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Humanism and Existentialism
Posted: 11 June 2014 09:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
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Lois - 31 May 2014 10:41 PM
VYAZMA - 31 May 2014 05:25 PM
Occam. - 31 May 2014 05:17 PM

Well, apparently Vyazma managed to extract secular humanistic principles from the christian humanism the teacher presented him with.  smile

Occam

Well I became an atheist at the same time roughly. 6th or 7th grade. I just thought the nun was spewing the same old catholic School Mumbo Jumbo.
The religion class Nun was also probably a humanist too.  She had lot’s of those peace signs with the dove stickers. Played guitar and sang for us.

A person can do those things and not be a humanist.

Lois

Lois, you may want to go back to posts 14 and 15.  Vy clearly stated “My seventh grade history teacher was a Humanist Catholic Nun.  She taught us many values of Humanism.”  While you define religious humanism and secular humanism as exclusive of each other, you can’t successfully demand that Vyazma accept your definition.

Occam

I don’t. I was simply giving my opinion. I don’t demand anything from anyone.

Lois

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Posted: 12 June 2014 11:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
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Michelle D. - 08 June 2014 12:38 PM

As GdB said, Sartre called Existentialism a (form of) humanism, and I really, really would love to read his big book, but might never get there.

Just to avoid confusion: I assume with Sartres ‘big book’ you mean ‘Being and Nothingness’. Sartre’s ‘Existentialism Is a Humanism’ is more a small pamphlet, and is still available, and quite an easy read.

Michelle D. - 08 June 2014 12:38 PM

Existentialism, as far as I get it, is actually a reaction against a scientific (and deterministic) worldview.

I think that is not the right way to say it: it is not a reaction against science, but on science. In previous world views (in the western world especially the Christian world view), man had a well defined place in the ‘big chain of being’, and from that values and ethics followed clearly. According to Sartre, in the scientific age we have no such orientation anymore. Therefore his famous adagio ‘Existence precedes essence’:

The proposition that existence precedes essence (French: l’existence précède l’essence) is a central claim of existentialism, which reverses the traditional philosophical view that the essence or nature of a thing is more fundamental and immutable than its existence. To existentialists, human beings—through their consciousness—create their own values and determine a meaning for their life because, in the beginning, the human being does not possess any inherent identity or value. By posing the acts that constitute him or her, he or she makes his or her existence more significant.

Michelle D. - 08 June 2014 12:38 PM

Sort of like Romanticism in the face of the Enlightenment. 

So not quite: Romanticism really was a reaction against Enlightenment.

Michelle D. - 08 June 2014 12:38 PM

It seeks to bring “the human element” back into a world of physics and where everything can be calculated one way or the other.

Existentialism looks what is left for humans in the light of a scientific world view. The answer is off course: not much. (Therefore it is easy to confuse existentialism with nihilism.) But what is left the freedom to choose oneself, in the eyes of the others.

Michelle D. - 08 June 2014 12:38 PM

I would throw it in a box with art, not philosophy, and therefore not comparable to Humanism on that level.

Yeah, more specific literature. But there might be an overlap with philosophy. Philosophy was also not always defined the same as it is now. Sure, existentialism does not count very much as a ‘science-oriented philosophy’; but it asks questions that we all ask sometimes in our personal lives. Due to very difficult decisions some people have to make in their lives, existentialist questions become of the utmost importance to them. In this way existentialism still has something to say to us.

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Posted: 12 June 2014 11:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
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TimB - 11 June 2014 03:15 PM

If anything, I would guess that, nihilism is an extreme form of existentialism.— With existentialism calling in to question the meaning of life, while nihilism has already decided that the answer is that there is no meaning.

Good way to put it. However, I think that in existentialism it is important that the questions are never answered definitely. A ‘real existentialist’ keeps asking the questions for himself, and never trusts that an answer at one moment is also valid at the next. (E.g. an existentialist can, per definition, not be a rule based ethicist.)

A nihilist has answered the questions, and in an existentialist view, does not lead a real human life anymore. Once somebody thinks his questions of life are answered, he has stopped existing: he is vegetating.

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Posted: 12 June 2014 11:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]
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VYAZMA - 11 June 2014 04:03 PM

Another angle is that outside of the DNA code to replicate(assigning some basic drivers such as food, shelter, reproduction) there is no meaning to humanity. As such we relate to these “meanings” through behavioral drives, but they do not constitute anymeaning as a long term goal or destination. A purpose.
That’s opposed to an assigned meaning such as “we are god’s creations and we are here to build a heaven on Earth”.

Right. Existentialism does not know general, eternal, answers. A purpose or meaning of humanity would imply such an answer.

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Posted: 13 June 2014 12:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]
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VYAZMA - 11 June 2014 04:03 PM

...as you said, each individual can assign meaning to his or her own life-definitely. But as a humanity, I see no purpose…

Re: assigning meaning to humanity

Each of us is interconnected to some degree with the rest of humanity, i.e., we would not be born, survive infancy, survive long after infancy, develop communication or complex concepts, or survive as a species if we were perpetually only individuals without connection to other humans. 

Although we each may come up with our own concept of meaning that is salient for us as individuals, I see no reason that we could not do the same collectively, at least in subgroups.  As a matter of fact, I think this often does occur.  Most on this forum would agree that when that collective concept of meaning is based on the supernatural, it is erroneous.  But I suggest that if a collective concept of meaning is based on what we can determine to be reality based… what’s the problem? (other than the difficulties that may be involved in updating our collective sense of meaning in regards to our developing understanding of reality).

[ Edited: 13 June 2014 12:27 AM by TimB ]
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As a fabrication of our own consciousness, our assignations of meaning are no less “real”, but since humans and the fabrications of our consciousness are routinely fraught with error, it makes sense, to me, to, sometimes, question such fabrications.

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Posted: 13 June 2014 11:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]
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TimB - 13 June 2014 12:12 AM

Re: assigning meaning to humanity

Each of us is interconnected to some degree with the rest of humanity, i.e., we would not be born, survive infancy, survive long after infancy, develop communication or complex concepts, or survive as a species if we were perpetually only individuals without connection to other humans.

Yes Tim, but if I may, be careful. What are the common denominators of those interconnections?
It’s all DNA derived, human behavioral processes. Instinctual survival.
I’m not saying we are not interconnected with each other. I’m saying there is no goal or purpose to humanity.
In the same way I would say there is no goal or purpose to a huge termite mound, teeming with termites.
What’s the goal there?  What’s the purpose? Are all of the termites inter-connected? Yes, definitely.
But after that we have to ask the question?  Which came first, the wood or the termites?
Of course that’s an over-simplification of evolution, but it illustrates my point-hopefully. If you can track that.
(coarsely track the wood/termite timeline backwards through known and supposed evolution lines. Now coarsely track it forward into the future using reckoning. What have you got?)

Although we each may come up with our own concept of meaning that is salient for us as individuals, I see no reason that we could not do the same collectively, at least in subgroups.

Right, we do. Again it’s all DNA, behavioral derived. Churches, nations, Bridge Clubs etc..

But I suggest that if a collective concept of meaning is based on what we can determine to be reality based… what’s the problem? (other than the difficulties that may be involved in updating our collective sense of meaning in regards to our developing understanding of reality).

Great question. I’m going to try and answer it(my $0.02) in a few sentences.
Let’s say the goal is World Peace and no hunger. That’s based on reality. Where are we on that now?
We’ve never really seemed to get anywhere on that issue-ever! Human’s have had consciousness on those items for quite awhile now.
It would seem to be a no brainer. Humans have had the technology(on all fronts) to arrive at that goal for at least 50 years.
But, some have had the impetus for it for thousands of years.
“Evil” and “Good” cancel each other out. That just makes: “it is what it is.”
Or…the needs of individual(can be one person, or a sub-group) survival and collective survival clash. Constantly!(look at my posts on the children/refugee/immigrant thread.)
Or yet another way…do you think it’s possible to get everyone on the same page as far as meaning or goals are concerned?

[ Edited: 13 June 2014 11:36 AM by VYAZMA ]
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Posted: 13 June 2014 11:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]
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V, Not discounting any of your points, I suggest that just as individuals can assign meaning to their lives, collectives of humans (subsets of everyone) can assign “meaning” to human existence.  I doubt, as do you, that everyone will ever be on the same page, in this regard.

As far as whether certain collective assignations of meaning, will inevitably or ultimately improve human conditions, I expect that certain assignations of meaning would have a better chance of doing so, than others. E.g., humanistic assignations of meaning are probably better for us, in the long run, than most theologically based assignations of meaning.

[ Edited: 13 June 2014 11:57 AM by TimB ]
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As a fabrication of our own consciousness, our assignations of meaning are no less “real”, but since humans and the fabrications of our consciousness are routinely fraught with error, it makes sense, to me, to, sometimes, question such fabrications.

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Posted: 13 June 2014 11:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]
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I think this “Purpose of Humanity” thing that goes on depends on what we define purpose as.

I’m of the opinion that the only purpose of life and humanity is to continue to exist through successive generations. My reasoning for this is simply because that’s what life’s function is. The sun makes heat, gravity pulls things down, and life makes more life. Humans do this through individual synthetic purposes that help them thrive.

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Posted: 13 June 2014 11:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]
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TimB - 13 June 2014 11:46 AM

V, Not discounting any of your points, I suggest that just as individuals can assign meaning to their lives, collectives of humans (subsets of everyone) can assign “meaning” to human existence.  I doubt, as do you, that everyone will ever be on the same page, in this regard.

Can you give some examples Tim of what “meaning” or purpose people could assign to humanity?
Other than faith-based ones.
Plus, is your answer going to be tainted by your own subjective overview?
I’m not interested in having a discussion about how we can improve humanity here.
That’s waaay off-topic.

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Posted: 13 June 2014 12:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]
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VYAZMA - 13 June 2014 11:56 AM
TimB - 13 June 2014 11:46 AM

V, Not discounting any of your points, I suggest that just as individuals can assign meaning to their lives, collectives of humans (subsets of everyone) can assign “meaning” to human existence.  I doubt, as do you, that everyone will ever be on the same page, in this regard.

Can you give some examples Tim of what “meaning” or purpose people could assign to humanity?
Other than faith-based ones.
Plus, is your answer going to be tainted by your own subjective overview?
I’m not interested in having a discussion about how we can improve humanity here.
That’s waaay off-topic.

Everybody will give you an awnser with their own subjective overview. Unless you want raw scientific data, it is unreasonable to expect anything else.

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Posted: 13 June 2014 12:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]
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Achrelos - 13 June 2014 11:55 AM

I think this “Purpose of Humanity” thing that goes on depends on what we define purpose as.

Fine. But there’s no need to over-complicate the issue.
We are already using terms like “meaning” “purpose” “goals” etc…I’m to blame for that myself.
It’s all the same in this context.
If DNA replication and evolution serve a purpose other than replication-let’s hear it.

I’m of the opinion that the only purpose of life and humanity is to continue to exist through successive generations. My reasoning for this is simply because that’s what life’s function is. The sun makes heat, gravity pulls things down, and life makes more life. Humans do this through individual synthetic purposes that help them thrive.

Right. Although I ‘m not sure I know what you mean by “individual synthetic purposes”.

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Posted: 13 June 2014 12:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]
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Achrelos - 13 June 2014 12:04 PM

Everybody will give you an answer with their own subjective overview. Unless you want raw scientific data, it is unreasonable to expect anything else.

There you go. And only if we find raw, scientific data on a meaning will we have an answer.
Such as super-fine micro-print on DNA strands that say: “Made in Xorchlos”.
Or buried, deep data tablets in the ground that prove we we’re all grown in a giant Vat by other ETs.
(but then we simply answer the humanity(or earth-life-DNA) question) The answer to the greater purpose of the Universe will still exist. LOL

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Posted: 13 June 2014 12:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]
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VYAZMA - 13 June 2014 11:56 AM
TimB - 13 June 2014 11:46 AM

V, Not discounting any of your points, I suggest that just as individuals can assign meaning to their lives, collectives of humans (subsets of everyone) can assign “meaning” to human existence.  I doubt, as do you, that everyone will ever be on the same page, in this regard.

Can you give some examples Tim of what “meaning” or purpose people could assign to humanity?
Other than faith-based ones.
Plus, is your answer going to be tainted by your own subjective overview?
I’m not interested in having a discussion about how we can improve humanity here.
That’s waaay off-topic.

I don’t like to think of my overall subjective view as “tainting” my answers, as that has a pejorative connotation.  But of course, it effects my answers.  As you point out, everything we are, and do, and think is a product of our evolution as organisms. We humans have, also, developed the capacity to think and form concepts. And each thought may effect another thought.

Archelos gave an example of “meaning” or purpose people could assign to humanity.

We (some of us) could form and adhere to the concept that our meaning as humans is to maximize our quality of life for all of us, as much as we are able, now, and in our future.  Historically, I would say that we humans seem to be moving in that direction, overall, though we have, and do, and will, often fail miserably (and quite possibly we will fail ultimately and absolutely).  Still, in the meantime, we could assign that meaning.

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As a fabrication of our own consciousness, our assignations of meaning are no less “real”, but since humans and the fabrications of our consciousness are routinely fraught with error, it makes sense, to me, to, sometimes, question such fabrications.

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Posted: 13 June 2014 12:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]
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There is no meaning to the universe, life in general, humanity, or personally other that what we define by and for ourselves.

Occam

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Posted: 13 June 2014 12:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]
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TimB - 13 June 2014 11:46 AM

As far as whether certain collective assignations of meaning, will inevitably or ultimately improve human conditions, I expect that certain assignations of meaning would have a better chance of doing so, than others. E.g., humanistic assignations of meaning are probably better for us, in the long run, than most theologically based assignations of meaning.

I see you added more to this post.
First I quickly regretted putting that second part in my response to your post. The one about world peace and hunger.
I used it as a counter-point example. Big mistake. That’s going to get people off course here.
My stupidity there. That’s a big derailer.

Now to your addendum here… This is why I regretted putting that second part in. We’re off-topic.
To get back on topic please try to give some examples of how people would assign a purpose to humanity.
What is the purpose of humanity? This isn’t a discussion about how we can make a better world.

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