Posts concerning existentialism

The Rorschach Riots

23:28 14 Aug 2011. Updated: 18:19 17 Sep 2011

I mean the various incidents of unrest in England earlier this week. The reference is not to the Watchmen character, but to the blots, because from what I can tell every commentator (I include myself here) is seeing in the events a confirmation of their already-existing political beliefs. That’s not unique to this particular issue, but it strikes me as a particularly egregious example of the phenomenon.

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Another Dose of Perspective

18:36 14 Jul 2011

I know I wrote unspeakably vast before, but even so, I’m awestruck by this comparison:

As a reminder, our own galaxy supposedly has 100–400 billion stars; Wikipedia claims that IC 1101 has 100 trillion stars, making it between 250 and 1000 times larger by star count.

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4 Philosophical Questions Examined in Light of The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

23:45 23 May 2011. Updated: 15:05 12 Mar 2012

Unsurprisingly, yesterday’s explorations of scale led me to ponder questions of meaning and meaninglessness, and reminded me of this excellent article by Julia Galef over at 3 Quarks Daily. The answer, of course, must be 42; the questions Galef addresses are:

  1. What’s the point of anything if we’re all going to be dead someday?
  2. What’s the purpose of our existence?
  3. How can any of our lives matter in the grand scheme of things?
  4. Things seem to happen without rhyme or reason.

(Presumably the last one should have been “why do things seem to happen without rhyme or reason?”)

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Belief and Rationality/Irrationality

22:50 03 Mar 2007

Do people have rational reasons for believing things that are irrational?

For the purposes of this discussion, I’ll define “irrational beliefs” as “belief in things that are demonstrably untrue”. For example, the belief that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old. I regard this as demonstrably false because it’s either untrue, or almost everything we understand about the physical laws of the universe goes out the window.

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Reading Sartre

23:13 13 Feb 2007. Updated: 02:24 17 Feb 2007

It’s been a little over a year since Seth and I started reading Sartre’s Essays in Existentialism. We haven’t met quite every week, but probably haven’t missed more than six or so sessions.

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Sartre on Psychological Determinism

10:08 26 Sep 2006

I love this line:

Psychological determinism, before being a theoretical conception, is first an attitude of excuse, or if you prefer, the basis of all attitudes of excuse.
—p137, Jean-Paul Sartre, Essays in Existentialism, Kensington, New York 1993

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Trivial Free Will

16:53 20 Aug 2006

I believe in free will, and the ability of the individual to make free choices. However, I do think that there are obvious limitations on this ability, and do not believe in what I term “trivial” free will.

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Parsing Sartre

22:55 03 Apr 2006. Updated: 07:20 08 Jan 2007

This evening Seth and I spent a couple of hours getting through about a page of *Essays in Existentialism*. That’s slightly slower than our usual rate… and most of that time was spent on the first half-page. We ended up having to re-word it significantly in order to make sense of it. (More accurately, to make what we thought was sense out of it—naturally it’s unclear if we were correct about that.) Presented below are the original and our parsing—please note that I’m not making any claims about the comprehensibility or even sensicality of our version, either in relation to the original or independent of it…

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23:53 06 Feb 2006. Updated: 07:21 08 Jan 2007

This evening Seth and I finally restarted our reading project, and began *Essays in Existentialism*, a collection of Sartre essays. We did the first section, “The Humanism of Existentialism”. I’ve read it before, a long time ago, probably 1993. I recall that my initial reaction to it was one of recognition. This time, I had the same feeling, or a stronger version of the same feeling. Many of the fundamental tenets of existentialism as laid out by Sartre are and were bedrock beliefs of mine. “Man is nothing but what he makes of himself.”—check. “There is no reality except in action.”—check. Fundamental personal responsibility—check.

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