Autodidact: self-taught

Mar
26
2012

Existentialism

by V. L. Craven

Existentialism

The Seventh Seal (Ingmar Bergman, 1957)

My whole life has been a meaningless search. I say it without bitterness or self-reproach. I know it is the same for all.

Miscellaneous Existentialist Quotes

-001- [Sartre’s] basic premise is that writing is a form of action for which responsibility must be taken but that this responsibility carries over into the content and not just the form of what is communicated.
-002- Given the postulated atheism of Sartre’s view, it seemed to follow that individuals were left to create their own values because there was no moral order in the universe by which they could guide their actions, indeed, that this freedom was itself the ultimate value to which one could appeal (as he put it, ‘in choosing anything at all, I first of all choose freedom.’)
-003- Sartre introduced yet another ethical principle when he asserted that in every moral choice we form an image of the kind of person we want to be and, indeed, or what any moral person should be: ‘For in effect, there is not one of our acts that, in creating the man we wish to be, does not at the same time create an image of man such as we judge he ought to be.’
-004- Albert Camus views this as the source of our anguish: we long for meaning conveyed by a Universe that cares but discover only an empty sky.
-005- Camus counsels that our only hope is to acknowledge that there is no ultimate hope. Like the Ancient Stoics, we must limit our expectations in view of our morality.
-006- The mantra of Sartrean humanism, echoed by Camus and de Beauvoir, is that you can always make something out of what you’ve been made into. So the almost proverbial existentialist ‘pessimism’ harbours a deep, if limited, hope.
-007- But what is the philosophy of this generation? Not God is dead, that point was passed long ago. Perhaps it should be stated Death is God. This generation thinks– and this is its thought of thoughts – that nothing faithful, vulnerable, fragile can be durable or have any true power. Death waits for these things as a cement floor waits for a dropping light bulb. The brittle shell of glass loses its tiny vacuum with a burst, and that is that.
-008- We saw Sartre give brief mention to theistic existentialists in his lecture and then proceed to discuss existentialism in terms that seem to exclude or at least discount belief in God. But not all humanism is atheistic—in fact, in a manner analogous to that of Heidegger, theists argue that atheism degrades the true worth of the human being by reducing him or her to a mere product of nature without intrinsic value or ultimate hope. Again, much turns on the kind of freedom or autonomy that the would-be existentialist accords the individual. Atheists claim that such freedom is absolute. Whatever [perfections?] have ascribed to God, they insist, have been gained at their own expense and theology as simply anthropology upside-down, Nietzsche’s thesis about the death of God leads him to advocate a heroic atheim by which one forges ahead like Sisyphus despite the presumed indifference of the Universe.
-009- We saw that, for Camus, we were challenged to make the most of an absurd situation. Sartre would agree with Roquentin that our existence is just a brute fact, that we are superfluous (de trop). And both would subscribe to the Sisyphean concluding line of Sartre’s play No Exit, ‘Well, let’s get on with it.’ Just because there is not ultimate hope does not mean that we are bereft of all hope whatsoever. The wisdom of Sisyphus is not to make the rock stay put but to get the thing off his toe! We are advised to pursue limited but attainable goals—like the Ancient Stoics.
-010- It is humanist dimension of existentialism that comes to grips with the fact of our sheer being there. And it is their respective responses to the questions: ‘Why do we exist?’, ‘Why is there anything at all rather than nothing?’, that distinguish the theists from the atheists among them. Unlike philosophers such as Bertrand Russell who deny that the question is even meaningful, the existentialists, both theistic and atheist, take it quite seriously.
-011- Not that Sartre was a finger-wagging moralizer. Rather, he insisted that each of us acknowledges what we are doing with our lives right now. Like Kierkegaard’s sea caption hesitating to come about while in the meantime the ship continues in its present direction, we are challenged to own up to our self-defining choices; to make them our own and consequently become selves by acknowledging what we are. This is a form of Nietzsche’s prescription to ‘become what you are.’ It’s a matter of living the truth about ourselves, about our condition as human beings. The inauthentic person, in Sartre’s view, is living a lie.
-012- I see it all perfectly, there are two possible situations—one can either do this or that. My honest opinion and my friendly advice is this: do it or do not do it—you will regret both. –Kierkegaard
-013- Everything is gratuitous, this garden, this city and myself. When you suddenly realise it, it makes you feel sick and everything begins to drift…that’s nausea. –Sartre
-014- You are free and that is why you are lost. –Kafka
-015- Life must be lived forwards, however, it can only be understood backward. –Soren Kierkegaard
-016- As Dawkins admits: This is one of the hardest lessons for humans to learn. We cannot admit that things might be neither good nor evil, neither cruel nor kind, but simply callous—indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose. –Kenneth Miller, Finding Darwin’s God
-017- William Provine, biologist and historian of science at Cornell: Modern science directly implies that there are no inherent moral or ethical laws, no absolute guiding principles for human society… We must conclude that when we die, we die, and that is the end of us… Finally, free will as it is traditionally conceived—the freedom to make uncoerced and unpredictable choices among alternative courses of action—simply does not exist… There is no way that the evolutionary process as currently conceived can produce a being that is truly free to make moral choices.
-018- What a wee little part of a person’s life are his acts and his words! His real life is led in his head, and is known to none but himself. – Mark Twain
-019- I’ve always seen life differently from others, and the result has been that I’ve always isolated myself. – Flaubert
-020- The alienated are those who finds the truth, thus, becoming more alienated. – No attribution
-021- To fall in love is easy, even to remain in it is not difficult; our human loneliness is cause enough. But it is a hard quest worth making to find a comrade through whose steady presence one becomes steadily the person one desires to be. – Anna Louise Strong

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