Philosophymagazine

Philosophy and Science for the Third Millennium


Existentialism in Ten Minutes

An Essay by Christopher Bek


Philosophymagazine

Summary—This essay defines existentialism, describes the ideas of six major existentialists, and describes each of their two major written works.
 


The existentialist is first and foremost an individual who is in an infinite relationship with himself and his destiny. —Søren Kierkegaard

 

Endeavor to think well for it is the only morality. —Saint Augustine

 

More light. —the last words of Johann Goethe

 

We must follow the argument wherever it leads. —Socrates

 

They deem him their worst enemy who tells them the truth.
—Plato

  

The gateway to universal knowledge may be opened by the unified field theory upon which Einstein has been at work for a quarter century.  Today the outer limits of man’s knowledge are defined by relativity, the inner limits by quantum theory.  Relativity has shaped all our concepts of space, time, gravitation, and the realities that are too remote and too vast to be perceived.  Quantum theory has shaped all our concepts of the atom, the basic units of matter and energy, and the realities that are too elusive and too small to be perceived.  Yet these two great scientific systems rest on entirely different and unrelated theoretical foundations.  The purpose of Einstein’s unified field theory is to construct a bridge between them.

—Lincoln Barnett

  

Restricting a body of knowledge to a small group deadens the philosophical spirit of a people and leads to spiritual poverty.

—Albert Einstein

 

Albert Einstein discovered that even the most complex notions could be reduced to a simple set of fundamental principles.  

—Paul Strathern

 

It is a wonderful feeling to recognize the unifying features of a complex phenomena which present themselves as quite unconnected to the direct experience of the senses.

—Marcel Grossman

 


 

The Bernoulli Form elucidates the notion of Platonic Forms in describing how a motley crew of Forms—including Delphi, forecasting, integration, utility, optimization, efficiency and complementary—come together to form The Bernoulli Model.

 

The Method of Moments elucidates the notion of Platonic Forms in describing how a motley crew of Forms—including Delphi, forecasting, integration, utility, optimization, efficiency and complementary—come together to form The Bernoulli Model.

 

The Efficient Frontier examines the notions of God, option theory, portfolio theory, faith, reason and Arab mathfinally arriving at the inescapable conclusion that all roads of sound decisionmaking lead to the efficient frontier.

 

The Unpardonable Sin charges all honourables and doctors in Canada with heresy, child abuse and the unpardonable sin that Christ spoke of—which is the deliberate refusal to follow the light when seen.

 

The Uncertainty Principle contrasts Einstein with Heisenberg, relativity with quantum theory, behavioralism with existentialism, certainty with uncertainty and philosophy with science—finally arriving at the inescapable Platonic conclusion that the true philosopher is always striving after Being and will not rest with those multitudinous phenomena whose existence are appearance only.

 

A Formal Patient congratulates Alberta Health and Wellness for insisting on the accountability of due process in declaring individuals to be formal patients—and argues that I am being considered a formal patient as the result of an absence of due process elsewhere in Canada—and that I should not be considered a formal patient but that I should be declared disabled on account of being outside the cave of behaviorism.

 


 

Singularity identifies the trigger of the looming paradigm shift from the three-dimensionally conscioused Everyman to the four-dimensionally conscioused Superman as the 1935 Schrödinger's Cat though problem—which proves that consciousness is real.

 

The Great Cosmic Accounting Blunder compares the two physical fixedpoints in the universe—lightspeed and Planck’s constant—and argues that we have been guilty of double counting up until now and that in fact there is but one fixedpoint—which, as it turns out, is the boundary of the universe.

  

The Unified Field Theory counts down the Euclidean hits from five to one in categorically nailing the vast majority of this little thing I like to call cosmic pi.  At this point in spacetime I would like to pay special tribute to my excellent wingman Albert Einstein (18791955).

 

Closing the Liars Loophole identifies the malignant cancer within the healthcare system and society as the outwardly focusing behavioural psychological model, which denies the existence of consciousness—while the inwardly focusing existential model makes consciousness and the soul primordially important.

The Canadian Constitution recognizes the supremacy of God.  Albert Einstein said that God is the sum total of the laws of nature.  According to the Constitution and Einstein, the laws of nature are supreme to everything including the laws of government.  In other words, the laws of nature trump the laws of government.  Relativity theory, quantum theory and my theory of one are all laws of nature.  I have sent letters to the Canadian government claiming they had no legal right to let the bank take my house in that it violates the Constitution.  By holding true to my arguments, I am an existentialist proving the government has not taken responsibility and is acting in bad faith.

Defining Existentialism.  Kierkegaard and Sartre bookended the philosophy of existentialism, which effectively died with Sartre in 1980.  It is the philosophy emphasizing individual existence, freedom and choice.  Existentialism stresses that individuals have total freedom and total responsibility for the entire world.  For man, existentialism tells us that existence precedes essence.  Consider a pen for example.  Its essence (ie. its design) comes before its existence.  Alternatively, man arrives on the scene (ie. his existence) then creates his essence.  Consider that the Freudian cognitive model has the ego choosing between the id (or self) and the superego (or government).  If the ego chooses the id, it is existentialism.  If the ego chooses the superego, it is behaviorism.  Behaviorism is the model currently used in Western society and only asks that we behave ourselves.  Everyone should choose existentialism over behaviorism.

Kierkegaard.  Søren Kierkegaard (1813-55) was a Danish religious philosopher concerned with individual existence and subjective choice, which profoundly influenced theology and existential philosophy.  He wrote critical works on Christianity, morality, psychology and religious philosophy.  Kierkegaard used metaphors, ironies and parables.  Much of his philosophy deals with how individuals live.  He focused on actual human reality rather than abstract ideas, emphasizing the significance of personal choice and commitment to one’s beliefs.  Fear and Trembling is his book which stresses that one must work out one’s salvation with fear and trembling (ie. Feel the fear and do it anyway).  Kierkegaard sought to understand the anxiety that was present in Abraham when he believed he was ordered by God to take his own son’s life.  He identified the religious sphere as guided by a devotion to the divine.  In his book Either/Or Kierkegaard describes the other two spheres of existence as the aesthetic and the ethical.  The aesthetic sphere is a refined form of hedonism that searches for pleasure and the enhancement of mood.  The aesthetic individual seeks new experiences in order to stave off boredom and despair.  To avoid this, the aesthetic individual must take a leap of faith into the great unknown of the ethical way of life.  The ethical sphere involves a passionate commitment to social duties and religious commitments.

Nietzsche.  Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) was a German philosopher, poet and philologist.  He is perhaps most famous for his claim—God is dead—We have killed Him.  Nietzsche spent much of his career attempting to reaffirm life and to counteract nihilism, which called for a radical rethinking of human nature.  His book The Birth of Tragedy depends on the conflict between two opposing forces of Apollonian and Dionysian.  Apollo is the Greek god of light and reason characterized by restraint and detachment.  Dionysus is the Greek god of wine and dance and behaves in a frenzy in which the ego gives way to the self.  Both the Apollonian and Dionysian are necessary for the creation of value.  The book is divided into two parts.  The first half deals with the nature of Greek tragedy with Apollonian and Dionysian.  The second half uses the Greek model to understand modern culture in its decline and its potential rebirth.  Beyond Good and Evil is a summary of Nietzsche’s mature philosophy.  He contrasts other philosophic dogmatism with his own free spirit.  He hoped that future philosophers would be characterized by being willing to follow arguments through to their natural conclusions.  Nietzsche also spoke out against the morality of the everyman who encourages mediocrity and hates excellence.

Dostoyevsky.  Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-81) was a Russian novel and essay writer, journalist and philosopher.  Dostoyevsky’s literary works explore human psychology in the troubled political, social and spiritual environment of Russia.  Many of his works emphasize Christianity and encourage love, forgiveness and charity explored by the individual who is being challenged with the hardships of life.  His book The Brothers Karamazov is large in scope and is filled with discussions on faith, doubt, freewill and morality, which is most of existential philosophy.  Broken down into archetypes, Alyosha represents the ideal man, Dmitri represents the animal in man, and Ivan represents the despair of those who rely solely on reason.  I would argue that we need both faith and reason.  Dostoevsky mixes tragedy, philosophy, psychology, drama and ultimately a hopeful ending into one of the most profound works ever written—Notes from the Underground.  It tells the story of a former civil servant who embraces a nihilistic view of society.  He is sick but refuses medical help—which introduces the notion of perverse freedom.  In an act of perverse freedom, I once sent a letter addressed from God to a former employer.  When the police arrived on the scene, I tried to convince them they should support the laws of nature as well as the laws of government.  They told me they were not interested in the laws of nature and just wanted to correct my behavior.

Kafka.  Franz Kafka (1883-1924) was an Austrian novel and short story writer.  His disturbing fiction anticipated the oppression and despair of the late 20th century.  The term Kafkaesque has come to be known to describe anxious and grotesque social situations.  Kafka’s work emphasizes loneliness, frustration and guilt of individuals threatened by nameless forces beyond their control and comprehension.  His book The Trial is the story of a man occupying the position of chief financial officer of a bank.  He is unpredictably arrested by two agents from an unspecified government agency for an unnamed crime.  The nature of his crime is never revealed to him or the reader.  His true crime is that he shifts from seeing himself through his own eyes to the eyes of the government.  Because of this, he willingly accepts a knife to his heart.  The Metamorphosis emphasizes a style that blends reality with fantasy and irony.  Kafka presents a nightmarish scene in this novel.  The protagonist is a hardworking insurance agent who awakens to find he is turning into a huge insect.  He remembers nothing of his former self and adapts to new circumstances as they present themselves.  He is abandoned by his family and left to die alone. 

Camus.  Albert Camus (1913-60) was a French-Algerian novelist, essay and play write, and journalist.  He was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature.  Camus addressed the concepts of absurdity and human revolt, and suggested solutions to the problems of the meaninglessness of modern life.  In rebelling against his former friend Sartre, Camus claimed not to be an existentialist.  Despite his claim, his The Myth of Sisyphus is a profoundly influential work of existential thought.  Sisyphus was punished by the gods for deceitfulness and is condemned to spend his life repeatedly pushing a rock up a hill and then watching it roll down.  It is a meditation on suicide.  He answers the question of whether life is worth living in an absurd universe devoid of meaning.  Camus concludes by saying that Sisyphus is happy and can live with dignity and authenticity.  Camus describes his The Fall as mordant, brilliant and elegantly styled.  “It is a novel of the consciousness of modern man in the face of evil.  In a seedy Amsterdam bar named Mexico City, an expatriate Frenchman indulges in a calculated confession.  He recalls his past life as a respected Parisian lawyer, a champion of noble causes and, privately, a libertine immune to judgment.  As his narrative unfolds, ambiguities amass—every triumph reveals a failure, every motive a hidden treachery.  The irony of his recital anticipates his downfall—and implicates us all.”

Sartre.  Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-80) was a French philosopher, novelist and political journalist.  Sartre’s philosophic works combine subjective choice, phenomenology, metaphysics and the socialism of Marx into a singular view of existentialism.  His main conviction is that we are condemned to be free.  Sartre was an independent socialist critical of both the Soviet Union and the United States in the cold war.  He declined the offer of the Nobel Prize in literature.  In his Being and Nothingness Sartre conceives humans as beings who create the world by rebelling against authority and accepting responsibility for their actions.  His book asserts total responsibility for the decisions of individuals.  It also made recognition of one’s absolute freedom of choice as a necessary condition for human existence.  His later book, Existentialism and Human Emotion is essentially a summary of Being and Nothingness.  Sartre tells us that we must face the implications of a universe without purpose.  Man is responsible for what he is and does.  There is no given human nature that he is obliged to fulfill.  Man chooses his values and may choose to be an entirely different person at any time.

Conclusion.  Existentialism is the philosophy that stresses individual existence, freedom and choice.  It views humans as defining their own meaning in life as beings who try to make rational decisions in an irrational world.  Existentialism is all about putting man in touch with himself.


 

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Last Updated—7 June 2015.
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