Best Definition of Existentialism?

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Post by HB3 » 10-05-2011 10:48 PM

If reality is merely a "social construction" there's no way to know it in any fundamental way. You're appropriating teleology. Again, this is what I'm getting at with my criticism of Bennett's Existentialism.

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Post by cybrwurm » 10-05-2011 11:45 PM

We know it (ie. reality) through the language we use; through the words, ideas, and concepts which only an advanced and highly sophisticated language can provide for a superior vision of reality (in whole and in part). The better the language, the "better" the reality we see ...
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Post by Fan » 10-06-2011 10:42 AM

cybrwurm wrote: We know it (ie. reality) through the language we use; through the words, ideas, and concepts which only an advanced and highly sophisticated language can provide for a superior vision of reality (in whole and in part). The better the language, the "better" the reality we see ...


I think reality is subjective, not collective. What we can express is simply a representation of the symbols we have gathered. Existence is lonely.

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Post by cybrwurm » 10-06-2011 08:43 PM

Fan say: I think reality is subjective, not collective.
I think that human-reality is both subjective and collective, both individual and social, and both equally active and present within the eternal-now; with the subjective perhaps having a very slight more primacy within the world of the individual personality. Of course, some individuals deliberately choose to over-emphasize the individual and subjective aspects of being ... 'piggies' I believe the Beatles called them ... and to their ultimate sorrow, eye assume.
F: What we can express is simply a representation of the symbols we have gathered.
I think it is perhaps a little too "materialistic" to call all the literature that humankind has made over the last five thousand years or so 'a representation of symbols'. If nothing else, literature helps us to understand and define the reality of our daily lives as social creatures; because literature is more than just random meaningless texts, but rather solidifies and transmits thoughts, ideas, concepts, images, and even representations of whatever it is that you want to represent. It is the medium of (almost?) all social/political/historical life. In other words, literature is the embodiment of our collective consciousness as it (we) travel through history. The way we think about stuff is all right there in the texts. Interesting side-note; this process which I just referred to is most apparent in the great economic writings of the 18th and 19th centuries (for example, Smith and Marx).
F: Existence is lonely.
Yah, existentialists know this very well. That's why its so important to stress Aritotle's observation that humankind is a social and political creature. For therein lies our collective salvation from the isolated-solipsist syndrome ... Solipsism is "the theory that the only thing you can be certain about is your own existence and your own thoughts and ideas" (Macmillan Dictionary) ... Yeah, and sometimes you can't even be certain of THAT! (see Descartes and friends for details) :realmad:
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Post by HB3 » 10-06-2011 08:50 PM

The funny thing about solipsism is that there can be only one. ;)

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Post by Fan » 10-07-2011 12:50 PM

I do not dismiss literature at all, however, I think we could agree that all literature is a collection of symbols. If not, what is it?
In his book Language as Symbolic Action (1966), Burke defined humankind as a "symbol using animal" (p. 3). This definition of man, he argued, means that "reality" has actually "been built up for us through nothing but our symbol system" (p. 5). Without our encyclopedias, atlases, and other assorted reference guides, we would know little about the world that lies beyond our immediate sense experience. What we call "reality," Burke stated, is actually a "clutter of symbols about the past combined with whatever things we know mainly through maps, magazines, newspapers, and the like about the present . . . a construct of our symbol systems" (p. 5). College students wandering from class to class, from English literature to sociology to biology to calculus, encounter a new reality each time they enter a classroom; the courses listed in a university's catalogue "are in effect but so many different terminologies" (p. 5). It stands to reason then that people who consider themselves to be Christian, and who internalize that religion's symbol system, inhabit a reality that is different from the one of practicing Buddhists, or Jews, or Muslims. The same would hold true for people who believe in the tenets of free market capitalism or socialism, Freudian psychoanalysis or Jungian depth psychology, as well as mysticism or materialism. Each belief system has its own vocabulary to describe how the world works and what things mean, thus presenting its adherents with a specific reality (no page reference).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenneth_Burke

Either way, in my opinion, all reality is colored by our perception and experience. Consensual reality is discussed using symbols, which in turn are dictated by our milieu. This is not solipsism, it is perhaps representationalism (http://sharp.bu.edu/~slehar/Representationalism.html).

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Post by bobbo » 11-11-2011 06:28 AM

What is existentialism?

Always good to start with "any" dictionary entry. I'll google the word and provide the first definition:

1. Well, the first one is a discussion on wiki. Good read though pre-empting several things I wanted to say. Harummph!

2. Ok--more discussion. Lets google (define existentialism) and the first applicable definition is from

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/existentialism

noun Philosophy.
a philosophical attitude associated especially with Heidegger, Jaspers, Marcel, and Sartre, and opposed to rationalism and empiricism, that stresses the individual's unique position as a self-determining agent responsible for the authenticity of his or her choices.

Seems heavily Sartrean to me? Course, that is how I was introduced to existentialism, so I am quite comfortable with that.

Human complexity?==seems to argue that simple minded people are not existentialists? Surely, that is elitist? Why is not any dictionary definition "good enough?" Too pedantic?

I'll deconstruct just a little bit. I think the subject starts with the recognition we inhabit a meaningless universe? No god. No morality. No Karma. I think of that as a rather objective truth available to all clear eyed people?

What makes existentialism "subjective?"==I think it is, and it is because given our meaningless universe without morality/consequences for what we do==we are thus unavoidably creating our own "rules" by which we live? You can choose to strive for the truth, take comfort in lying, and any other response to this veil of tears: existentialism is not one thing, its what you make it to be.

"The complexity of man...."//// Ha, ha. Made me laugh. Yes, so complex. You can see that in any mass movement or team sport? The pursuit of money, fame, power, sex, comfort, a good souffle? We find our meaning where we may.

Existentialism: what does your life mean to you? What do you want to do with it?

As a concluding aside: I just recalled my actually first introduction to existentialism. It wasn't even presented as such. My English Lit prof asked everyone in the class what they would do if they only had 24 hours to live? We gave our answers. Then he queried why were weren't doing that. A little introduction to the Romantic Poets. I immediately saw the flaw: odds are we will live more than 24 hours. What then? But I think about that question every so often. My choices have actually been shaped by the recognition I make my own way. I'm living the consequences of several of these choices right now===as we all do. I'm just very conscious of it.

Or do you think your own life has just happened?

Imagine that?

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more foggy defining antics

Post by cybrwurm » 11-14-2011 07:05 PM

] On 7Oct bobbo say: ... a philosophical attitude
.
wurm say: Actually, existentialism is much more than a mere attitude, although attitude is certainly an important element in the mix. One more effective element distinguishing existentialism as a unique sort of philosophy is vision. We are all focused upon Humankind, both singley and collectively, but not all have the same range of vision. Anyone can be an existentialist, if only they are willing to consider 'the experience of being human'; but being a good existentialist demands vision. And being a great existentialist requires a wide range of vision. And herein lies my chief criticism of Mr Soren K, Sartre, Kafka, Camus, and all those others who think along these narrow and mostly dismal lines. Colin Wilson is an effective critic of Sartre in particular on this matter. Check it out.
.
] associated especially with Heidegger, Jaspers, Marcel, and Sartre,
.
A rather too short a list perhaps; but in this list of major-existentialists, or even in most longer ones, the top-gun is clearly Karl Jaspers. Most people think of Sartre as the central figure, but to me he (and the others) is dwarfed by the expansive mind of Jaspers. He's truly a first-rate philosopher in so many ways; not just within existentialism, but rather philosophy in general. His importance easily transcends existentialism as such, but even so his significance to philosphy is not yet fully appreciated by most students and teachers.
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] and opposed to rationalism and empiricism,
.
I much disagree with this characterization of existentialism. Even though some existentialists are indeed opposed to rationalism and/or empiricism, it is certainly not "hard-wired" into existentialism as a philosophy. Existentialism is of necessity flexible and progressive in its approach to other (lesser) philosophies. Existentialism certainly sees the pitfalls and limitations of adoring science and her techniques, but it is not "against Reason" as a matter of principle or necessity. Far from it, I'd say; no matter what Irrational-man might say. Clearly we can only evolve forward in conjunction with Logos; but this does not mean deifying Science as some kind of magic savior that is obviously "far better" than philosophy.
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] that stresses the individual's unique position as a self-determining
] agent responsible for the authenticity of his or her choices.
.
No quibbles here ... except that it's not just choices and attitudes that matter, but actions as well. Maybe even especially and primarily actions; for thoughts and choices often tend to follow along *after* actions, don't they? :tonguesmi
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what is man but what he thinks?

Post by bobbo » 11-14-2011 07:34 PM

wurm==you have me at a bit of a loss. I've never done well with philosophy, too concrete in my thinking=I think thats the kindest way it is phrased.

You say: "No quibbles here ... except that it's not just choices and attitudes that matter, but actions as well. Maybe even especially and primarily actions; for thoughts and choices often tend to follow along *after* actions, don't they? /// And while I disdain the quibble, ......... what else IS philosophy?

Perhaps the most famous phrase in existential expression: "We were never more free than during the German Occupation." Sartre.

What transcends that statement on the consequence of action more?

The above was completely substantive. Here's my quibble: as to whether thoughts and choices tend before or after actions===actions are always preceded by thoughts, reactions always followed by thoughts if at all.

Back to substance: But, its all definitional, which just happens to be the heart and soul of existentialism.
Last edited by bobbo on 11-14-2011 07:38 PM, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by cybrwurm » 11-14-2011 10:39 PM

You're quite right, bobbo. Quibbling IS a large part of philosophy.
And philosophy is often assisted by what we might call a flexible and imaginative mind. You will no doubt have other words for it. Bloody technocrats! :D
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Post by megman » 11-14-2011 10:45 PM

"You annoy me, therefore I exist" ~ from Defiance 2008
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Post by bobbo » 11-15-2011 01:04 AM

wurm--I'm not flexible and imaginative enough to guess at what you might be thinking. Together they describe only potential. No direction is given. But I look forward to any progress here or on other threads given that we both recognize and pay homage to the importance of IS.

Take all the time between posts you need/want/take. Its the luxury of the format.

Megman==that statement annoys me. It violates the basic premise of our 500 years of Post Enlightenment progress in favor of a Movie's tag line. Descarte is rolling in his grave. Its not what IS.

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Post by megman » 11-15-2011 01:25 AM

It was meant in jest, so I have to ask: How's that Enlightenment thing working out for you?:coolhat:
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Post by Diogenes » 11-15-2011 01:38 AM

megman wrote: It was meant in jest, so I have to ask: How's that Enlightenment thing working out for you?:coolhat:



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Post by bobbo » 11-15-2011 01:45 AM

"How's that Enlightenment thing working out for you?" /// You mean after 500 years and 70% of Americans believe in ghosts, fairies, and angels? I wouldn't say we are ahead of schedule, but I'm known to be pessimistic.

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