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The Existential Crisis

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Eduk
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Re: The Existential Crisis

Post by Eduk » February 15th, 2019, 2:35 pm

4. Science requires philosophy and many scientists recognise this. Certainly science is not mutually exclusive to philosophy, as it is a philosophy. There is no insecure position which science claims to hold except your personal misrepresentation of what science is.
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Re: The Existential Crisis

Post by Hereandnow » February 15th, 2019, 4:26 pm

Of course, Eduk,you can move into the philosophy of science and there is a very serious effort to philosophize about the conclusions the scientific community comes up with. But make no mistake, readings like this are nothing more than an extension of science itself, drom what I've read, and it is not clear at all where the prerogatives of empirical theory leave off and philosophized science begins.

Philosophy really doesn't know what to do with itself anymore. This is because philosophers like Richard Rorty have already declared an end to anything meaningful to say: It has been done, and the road of this centuries old endeavor concludes with Heidegger, Wittgenstein, Derrida and others that I know little about. Rorty went on the teach literature. Why things have come to a halt in their minds is at least fundamentally for the very reasons I outlined above: the impossibility of taking understanding beyond the structures of the reasoning mind. It is impossible. That is, unless you think Kierkegaard is right, and there is embedded in the world certain extraordinary features that can take you beyond to some exquisite threshold. Nietzsche this, though not at all like Kierkegaard (in fact, Kierkegaard was no mystic, though he gets close). His ubermensch was an attempt illustrate what it was that alienated us from our true self. It was resentment that was holding us back. But I don't think like Nietzsche. I think like Kierkagaard: Philosophical questioning takes one to a precipice, and if it has done its work, previous playing fields have been decimated. That is what inquiry does, it destroys belief. By my lights, there is only one religion: philosophy.
If you really want to see what a scientist with a philosophical mission would do with do with the world, then you must read Husserl. He is the one for you. Of course, he writes again and again in almost disparaging ways about the "naturalistic" attitude of the empirical sciences. He does not disagree with them, of course; he just says these guys do not examine what it is to be human at the most basic level for they merely assume the structures of thinking and being itself need no examination. They are very wrong about this. Just read his Cartesian Meditations or his Crisis of European Sciences.

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Re: The Existential Crisis

Post by Greta » February 15th, 2019, 6:10 pm

Eduk wrote:
February 15th, 2019, 4:06 am
@Greta all your benefits of religion sound made up on the spot to me. Take your example of social networks, this exact point has already been addressed, not sure if you missed it?
Out of interest. You say you aren't religious? And that religion reduces stress in your experience. Does that mean to say you feel you are more stressed than your religious friends?
It is also interesting that you blame self importance for various evils. Are you saying religion doesn't promote anthropocentrism ? Because it certainly seems to to me?
I believe you are currently subject to the horns effect. The benefits for the religious of the placebo effect, social networking and comfort from the fear of annihilation are both famous and obvious enough.

Religion would be just fine except for a few small issues such as evolution denial, creationism, refusal to accept evidence, anti-nature attitudes, arrogance, divisiveness, toxic patriarchy, misogyny, taxation parasitism, homophobia, hate speech plus cultures that foster child molesting and bullying. Otherwise they are excellent institutions and I think you could be a little more understanding [no emoticon should be necessary at this point].

So yes, religion must accept much blame for the problems of anthropocentrism, of which there are many. All social species are similarly self obsessed, which is fine, just that one would like to think that human beings will in time be able to do better. If we can devise a culture that manages to pass through maturity rather than the usual - jumping directly from teenage angst to senility - that will be a culture that is secure enough in itself to take the minds and lives of other species seriously.

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Re: The Existential Crisis

Post by Eduk » February 15th, 2019, 7:00 pm

Never heard of the horns effect, a common problem, not sure where it is relevant to what I have said?
The idea that religion brings comfort is indeed famous. But it is trivial to name famous beliefs which are wrong.
I don't believe in any of the gods I've heard of and I don't spend my time screaming in fear at the existential abyss. As I understand it many other atheists are also able to make it through the day.
To reasonably believe that theists are more comforted than atheists would require evidence would it not? My personal experience is slightly the opposite.
I can't quite tell if you are joking by the way. You point out some common flaws of religious bodies but then conclude they bring comfort?
By the way those flaws aren't unique to religions.
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Re: The Existential Crisis

Post by Greta » February 15th, 2019, 8:09 pm

Eduk wrote:
February 15th, 2019, 7:00 pm
Never heard of the horns effect, a common problem, not sure where it is relevant to what I have said?
The idea that religion brings comfort is indeed famous. But it is trivial to name famous beliefs which are wrong.
I don't believe in any of the gods I've heard of and I don't spend my time screaming in fear at the existential abyss. As I understand it many other atheists are also able to make it through the day.
To reasonably believe that theists are more comforted than atheists would require evidence would it not? My personal experience is slightly the opposite.
I can't quite tell if you are joking by the way. You point out some common flaws of religious bodies but then conclude they bring comfort?
By the way those flaws aren't unique to religions.
Oh come on, Eduk - I might be Australian but the irony above was not subtle :lol:

My point was that there's positives to religions too, aside from some well documented negatives, which as you say, can be found in other organisations. So I can better understand your position, what do you see as being the most positive aspects of religions, either religions per se, or particular creeds?

The law of averages suggests that there will be a range of attitudes towards loss of the self at death; some will naturally fear it more than others, and those attitudes often change over time. Some come to actively seek the loss of self, be it within life or by ending it. I personally find it hard to relate to those who say they don't fear death, the loss of this unique journey, unless they are very ill or depressed. Blind terror of death has been hard-wired into almost all ancestors that preceded us, hence our existence today. Simply, they were scared enough to work fiercely to survive, allowing them to reproduce.

Yes, I get it. You re only interested in that which can potentially be measured and, thus studied. What things feel like is seemingly not important - just one more unreliable opinion. That is the case when observed from the POV of society at large. From the POV of the individual, how things feel is pretty well everything. I am an individual, not a society (other than of microbes), so that's where my loyalties lie.

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Re: The Existential Crisis

Post by Eduk » February 16th, 2019, 4:46 am

No @Greta I have no issues with feelings. They are after all the basis for meaning.
But not all feelings are equal, for example if you feel that some ethnic class are sub human then I'm going to need a little more justification. Or you may feel you have met God but again I remain doubtful without some kind of evidence. If you say you love your children I'll largely take your word for it. If you say that while drunk on the sofa and they are unkempt then I might begin to have some doubts. If you throw yourself on top of them during an avalance I'll doubt very little. I'm sure you get my point.
I don't really see any positives to religions, per say. Unlike some I also don't see particularly harsh negatives. Of course there are specific examples of extreme harm and extreme good but I'm trying to consider the average. I like to consider what is unique to religion as being religion. For example some religions claim to own morality but this is absurd. So they may, or may not, act morally but it has little if anything to do with their religion.
To be honest I'm not sure what is unique to religion. Considering its totally made up I guess that only leaves specific works such as the Bible and various political institutions. I just don't think they add up to a lot. For example you might say religious person X has y unreasonable belief. But then they also have z reasonable belief. Unreligious person b might not believe y and they might believe z but then they might also have unreasonable belief n. On the whole what is the difference.
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Re: The Existential Crisis

Post by Gertie » February 17th, 2019, 7:15 pm

Hereandnow wrote:
February 15th, 2019, 1:52 pm
Chewybrain:
Kierkegaard...I can't see that there is a more appropriate time or place to bring him up:
I won't bore you with jargon. If you want to know about what existential philosophers say about the existential crisis, you have to ignore first order thinking ideas that crowd the plate. They are, to borrow, always already there. Science and its interpretations are out the window on this. I know how odd that sounds, but just put forth a modicum of presumption in their favor just to hear what they say.
1. Scientific knowledge issues from our collective human minds, and so, that makes the mind an object of interest to verify if science's theoretical accounts. We can "observe" the mind objectively not by what it yields in its observations of the world, (which would be question begging) but in observing the conditions it sets forth for such observations to take place at all, i.e., the basic structures of thought and experience (which is also question begging, but it is a more "primordial" level of analysis). There is a lot to say about this, but just take in the basic idea.
2. We do #1 because because the crisis of which you speak is not being approached as a life style issue. It is a crisis in our existence itself, that is, in our just being here, not as teacher or a soldier or AS any complex role one might "play", but just being here (as?) a person. We don't notice this crisis as we live through things AS this or that because we are too busy living. We notice it through questioning. Questioning is always what begins understanding and drives the search for understanding. Existential thinking is very much in line with the scientific method: a rational inquiry that is "thrown" into, on any given occasion, a set of competing ideas. It just doesn't look to empirical scienctific theories; it looks to what is logically prior to these, to what has to be the case in order science to occur in the first place. Kant did this with thought and judgment. Kierkegaard, to make a very long story short, saw a fundamental error in thinking that said to understand what a person is comes through analyzing the structures of science its knowledge. Rather, he shouted: WE EXIST!
3. Existence is NOT at all, says Kierkegaard, what thinking can say. You cannot put actuality in an argument on the table, scrutinize its aspects, the wealth of thought that gathers around it (Heidegger does exactly this, incidentally) and conclude what it means to exist. To feel, to agonize, be in love, struggle, suffer, experience the joy of art and music, and so on, and so on: none of this can be encompassed by a thought, an idea. Its "thereness" to use an awkward phrase, is entirely ineffable, and this brings ineffability right in your face, if you will. This is how philosophy can get very weird, even mystical. This cup on the table, what is its Being?? How old is its Being? Eternal? Can't have come from nothing, must be?? where is Being? Nowhere? You can see how once concepts/ideas lose their authority, "things" become decontextualized. Kierkegaard thought that you are now closing in on the eternal present, actuality. And our thoughts and experiences are delivered from the commonlpace, what Heidegger will later call das man.
4. Since ideas are what thinking is made of, this puts science in a very insecure position. It certainly does get the trains running on time, so to speak, but it does not have a clue about the foundation of our being here, our being thrown here, never being asked: born to suffer and die and empirical science is silent on the matter.
What allows us to be free of the burden of this question that underlies all we think and do is not asking the question in the first place. Of course, this is a child's freedom and it possesses nothing an entire Other dimension of what being here really is about.
Hope you don't find all this too irritating. It is unfamiliar, I know. But the more you read on these themes, you realize that you never really knew where or what you were till you took that Socratic step of dropping all assumptions and admitting you don't know at all, but you can question, and questioning at the level of basic questions is truly transformational. We are literally MADE of ideas, and existential inquiry can be a constitutive change.
If anyone out there, just one, might be inspired to read what Kierkegaard or Jaspers or whoever has to say, I would consider this a post worth the time out in to writing it.

Thank you. I've given K a brief go, but it doesn't naturally resonate with me, so it's like wading through treacle. Your synopsis feels more graspable. I think I roughly get it, but I still think I have relevant objections, if you'd care to plod through them -

I won't bore you with jargon. If you want to know about what existential philosophers say about the existential crisis, you have to ignore first order thinking ideas that crowd the plate. They are, to borrow, always already there. Science and its interpretations are out the window on this. I know how odd that sounds, but just put forth a modicum of presumption in their favor just to hear what they say.
1. Scientific knowledge issues from our collective human minds, and so, that makes the mind an object of interest to verify if science's theoretical accounts. We can "observe" the mind objectively not by what it yields in its observations of the world, (which would be question begging) but in observing the conditions it sets forth for such observations to take place at all, i.e., the basic structures of thought and experience (which is also question begging, but it is a more "primordial" level of analysis). There is a lot to say about this, but just take in the basic idea.

I agree that whatever lies beyond our (each individual's) conscious experiencing (thoughts, feelings, memories, sensations, emotions, desires, etc) is filtered through the lens of how we experience it, our consciousness toolkit. Which is limited and flawed. Our internal map isn't the external territory, it's a particular type of representation.


But to get beyond solipsism, we have to take the leap of assumption that we can know some things - roughly, imperfectly - other than our own experiential states. That there is a real 'external' state of affairs which exists beyond them, a world outside us in which we move around and our experiential states represent to us. And that ultimately becomes what we call Science, or shared (limited, flawed) knowledge we can publically compare our internal subjective experiential notes on.

So we can agree that that there is a world beyond each of our private, internal experiential states, which we share, are a part of. And we can agree on a shared flawed working model of what that world is like for us and how it seems to work. So as well as contextualising the world as a feature of our experiential states, we can contextualise ourselves as part of a world we inhabit.


The thing is, if we accept both contextual framings are valid (like the two sides of a Subject/Object coin), then just as we have to accept our notions of science and objective knowledge are flawed and limited, I'd suggest that we can't ignore the (flawed, limited) story science tells us about why we are the way we are - why we think and feel and remember and desire and so on, the way we do. Because science has a very coherent and compelling explanatory account for that. Flawed and limited, but a usable working model, based in natural selection.


If you toss that scientific/shared model away completely, and look only at the nature of experiential states, I think you inevitably end up with solipsism, or drawing arbitrary knowledge lines beyond that which are hard to justify. So I think that while we can say our shared model is only a (flawed, limited) model, it has value in terms of Knowledge, not just Utility, once we accept Complete Knowledge can only be applied to each of our own experiential states.

2. We do #1 because because the crisis of which you speak is not being approached as a life style issue. It is a crisis in our existence itself, that is, in our just being here, not as teacher or a soldier or AS any complex role one might "play", but just being here (as?) a person. We don't notice this crisis as we live through things AS this or that because we are too busy living. We notice it through questioning. Questioning is always what begins understanding and drives the search for understanding. Existential thinking is very much in line with the scientific method: a rational inquiry that is "thrown" into, on any given occasion, a set of competing ideas. It just doesn't look to empirical scienctific theories; it looks to what is logically prior to these, to what has to be the case in order science to occur in the first place. Kant did this with thought and judgment. Kierkegaard, to make a very long story short, saw a fundamental error in thinking that said to understand what a person is comes through analyzing the structures of science its knowledge. Rather, he shouted: WE EXIST!

First just to say I like to talk in terms of consciousness or experiential states, rather than Being or Existing, because that's what is significant here. And it helps de-mystify things a bit, for me at least.


The existence of anything is a mystery we don't understand, and we might not have the cognitive toolkit to do so. But if we accept that the universe existed before conscious critters existed, and somehow conscious critters emerged from the chemical soup, then WE EXIST doesn't look so wildly radical, so ineffable. The 'external' contextual framing suggests we are evolved, emergent critters, much like molecules and rivers and rocks and trees, but one of the many species with this thing called consciousness, who are so complex we have the ability to understand the concept that WE EXIST! Are capable of realising we didn't always exist, and won't always exist. And getting angsty about it, because it's a bloody angst inducing thing to try to get your head around. That this 'internal' contextual side of the coin can cease, be Nothing. Me, the maker of the map which is the whole world as far as I'm concerned, can become Nothing. So current science tells me anway. And if you believe you'll die, you've just accepted a whole bucketload of scientific knowledge that assumption is based on.

3. Existence is NOT at all, says Kierkegaard, what thinking can say. You cannot put actuality in an argument on the table, scrutinize its aspects, the wealth of thought that gathers around it (Heidegger does exactly this, incidentally) and conclude what it means to exist.

Well, I think this misses the mark. I know exactly what it is like to be Me, My Actuality, if I define Me-ness as my experiential states (all of them not just the wordy thinky ones). And if we're assuming there's a real world out there with lots of other experiencing Subjects, they each know exactly what it's like to be their Me. Describing it in words which we can agree on is shared map-making, comparing notes, inevitably flawed and limited and ultimately uncertain, because each of us only directly know what it's like to be ourselves.

Its "thereness" to use an awkward phrase, is entirely ineffable, and this brings ineffability right in your face, if you will. This is how philosophy can get very weird, even mystical. This cup on the table, what is its Being?? How old is its Being? Eternal? Can't have come from nothing, must be?? where is Being? Nowhere? You can see how once concepts/ideas lose their authority, "things" become decontextualized. Kierkegaard thought that you are now closing in on the eternal present, actuality. And our thoughts and experiences are delivered from the commonlpace, what Heidegger will later call das man.

I get the weirdness and specialness of experiential states. The utterly different qualiative nature of it. And why it feels like a different order of thing to stuff and science which is 'over there' somewhere and just disappears when I look away. More primary, real and meaningful. My own experiential states that is. Because for me You belong over there, you disappear from my world-map when I'm not thinking about you. And that illustrates the problem. Once I acknowledge you exist, and once I acknowledge we can coherently communicate about our own internal experiential states, like seeing a tree and understanding how evolution works, once we acknowledge we share a flawed, limited knowledge of the external world we inhabit, we can't then just ignore what that tells us (via science) about how and why we have the sort of experiential states we do. Imo.

4. Since ideas are what thinking is made of, this puts science in a very insecure position. It certainly does get the trains running on time, so to speak, but it does not have a clue about the foundation of our being here, our being thrown here, never being asked: born to suffer and die and empirical science is silent on the matter.

Getting the trains running on time is a clue that our shared knowledge isn't totally on the wrong track. It works, it's coherent (to us natch), it has predictive power. Our scientific shared World Model flawed and limited, but that's what our current scientific account of why we are the way we are would predict ;). It says we evolved for utility, after all, our knowledge and understanding only has to be 'good enough' to justify the brain calories.


But yes, stuff-based science doesn't seem to be the right toolkit to understand why stuff exists in the first place, or why experiential states exist. We naturally think in stuff-based terms, think of the world that way because that's how we experience it, but is that what the world is like at the most fundamental level? Maths, QM, String Theory and so on suggest not. The Hard Problem of consciousness suggests perhaps not. But if we accept the external world exists as a state of affairs, there will be an answer as to what it's like at the most fundamental level, which might answer why it exists and why it is the way it is. Even if we aren't cognitively equipped to understand it. Yet anyway. Perhaps that is the place where the two sides of the Subject/Object coin synthesise. That's my hunch.

What allows us to be free of the burden of this question that underlies all we think and do is not asking the question in the first place. Of course, this is a child's freedom and it possesses nothing an entire Other dimension of what being here really is about.
I'd say ''I am'' whatever my current experiential states are. They were different as a child, but I'm attached to that child through memory and emotion, the gradualness of change and feeling of continuity. What Being Here is about is my experiential states. And one of the things my experiential states represent to me is that I live in a world which I interact with, including other conscious critters I live in a world with fellow conscious critters. And being happy and fulfilled is much preferable to being sad and frustrated. And one day I'll die and it will all stop. Meanwhile try to enjoy the ride. Try to be happy, try to be kind. That's it. Well, enough of a challenge for me!


TLDR - Once you abandon solipsism, you have to justify the specific lines you choose to draw at where shared (limited, flawed) knowledge of anything but your own experiential states is no longer valid. Sliding in and out of shared knowledge claims is a problem, because if you stop and think about the mountain of shared knowledge assumptions a simple assertion such as WE EXIST rests on, you're already a long way down that slippery slope...

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Re: The Existential Crisis

Post by Hereandnow » February 18th, 2019, 12:53 am

Gertie
I agree that whatever lies beyond our (each individual's) conscious experiencing (thoughts, feelings, memories, sensations, emotions, desires, etc) is filtered through the lens of how we experience it, our consciousness toolkit. Which is limited and flawed. Our internal map isn't the external territory, it's a particular type of representation.
Yes, but it's worse than that. Consider what Wittgenstein said a the end of his lecture on ethics:
I see now that these nonsensical expressions were not nonsensical because I had not
yet found the correct expressions, but that their nonsensicality was their very essence. For all I
wanted to do with them was just to go beyond the world and that is to say beyond significant
language. My whole tendency and, I believe, the tendency of all men who ever tried to write or
talk Ethics or Religion was to run against the boundaries of language.

It's not that we are limited and flawed, though that is not altogether wrong (but then, being wrong regarding absolutes implies there is something right we should be clear on, and this is not what is being said at all); it is rather that if you drop the language and the reason it possesses you are beyond wrong; you are beyond meaningful utterance.Kierkegaard understood this: it's not that one is wrong in their metaphysics, it is that Being is qualitatively different from reason, and so any utterance at all is simply about something else, but not Being, actuality, existence; K chose "actuality". It is what I consider to be the gravitas of our relation to Being, and not everyone thinks like do. Me, I think Buddhists would do well to read Kierkegaard because the enterprise of extracting oneself from attachments is most effectively understood as a foundational failure of reason to "say" what the world is. Attachments are so difficult to abandon because they are seated not so much the affections, but in the the reason that holds the world together and this is best demonstrated in Kant and Heidegger's grasp of time. a fascinating subject.
But to get beyond solipsism, we have to take the leap of assumption that we can know some things - roughly, imperfectly - other than our own experiential states. That there is a real 'external' state of affairs which exists beyond them, a world outside us in which we move around and our experiential states represent to us. And that ultimately becomes what we call Science, or shared (limited, flawed) knowledge we can publically compare our internal subjective experiential notes on.
I want to agree with you, and there is that residuum of realism that asserts itself now and then, after all, this pen is "somehow" there regardless of whether I am here or not, and I do suspect there is something to the traditional primary qualities of space and time that do inhere in things themselves, but, as Wittgenstein will tell you, I am talking nonsense to say so. But no one is saying we can go ahead and step in front of buses because there no way to establish whether there is such things as buses. There are buses, but to say what they are we have to provide the logic and the language setting. Without these latter There is nothign to say. I like how Heidegger gets to this point in his Origin of the Art Work: the "thingly" nature divested of all that could be said is an assault on the thing, for to be a thing is to be called a thing, a mere thing is still a thing, and if you take this away you are nowhere but vacuously puzzled. Kierkegaard is very different on this, for he held that the vacancy left when language and logic leave the scene is god and the soul. I think he is right and Heidegger is wrong, so far. Our thoughtful lives are time lives, and thoughts "gather" from recollection and project to make the future. This is the matrix of the world, a time dynamic, Heraclitus' world. Actuality, says Kiekagaard, is the eternal present, the fleeting self's eternal now. Weird but fascinating.
So we can agree that that there is a world beyond each of our private, internal experiential states, which we share, are a part of. And we can agree on a shared flawed working model of what that world is like for us and how it seems to work. So as well as contextualising the world as a feature of our experiential states, we can contextualise ourselves as part of a world we inhabit.
That context is Heidegger's dasein, language and history and culture and shared always already there, being there. But this is NOT the scientist's world of objectified empirical entities. See, if you will, Thomas Kuhn's Structures of Scientific Revolutions: There is nothing in science that aligns with absolutes for making true propositions. This latter is at best, normal science, as he calls it, and it changes internally (as with Heidegger), that is, in the structures of its theories. the idea here is that Being itself, what we say about existing things in the world, our grasp of the term, is always contextualized in some thesis.
The thing is, if we accept both contextual framings are valid (like the two sides of a Subject/Object coin), then just as we have to accept our notions of science and objective knowledge are flawed and limited, I'd suggest that we can't ignore the (flawed, limited) story science tells us about why we are the way we are - why we think and feel and remember and desire and so on, the way we do. Because science has a very coherent and compelling explanatory account for that. Flawed and limited, but a usable working model, based in natural selection.
But what does science know? First, it knows what it's observers observe, but this puts the question to the observer. Is an observer a mirror of things "out there? A mirror is a metaphor here; but that is what the naturalistic attitude (Husserl's term) would have you think. I see the cup, but what does analysis of the perceptual event of observing give you? Kant begins here. Kierkegaard then steps beyond Kant: you cannot think that thinking IS the world that lies before you. The world, this sensual manifold of particulars is, again, utterly arational. Put a lighted match to your finger: pain is the word we might use here. But what you are feeling is not a word at all.
Natural selection is a good example: Take the moral dimension of this argument: There she is being burned at the stake, and we throw our bootless cries to the heavens, at which point an evolutionist steps forward and explains to all that suffering has been though the ages conducive to reproduction and survival; so there, you see, you have your explanation. But the explanation is entirely incommensurate with the actuality; in fact,. the one vis a vis the other is entirely absurd.
If you toss that scientific/shared model away completely, and look only at the nature of experiential states, I think you inevitably end up with solipsism, or drawing arbitrary knowledge lines beyond that which are hard to justify. So I think that while we can say our shared model is only a (flawed, limited) model, it has value in terms of Knowledge, not just Utility, once we accept Complete Knowledge can only be applied to each of our own experiential states.
But no one wants to toss the shared model at all. They want to say that it is a model of utility, instrumentalism, language and culture; but not a model of traditional realism. No one questions the value of such models, but their knowledge claims are derivative of something more basic; they are not foundational, but derived from knowledge and belief systems of the human mind. thus, an analysis of these is philosophy's prerogative. I want to stress that science is not being questioned at all; it is rather here we are looking for the most basic, primordial analysis.
The existence of anything is a mystery we don't understand, and we might not have the cognitive toolkit to do so. But if we accept that the universe existed before conscious critters existed, and somehow conscious critters emerged from the chemical soup, then WE EXIST doesn't look so wildly radical, so ineffable. The 'external' contextual framing suggests we are evolved, emergent critters, much like molecules and rivers and rocks and trees, but one of the many species with this thing called consciousness, who are so complex we have the ability to understand the concept that WE EXIST! Are capable of realising we didn't always exist, and won't always exist. And getting angsty about it, because it's a bloody angst inducing thing to try to get your head around. That this 'internal' contextual side of the coin can cease, be Nothing. Me, the maker of the map which is the whole world as far as I'm concerned, can become Nothing. So current science tells me anway. And if you believe you'll die, you've just accepted a whole bucketload of scientific knowledge that assumption is based on.
The science is right, of course. But being right is a matter of philosophical inquiry. It is tough to see this, I think, that thinking itself is an issue. Rorty once asked, how does anything out there get in here? I thought it was masterfully put, for the answer gets to its first premise and falls apart instantly. Thinking interposes itself in the process. The whole model of object out there and subject in here fails completely.
Well, I think this misses the mark. I know exactly what it is like to be Me, My Actuality, if I define Me-ness as my experiential states (all of them not just the wordy thinky ones). And if we're assuming there's a real world out there with lots of other experiencing Subjects, they each know exactly what it's like to be their Me. Describing it in words which we can agree on is shared map-making, comparing notes, inevitably flawed and limited and ultimately uncertain, because each of us only directly know what it's like to be ourselves.
Well, I think this misses the mark. I know exactly what it is like to be Me, My Actuality, if I define Me-ness as my experiential states (all of them not just the wordy thinky ones). And if we're assuming there's a real world out there with lots of other experiencing Subjects, they each know exactly what it's like to be their Me. Describing it in words which we can agree on is shared map-making, comparing notes, inevitably flawed and limited and ultimately uncertain, because each of us only directly know what it's like to be ourselves.
But what is it that you actually know? How does knowing work? Easy to see, really, you were an infant once and the world was a blooming and buzzing (James' term) and you heard people talking about things and you drew associations between the talk and the talk and the things, you solved the problem of acquiring language, but note that the "things" that were there originally that at first were mysteries and now are chairs and kittens haven't changed at all. You have. And what are they now and have always been? Present. They are a presence and in time you became familiar with this presence. All of our knowledge is familiarity reified into language. Knowledge of oneself is no different. Now, if you ask Kirkegaard, he will tell you that the language you learned belies what we truly are, and he is right, I believe.
I get the weirdness and specialness of experiential states. The utterly different qualiative nature of it. And why it feels like a different order of thing to stuff and science which is 'over there' somewhere and just disappears when I look away. More primary, real and meaningful. My own experiential states that is. Because for me You belong over there, you disappear from my world-map when I'm not thinking about you. And that illustrates the problem. Once I acknowledge you exist, and once I acknowledge we can coherently communicate about our own internal experiential states, like seeing a tree and understanding how evolution works, once we acknowledge we share a flawed, limited knowledge of the external world we inhabit, we can't then just ignore what that tells us (via science) about how and why we have the sort of experiential states we do. Imo.
Now you're talking like a phenomenologist. One day, when you care to, see Husserl and his epoche, or, phenomenological reduction. can't go into it here, but this is what you get when you take Kierkegaard's eternal present and make a science out of it. Still spooky, wonderfully so.
Getting the trains running on time is a clue that our shared knowledge isn't totally on the wrong track. It works, it's coherent (to us natch), it has predictive power. Our scientific shared World Model flawed and limited, but that's what our current scientific account of why we are the way we are would predict ;). It says we evolved for utility, after all, our knowledge and understanding only has to be 'good enough' to justify the brain calories.


But yes, stuff-based science doesn't seem to be the right toolkit to understand why stuff exists in the first place, or why experiential states exist. We naturally think in stuff-based terms, think of the world that way because that's how we experience it, but is that what the world is like at the most fundamental level? Maths, QM, String Theory and so on suggest not. The Hard Problem of consciousness suggests perhaps not. But if we accept the external world exists as a state of affairs, there will be an answer as to what it's like at the most fundamental level, which might answer why it exists and why it is the way it is. Even if we aren't cognitively equipped to understand it. Yet anyway. Perhaps that is the place where the two sides of the Subject/Object coin synthesise. That's my hunch.
Interesting to note that that not being the right tool kit has application right in our faces. QM and the rest fall prey to the above. empirical sciences, all of them, beg the question of the the system that does the perceiving and observing in the first place. Kant had a lot to say about this. A worthy read, his Critique of Pure Reason.
I'd say ''I am'' whatever my current experiential states are. They were different as a child, but I'm attached to that child through memory and emotion, the gradualness of change and feeling of continuity. What Being Here is about is my experiential states. And one of the things my experiential states represent to me is that I live in a world which I interact with, including other conscious critters I live in a world with fellow conscious critters. And being happy and fulfilled is much preferable to being sad and frustrated. And one day I'll die and it will all stop. Meanwhile try to enjoy the ride. Try to be happy, try to be kind. That's it. Well, enough of a challenge for me!


TLDR - Once you abandon solipsism, you have to justify the specific lines you choose to draw at where shared (limited, flawed) knowledge of anything but your own experiential states is no longer valid. Sliding in and out of shared knowledge claims is a problem, because if you stop and think about the mountain of shared knowledge assumptions a simple assertion such as WE EXIST rests on, you're already a long way down that slippery slope...
Of course. I think living and breathing can be reduced to this being good to others and getting along, and so on. We all do it. And I have to admit that is a person sees nothing more to it all, then by all means. One has to care about something at the outset to want to pursue it meaningfully. As for me, I am possessed by the question, the mystery. What began as a simple question, why are we born to suffer and die? is now the center of my existence. If I think about myself, and friends and family and our situation, then all is fine and I could just move along. But then, there really IS such a thing as living a profound philosophical life where questions drive to deeper understanding.

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Re: The Existential Crisis

Post by Gertie » February 19th, 2019, 9:37 pm

It's not that we are limited and flawed, though that is not altogether wrong (but then, being wrong regarding absolutes implies there is something right we should be clear on, and this is not what is being said at all); it is rather that if you drop the language and the reason it possesses you are beyond wrong; you are beyond meaningful utterance.Kierkegaard understood this: it's not that one is wrong in their metaphysics, it is that Being is qualitatively different from reason, and so any utterance at all is simply about something else, but not Being, actuality, existence; K chose "actuality".
I choose consciousness or 'experiential states', because then what's being referred to becomes graspable, and we can actually talk about it. Compare notes. But obviously to do so we need language or some other form of communication.

To exist as a being with experiential states isn't encapsulated by the thinky voice of reason (which we can also utter to each other), it's all our experiential states, which adds up to a unified sense of self. But I know exactly what it's like to be me, and you know exactly what it's like to be you, at any given moment, whether you think or speak of it. That's the nature of experiential states, of Being a conscious human critter. It's not the nature of Being a non-conscious rock tho, so you have to be careful how you use terms like 'Being'.

Like when you compare being a conscious critter with 'Reason' - that's apples and oranges, doesn't make sense.

Clarity and precision show up slipperiness and obfuscation. It's hard to have to translate such language to see what's really being claimed. Or if you're saying it's incommunicable, then K didn't communicate anything presumably, except he believes there is something especially incommunicable about experiential states. And in some ways there is. I can't point to my experiential states (joy, hunger, memory, whatev) the way I can point to an apple and ask if you see it. I can only describe it and if you nod assume you've a rough idea what I mean. Language can only describe.

As for reason, well we were reasoning critters before we had language. It's just one part of what being a sophisticated conscious critter is. Not even that sophisticated, crows can reason...

So to me it looks like you're mushing up a whole bunch of different things using vague, slippery language here.

Or like this -
It is what I consider to be the gravitas of our relation to Being
Our relation to Being... what? Conscious experiencing critters? How can we have a relationship with being ourselves?
But to get beyond solipsism, we have to take the leap of assumption that we can know some things - roughly, imperfectly - other than our own experiential states. That there is a real 'external' state of affairs which exists beyond them, a world outside us in which we move around and our experiential states represent to us. And that ultimately becomes what we call Science, or shared (limited, flawed) knowledge we can publically compare our internal subjective experiential notes on.
I want to agree with you, and there is that residuum of realism that asserts itself now and then, after all, this pen is "somehow" there regardless of whether I am here or not, and I do suspect there is something to the traditional primary qualities of space and time that do inhere in things themselves, but, as Wittgenstein will tell you, I am talking nonsense to say so.
Why? Because we can only perceive and think about the world in a limited and flawed way, and then have to be even further from that experience by using language?

I'd agree with that, these are the tools we have. Language isn't experience and experience isn't the thing you're thinking about/seeing/rembering/whatev. But still we communicate effectively, it works pretty well. That's not nonsense, it's limited and flawed.
There are buses, but to say what they are we have to provide the logic and the language setting. Without these latter There is nothign to say.
Yes to communicate about buses we need a shared model and shared language. To experience being hit by a bus we don't.
I like how Heidegger gets to this point in his Origin of the Art Work: the "thingly" nature divested of all that could be said is an assault on the thing, for to be a thing is to be called a thing, a mere thing is still a thing, and if you take this away you are nowhere but vacuously puzzled.
That sentence left me vacuously puzzled ;)
Kierkegaard is very different on this, for he held that the vacancy left when language and logic leave the scene is god and the soul.
Well I've known someone who when they became old lost significant language and logic skills, and that's a very romantic description of her experience.

Because what you're actually talking about are conscious experiential states, and there are many of them, from the most mundane to most awe-inspiring, which we can roughly map to the brain now, and we know certain injuries and diseases can cause them to fail. We have that (limited, flawed) explanatory model, which works. And people who try to help cure such conditions using that flawed, limited model. And like everybody else, no doubt including Kierkegaard, that's who I'm with when push comes to shove.
Actuality, says Kiekagaard, is the eternal present, the fleeting self's eternal now. Weird but fascinating.
Yes this is the nature of being a conscious experiencing critter, an ongoing state of experiencing now. It's mysterious, time is mysterious. Or that's just the nature of the experiencing beast. Maybe it tells us something about the intrinsic nature of the universe, or maybe it tells us more about the intrinsic nature of being a conscious experiencing critter. So far at least our (flawed, limited) shared model of science isn't much help in synthesing experiential states into that model, there is no Theory of Consciousness. And it might be that the scientific toolkit of observation and empiricism isn't up to the task.

Which makes for much speculative philosophising :). But imo to talk in quasi mystical and religious terms can only be metaphor, and because such terms are often vague and carry baggage, they don't help rigorous thinking. That sort of language is fine for an individual's choice of personal philosophy, or way of approaching existential questions for themselves tho.
So we can agree that that there is a world beyond each of our private, internal experiential states, which we share, are a part of. And we can agree on a shared flawed working model of what that world is like for us and how it seems to work. So as well as contextualising the world as a feature of our experiential states, we can contextualise ourselves as part of a world we inhabit.
That context is Heidegger's dasein, language and history and culture and shared always already there, being there. But this is NOT the scientist's world of objectified empirical entities. See, if you will, Thomas Kuhn's Structures of Scientific Revolutions: There is nothing in science that aligns with absolutes for making true propositions. This latter is at best, normal science, as he calls it, and it changes internally (as with Heidegger), that is, in the structures of its theories. the idea here is that Being itself, what we say about existing things in the world, our grasp of the term, is always contextualized in some thesis.
Yes I agree with the gist of that. Since we began communicating we were developing a (flawed, limited) shared model of our shared world, and scientists are doing the same now in a more sophisticated way. Then it might have been a Sun God, now it might be The Big Bang. Still flawed and limited. And still just a model based on our cognitive toolkit, filtered through language.
The thing is, if we accept both contextual framings are valid (like the two sides of a Subject/Object coin), then just as we have to accept our notions of science and objective knowledge are flawed and limited, I'd suggest that we can't ignore the (flawed, limited) story science tells us about why we are the way we are - why we think and feel and remember and desire and so on, the way we do. Because science has a very coherent and compelling explanatory account for that. Flawed and limited, but a usable working model, based in natural selection.
But what does science know? First, it knows what it's observers observe, but this puts the question to the observer. Is an observer a mirror of things "out there? A mirror is a metaphor here; but that is what the naturalistic attitude (Husserl's term) would have you think. I see the cup, but what does analysis of the perceptual event of observing give you? Kant begins here. Kierkegaard then steps beyond Kant: you cannot think that thinking IS the world that lies before you. The world, this sensual manifold of particulars is, again, utterly arational. Put a lighted match to your finger: pain is the word we might use here. But what you are feeling is not a word at all.
Yes, I don't think any scientist would disagree with that. I certainly wouldn't.

Except perhaps your use of 'arational'. What's rationality? I'd say it's an evolved cognitive skill to help us navigate the world (well a whole set of skills probably). We evolved to perceive and think about the world in certain ways, because it's useful. It works well enough on a day to day basis. So we can notice patterns, make predictions, use memory and imagine various outcomes, it helps us make useful choices/behaviours. As do other experiential states, like feeling pain makes us reflexively pull away. Rationality doesn't exist outside of us, it's part of what we are, how we experience. And our rationality is related to how the world works, or it wouldn't be useful, we wouldn't be able to predict or make assumptions which work for us.

Similarly our sensory organs aren't a mirror or camera, we now know that images of the world are somehow created within us, or within our interaction with the world. There aren't 'colours' out there, there aren't solid tables, when I imagine an apple it doesn't pop into existence, but we perceive the world this way because it works for us. Our experiential states (thinking, reasoning, remembering, feeling, etc) do the evolutionary job of keeping us alive.

This is a compelling account of why we are the way we are. It's flawed, limited and we might only be seeing a distorted mirage of the tip of an iceberg world - in fact the more science discovers the more likely that seems. But to ignore what useful (flawed, limited) knowledge we can hold as a working model is just daft. Especially because the only possible perfect knowledge you or I can have is of our own experiential states. That's it. Everything after that is assumption built upon assumption. And that's the shared game we inevitably have to play to to escape solipsism. No way round it. Is there?

Natural selection is a good example: Take the moral dimension of this argument: There she is being burned at the stake, and we throw our bootless cries to the heavens, at which point an evolutionist steps forward and explains to all that suffering has been though the ages conducive to reproduction and survival; so there, you see, you have your explanation. But the explanation is entirely incommensurate with the actuality; in fact,. the one vis a vis the other is entirely absurd.
Right, it is. Hence existential angst. But maybe that's just the way it is. Or maybe there's some more fundamental relationship, meaning or synthesis. If there is, I'd say we're not in a position to know.

And... I've run out of steam. Let me know if there's something I didn't get to which you'd like a response on.

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SnarkyBuddha
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Re: The Existential Crisis

Post by SnarkyBuddha » February 20th, 2019, 2:54 pm

Everyone in life is confronted with the question "is life worth living" var. "is this a good or bad place" etc. whether this question is made explicit or not. "worth living" or "good" generally contain some implicit formulation that human action is capable of meaning, that is that some actions are more worthy than others, which is contingent on some movement towards a desired end or state of being. In a good world, human actions can lean towards the good (best defined negatively as 'not-suffering' as pain is as close to noncontingent self-evident proof of value in the world as you can get). In an evil world, human actions are insufficient to instantiate the good and dispel evil. In a nihilistic world, human actions are arbitrary and so there is nothing to grasp, life is slippery and you drift from one to the next with no guiding principles.

I think an existential crisis is the result of a sudden Gestalt realization of the difficulty posed by this question. One moment you are going about your life, your actions and projects and goals make sense and having meaning and are worth your time and effort. The next moment, you are on your kitchen floor despairing of the possibility that nothing means anything, that all the suffering endured up to this point is worth nothing, and that all that lies in the future is more suffering and ultimately a meaningless death.

The resolution of this crisis is ultimately individual. Each person must find a bedrock truth that anchors meaning in their life. Something that simply could not be the case if the world were evil or nihilistic and meaningless. That's not to say that there isn't ample wisdom on the topic across many domains of human inquiry (religion, philosophy, etc.). Actually, you could say that every life that has been lived fully is a unique and adequate response to this question. A master carpenter is a living expression of the quality of life being affirmed. Otherwise, how could someone ever organize their activity sufficiently to become a master at the craft? (The film 'Being in the World' is excellent on this point.)

In mythological terms, the existential crisis must be faced by moving forward into the unknown, the 'abyss'. This is the dark forest, the belly of the whale, the enemy's land. The hero must journey forth, confront the dragons of chaos, and discover/secure/create meaning and order that justifies the suffering of existence.

There is still boundless mystery to life, don't let the world's cynicism get you down. Go outside, do something cool that you find meaningful, listen to the suffering of a friend and share life with them. The journey is long and often a slog through unbearable pain. And yet the pain is borne, miraculously, mysteriously, and Eden reveals herself piece by peace.

Good luck on your journeys, fellow travelers.

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Hereandnow
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Re: The Existential Crisis

Post by Hereandnow » February 21st, 2019, 12:42 am

Gertie
I choose consciousness or 'experiential states', because then what's being referred to becomes graspable, and we can actually talk about it. Compare notes. But obviously to do so we need language or some other form of communication.
I don't really object to talk about experience. Dewey did it a lot and he was right about a lot. Others see it as a worn out term, or they see experience as analyzable and want to deny the temptation of standard ideas. I agree with this: the problem with the themes of philosophy is that they use language that inhibits progress. E.g., subjectivity and objectivity. Terms like this create a dichotomy that fails to see the world as, if you will, all of a piece. I think we have to understand that perception of things is constituted of, well, perception; that things are not the scientist's things, which are abstractions from experience. That is, when a scientist deploys a microscope to gather data, s/he has an observational agenda that abstracts from the whole of the experience that delivers the data. At any given moment at the microscope there is, for example, a whole attitudinal dimension, that of boredom, or elation, or glee, or whatever that is not relevant. There is a great deal of the real that is left out in order to attend to one matter. This is why empirical science is not fit for philosophical issues.
To exist as a being with experiential states isn't encapsulated by the thinky voice of reason (which we can also utter to each other), it's all our experiential states, which adds up to a unified sense of self. But I know exactly what it's like to be me, and you know exactly what it's like to be you, at any given moment, whether you think or speak of it. That's the nature of experiential states, of Being a conscious human critter. It's not the nature of Being a non-conscious rock tho, so you have to be careful how you use terms like 'Being'. Like when you compare being a conscious critter with 'Reason' - that's apples and oranges, doesn't make sense.
Sure, in a fast and loose way you what it's like to be you, and you also know what cancer is and Einstein's Theory of relativity. But to put go into it and understand it at a greater than first order thinking goes, this is different. While one's intimacy with oneself is not questioned, one's ability to interpret what one encounters in this intimacy is. The same could be said of a child, that s/he is most clear on what it is like to be oneself; but to talk about things at the level of basic questions is out. Kierkegaard's point is that the interpretative language you might use to describe anything about your self is inherently something that is not your genuine self, and this is because rationally constructed language is not the actuality of being you. Language can name, predict, solve problems, but its nature is not actuality; hence, anything we might say to account for who we are is going to be inherently something wholly different. So when you say you know what it is like to be you, the moment you say what it is, you misrepresent it. This is the inevitable car wreck of reason's attempt to encompass existence. Of course, this makes all attempts to speak inherently incapable of grasping the world, for the moment one opens one's mouth, out comes something that is qualitatively different from what the world IS. There is obvious truth in this. What can one say about the world? Heidegger has a completely different take on this.

C
larity and precision show up slipperiness and obfuscation. It's hard to have to translate such language to see what's really being claimed. Or if you're saying it's incommunicable, then K didn't communicate anything presumably, except he believes there is something especially incommunicable about experiential states. And in some ways there is. I can't point to my experiential states (joy, hunger, memory, whatev) the way I can point to an apple and ask if you see it. I can only describe it and if you nod assume you've a rough idea what I mean. Language can only describe.
Kant is at the bottom of this. He analyzed what it is to think, to judge. He asked how it is possible to have a grasp of particular things cognitively, and concluded there must be something IN US that divides the world up so we can say there is a fire truck on the corner of 5th and 32nd. You have to gather things under the concept fire truck to identify the thing. We make it a fire truck in the judgment; it is our cognition that does this. Out there without this is just unsayable, unthinkable, whatever. So, when you say language can only describe, it is not just description, it is interpretation: for the thing, the color, say, white, is taken up AS white, as the term used to solve the problem of dealing with white when we come to encounter it. But saying it is white does not confer upon it anything but a concept, a principle of organisation, perhaps a pragmatic device that allows communication, socially constructed, making all language inherently social, or, a community enterprise. (Heidegger, on the other hand, looks at the world as language and world as one.) Kierkegaard wanted us to see that our understanding of world was like understanding through an abstraction of logical construction. Our Being here is not logical. It is no where, from no where, at no time.


A
s for reason, well we were reasoning critters before we had language. It's just one part of what being a sophisticated conscious critter is. Not even that sophisticated, crows can reason...

So to me it looks like you're mushing up a whole bunch of different things using vague, slippery language here.
It really isn't. For the clearest expression of this without the religion, just read Wittgenstein's Tractatus. He was VERY fond of Kierkegaard.He is clear, but not that easy. I explain it as best I can because I believe it possesses a very interesting insight into what it means to be a person, and I want others to read about it so we can talk about it. It is slippery because it is unfamiliar.
Our relation to Being... what? Conscious experiencing critters? How can we have a relationship with being ourselves?
When I regard this shoe in some way, I have a relationship with it. Being myself? Well, what am I? Am I simple or complex? Kierkegaard thought a person is essentially simple, but in its estrangement from God, a person is bound up in a complex of relationship identity. See his Sickness unto Death. If I can put something before my awareness, it is not me, K might argue. A kind of neti neti, or apophatic theology if you like--this is why he called our soul a nothingness: it does not appear before us. Of course, you can have a relationship with any thought or feeling that comes to your mind, and your conception of yourself is usually constituted by these. They "gather" in recollection in different contexts. Perhaps we are fractal selves, so called: a man one time,a father another, a citizen another, and so on. Marcuse wrote One Dimensional Man saying, after Heidegger, that modern living is becoming a nightmare as it attempts to turn human possibilities into a simple limited servant of the corporate interests. This alienates us from what we could be: possibilities for being human. But if you ask the question, what am I, is it not an open question? That is what questioning does, it opens possibilities (Heidegger is a fountain of wisdom on this). And is it not open in a way that it cannot be at all closed? A teapot seems closed, though question it at the level of basic questions, ask about its Being, how old its Being is ( I mean, noting comes from nothing, right? So prior to the Big Bang, there was the Being of this tea pot, and this Being always was...Yes, odd to think like this, but then, what happened to tea pot as a thing? Entirely open. As to who and what we are: very open.
Why? Because we can only perceive and think about the world in a limited and flawed way, and then have to be even further from that experience by using language?

I'd agree with that, these are the tools we have. Language isn't experience and experience isn't the thing you're thinking about/seeing/rembering/whatev. But still we communicate effectively, it works pretty well. That's not nonsense, it's limited and flawed
Wittgenstein says it's nonsense to speak about things in themselves, because to do so would require that we leave logic and language altogether, which would remove the "sense" of speaking altogether. It is nonsense to talk of something outside of logic. When we speak of something, a room, still being there when everyone leaves, we are fitting the room in a conversation in which, well, everything fits, has its logical connections. we are still talking about objects being absent in the realm of possibilities that is structured by reason. Outside reason is silly, it is a performative contradiction, like, "I am lying" or " I died this morning". A room devoid of people certainly makes sense, but only in the context of making sense.
That sentence left me vacuously puzzled
Be curious about a thing, but know that calling it a thing instantly contextualizes it in language. We talk about things all the time. But to say, no really, I mean the thing itself, not AS a thing as talking would have it. Then you have offended the thing as a thing, a the "thingly" nature of a thing is language. It is vacuous to try to conceive of it. Tell me what X is, but don't say anything. I think this is right, but on the other hand, I think if you are a Buddhist, eg, not speaking can be VERY important, and revealing, and profound. After all Heidegger says about language and meaning, he still confesses that perhaps Buddhists might be on to something very important, and God may come after all. The world, Sartre's Nausea reveals, is radically contingent: it could do anything, not being bound to logic.
Well I've known someone who when they became old lost significant language and logic skills, and that's a very romantic description of her experience.

Because what you're actually talking about are conscious experiential states, and there are many of them, from the most mundane to most awe-inspiring, which we can roughly map to the brain now, and we know certain injuries and diseases can cause them to fail. We have that (limited, flawed) explanatory model, which works. And people who try to help cure such conditions using that flawed, limited model. And like everybody else, no doubt including Kierkegaard, that's who I'm with when push comes to shove.
Logic and language skills lost, but it is in the recollection of what is past that is the real substance of the typical self. It is the stream of consciousness that endlessly recollects into the future that binds one to one's alienation. And regarding the brain: this is a concept first, the brain. That is, when you mention it and refer to that thing in the the head, the understanding that acknowledges it does so AS a concept. And concepts are language, and language is problematic regarding knowledge claims: it is derivative of conditions of understanding, first, then it is all neuroanatomists say it is. Brain as a concept is an interpreted entity. See Wittgenstein again. He is very good on this.

Y
es this is the nature of being a conscious experiencing critter, an ongoing state of experiencing now. It's mysterious, time is mysterious. Or that's just the nature of the experiencing beast. Maybe it tells us something about the intrinsic nature of the universe, or maybe it tells us more about the intrinsic nature of being a conscious experiencing critter. So far at least our (flawed, limited) shared model of science isn't much help in synthesing experiential states into that model, there is no Theory of Consciousness. And it might be that the scientific toolkit of observation and empiricism isn't up to the task.

Which makes for much speculative philosophising :). But imo to talk in quasi mystical and religious terms can only be metaphor, and because such terms are often vague and carry baggage, they don't help rigorous thinking. That sort of language is fine for an individual's choice of personal philosophy, or way of approaching existential questions for themselves tho.
Darn straight it's mysterious. Though, many don't get this, and they certainly don't get this existential mystery as intimating anything special. My only conclusion is that everyone is different. For me, Kierkegaard is right, and as I meditate, reduce the horizon of possibilities to zero, stop the endless production of thought, of anticipation of what the next moment will bring, the more I confirm in experience, what K wrote about. This eternal present is not only not a fiction, it is the only reality. See a book by Antony Steinboch, if you will, on Phenomenology and mysticism. See Husserl's epoche. Fascinating.

Y
es, I don't think any scientist would disagree with that. I certainly wouldn't.

Except perhaps your use of 'arational'. What's rationality? I'd say it's an evolved cognitive skill to help us navigate the world (well a whole set of skills probably). We evolved to perceive and think about the world in certain ways, because it's useful. It works well enough on a day to day basis. So we can notice patterns, make predictions, use memory and imagine various outcomes, it helps us make useful choices/behaviours. As do other experiential states, like feeling pain makes us reflexively pull away. Rationality doesn't exist outside of us, it's part of what we are, how we experience. And our rationality is related to how the world works, or it wouldn't be useful, we wouldn't be able to predict or make assumptions which work for us.

Similarly our sensory organs aren't a mirror or camera, we now know that images of the world are somehow created within us, or within our interaction with the world. There aren't 'colours' out there, there aren't solid tables, when I imagine an apple it doesn't pop into existence, but we perceive the world this way because it works for us. Our experiential states (thinking, reasoning, remembering, feeling, etc) do the evolutionary job of keeping us alive.

This is a compelling account of why we are the way we are. It's flawed, limited and we might only be seeing a distorted mirage of the tip of an iceberg world - in fact the more science discovers the more likely that seems. But to ignore what useful (flawed, limited) knowledge we can hold as a working model is just daft. Especially because the only possible perfect knowledge you or I can have is of our own experiential states. That's it. Everything after that is assumption built upon assumption. And that's the shared game we inevitably have to play to to escape solipsism. No way round it. Is there?
More later. I am out for now.

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meaningful_products
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Re: The Existential Crisis

Post by meaningful_products » February 21st, 2019, 11:24 pm

Socrates used to ask for definitions of things like "what is knowledge" or "what is justice." Then for hundreds of years people would try to answer these questions. The existential crisis to me is the realization that there are no "correct" answers to these questions because "justice," knowledge," ect.. are ultimately just sounds or symbols. Certain Existentialists have theories of how to overcome the pain we experience when we realize this.

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Hereandnow
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Re: The Existential Crisis

Post by Hereandnow » February 22nd, 2019, 12:57 pm

Not merely theories about how to overcome, meaningful_products, but how pain and the human institutions of defining it and dealing with it are to be understood in a broader context that rises up out of examining basic assumptions that are, as they say, always already there. Here, existentialists have different takes, but it is the phenomenological approach that dominates. Kant is the start of it all as his transcendental idealism undid the subject/object boundary. Once this is no longer authoritative, the playing field makes a dramatic shift. Of course, no one comes ex nihilo and influences abound, but Kant put meaningful discourse on the concept/intuition defined world. It is where, I think it is safe to say, Heidegger (and Husserl before him) got his "of a piece" view of objects and their essences. I am reading his "What Is Called Thinking" lectures right now, if you care to look and discuss.

Right, no "correct answers" but this is because the questions themselves yield to others (which yield to yet others, and this is the way of it. But then, Justice: a plain term if not placed in a context of examination that looks to its essence. Here is where things get very interesting.

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Re: The Existential Crisis

Post by Gertie » February 22nd, 2019, 2:46 pm

Hereandnow

I superficially checked out the themes of Tractatus, pondered where it fits with our convo, and ended up writing a screed for what it's worth... don't feel obliged to reply, it at least helped me organise my thoughts on the big picture.



For me, what you might call the Big Leap is from Solipsism to accepting there is something/anything beyond 'my' experiential states. There is no bridge of certainty or logic from the experiencing itself, to concluding that the nature of those experiences refer to something real beyond them which they are representing.


Hence there is no bridge of certainty or logic, enabling me to say that experience of seeing a fire engine on the corner represents something real in a real world 'outside' that experience.

The subsequent issue of comparing notes with eg you on whether you see what we agree to call a fire engine on the corner too via language is seconday - because your existence is just as much a Big Leap for me. There is no bridge of certain knowledge or of logic for me to accept your existence any more than the existence of the fire engine we're comparing notes on.


See? The 'absurdity' kicks in as as soon as you try to escape solipsism doesn't it? After that, you can say it's absurdity built upon absurdity or assumption built upon assumption. But the fundamental problem is that only experiential states are 'directly known', certain.


And indeed, the 'sense of self' itself, might only be an experiential state. There doesn't have to be 'an experiencer' (self) having the experience, only the experience of being an experiencer. And there we hit our bottom line of scepticism. From there, it's models all the way up, building upon each other like a house of cards (language being near the top), with no bridge to that first Big Leap to our base layer, which says experiential states 'are about' real things beyond them. (And even then, 'are about' is as much as we can say confidently).


So...


This is our starting position, the Big Leap of Faith out of Solipsism, into the acceptance that an actual world 'out there' exists, and these experiential states are representing something real. Including other critters (eg you) with their own experiential states.


Then we can compare notes about our own experiential states, and construct models which we can agree on. We can note patterns which we can frame as causal or lawful. We can note abstract 'lawful' relational features too, like logic. Eventually we end up with something as incredible as the Standard Model of Physics. All based on sharing notes, only different in its sophistication.


But we can't say the Standard Model of Physics is anything more than a working model, any more than I can you exist as anything more than an aspect of my working model of the world, a feature of my experiential states.


Furthermore, even if I accept you exist and we're comparing notes about real things in the real world, the act of comparing notes brings additional uncertainties. There's the problem of experiential states being inherently 'private'. I don't know if what I see is what you see (eg inverted qualia).

The private nature of experiential states also means we have to create a method of comparing notes - eg language, or symbols. And indeed we can then come to think using that language, so that the model is integrated into our experiential states, itself reinforcing the apparent reliability of the model. The 'logic' and structure of language (as well as the representational symbols) grew out of the way we experience the world, reflects it, and when we actually think in language using that structure, it reinforces that logic and structure as being true about the world. (And within brains, we can see all our perceptual and cognitive systems aren't separate and 'pure', they interweave and affect each other, and manifest as a unified field of consciousness which is the resultant mishmash of those interactions). This I think is one of your major points - which I agree with. I just don't see it as fundamental, I see it in the context of the bigger picture I'm outling here.

Language brings extra problems too, because it a representational system of (semantic) symbols and structural (syntactic) rules, not direct perceptual experiential states themselves. Hence an extra layer of abstraction, deviation and error is introduced. But it mostly works as a tool for creating useful working models, even as awe inspiring as The Standard Model of Physics.


Furthermore, our scientific model tells us our own experiential states correlate to brain states, and evolved for utility, not accuracy. As a calory efficient evolved kludge of useful fixes to environmental problems. Not as cameras or mirrors to the 'real world' out there. They are limited and flawed. The very basis upon which we assume we can share notes, is rooted in us having similarly faulty notes. We can be shown how our senses trick us, science can tell us that solid table is mostly empty space, etc. We have no idea what else we're missing or wrong about. This is the flip side of the coin, which places us within the shared model, which we created. Our own model finds us to be flawed, limited model makers!


It's a bit of a mess really, but it seems to me that's just the way it is for us. And if we've got any sense we should take very seriously science's story about why we are the way we are, even as part of our flawed, limited model, because that model is the one we live our daily lives in. From not stepping out in front of a bus, to realising we are flawed, limited critters. Thrown into Absurdity and Solipsistic Isolation, trying to make the best of it. Model making being our only route out of that, making it 'tractable' so to speak.

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Re: The Existential Crisis

Post by chewybrian » February 22nd, 2019, 5:37 pm

Gertie wrote:
February 22nd, 2019, 2:46 pm
And indeed, the 'sense of self' itself, might only be an experiential state. There doesn't have to be 'an experiencer' (self) having the experience, only the experience of being an experiencer. And there we hit our bottom line of scepticism.
Descartes probably did not have it all right, but number one is a slam dunk (I think, therefore I am). I can not doubt that I am thinking, because I have to be there, thinking, to do the doubting. I exist, at least as a head in a jar, or some thing which is capable of having a thought, or a doubt. I'm having experiences, or the experience of doubting experience, or the experience of the illusion of doubting experience. or the experience of the illusion of the experience of the illusion of...

If a shooting star goes across the sky, and nobody is looking up to see it, then the experience of the shooting star did not occur. The event of something burning up in the atmosphere still happened, but it is not an experience unless someone experiences it. To say an experience took place means someone experienced it, by definition and by the simplest logic, and I can see no way around this. What can I know with greater certainty than the fact that I have experiences (allowing that I may be all wrong about their true nature)?

How is "the experience of being an experiencer" not still an experience? How can I refer to anything as "the experience of..." without considering it to be an experience?
"If determinism holds, then past events have conspired to cause me to hold this view--it is out of my control. Either I am right about free will, or it is not my fault that I am wrong."

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