Existentialism - Lecture by Daniel Bonevac
Centered around the question what does life mean?
- Alienation: from the world - you are alone in the world, the world is foreign to you.
- Absurdity: You notice a lack of meaning
Albert Camus: Central philosophical problem is that of suicide. Does life have a meaning?
- Human being strive for happiness
- Our excellence consists in fulfilling our function well
- What is our function? What are we for?
His answer is Rational Activity. Humans can act rationally - which animals can't.
Jean-Paul Sartre says "Existence precedes essence". By that he means there is no intrinsic meaning to life. But we are free to define ourself as we choose.
Facticity: There are things that are fixed - they can't be changed. But we are not - we have the power to chose and change as we wish.
We are "Self interpreting animals"(Charles Taylor). Our essence is to chose our own essence.
I give my life meaning thru projects I choose. This is freedom - but a limited freedom. My range of choice is not decided by me.
"I'm thrown into the world". And because of that, I will feel alienated from the world.
We confront the absurd when we seek meaning and can't find it. "We are not what we are - we are what we are not."
According to Camus, we confront the absurd in various experiences
- weariness with the routine
- seeing something out of context
- recognizing our own inability to act or understand.
His goal was "to live without appeal". Ie. live on my own terms. I don't appeal to anything external.
We create our own meaning - there is no external authority or meaning.
Camus draw from the absurd three consequence...
- my revolt (I revolt at the idea that life has no meaning - I will make one)
- my freedom
- my passion (I live meaning to my life - and that makes it my meaning. I'll be passionate about it)
"Seize the day, trusting as little as possible of the future"
This is in opposition to what Aristotle says - act rationally, make plans, act long term. This tells us to be in the movement.
This is an Epicurean view...
- Materialism: World is only material things - I am my body.
- Determinism: We have no freedom - everything is determined by physical laws and what has gone before.
- Hedonism: Seek pleasure, seek freedom from fear, seek tranquility
- Self Control: To attain pleasure and tranquility you must know the world and limit your desire.
- Anonymity: "Live Unknown". Don't seek fame, glory or honor. Don't define success in a way that depends on other people - especially strangers.
The Burden of existence - comes from the story by Saul Bellow called 'Carpe Diem'
- Wilhelm confronts the absurd
- He feels throws into the world and feels a sense of alienation
- He mistakenly thinks of his life as a given, as a burden, as being in itself.
- "He was a little tired. The spirit, the peculiar burden of his existence lay upon him like an accretion, a load, a hump."
"The literal meaning of life is whatever meaning you give to it to prevent you from killing yourself" Albert Camus