What is Existentialism?

It is quite funny … even though I feel that I have learned more from this existentialism class than any other,

(and by learn I mean something more than just learn – like learning facts – I intend something along the lines of transformed … this class has been one of the most transformative classes I’ve taken this semester, that’s better)

I still don’t know what existentialism really is; and furthermore, I am not even completely sure how this class (most specifically the readings from Camus and Sartre) really transformed my outlook on life.  I just feel different.  I look, I think at least, at the world with a different pair of eyes.  

My changed outlook on this world lives in my new found interest with making a meaning for myself.  By meaning I don’t mean a point.  By meaning, I don’t mean finding my own little subjective ‘m’; and I don’t mean that I’ve come upon the objective, cosmological big ‘M.’ By meaning, I mean    (don’t you love how I talk like Heidegger and Sartre…)    overcoming what I am.  By meaning, I mean (in the words of Sartre) transcending my facticity: disregarding my flaws at not myself, and overcoming them by stating them as such.  

Now, I sort of see existentialism as a tool that allows me to craft a self.  One that, using Sartian language again (sorry), transcends, overcomes, breaks away from my former self… a former self that is flawed in what ever way.  The cool thing about this existential tool, is that I can (or at least I feel like I have the ability to) overcome ANY flaw that is my own.  If I have a tendency to be lazy and procrastinate on my homework assignments, I can look at myself, and simply seek a better self through transcending my previous self.  

Now back to my initial statement (question that is) ‘What is Existentialism?’ Even though I don’t know the actual definition of the word, the exact conceptions of the philosophy, it is a tool.  It is a self-help philosophy (to steal the million dollar word.) Existentialism has helped me see myself as myself, and urges me to take myself to a higher standard of self.  

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Judgement, Camus and Sartre

As was said in class, Sartre and Camus were close friends.  Furthermore, because of their relationship, their philosophies share many similar beliefs.  One of which, I feel, concerns the nature of judgement.  

I thought Camus wonderfully portrayed the paradox in individual judgement. The paradox, to me, is this: we judge others, yet, we fear being judged. In this exploration, I want to look deeper into the relationship between the individual and the outer world in respect to judgement.

I think our fear of being judge (and ironically our tendency to judge) is a cornerstone of our character.  Moreover, I think if we understand what the nature of judgement is (how it affects how we think about the world and ourselves and how we go about acting in the world) we will understand the nature of the individual, the self.  

As I discuss once before in my blog, I wonder what came first … our desire to judge others, or our fear of being judged? But most critically, I am now interested in if we judge other people because we fear that they judge us? Do we presuppose they are judging us, therefore we want to judge them.  

I think because judgment is a negative thought process, our tendency to judge other people must come from our fear of being judged, for fear is a negative thought.  Furthermore, I think the fear of judgment, and our tendency to judge is the essence of our character’s (our self’s) short comings.  When one feels judged, they feel inferior.  When one judges another individual, it is because they feel insecure.  That is how judgment is a common theme in our character’s shortcomings. 

I feel as though Sartre, and Camus (which was examined in the Fall) think this as well.  I believe that transcendence (to cite Sartre) is an overcoming of our thoughts concerning judgment outside of ourselves (I say outside of ourselves because interior judgment – an evaluation of our position and facticity – is essential to Sartre’s notion of transcendence) is a form of transcendence in its own.  

Why Philosophy: How philosophy “works itself” on the individual.  

As a philosophy major, people frequently ask me what I expect to do with my degree; and, habitually, I respond jokingly: “Greet people at WalMart.” In reality, however, I believe that learning to perceive the world with a philosophical mindset will unshackle my mind from other’s predispositions.  

 

Why philosophize? Or more importantly, and relevant in my situation since I am a philosophy major, why study philosophy?  

 

Philosophers, philosophy majors, or any individual interested in studying philosophy are confronted with these questions continually.  Personally, I am actually made fun of for being a philosophy major, which 99% of the time I take as a friendly joke, because most individuals don’t see how advantageous studying philosophy really is.  

 

For myself, there are two reasons why I study, and enjoy studying, philosophy … and Heidegger’s views STRONGLY resonate with my second rationale.  


The first is practical.  Yes, there is a practicality in majoring in or studying philosophy.  The most notable characteristic acquired is the ability to think  …  to think rationally, critically, and focused in respect to complex circumstances.  Thinking well (quite obviously), regardless of the profession, is obviously desired in an white-collared work position.

 

And the second resonates with Heidegger.  It cultivates the individual.  It works on the mind and the self.  It changes the individual into something new … (even though cliche) something better.  Philosophy is a supplement for a good life.  How can one do something, as was stated in class, without philosophy?  It is pervasive.  It is influential.  And as Heidegger stated, it works itself on the thinker, the individual.  


This contagiously positive view of the world (the philosophical mindset)  is essential for thinking well and living a good life.  So when asked what I expect to do with an undergraduate degree in philosophy, I think: “Save the world.”  

Breaking Badass: I Wanna be Cool Like a Laid-off Chemistry Teacher

Blogged Randomly

I know he doesn’t exist.  And I am usually not one inspired by tales of fantasy or fiction; but Walter White, who’s both the protagonist and antagonist of the show “Breaking Bad”, is the most bad-ass man who has ever lived in the tubes of my television.  Previous exposure to White and the show is not necessary to empathically understand how he inspires me; therefore, I find it utterly captivating that behind the curtains of the most milk-toast chemistry genius, who lectures on ionic and covalent bonds to disrespectful, non-appreciative high schoolers, lives Heisenberg: the only chemist in the world capable of synthesizing 99% pure meth.  Heisenberg, of course, is Walter White’s street name; he penned it after the German quantum-physicist Werner Karl-Heisenberg. Walter White is a Walt Whitmanesque character – prevalent from the numerous allusions utilized in the show – who prides the little-man, which…

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Kuratani Onsen

Abandoned Kansai

After *a surprisingly successful recent exploration in China* it’s about time to write about a surprisingly unsuccessful exploration in Japan I did 3.5 years ago.
On a nice spring day I made my way to Wakayama prefecture to check out the Kuratani Onsen, which had a reputation for being one of the most beautiful abandoned onsen in all of Japan. The next train station was about 1.5 hours away, but I didn’t mind the walk towards one of Wakayama’s gorgeous mountain ranges. Along the way I saw a small abandoned house, emptied, windows smashed – rather uninteresting, despite me being rather inexperienced back then. Probably somebody’s weekend home in the 1990s.

A few minutes later I finally reached the Kuratani Onsen… and I was shocked by its condition. Parts of the building complex were collapsed, probably under the weight of snow in the winter – the downside of unmaintained wooden…

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Desert

The mystic landscape is the desert. Where the indomitable spirit flourishes and the imperfect turns to dust. There is a lot of sand in the desert.

The endless sky gives refuge to the imposing sImageun and moon. Pagan rituals honor it for its greatness. 

In the desert, animals hide under brush and atop cacti. The Saguaro cactus can withhold many gallons of water for extended periods of time. Ask the Code Talkers.

Much can be said about desert rain. Its fragrance surpasses the most expensive Parisian perfumes … The Creosote bush is the Chanel Nº 5 of the desert.  The overwhelming feeling of joy one gets as the desert sky starts to cry, lash out, and scream.

All that is in the desert is hidden by what is not here. You must look past what isn’t to see what is.

In its empty skies you see the sun set. Through the bare basin you see magnificent mountains. Within the beige you see the green of plant life and pigments of flowers. Engulfed by its silence are the songs of sparrows, rhythms ofrabbits running, and balancing of your breath. As you look out to the desert, you see a reflection of yourself. As if you were looking into an elusive desert pond; seeing yourself looking back at you.

.uoy ta kcab gnikool flesrouy gniees;

Being

I waited 30 secs. for something to happen – then realized nothing ever would.

Not sitting on a park bench or in a railway station, a briefcase not in my hand.

I did not own a trench coat or a hat.

I was not looking down at the pavement.

I didn’t smoke.

 

A group of men made music.

They had no instruments.

They did not sing.

They walked and talked on their cell phones.

It was bad music.   

Dehumanizing Smoke: Who (what) are the components of dehumanization?

Before we recognize components of dehumanization, we must first understand our humanistic components.  We must acknowledge the (human) qualities before we reckon those who removes them.  This question, however, (what makes us human) has baffled philosophers for two-and-a-half millennia, therefore, by transitive logic, it is very hard to pin down the exact causes of dehumanization; but in Wiesel’s Night, the causes of dehumanization becomes somewhat clear.  Elie uses succinct sentencing to analyze these forces that killed God in the soul of a child (Wiesel xix).

 

Hitler wanted to eradicate a race.  Those he didn’t send to the crematoria, but rather to the work camps, found much of their human qualities disembodied form them. The first night at the camp Wiesel claims that he had ceased to be a man, that the prisoners all became “different people” (Wiesel 37).  Later Eliezer’s name was taken from him, and replaced with a number: A-7713.  “From then on, [he] had no other name” (Wiesel 42).  Once a boy committed to “the idea of studying Kabbalah” (Wiesel 4), at the camps young Wiesel forgave his religion, and forgot his god.  

 

Human attributes “deloused” at the gates of the camps include those of culture (religion, ethics and beliefs, customs, holidays, etc.), identity (our sense of self, character, our name, belongings, etc), and human emotion (compassion, sympathy, love, etc.)  These absences of humans in the camps, if you will, is exemplified by Elizer’s “ceasing to pray” (Wiesel 45), the Polish “Blockalteste [being] removed … [for being] … judged as too humane” (Wiesel 44), fellow prisoners turning on one another: such as Idek “venting” his fury on Elizer.  Throwing himself on him like a wild beast (Wiesel 53), and the forgiving of personal belongings: leaving all that they carried behind on the cattle cars (Wiesel 28). 

 

Through the lens of Wiesel, the hard question has been answered.   At the camps

 

culture (religion, ethics and beliefs, customs, holidays, etc.);

identity (our sense of self, character, our name, belongings, etc); 

and emotion (compassion, sympathy, love, happiness, etc.)

 

was removed from the souls of the prisoners.  With those three (human) characteristics absent, they were dehumanized.  But what was the cause of their dehumanization?  

 

Throughout Night, Wiesel constantly references the smoke spewing from the crematoria’s chimney.  At the camp, words embody a different connotation (Wiesel ix), a different (symbolic) meaning.  Those under the smoke’s shadow was constantly reminded of their loved ones, and of the ten-million innocent souls, who were persecuted by their very own oppressor.  Those deaths remained as real as the smoke itself.  The smoke was a reminder of the fate they all lingered so close to.  It was the last of their loved ones.  It was the end of their heritage.  But It was only smoke.  Dehumanizing smoke.