Theme of the necessity of making decisions in the face of inadequate knowledge--e.g., choice of spouse, religious commitment
This brings with it deep anxiety. This anxiety is “the dizziness of freedom which occurs when freedom looks down into its own possibility.”
We touch reality most deeply at times of painful decision.
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
The theme of the death of God & the resulting disorientation & experience of nothingness (meaninglessness).
“Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market place, and cried [more]
incessantly, ‘I seek God! I seek God!’ . . . ‘Whither is God’ he cried. ‘I shall tell you. We have killed him--you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how have we done this? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizen? What did we do when we unchained this [more]
earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving now? Away from all suns? Are we now plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there any up or down left? Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing? . . . God is dead. . . . And we [more]
have killed him. . . . Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must not we ourselves become gods simply to seem worthy of it?’” (from The Gay Science, 1882)
What kind of a statement is Nietzsche’s declaration of the death of God?
One can overcome the meaninglessness brought about by the death of God by an act of will--a superhuman effort of will.
Existentialism is a European school of philosophy which begins with the publication of Martin Heidegger’s (1889-1976) Being and Time in 1927 & lasted into the 1960s.
Some leading Existentialists
Martin Buber (Israeli, 1878-1965)
Jean Paul-Sartre (French, 1905-1980)
Simone de Beauvoir (French, 1908-1986)
The word Existentialism -- concern with the concrete, the individual, & the unique vs essentialism - concern with the universal, the general.
The principal themes of Existentialism (6)
1. The primacy of the individual
Rejection of all attempts at a universal definition of humanness.
Description of specific moods & feelings.
2. Critique of reason & an emphasis on will
Western philosophy has been dominated by reason to the neglect of will & feelings.
Miguel de Unamuno (Spanish, 1864-1936): “Man is said to be a reasoning animal. I do not know why he has not been defined as
an effective or feeling animal. Perhaps what differentiates him from other animals is feeling rather than reason.”
What is living authentically? The Existentialists were reluctant to answer this question with a specific position. Minimally, it means self-awareness, especially on the level of feeling. Cf. Socrates’ “the unexamined life is not worth living.”
5. Boundary situations
Special events which break one out of routine and roles
These are an opportunity for reflection and change