Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Existentialism squared

     I am absolutely an existentialist. There is no other label that fits. This isn't some new fangled philosophy or theory that no-one has ever conceived before. All I am doing is following through.
     With simple consistency — something existentialists so-called never quite achieved.
     Last time, I aimed a barb at Sartre. But, he's OK. Being and Nothingness would do as the one book you took to a desert island. (I've commented before on Heidegger's contemptuous dismissal, 'I'm not reading that dreck.' Bloody Germans, they thought they had philosophy taped, look where it got them.)
     My comments on what 'they say' or 'they believe' could have been taken straight out of Heidegger's Being and Time. Certainly. But Heidegger only half gets the point. How could he, when he's so focused on 'Being'? There's no Being and there are no beings. Nothing exists. Nothing that is said is 'true' or 'false'. It's just 'something said', just things humans do with their vocal chords, or pens, or typewriters.
     As I am doing now. Except that this isn't really 'saying anything', just as Wittgenstein understood when he wrote the Tractatus. You have to see, see through the words, the scrawly scribbles on the page.
     Macmurray (the 'English existentialist') is worth reading (The Self as Agent, Persons in Relation) if you can get past his religious agenda. On the other hand, as I recall he shows sensitivity to discoveries in depth analysis (especially Klein) in his account of 'parent and child' and the 'rhythm of withdrawal and return'. There is an urgent question there about what human beings want. Macmurray thinks it all has to do with 'friendship'. To me that sounds too narrowly focused, altogether too cosy.
     Then there's Stirner (The Ego and His Own). He writes more like a journalist than a philosopher. Racy. Vents his spite and contempt on all those weedy socialists and anarchists — and had spite vented on him in return (famously, by Marx in German Ideology).
     How's this for a quote:
The web of the hypocrisy of today hangs on the frontiers of two domains, between which our time swings back and forth, attaching its fine threads of deception and self-deception. No longer vigorous enough to serve morality without doubt or weakening, not yet reckless enough to live wholly to egoism, it trembles now toward the one and now toward the other in the spider-web of hypocrisy, and, crippled by the curse of halfness, catches only miserable, stupid flies.
     Could it really be true that Stirner died (in 1856) from a fly bite? Or was the legend somehow provoked by what Stirner wrote? (You see, I can still talk about truth, no problem with that!)
     Then... what?
     I know what I want, and I also know that this has nothing to do with what I want. My wants change over time, sometimes randomly. Everyone has his or her own 'wants'. Some of us want the same things, so what? You can want anything in the universe, even a 'saucer of mud' (pace Anscombe).
     Doesn't this need a name? If Hegel's idealism is called 'Absolute idealism' then maybe I should call this 'Absolute existentialism', though somehow that just sounds wrong. Neo-existentialism? The whole idea of labels seems ridiculous. The last thing I want is to tell people how to read me. 'You've got to make up your own damn mind.'
     Then again, the notion of consistency, 'simple' or otherwise, seems suspiciously logical, and as I said last time I'm past that too.
     Then Again... how can 'existence come before essence' if nothing exists? These hands don't exist. This keyboard doesn't exist. And the molecules and atoms and electrons etc. etc. They do. They are free to do what they do, even if the opportunity for making a 'choice' only comes up relatively rarely. Unlike me, they don't have dreams or desires, their 'choices' are rather restricted compared to the things I could do — whether I 'wanted' to or not.
     Or, maybe, something, not they, is doing the choosing, or the Doing. (The evil demon?)    
     This is all way too premature.
     It's understandable, you feel lonely, you'd desperately like to be part of some camp or school. A wolf is so much more effective in the pack. Alone, you're just a target.
     Freedom is the thing. Or 'radical freedom'. I need to say something about 'Hume's dilemma' (humans are either clockwork or roulette wheels) and how it doesn't apply if nothing exists. Freedom is the only reality. The Doing.
     I need to say something about happiness and pleasure (recalling Slartbartfast, 'I'd much rather be happy than right any day,' Philosophizer Black Edition, Appendix 1st February 2017). You can never be 'right' if there is no truth, right? I'd be happy to give up 'happiness' if I could just hold on to that groovy feeling ('butter in the pan', etc.) which is something philosophers have yet to 'analyse' (and when they do, you know what'll come of it).
     Double meh.
     It really doesn't matter how I feel, or what I feel. When you're onto something, feelings are irrelevant. You just do.

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