 May 2010 01:26, Jim <jjimstuart1@...> wrote:
              >
              > Jim (previously): "If the self is just that which I am aware of when one says "I am aware that I am", then isn't the self just the individual human being?
              >

              As recently as the 24th of May, you wrote:

              > Perhaps Mary is right to suggest we focus on thinking how problems can be solved ("The environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, starving and suffering children, curable diseases, war, etc."), rather than navel gazing and trying to figure out what we ourselves are.
              >

              It seems you have changed your mind, perhaps.

              Polly
            • Herman
              Hi Jim, ... I have resigned myself to the fact that we are discussing self yet again :-) As I read it, you appear to have two different takes on what a self
              Message 6 of 24 , May 29, 2010
                Hi Jim,

                On 30 May 2010 01:26, Jim <jjimstuart1@...> wrote:
                > Wil,
                >
                > Let me comment of the sections from your post.
                >

                I have resigned myself to the fact that we are discussing self yet again :-)

                As I read it, you appear to have two different takes on what a self
                is. First, you understand self as the body. That take is
                uncontroversial, IMO.

                > Response: No, a human being is a physical organism, a material object, not an abstraction. If you cannot admit to the list of concrete things that exist in the universe, the exiting human beings, then you seem to be guilty of an idealism as extreme as Polly's.
                >

                Then you also put forward this:

                >
                > I think I can, perhaps, have both the Kierkegaard and Critchley selves, if I accept the formal definition of self from Critchley, but make the point that some of us are more sensitive both to injustices in the world, and the still small voice of our own conscience. So to the extent that some of us (probably not me!) are more sensitive to the ethical demands that confront us, those individuals have more substantial selves than those who are less sensitive to the ethical aspect of existence.
                >

                Here selfhood is for you something totally different than the being of
                the body. It is something that is had, it is not a being, but a
                property of a certain kind of being. Combining those two takes would
                result in selves (bodies) having selves, which to me sounds absurd.
                For the sake of clarity, and thus for the dialogue, it would help if
                you could indicate which self you actually mean.

                Thanks in advance

                Polly
              • Jim
                Hi Polly, Yes, I agree I have not been consistent in my recent posts. I can see myself been pulled in two very different directions. First there is the desire
                Message 7 of 24 , May 30, 2010
                  Hi Polly,

                  Yes, I agree I have not been consistent in my recent posts.

                  I can see myself been pulled in two very different directions. First there is the desire to help make the world a better place – to solve practical problems and prevent the sort of man-made disasters like the current BP continuing to happen in the future. But second there is the desire to understand more about myself and human existence in general.

                  So there is the social or political project on the one hand and the inward reflection on the other.

                  Perhaps I was wrong to describe inward reflection pejoratively as "navel gazing". Further, I think inward reflection can have outward results, so I do think there is a connection between the personal and the political.

                  But I do see a tension between the two. Those existentialists who think the way to a better world is through community and political change emphasis the need for agreement about practical action, and ignore or even try to suppress differences of belief and outlook of particular individuals. Those existentialists who emphasize subjectivity and the individual's particular inwardness think that reflecting on the nature of the self is a better use of one's time than attending local meetings or campaigning for political change in other ways.

                  I can see the merits of both approaches, so I dare say I may continue to exhibit some inconsistency in my words and actions.

                  Jim




                  --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, Herman <hhofmeister@...> wrote:
                  >
                  > Hi Jim,
                  >
                  > On 30 May 2010 01:26, Jim <jjimstuart1@...> wrote:
                  > >
                  > > Jim (previously): "If the self is just that which I am aware of when one says "I am aware that I am", then isn't the self just the individual human being?
                  > >
                  >
                  > As recently as the 24th of May, you wrote:
                  >
                  > > Perhaps Mary is right to suggest we focus on thinking how problems can be solved ("The environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, starving and suffering children, curable diseases, war, etc."), rather than navel gazing and trying to figure out what we ourselves are.
                  > >
                  >
                  > It seems you have changed your mind, perhaps.
                  >
                  > Polly
                  >
                • Jim
                  Hi again Polly, Again you highlight ambiguity and muddle in my recent posts. You write: As I read it, you appear to have two different takes on what a self
                  Message 8 of 24 , May 30, 2010
                    Hi again Polly,

                    Again you highlight ambiguity and muddle in my recent posts.

                    You write:

                    "As I read it, you appear to have two different takes on what a self is. First, you understand self as the body. That take is uncontroversial, IMO.

                    [Second] selfhood is for you something totally different than the being of the body. It is something that is had, it is not a being, but a property of a certain kind of being. Combining those two takes would result in selves (bodies) having selves, which to me sounds absurd.
                    For the sake of clarity, and thus for the dialogue, it would help if you could indicate which self you actually mean."

                    I think I can combine these two ideas without inconsistency.

                    Human beings have the potential to be selves, and that potential is realized when the individual has a conception of her own good that she is motivated to bring about.

                    As I said in my recent posts, normal human beings who live in civilized societies where there is sufficient food, water, shelter and security form their own conceptions of what is good and have the freedom to attempt to realize their good.

                    Such people – and I would include everybody who contributes to Existlist – are selves. So for us, the self just is the human being, but not all human beings count as selves. A self is a human being with a certain significant kind of inner life.

                    Whether a human being counts as a self, on my view, is partly determined by conditions outside the individual's control, but also is partly determined by the individual's efforts. For example, I could drink myself into oblivion and then cease to be a self.

                    I am trying to give an account of the self which depends partly upon the luck of where one is born, partly on the individual's efforts, but has no supernatural, theological or metaphysical baggage.

                    Thanks again for your perceptive criticism.

                    Jim
                  • tom
                    Jim and all, Obviously, there is value in both action and introspection. I believe some of us by nature are inclined more to extraversion, and some more to
                    Message 9 of 24 , May 30, 2010
                      Jim and all,

                      Obviously, there is value in both action and introspection. I believe some of us by nature are inclined more to extraversion, and some more to introversion. However, despite individual differences, I certainly believe there is value in integrating these sides of our nature.The integration between east and west that occured in the 20th century is an example of this. The 20th century, and particularly the second half of the 20th century saw the west developing interest in mediation, yoga and other methods of internal transformation long in use in the east, and the east rapidly developing technology as Japanese cars in the 70s began to set new standards for reliability and durability, and more recently China has become a huge manufacturer of many consumer items.

                      I certainly think it is essential that growth in inner awareness and values accompany developement of greater powers to change the world, or else the problem Einstein described as "Our technology has exceeded our humanity"
                      becomes more accute.

                      Peace,
                      Tom
                      ----- Original Message -----
                      From: Jim
                      To: existlist@yahoogroups.com
                      Sent: Sunday, May 30, 2010 6:59 AM
                      Subject: [existlist] Re: Non-mystical musings



                      Hi Polly,

                      Yes, I agree I have not been consistent in my recent posts.

                      I can see myself been pulled in two very different directions. First there is the desire to help make the world a better place - to solve practical problems and prevent the sort of man-made disasters like the current BP continuing to happen in the future. But second there is the desire to understand more about myself and human existence in general.

                      So there is the social or political project on the one hand and the inward reflection on the other.

                      Perhaps I was wrong to describe inward reflection pejoratively as "navel gazing". Further, I think inward reflection can have outward results, so I do think there is a connection between the personal and the political.

                      But I do see a tension between the two. Those existentialists who think the way to a better world is through community and political change emphasis the need for agreement about practical action, and ignore or even try to suppress differences of belief and outlook of particular individuals. Those existentialists who emphasize subjectivity and the individual's particular inwardness think that reflecting on the nature of the self is a better use of one's time than attending local meetings or campaigning for political change in other ways.

                      I can see the merits of both approaches, so I dare say I may continue to exhibit some inconsistency in my words and actions.

                      Jim

                      --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, Herman <hhofmeister@...> wrote:
                      >
                      > Hi Jim,
                      >
                      > On 30 May 2010 01:26, Jim <jjimstuart1@...> wrote:
                      > >
                      > > Jim (previously): "If the self is just that which I am aware of when one says "I am aware that I am", then isn't the self just the individual human being?
                      > >
                      >
                      > As recently as the 24th of May, you wrote:
                      >
                      > > Perhaps Mary is right to suggest we focus on thinking how problems can be solved ("The environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, starving and suffering children, curable diseases, war, etc."), rather than navel gazing and trying to figure out what we ourselves are.
                      > >
                      >
                      > It seems you have changed your mind, perhaps.
                      >
                      > Polly
                      >





                      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                    • Jim
                      Hi again Polly, Again you highlight ambiguity and muddle in my recent posts. You write: As I read it, you appear to have two different takes on what a self
                      Message 10 of 24 , May 30, 2010
                        Hi again Polly,

                        Again you highlight ambiguity and muddle in my recent posts.

                        You write:

                        "As I read it, you appear to have two different takes on what a self is. First, you understand self as the body. That take is uncontroversial, IMO.

                        [Second] selfhood is for you something totally different than the being of the body. It is something that is had, it is not a being, but a property of a certain kind of being. Combining those two takes would result in selves (bodies) having selves, which to me sounds absurd. For the sake of clarity, and thus for the dialogue, it would help if you could indicate which self you actually mean."

                        I think I can combine these two ideas without inconsistency.

                        Human beings have the potential to be selves, and that potential is realized when the individual has a conception of her own good that she is motivated to bring about.

                        As I said in my recent posts, normal human beings who live in civilized societies where there is sufficient food, water, shelter and security form their own conceptions of what is good and have the freedom to attempt to realize their good.

                        Such people – and I would include everybody who contributes to Existlist – are selves. So for us, the self just is the human being, but not all human beings count as selves. A self is a human being with a certain significant kind of inner life.

                        Whether a human being counts as a self, on my view, is partly determined by conditions outside the individual's control, but also is partly determined by the individual's efforts. For example, I could drink myself into oblivion and then cease to be a self.

                        I am trying to give an account of the self which depends partly upon the luck of where one is born, partly on the individual's efforts, but has no supernatural, theological or metaphysical baggage.

                        Thanks again for your perceptive criticism.

                        Jim
                      • irvhal
                        I agree. The cat does not reflect upon itself in situation, nor temporally plans or projects, nor conceptually hypothesizes about black holes or electrons or
                        Message 11 of 24 , May 30, 2010
                          I agree. The cat does not reflect upon itself in situation, nor temporally plans or projects, nor conceptually hypothesizes about black holes or electrons or justice. And as Sartre remarked in "Being and Nothingness," "Knowing belongs to the for-itself alone, for the reason that only the for-itself can appear to itself as not being what it knows."

                          Irvin

                          --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "fleeting_return" <hecubatoher@...> wrote:
                          >
                          > From an existential viewpoint, I am aware that I am. That is how I have the capacity to be a self. The cat does not have the words to say that she is, and I assume that she is not even able to think or be aware that she is. This is why I find animals to have personalities, but to lack the capacity to be a self. To choose to be oneself, is this not the summation of existential endeavour?
                          >
                          > I do not understand, Wil, why you conceive of the self as an abstraction. Does not the challenge to live in good faith, within the existentialist literature, depend on an implicit conception of the self as lived reality? If I am wrong about this, I am sure you could point me to a text in the canon, or - even better - explain my error in your own words.
                          >
                          > Richard, of course, is using the word SELF in a specialised way, to indicate a mystical knowing, whereby each enlightened self experiences the oneness at the basis of true self. I have had many unusual experiences, but none that gives me any such assurance.
                          >
                          > My own hypothesis here is to suppose that there are multiple unique human beings, to each of which is given the potential to become a self. Kierkegaard presents this kind of material in detail, from a series of perspectives shaped by the categories of Christian faith.
                          >
                          > From an atheistic perspective, would it be true to say that the potential to realise one's self may be contingent, and not at all open to human beings in their universality? Are there, for instance, certain social, economic or medical conditions that for any given individual may shut down the capacity to choose to be oneself? May it be impossible to judge accurately of this matter at all? To my perspective, the difference between good and bad faith is clear, but the existential process of becoming a self remains unexplained. The lived reality of being is* unexplainable, isn't it?
                          >
                          > Louise
                          >
                        • Herman
                          Hi Irvin, ... I suggest that the experiences of a cat, or any other being, are well beyond your reach. Writing with the certainty you do is without warrant.
                          Message 12 of 24 , May 31, 2010
                            Hi Irvin,

                            On 31 May 2010 12:36, irvhal <i99hj@...> wrote:
                            > I agree. The cat does not reflect upon itself in situation, nor temporally plans or projects, nor conceptually hypothesizes about black holes or electrons or justice. And as Sartre remarked in "Being and Nothingness," "Knowing belongs to the for-itself alone, for the reason that only the for-itself can appear to itself as not being what it knows."
                            >

                            I suggest that the experiences of a cat, or any other being, are well
                            beyond your reach. Writing with the certainty you do is without
                            warrant.

                            Polly
                          • fleeting_return
                            Polly, I would suggest that although the experiences of a cat may be beyond our reach, its non-experiences are not so uncertain. Louise
                            Message 13 of 24 , May 31, 2010
                              Polly,

                              I would suggest that although the experiences of a cat may be beyond our reach, its non-experiences are not so uncertain.

                              Louise


                              --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, Herman <hhofmeister@...> wrote:
                              >
                              > Hi Irvin,
                              >
                              > On 31 May 2010 12:36, irvhal <i99hj@...> wrote:
                              > > I agree. The cat does not reflect upon itself in situation, nor temporally plans or projects, nor conceptually hypothesizes about black holes or electrons or justice. And as Sartre remarked in "Being and Nothingness," "Knowing belongs to the for-itself alone, for the reason that only the for-itself can appear to itself as not being what it knows."
                              > >
                              >
                              > I suggest that the experiences of a cat, or any other being, are well
                              > beyond your reach. Writing with the certainty you do is without
                              > warrant.
                              >
                              > Polly
                              >
                            • Herman
                              Hi Louise, ... If you mean thinking about black holes or justice, I would readily agree. These are totally human constructs. (I imagine there may well be cat
                              Message 14 of 24 , May 31, 2010
                                Hi Louise,

                                On 1 June 2010 09:31, fleeting_return <hecubatoher@...> wrote:
                                > Polly,
                                >
                                > I would suggest that although the experiences of a cat may be beyond our reach, its non-experiences are not so uncertain.
                                >

                                If you mean thinking about black holes or justice, I would readily
                                agree. These are totally human constructs. (I imagine there may well
                                be cat constructs that we do not imagine.) But if you mean planning or
                                projecting, why would you be certain that cats do not do this?

                                Polly
                              • Brent Irvine
                                Animal Cognition is an active area of study/research. I suppose if anyone could say one way or other, it would be a researcher in that field. Provided they
                                Message 15 of 24 , May 31, 2010
                                  "Animal Cognition" is an active area of study/research. I suppose if anyone could say one way or other, it would be a researcher in that field. Provided they studied cats. ;-)





                                  ________________________________
                                  From: Herman <hhofmeister@...>
                                  To: existlist@yahoogroups.com
                                  Sent: Mon, May 31, 2010 7:56:51 PM
                                  Subject: Re: [existlist] Re: Non-mystical musings


                                  Hi Louise,

                                  On 1 June 2010 09:31, fleeting_return <hecubatoher@...> wrote:
                                  > Polly,
                                  >
                                  > I would suggest that although the experiences of a cat may be beyond our reach, its non-experiences are not so uncertain.
                                  >

                                  If you mean thinking about black holes or justice, I would readily
                                  agree. These are totally human constructs. (I imagine there may well
                                  be cat constructs that we do not imagine.) But if you mean planning or
                                  projecting, why would you be certain that cats do not do this?

                                  Polly



                                  [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                                • fleeting_return
                                  Wil and Jim, I am trying methodically to think accurately about these questions, since I find them important. Certainly my first response to Jim s objection
                                  Message 16 of 24 , May 31, 2010
                                    Wil and Jim,

                                    I am trying methodically to think accurately about these questions, since I find them important. Certainly my first response to Jim's objection to your reply, Wil, was concurrence and encouragement. It is not that I am looking for my own perspective to be reinforced, because I would welcome adopting a different perspective if my own were based on incoherent assumptions or faulty thinking. In order to change a perspective, it is needful to be persuaded, and this means that understanding the other's argument is crucial. Jim's observation goes to the heart of my own present understanding. He writes:
                                    "No, a human being is a physical organism, a material object, not an abstraction". I would want to amplify this comment, by stating that a human being is the kind of material object which is also, unlike many material objects, a material subject, to whom noumenal experiences may be reasonably attributed, and in addition is a special kind of material subject, capable of conceptual thinking and other types of subjective practice that require powers of human language - at least on such available evidence as is afforded by existence on this planet. There may be more advanced forms of life somewhere, but we know nothing of them.

                                    Louise

                                    --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "Jim" <jjimstuart1@...> wrote:
                                    >
                                    > Wil,
                                    >
                                    > Let me comment of the sections from your post.
                                    >
                                    > First:
                                    >
                                    > Jim (previously): "If the self is just that which I am aware of when one says "I am aware that I am", then isn't the self just the individual human being?
                                    >
                                    > Wil: If that is your 'self', then you have made of 'self' the coefficient of a certain kind of objectification, a reification of an act of thought. But what else is an abstraction?
                                    >
                                    > Response: No, a human being is a physical organism, a material object, not an abstraction. If you cannot admit to the list of concrete things that exist in the universe, the exiting human beings, then you seem to be guilty of an idealism as extreme as Polly's.
                                    >
                                    > If human beings count as abstractions in your ontology, please give me an example of something which is not an abstraction.
                                    >
                                    > Second:
                                    >
                                    > Jim (previously): "I think here, and elsewhere in his book, Critchley articulates a conception of the self which is something a human being can become, and the crucial aspect in becoming a self is that the human being develops a conscience, such that she conceives of herself as a person who is both capable of acting upon, and capable of failing to act upon, her own conception of what is good, beneficial, necessary for herself and for others."
                                    >
                                    > Wil: You say, "can become". And what then? Is one then a Self in perpetuity, like achieving a rank or promotion? And why just an ethical matter? Wouldn't I be a Self when my life is threatened, or when my job or livelihood, or my rights or hearth, etc., are compromised? Are only "good" Selves Selves? Can one not be a Self when apprehending evil. Was Sade not a Self in his moment of radicality? I suspect a tinge of moralism here, and I mean that in the pejorative sense.
                                    >
                                    > Response: Good, this gets to the heart of the matter, and is a valid objection to what I wrote.
                                    >
                                    > I think for Kierkegaard, the individual's journey through life is a journey of perpetually becoming a self, but never actually arriving at full selfhood. For Kierkegaard, one always has an ethical task, one can never achieve the ultimate goal, and then sit back and rest upon one's laurels.
                                    >
                                    > For Critchley, I think his conception of "self" does involve the idea that one can become a self, like achieving a rank or promotion. One becomes a self when one is able to formulate one's own conception of the good, and, as a result, one's super-ego issues infinite demands upon the poor finite ego. Demands that the ego cannot possibly meet. Thus, Critchley talks of the "divided self". Such a self approves of an infinite (ethical) demand, which it does not have the resources to meet.
                                    >
                                    > Critchley says of his conception of the self, that it involves "a formal conception of the good", so any conception of the good can be fitted into to the placeholder to give a substantial conception. Consider this quote:
                                    >
                                    > "The self is something that shapes itself through its relation to whatever it determiners as its good, whether that is the Torah, the resurrected Christ, the moral law, the community in which I live, suffering humanity, all God's creatures, or whatever."
                                    >
                                    > Critchley does mention de Sade, and he says even he can count as a self according to the formal definition:
                                    > "This … thesis is best argued negatively, through the experience of failure, betrayal and evil. Namely, that if I act in such a way that I know to be evil, then I am acting in a manner destructive of the self that I am, or that I have chosen to be. I have failed myself or betrayed myself. Once again, such a claim is quite formal and does not presuppose any specific content to the good, let alone any moralistic prudishness. For example, my good could be perpetual peace or permanent revolution, merciful meekness or bloody vengeance, the Kantian moral law or the Sadean droit de jouir, where the Divine Marquis believed that one's right to have an orgasm with whosoever one chose whenever one felt so inclined required the construction of specifically designed sex houses in the street of Paris. The point here is that the ethical subject is constituted in relation to a demand that is determined as good, and that this can be felt most acutely when I fail to act in accordance with that demand or when I deliberately transgress it and betray myself. I can be as much a failing Sadist as a failing Kantian" ("Infinitely Demanding, pp. 21-2)
                                    >
                                    > So I don't think Critchley is guilty of the moralism you dislike, but I think, arguably, Kierkegaard is.
                                    >
                                    > As for myself, I acknowledge that in my last post I was rather conflating the two different conceptions of self put forward by Kierkegaard and Critchley.
                                    >
                                    > I think I can, perhaps, have both the Kierkegaard and Critchley selves, if I accept the formal definition of self from Critchley, but make the point that some of us are more sensitive both to injustices in the world, and the still small voice of our own conscience. So to the extent that some of us (probably not me!) are more sensitive to the ethical demands that confront us, those individuals have more substantial selves than those who are less sensitive to the ethical aspect of existence.
                                    >
                                    > Jim
                                    >
                                  • fleeting_return
                                    ... Hi Polly, When I wrote that a cat s non-experiences are not so uncertain, I meant that I consider it probable, rather than certain, that cats do not
                                    Message 17 of 24 , May 31, 2010
                                      --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, Herman <hhofmeister@...> wrote:
                                      >
                                      > Hi Louise,
                                      >
                                      > On 1 June 2010 09:31, fleeting_return <hecubatoher@...> wrote:
                                      > > Polly,
                                      > >
                                      > > I would suggest that although the experiences of a cat may be beyond our reach, its non-experiences are not so uncertain.
                                      > >
                                      >
                                      > If you mean thinking about black holes or justice, I would readily
                                      > agree. These are totally human constructs. (I imagine there may well
                                      > be cat constructs that we do not imagine.) But if you mean planning or
                                      > projecting, why would you be certain that cats do not do this?
                                      >
                                      > Polly
                                      >
                                      Hi Polly,

                                      When I wrote that a cat's non-experiences are not so uncertain, I meant that I consider it probable, rather than certain, that cats do not practise the kinds of mental activities delineated by Irvin. These did include 'temporally planning or projecting', and I would agree that these capacities, in rudimentary form, might be possible without language of a human type. Now I come to think of it, I remember seeing one of our cats, on an occasion, looking up at me, from his place down in the yard, as I stood on the landing inside our house, looking out from the open sash window; it was as though he assessed the situation, then jumped up on to the coal bunker, from there to the slant tiled kitchen roof, along the ridge tiles and through the sash window. Our other cat, even after watching the procedure, never learnt to take this alternative route into the house. Does this type of ability evidence planning? It is I who am projecting, by asking the question. In general, I am sceptical of attributing human-like powers to other animals. So it is a matter of assessing what would count as positive evidence.

                                      Louise
                                    • fleeting_return
                                      ... Jim, I have been thinking that I might have left the impression of being completely negative about such activities as attending local meetings or
                                      Message 18 of 24 , May 31, 2010
                                        --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "Jim" <jjimstuart1@...> wrote:
                                        >
                                        > Hi Polly,
                                        >
                                        > Yes, I agree I have not been consistent in my recent posts.
                                        >
                                        > I can see myself been pulled in two very different directions. First there is the desire to help make the world a better place – to solve practical problems and prevent the sort of man-made disasters like the current BP continuing to happen in the future. But second there is the desire to understand more about myself and human existence in general.
                                        >
                                        > So there is the social or political project on the one hand and the inward reflection on the other.
                                        >
                                        > Perhaps I was wrong to describe inward reflection pejoratively as "navel gazing". Further, I think inward reflection can have outward results, so I do think there is a connection between the personal and the political.
                                        >
                                        > But I do see a tension between the two. Those existentialists who think the way to a better world is through community and political change emphasis the need for agreement about practical action, and ignore or even try to suppress differences of belief and outlook of particular individuals. Those existentialists who emphasize subjectivity and the individual's particular inwardness think that reflecting on the nature of the self is a better use of one's time than attending local meetings or campaigning for political change in other ways.
                                        >
                                        > I can see the merits of both approaches, so I dare say I may continue to exhibit some inconsistency in my words and actions.
                                        >
                                        > Jim

                                        Jim,

                                        I have been thinking that I might have left the impression of being completely negative about such activities as 'attending local meetings or campaigning for political change', since I claimed [51764] not to believe in the endeavour 'to change hearts and minds', which is a progressive ideal most current in contemporary discourse. As I am interested, myself, to discover exactly what I did mean, I hope that this is not without interest for others too. The grounds I have for supposing that this is not simply navel-gazing, are concerned with the nature of philosophy. To be human and possessed of a reasonably fluent power of language means that this mysterious fact of being both phenomenal in nature and self-reflectively noumenal enables the possibility of comparing noumenal and phenomenal experiences with other material subjects, and making advances thereby. Is this not intrinsic to the practice of philosophy? If, in my bewildered agnosticism, I put before myself the existential question of whether to choose to be an atheist, I may begin by exploring how to explain this statement to myself and how to understand my experiences from an atheistic perspective. Well, that is as much as I am able to digest for the present, and I should pause to allow others to enter discussion, or start new ones, before posting again. (Yes, I still believe that the moderators of this group provide the best guidelines, for how to proceed here).

                                        Louise
                                      • fleeting_return
                                        correction - it would be clearer if i had written, below, I may begin by exploring how to explain this question to myself [i.e., whether to choose to be an
                                        Message 19 of 24 , May 31, 2010
                                          correction - it would be clearer if i had written, below, "I may begin by exploring how to explain this question to myself" [i.e., whether to choose to be an atheist].

                                          ps. can anyone conceive of an atheistic cat? or an agnostic or believing one?

                                          --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "fleeting_return" <hecubatoher@...> wrote:
                                          >
                                          > --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "Jim" <jjimstuart1@> wrote:
                                          > >
                                          > > Hi Polly,
                                          > >
                                          > > Yes, I agree I have not been consistent in my recent posts.
                                          > >
                                          > > I can see myself been pulled in two very different directions. First there is the desire to help make the world a better place – to solve practical problems and prevent the sort of man-made disasters like the current BP continuing to happen in the future. But second there is the desire to understand more about myself and human existence in general.
                                          > >
                                          > > So there is the social or political project on the one hand and the inward reflection on the other.
                                          > >
                                          > > Perhaps I was wrong to describe inward reflection pejoratively as "navel gazing". Further, I think inward reflection can have outward results, so I do think there is a connection between the personal and the political.
                                          > >
                                          > > But I do see a tension between the two. Those existentialists who think the way to a better world is through community and political change emphasis the need for agreement about practical action, and ignore or even try to suppress differences of belief and outlook of particular individuals. Those existentialists who emphasize subjectivity and the individual's particular inwardness think that reflecting on the nature of the self is a better use of one's time than attending local meetings or campaigning for political change in other ways.
                                          > >
                                          > > I can see the merits of both approaches, so I dare say I may continue to exhibit some inconsistency in my words and actions.
                                          > >
                                          > > Jim
                                          >
                                          > Jim,
                                          >
                                          > I have been thinking that I might have left the impression of being completely negative about such activities as 'attending local meetings or campaigning for political change', since I claimed [51764] not to believe in the endeavour 'to change hearts and minds', which is a progressive ideal most current in contemporary discourse. As I am interested, myself, to discover exactly what I did mean, I hope that this is not without interest for others too. The grounds I have for supposing that this is not simply navel-gazing, are concerned with the nature of philosophy. To be human and possessed of a reasonably fluent power of language means that this mysterious fact of being both phenomenal in nature and self-reflectively noumenal enables the possibility of comparing noumenal and phenomenal experiences with other material subjects, and making advances thereby. Is this not intrinsic to the practice of philosophy? If, in my bewildered agnosticism, I put before myself the existential question of whether to choose to be an atheist, I may begin by exploring how to explain this statement to myself and how to understand my experiences from an atheistic perspective. Well, that is as much as I am able to digest for the present, and I should pause to allow others to enter discussion, or start new ones, before posting again. (Yes, I still believe that the moderators of this group provide the best guidelines, for how to proceed here).
                                          >
                                          > Louise
                                          >
                                        • Herman
                                          Hi Louise, ... I think that the notion that reflective self-awareness is an advancement on it s absence is presently being tested in the laboratory of life.
                                          Message 20 of 24 , Jun 1, 2010
                                            Hi Louise,

                                            On 1 June 2010 10:08, fleeting_return <hecubatoher@...> wrote:
                                            > Wil and Jim,
                                            >
                                            > "No, a human being is a physical organism, a material object, not an abstraction".  I would want to amplify this comment, by stating that a human being is the kind of material object which is also, unlike many material objects, a material subject, to whom noumenal experiences may be reasonably attributed, and in addition is a special kind of material subject, capable of conceptual thinking and other types of subjective practice that require powers of human language - at least on such available evidence as is afforded by existence on this planet.  There may be more advanced forms of life somewhere, but we know nothing of them.
                                            >

                                            I think that the notion that reflective self-awareness is an
                                            advancement on it's absence is presently being tested in the
                                            laboratory of life. Human language, as a defining characteristic of
                                            this apparition, has only just surfaced in the cycle of life / death.
                                            It's utility remains to be seen. The use of language towards
                                            representation seems to be far outweighed by its use as
                                            misrepresentation. The most significant evolutionary developments for
                                            homo sapiens have been the capacity to deceive, to most skillfully
                                            deceive.

                                            Polly
                                          • Herman
                                            Hi Louise, ... To me, it is beautiful evidence of learning and planning, neither of which require any reflective self-awareness. Polly
                                            Message 21 of 24 , Jun 1, 2010
                                              Hi Louise,

                                              On 1 June 2010 10:27, fleeting_return <hecubatoher@...> wrote:
                                              > --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, Herman <hhofmeister@...> wrote:
                                              >>
                                              >
                                              > When I wrote that a cat's non-experiences are not so uncertain, I meant that I consider it probable, rather than certain, that cats do  not practise the kinds of mental activities delineated by Irvin.  These did include 'temporally planning or projecting', and I would agree that these capacities, in rudimentary form, might be possible without language of a human type.  Now I come to think of it, I remember seeing one of our cats, on an occasion, looking up at me, from his place down in the yard, as I stood on the landing inside our house, looking out from the open sash window; it was as though he assessed the situation, then jumped up on to the coal bunker, from there to the slant tiled kitchen roof, along the ridge tiles and through the sash window.  Our other cat, even after watching the procedure, never learnt to >take this alternative route into the house.  Does this type of ability evidence planning?

                                              To me, it is beautiful evidence of learning and planning, neither of
                                              which require any reflective self-awareness.

                                              Polly
                                            • fleeting_return
                                              ... Polly, So far as I am concerned, the earth is exactly what it appears to be. Nothing at all like a laboratory. I have referred to the existential
                                              Message 22 of 24 , Jun 2, 2010
                                                --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, Herman <hhofmeister@...> wrote:
                                                >
                                                > Hi Louise,
                                                >
                                                > On 1 June 2010 10:08, fleeting_return <hecubatoher@...> wrote:
                                                > > Wil and Jim,
                                                > >
                                                > > "No, a human being is a physical organism, a material object, not an abstraction".  I would want to amplify this comment, by stating that a human being is the kind of material object which is also, unlike many material objects, a material subject, to whom noumenal experiences may be reasonably attributed, and in addition is a special kind of material subject, capable of conceptual thinking and other types of subjective practice that require powers of human language - at least on such available evidence as is afforded by existence on this planet.  There may be more advanced forms of life somewhere, but we know nothing of them.
                                                > >
                                                >
                                                > I think that the notion that reflective self-awareness is an
                                                > advancement on it's absence is presently being tested in the
                                                > laboratory of life. Human language, as a defining characteristic of
                                                > this apparition, has only just surfaced in the cycle of life / death.
                                                > It's utility remains to be seen. The use of language towards
                                                > representation seems to be far outweighed by its use as
                                                > misrepresentation. The most significant evolutionary developments for
                                                > homo sapiens have been the capacity to deceive, to most skillfully
                                                > deceive.
                                                >
                                                > Polly
                                                >

                                                Polly, So far as I am concerned, the earth is exactly what it appears to be. Nothing at all like a laboratory. I have referred to the existential decision to choose atheism, which, in my own case, anyway, means that there is no big scientist in the sky watching over us. Damn utility. That reflective self-awareness and the deceptive properties of language can usher in torment and fear for sentient life is part of the fact of being here, the form it takes, and, yes, how hateful it can be. Yet the particularity of human sentience is the end, for man. There is nothing else to live for. That is a declaration of faith. I am not capable of an atheism without faith in the reflective self-awareness that makes atheism possible. This does not mean that one has faith in the love, or the hatred, when it comes, nor in the self, but, simply, in life, which does not begin with our birth, nor end with our death. We participate in its reality whilst we are here, breathing. At least, that is as far as I have got along this road. It continues. Louise
                                              • fleeting_return
                                                Message 23 of 24 , Jun 2, 2010
                                                  --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, Herman <hhofmeister@...> wrote:
                                                  >
                                                  > Hi Louise,
                                                  >
                                                  > On 1 June 2010 10:27, fleeting_return <hecubatoher@...> wrote:
                                                  > > --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, Herman <hhofmeister@> wrote:
                                                  > >>
                                                  > >
                                                  > > When I wrote that a cat's non-experiences are not so uncertain, I meant that I consider it probable, rather than certain, that cats do  not practise the kinds of mental activities delineated by Irvin.  These did include 'temporally planning or projecting', and I would agree that these capacities, in rudimentary form, might be possible without language of a human type.  Now I come to think of it, I remember seeing one of our cats, on an occasion, looking up at me, from his place down in the yard, as I stood on the landing inside our house, looking out from the open sash window; it was as though he assessed the situation, then jumped up on to the coal bunker, from there to the slant tiled kitchen roof, along the ridge tiles and through the sash window.  Our other cat, even after watching the procedure, never learnt to >take this alternative route into the house.  Does this type of ability evidence planning?
                                                  >
                                                  > To me, it is beautiful evidence of learning and planning, neither of
                                                  > which require any reflective self-awareness.
                                                  >
                                                  > Polly
                                                  > Polly, He was a most intelligent cat, originally a stray whom a friend of ours looked after and passed on to us. He used to lie in wait for our other cat and harass her, very keen, I think, to be the only cat in the household; and so we passed him on in turn to a family with a large house, where he settled in famously, going to each of the four children's bedrooms in turn, to receive their affections. A fine retirement, by any standards. Louise
                                                • Jim
                                                  Louise, I appreciate your recent posts. I want to respond her to what you wrote about changing hearts and minds and the different perspectives of the theist
                                                  Message 24 of 24 , Jun 2, 2010
                                                    Louise,

                                                    I appreciate your recent posts. I want to respond her to what you wrote about "changing hearts and minds" and the different perspectives of the theist and the atheist.

                                                    I think the biggest difference between the theist (the person of faith) and the atheist is that the theist trusts that God is all-powerful and thus is in ultimate control of human history. This divine guidance of the course of events is often called providence or governance.

                                                    If one believes in God's governance then one has no motivation to change hearts and minds, this can be left to God. Rather, one should use one's time and energy to work on oneself. Kierkegaard is particularly clear on this issue.

                                                    By contrast, the atheist believes that the future is up for grabs: there is no all-powerful, perfectly good being or force to ensure that human history progresses in a satisfactory manner.

                                                    From our current point in human history, the atheist faces up to the possibility that if human beings continue to think and behave as they have done up until now, then we will poison the earth irreversibly, and the human race will die out.

                                                    I firmly believe that unless there is a fundamental change of hearts and minds, the human race will become extinct within the next two hundred years. That is why a new way of thinking – a less materialistic and hedonistic way – is needed in order for the earth to survive as a planet capable of sustaining human life and human flourishing for future generations.

                                                    Either that or the sort of World Government that Polly has argued for.

                                                    Jim
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