The myth of reason

By Christopher Wink | Feb 27, 2007 | Existentialism

In philosophical discourse, discussions of reason are not without precedence. It seems that all of the great thinkers of the 19th and 20th centuries had thoughts on rationality and its role in history, society and individual decision.

German philosopher Karl Jaspers (1883-1969) is known for his unshakable resolve towards his truth and ethics, so, it is understandable that he held a strong belief in the meaning of reason, as derived from an interpretation of moral action (Kirkbright, 85).

Conversely, a great many other philosophers are more famously tied to the topic in discussions of the ‘myth of reason.’ Prussian-born Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) criticized rationality for its idealism, its ability to be understood and evaluated by the actor. As an example, tying the system of reason to Socrates, Nietzsche suggested that rationality eroded Greek tragedy because it forced the art to follow the forms of its idealism (Stewart, 307).

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Simone Weil and affliction

By Christopher Wink | Feb 9, 2007 | Existentialism

The life of French philosophical writer and activist Simone Weil made a noticeable impact in many spheres of intellectual thought despite her politically-orientated, voluntary starvation little more than three decades after her birth. Despite her attachment to 20th century philosophy, perhaps her most powerful mark is her use of the idea of affliction.

As Weil (1909-1943) wrote, very few souls are able to attain affliction, which she described as broad suffering as a means to unite with God, yet it is through it that we can come closer to our Creator. One avenue for approaching her use of affliction is to view it as a theodicy.

Since the Greek term’s German beginning in the early eighteenth century, theodicy, which is an attempt to rectify the existence of evil with the idea of a benevolent God, has been a popular theme for thinkers of every breed. From German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) to French Protestant theologian John Calvin (1509-1564) and his eponymous movement of accepting all acts as part of God’s just plan, legends of intellectual thought have wrestled with this spiritual paradox, rectifying a benevolent Creator and a painful existence.

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Reality's absurdity to Existentialists

By Christopher Wink | Apr 15, 2007 | Existentialism

There are likely few more important issues for philosophy than the question of existence, a subject that has been covered in innumerable ways by every successful intellectual. Perhaps one of the more popular means for understanding this world is to see it through the veil of the absurd.

Legendary Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) had something to say on that concept. An avid critic of the structure of religion in Denmark, Kierkegaard wrote often of organized religious dogma, crediting its absurdity and contradiction with keeping its followers distanced from God. A century later Parisian philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980) voiced his own thoughts on individual experiences which, he wrote, was absurd because of disconnect from each other.

Countless thinkers have noted absurdity throughout reality, but moreover, the entire notion of life is absurd. To establish existence, emergence must occur. For most of us, our existence began with our birth, our emergence from our parents. Something must precede every beginning, so from where did existence itself emerge? This is the game philosophers play and because there can be no answer, it is, to be sure, absurd. Any form of reality then, must also be absurd.

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Reality’s absurdity to Existentialists

By Christopher Wink | Apr 15, 2007 | Existentialism

There are likely few more important issues for philosophy than the question of existence, a subject that has been covered in innumerable ways by every successful intellectual. Perhaps one of the more popular means for understanding this world is to see it through the veil of the absurd.

Legendary Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) had something to say on that concept. An avid critic of the structure of religion in Denmark, Kierkegaard wrote often of organized religious dogma, crediting its absurdity and contradiction with keeping its followers distanced from God. A century later Parisian philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980) voiced his own thoughts on individual experiences which, he wrote, was absurd because of disconnect from each other.

Countless thinkers have noted absurdity throughout reality, but moreover, the entire notion of life is absurd. To establish existence, emergence must occur. For most of us, our existence began with our birth, our emergence from our parents. Something must precede every beginning, so from where did existence itself emerge? This is the game philosophers play and because there can be no answer, it is, to be sure, absurd. Any form of reality then, must also be absurd.

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Logical paradox in Kierkegaard

By Christopher Wink | Jan 30, 2007 | Existentialism

I have never been confused for a great thinker. Philosophy is a world of thought, unprovoked and often aimless, an unlikely home for someone like me. I think I enjoy it anyway. I enjoy it because I have assignments that ask me to define an existential paradox.

This is no simple task, one page limit or not. I can now say that I have read Fear and Trembling by 19th century Danish philosophy Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), and I managed to understand enough to be forced into thought. Still, I am not uncomfortable with admitting that I was forced to do some additional research to even begin to define an existential paradox, and I will try my very best to convey whatever it is I learned.

Any paradox is simply a phrase that seems contradictory to intuition but may be true. In his 1980 essay entitled System and Structure, which appeared in Communication and Exchange, English writer Anthony Wilden defined an existential paradox as a “conscious or unconscious intentionalization… about life which denies the usually accepted categories of truth and falsity about ‘reality.” I didn’t know what this meant when I first read it. I probably still don’t.

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Existential men of de Beauvoir

By Christopher Wink | Apr 17, 2007 | Existentialism

In 1947 French author and philosopher Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986) published The Ethics of Ambiguity, arguably the most accessible explanation of a host of existential ideas and themes. A notable member of a notable age in French philosophy, Beauvoir had a close relationship with Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980) and was a contemporary of Albert Camus (1913-1960) and fellow Parisian Simone Weil (1909-1943). In Ethics, one of Beauvoir’s more memorable techniques was to characterize a series of men with certain existential qualities in order to make the themes easier to understand through their personification.

In one way or another, almost all of the personalities form and fall into one or another, but one is particularly interesting in the problems it encounters, the serious man. This man is enraptured in the very spirit of seriousness, considering his values bigger than his personage, certainly an example of Sartre’s concept of bad faith.

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Absurdity in Camus

By Christopher Wink | Apr 17, 2007 | Existentialism

Albert Camus is no small figure in twentieth century philosophy. Born in Algeria to a working-class family, to many, Camus is a central figure who, despite his disapproving, has become the face of existentialism. Because of his importance, his assertion that suicide is the ultimate philosophical question is no small matter.

In the late 1930s Camus (1913-1960) began writing of reality’s absurdity, expounding on the subject in his legendary Myth of Sisyphus and continuing the theme in works like The Stranger and others. Camus’s paradox of the absurd took on the idea that, while we do much to convince ourselves otherwise, with the universe in mind, our lives are unquestionably insignificant.

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