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  1. Swiveltaffy
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    Swiveltaffy Contributing Member Contributor

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    Worthwhileness of Existence: Questioning the Merit of Totality of Subjective Experience

    Discussion in 'Debate Room' started by Swiveltaffy, Sep 24, 2014.

    Yo:

    So, yeah, pretentious and unnecessary thread title. I guess it gets at what I want to direct this thread towards analyzing (feel free to divert my efforts).

    I just finished reading some essays by Albert Camus regarding the nature of the Absurd. If you are unfamiliar, a general way to nontotally sum up this idea of the Absurd is something such as: The human creature exists in a world that is lacking objective meaning, but the human creature, despite knowing this, still desires an objective meaning. To add more substance to this, the human creature also desires a sort of underlying rationality and an ability to fully comprehend the nature within he exists.

    I subscribe to the above. I find objective meaning inexistent. I find truth to be something deducible only to an assumption and not beyond that. Logic is a device that cannot fully explain reality. At the root of every argument, there is leap in rationale. Essentially, a complete picture of truth seems something inherently required to be divorced from the human mind.

    So, I am at odds with the world. Further, I am at odds with myself, unable to overcome a desire for a reality that isn't possible within the parameters of the reality that I vie to transcend. Thus, I am stuck deluded; and beyond this, I must acknowledge the fruitlessness of my human agenda and the inevitable request of that unduely personified skeletal beast. It is hard to see the point. Of course, one could easily say, "Ah! But, you have this subjective experience that allows you to define yourself, and in essence, a sort of objectivity is reached through this network of greater subjectivity that is the totality of human consciousness." Logically, I would contend this: Once I die, time ceases, and much like when I sleep, everything will speed by as if nothing has occurred, and since human existence is sensibly required to end at a point (whether it be thousands or millions of years) this breadth of time is but a miniscule fragment of the universe's life, and everything will essentially be dust instantly, since I am not present to understand what the passage of time is." This contention is not perfect, and it is self-viewed. I'd say further, though, that on an emotional level, I find it tempting to say: "I don't care." This existence feels too burdensome. It is weight that I never asked to carry. Tell me, why I must care about this temporary platform that is ever-sinking that we stand upon? Of course, I must not care, but I ought care, yes?

    Then I return to the brevity of man's time in the sun; and soon he will melt away as everything has, and to paraphrase Aurelius: an assembling of matter and a disassembling. It is laughable, though, that I reverence such a wise man, for I abandon his Stoicism in my current assault on Nature and her plans, as I suggest that I am not in the right place, that she has placed me with ill-judgement.

    I am sorry for this progression (I get caught up and I lose track of awareness). My questions to any (and you may, if you find it possible, use anything I've said to make argument against or for) would be: "What is your perspective on existence? Is it worth living? Is the temporal nature of man's existence a reason to reject said existence?"

    As well, if possible and if wanted, I would like to not only look at this logically, but also emotionally. I can logically contend that there is benefit to serving a positive role in society, as others do not bear my negativity, and if I help them, then I am in essence (from those perspectives that I theoretically have helped) perpetuating a permanent good, since from their minds human existence isn't such a short thing. I can logically agree that Aurelius' blend of Stoicism is utterly beautiful and that human existence could be better if some tenets were applied. I can logically agree that there is nothing, necessarily, stopping me from "becoming happy." But, to do this, disregards a sincere emotional aspect of the human perspective. As well, to struggle against this pessimism if a war, and it is questionable to fight. I think we could address this other half of the equation as well.

    But, this is all to discretion. This is an obnoxious post and could easily become a more obnoxious thread. I say only: Come if you will, and I wish not to burden anyone who wishes to walk away. It is all for fun, I suppose. A curiosity. A spectacle, maybe.
     
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  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    The way I see it, the fact that we're all going to die someday and be forgotten makes life more meaningful. We only have a short time to experience all the joys, sorrows, comforts, discomforts, etc. (after all, we have to take both the good and the bad) that life has to offer. If we spend a ton of time thinking about Absurdism, existentialism, or nihilism, we become so overwhelmed with pessimism that we forget to enjoy life.
     
  3. Swiveltaffy
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    Swiveltaffy Contributing Member Contributor

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    I get that line of thinking, but I think this idea of "enjoying life" seems questionable. At a point, it seems like lying to the self. As well, there's this innate human want to understand things, and existence is one of those things. These philosophical branches that you just referenced seem to come up as a consequence of trying to understand. What I'm saying: There's this clash of contradictory interests. You know?

    No, but yeah, there's this idea that both happiness and sadness are both rather illusory; by consequence, they are equal. By consequence of this, one could theoretically be one or the other, and this is a certain "choice." I get that as a "strive for" sort of deal, but I don't think it is all too executable.

    Also, I think your first point is referenced in certain existential conclusions. If one is meaningless, then one has the power of equality of experience, and one has the authority to explore and be free to choose these experiences, thus creating an endless stream of potential experience, which empowers the person. I don't buy into this. I feel this disregards part of this paradoxical human conflict.
     
  4. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I have to keep this short in the interest of time.

    The idea of not enjoying life is just as questionable.

    I don't agree that it's like lying to oneself. OK, let's assume the absurdist view is true. So what? Is that in some way going to impact the way I experience life? Is it going to change my relationships? Is it going to change the pleasure I experience when I, say, go out to a bar with my friends? Speaking for myself here, the answer is a clear no to all of these questions.

    Happiness and sadness aren't equal. It's more like they're two sides of the same coin. One can't exist without the other. I don't believe they're illusory either. I experience something I find pleasant, and I call that happiness (this is a gross oversimplification).
     
  5. Swiveltaffy
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    Swiveltaffy Contributing Member Contributor

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    @thirdwind : We hold different views, then. I do find these ideas to affect how I perceive my reality.

    I would agree: enjoying life or not enjoying life are both equally questionable. There is a human point to observe one over the other. I suppose we differ here too.

    I'd say that purporting a view contrary to what one understands to be genuine is lying. I'm suggesting that to pretend happiness seems like lying on a certain front.

    You're right, they aren't equal. I mean more of what you said (of the coin and being of opposite sides). And yes, it seems that suffering and happiness are required dually for either to be a thing. However, I am considering the worthwhileness of the whole batch? What is the point of striving for happiness when suffering is a reality. What is the point in perpetuating that which cannot be perpetuated?
     
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2014
  6. Patra Felino
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    Patra Felino Active Member

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    I'm currently busier than a bee with a massive backlog of honey to make and just can't allow myself to get distracted by this right now, but I may have some free time at the weekend and hope that this thread is still about by then.

    For now, I'll say that:

    1. Personally, I don't feel that thinking about the marvel, point, and not-insignificant burden of existence detracts from my enjoyment of it.

    2. From the emotional side, in the absence of any externally defined purpose to life, the only one that makes sense to me is to maximize happiness in line with the utilitarian way of thinking.
     
  7. Nilfiry
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    Nilfiry Contributing Member

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    There is a purpose to everything, even if that something has no idea what its purpose is. When you take a look outside and see a bee, you wonder what difference does it make if you killed that bee? You know that bees are a major pollinator that help support the survival of many species, including humans, but you still think along the lines of," it is only one bee: there would be little to no impact." However, what exactly determines the importance of scale? A bee to us may seem like nothing, but so does our little planet in a galaxy. The only difference between a bee's purpose and ours is that we spent so much time studying the purpose of everything else that we cannot seem to understand our own purpose. That does not mean there is none. Nature has a delicate balance. Things would not be there if it served no purpose. That is why when you remove or add just one thing, you could potentially destroy the entire ecosystem.

    As for what that purpose actually is, it is hard to say. We know that everything is made of something, and that something is made of something else, so just as cells form organisms, organisms and inorganics form ecosystems, and ecosystems make up the biosphere, it is not far-fetched at all to say that our collective consciousness is also a part of a larger consciousness. Why not? Even though there is no solid proof, this is the very nature of the universe as determined by our own scientific understanding, so why would it not apply to us? We are all parts of a larger consciousness, call it whatever you will, experiencing itself on a smaller scale from different points of views.

    To make this all possible, we all have free will to choose the path that we want to take. It is no different from a writer going to different places to draw different inspirations. However, whether one chooses to box oneself into a limited world or expand into a more vast consciousness, ones worth is always the same because there is already worth in simply existing and experiencing. All paths lead to the same place. That is why beyond the ego, we are all equal and the same, and no life is worth more than the other. It is only when people become too attached to their ego that they lose sight of the truth of life and develop fear and doubt.

    And for the question about time, here is a fun tidbit to think about. Science has already proven that it is possible to repeat your life.
    1. Quantum physics states that anything that can happen will.
    - Has life come to exist on this planet and led to this point? Check. Since it already happened once, it can happen again.
    2. Law of conversation of energy states that energy is neither created nor destroyed.
    - We know that matter and energy are convertible. E=MC^2, KE=1/2m*v^2, etc.
    Conclusion? You can in fact relive your life without being aware of it. Who is to say this is even the first instance? All you need is time for it to happen, but that is irrelevant.
     
  8. Ben414
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    Ben414 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just because some goal isn't objective doesn't mean it has to carry zero value. Ultimately, it is up to you whether it has value. Nothing anybody can say here will be able to tell you differently.

    I am fond of the meaning of life as I interpreted it in Plato's Republic. (I take the ironic interpretation, not the literal one.) There is an objective truth out there. That objective truth will tell us what 'good' is and how we should live our lives to achieve as much of the good as possible. The 'good' is something we should strive for because it will produce the most happiness. This is where nihilistic counter-arguments can claim that happiness is not necessarily something we should strive for. If you want to make this argument (and I'm not sure why you would be writing this and not have killed yourself if you didn't at least to some level), then there is literally no argument that can prove yours wrong. It wouldn't mean your argument is objectively right or that its argument is objectively wrong, but it would end all possible arguments thereafter. Moving on...

    We personally can't reach objectivity because we have prior biases and insufficient knowledge, and we as a species may never reach it--you could even say we will never reach it--but that doesn't mean it isn't out there. However, just because we can't reach it doesn't mean that we can't try to get as close to it as we possibly can. Its meaning of life comes from how one contributes to humanity getting closer to that goal. This produces the most happiness in our species' total since we don't know the good right now, and thus, are only able to contribute to the good this way. Combining this with another one of Plato's works, we will be individually happy as well by doing this because it reaches the best form of pleasure that we know without knowing the 'good.' He makes an argument that pleasure through sex, nourishment, etc. is really only going from displeasure to repose so it comparatively feels like pleasure. He sees love as the only true pleasure that humans currently feel as going from repose to pleasure.
     
  9. stevesh
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    stevesh Banned Contributor

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    You ever looked at your hand, man? I mean really looked at it?
     
  10. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    But I'm not pretending. I actually do experience happiness. We could easily turn this argument around and ask why we pretend sadness/hopelessness/whatever.

    Regarding objective meaning, the way I see it is that this concept is like other abstractions like beauty and love. There's no objective standard for either of those things, but that doesn't stop us from finding certain things beautiful and loving certain things/people. I see no reason to let the lack of objectivity stop us from experiencing happiness, etc.
     
  11. ChickenFreak
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    I think that joy, pleasure, and reducing pain, in oneself and others, is a worthwhile end in itself. I don't need to have a reason for my existence, in order for these things to be worthwhile. As long as beings that can perceive exist, it's worthwhile for them to perceive happiness rather than unhappiness.
     
  12. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm having trouble just getting past the first word of the thread title
     
  13. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Your argument seems based on human reason, but you're forgetting that most of what we do is based on other faculties. Humans (as a whole) are immobilized by the weight of cowardice and inertia. Telling someone to jump off a bridge goes so much against both of these concepts, its just not going to happen regardless of any reason we might apply to your advice.
     
  14. Swiveltaffy
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    Swiveltaffy Contributing Member Contributor

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    Are talking about "worthwhileness" or "yo?"

    ETA: Nevermind.
     
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  15. Swiveltaffy
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    Swiveltaffy Contributing Member Contributor

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    What are you getting at? There's a wit duping me, I know it.
     
  16. Swiveltaffy
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    Swiveltaffy Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm going to quote without using the quote function. I don't know if I've simply misused it, but it seems that I can only quote entire posts and then crop afterwards. Considering the amounts of posts, I'm going to be lazy. Quotes will be obviously designated. This will be long-winded and shit, so bear with me.

    @Nilfiry :
    >There is a purpose to everything, even if that something has no idea what its purpose is.

    I disagree, unless you're defining "purpose" differently than I am. There is a seeming causality, but this is questionable. I believe Hume made comments on this. But, regarding a purpose, I don't think one is self-evident, and in the absence of a self-evident purpose, I don't think it follows to presume that one is present. Maybe there is an underlying physical system, but that doesn't mean that there is a purpose (a rationale, a reasoning that suggests a why). Again, though, this depends on definition.

    >To make this all possible, we all have free will to choose the path that we want to take.

    The existence of free will is debatable, but I'd agree that there is this intuitive human conviction that autonomy over of the self exists. The ability to override certain feelings or persuaded viewpoints is difficult. In this circumstance, sure, I can theoretically (again, not an absolute, as there could be physical mechanisms that prevent one from being capable of doing something) change my outlook. However, there are factors that I can logically analyze that suggest against such a change; further, there are emotional factors that suggest against a change. I could suggest that it is true that human existence is pointless and momentary, that the accumulation of happiness and suffering is benign, that a greater good is the utter removal of consciousness.

    Regarding the rest of your comments, I see that your positing the potential of a greater consciousness, or even (maybe) the existence of infinite universes, and thus, infinite selves in a way. In this environment, then human consciousness extends indefinitely, and in this, I am, in one way or another, perpetuated successfully. If this is true, then I have achieved a sort of objectivity, in that human experience is universal and forever. Maybe I could invest in that, yes? I'd say no, because something of this nature -- something infinite and ever-stretching in all directions -- completely transcends what I identify as myself. I cannot comprehend infinity. I cannot comprehend this strange multiverse in which replicates of me exist. This goes beyond how I relate to my reality. Thus, even if it is true, I find myself rejecting it as inhuman and conter-intuitive to the self-aware and conscious experience.

    @Ben414 :
    >Just because some goal isn't objective doesn't mean it has to carry zero value.

    I completely agree. I am not suggesting that the subjective experience is worthless, but instead, questioning if it is worth existing for. I would contend that the subjective experience can be very meaningful. However, to experience that meaning, one has to live. Living requires an effort that feels undue. I don't mean to sound like an existentialist in that to walk down the street is to feel the weight of existence, but there's something to this. One can conclude that one never asked to be born. One can conclude that one's death is imminent. One can conclude that once one's death occurs, one is gone. One can ask: Why do I continue if my point is only to die? I reference Ecclesiastes without the final God clause. What worth is man's toil under the sun? Essentially, is the meaning worth the effort of living. Granted, this is subjective, and to a point, relies on one's decision or judgement of the cost/benefit ratio. But everything is rather like this, and I think it can be analyzed regardless.

    >Nothing anybody can say here will be able to tell you differently.
    Yes, and while I may remain unconvinced, I think we can still approach this topic with discussion. There may be no right answer, but there is still the human want to pursue such an answer. (Though, this is where the problem seems to arise.)

    >I am fond of the meaning of life as I interpreted it in Plato's Republic. (I take the ironic interpretation, not the >literal one.) There is an objective truth out there. That objective truth will tell us >what 'good' is and how we >should live our lives to achieve as much of the good as possible. The 'good' is something we should strive for >because it will produce the most happiness. This is where >nihilistic counter-arguments can claim that happiness >is not necessarily something we should strive for. If you want to make this argument (and I'm not sure why you >would be writing this and >not have killed yourself if you didn't at least to some level), then there is literally no >argument that can prove yours wrong. It wouldn't mean your argument is objectively right or that its >argument is >objectively wrong, but it would end all possible arguments thereafter.

    I would say, in my interactions with others, that I subscribe to this idea of greater good and overall total happiness. I'd say that it works well with the human want to be treated justly. I wouldn't say that happiness shouldn't be sought, but instead that it feels fruitless in the end. The question of suicide: it comes down to two things from my perspective. I don't kill myself, because I am a coward. I don't kill myself, because there are others who care about me, and I can't allow myself to be so selfish. This, though, is actually where another problem comes into play: One feels obligated to live. Regarding the correctness of an argument, yes an argument is only true so far as it follows a valid logical progression from its underlying assumptions. We can both have opposite, equally true arguments if the assumptions are accepted. This goes with anything, though. I suppose I'm just trying to get people espousing a bit.

    I will respond vaguely to your second paragraph. Yes, the idea of human progress seems reasonable, and it supplies the answer to this problem of worth or outcome. I could say: My actions here, if I do them with good, will foster a better humanity and the next peoples will live better than I, and after time they may reach this paradisaical existence I so lament for not having. I feel that this, though, is too long-reaching and distant to relate to the human creature of the present. It is hard (though very honorable) to hold out for a result that I will never hope to understand experientially.

    @thirdwind :
    >But I'm not pretending. I actually do experience happiness. We could easily turn this argument around and ask why >we pretend sadness/hopelessness/whatever.

    Certainly. Happiness, related to the human perception of what is real, seems to be there. I wasn't trying to contend that happiness is a delusion. Instead, I was suggesting that convincing oneself to be happy, opposed to sorrowful, feels disingenuous, relative to these conclusions reached regarding the nature of human existence. It almost feels as this: I have realized truth in that human existence is tiny and fading, and though this brings me low, I have understood something, and to detach myself from this truth is to detach myself from the only thing that is authentic. Granted, though, this relies on certain assumptions. You could posit the opposite. I am speaking, though, from a point of view that feels that happiness is the temporary mode, that suffering is underlying it, and once the momentary happiness goes away, one is left with the hollowness of existence -- and this seems the default, is seems natural and second-nature, and because of these other listed conclusions, it seems true. Again, though, only to a point.

    >Regarding objective meaning, the way I see it is that this concept is like other abstractions like beauty and love. >There's no objective standard for either of those things, but that doesn't stop us >from finding certain things >beautiful and loving certain things/people. I see no reason to let the lack of objectivity stop us from experiencing >happiness, etc.

    I agree. We can still have experience of value without objectivity. But, objectivity instills this idea of being part of something beyond mortal. It is like being religiously ordained. I suppose this is where Hitchens would say that an objective god appeals to the side of human nature that wants to be a slave. I wouldn't say that the lack of objectivity prevents us from being happy. However, there is a point where someone realizes that there are at odds with this more primal yearning. I yearn for a sort of absoluteness. I am not suggesting that this is a fair thing to yearn, but it still happens. So, it feels that my conscious experience works against me. It is like being told to want things that can't be real but still wanting them. There's this element of human consciousness that is incorrigible and demanding despite other analysis.

    @ChickenFreak :
    >I think that joy, pleasure, and reducing pain, in oneself and others, is a worthwhile end in itself. I don't need to have >a reason for my existence, in order for these things to be worthwhile. As long >as beings that can perceive exist, it's >worthwhile for them to perceive happiness rather than unhappiness.

    I think these things are valuable, but they seem lacking in the long run, you know? It also seems difficult to attain steady happiness. Happiness, it is inconsistent. As well, how does a human being become happy? How does a human being accept its nature, its flux? As well, this life is temporary, so what is my effort moving towards? Only a grave?

    @123456789 :
    >Your argument seems based on human reason, but you're forgetting that most of what we do is based on other >faculties. Humans (as a whole) are immobilized by the weight of cowardice and >inertia. Telling someone to jump >off a bridge goes so much against both of these concepts, its just not going to happen regardless of any reason we >might apply to your advice.

    Ha! Based only so far in human reason. *insert emoticon* I am immobilized by the weight of cowardice. My cowardice to live, my cowardice to die.
    But really, I think you're pointing out something really good here: the limits of reason and its ability to adequately influence a person. This is problematic, though. Because, if logic will not save me, then what will? Emotionally, it is commanding to leap away into nothingness. So, in a sense, when logic is both an enemy and a bastion for enlightenment. Isn't it such bullshit, though? Whether its through an abuse of logic, or making it shift so much, it seems that nothing is tenable. The nature is shifting, is slithering about in a way uncatchable. Again, man seems at odds with man's programming. If one were to subscribe to Calvinism (or, at least, my incredibly narrow and likely incorrect vague understanding and representation of Calvinism): designed flawed then asked to work nominally. (Holy hell, that was a bad line, I apologize.)
     
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2014
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