Albert Camus: The Myth of Sisyphus

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Nick_A
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Re: Albert Camus: The Myth of Sisyphus

Post by Nick_A » Fri Feb 14, 2020 6:20 am

Immanuel Can wrote:
Fri Feb 14, 2020 5:36 am
Nick_A wrote:
Fri Feb 14, 2020 5:02 am
Simone weil
Okay, you're not going to marry her. :cry:

Can you at least date her for a bit, so you can get her off your mind?

Meanwhile, let's just talk about Camus.
Your trouble is that you do not admire talent as I do. You are too duality based That is probably why you cannot appreciate Christianity as I do. You do not know that the lower parts of the human soul rise from the earth while the higher conscious part involves from above. To come up with a reasonable response as to why jesus voluntarily endured the cross seems sensless without some personal god. and without it maybe it was a suicidal complex. The why of it escapes you.

There is talent which enables a person to sacrifice pleasure for the sake of experiential truth but you don't respect it. You have no idea why Camus felt of her as he did. Sure it is easy for philosophers to BS in universities but there is something about those who write from the depth of their being which touches the depth of the being for those who read it. I don't know if you will graduate from secular philosophy into universal philosophy in which the great questions including establishing the complimentary relationship of science and religion are realized.

My guess is that albert camus tried to grasp in the head what can only be grasped in the heart as Simone did in both the head and heart and was doomed to fail. But the bottom line is that the attraction to talent as a calling from beyond the world. isn't your saving grace.

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Immanuel Can
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Re: Albert Camus: The Myth of Sisyphus

Post by Immanuel Can » Fri Feb 14, 2020 2:10 pm

Nick_A wrote:
Fri Feb 14, 2020 6:20 am
Your trouble is that you do not admire talent as I do.
Oy vey.
Simone
Nobody cares, Nick. To quote Python, Simone's "come over all dead, and we've given [her] the day off."

You should, too.

Nick_A
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Re: Albert Camus: The Myth of Sisyphus

Post by Nick_A » Fri Feb 14, 2020 2:42 pm

Immanuel Can wrote:
Fri Feb 14, 2020 2:10 pm
Nick_A wrote:
Fri Feb 14, 2020 6:20 am
Your trouble is that you do not admire talent as I do.
Oy vey.
Simone
Nobody cares, Nick. To quote Python, Simone's "come over all dead, and we've given [her] the day off."

You should, too.
The world doesn't care IC but the point is that the deeper questions of philosophy, religion, and science do. Simone represents the rare individual who cares with the whole of themselves.
"To believe in God is not a decision we can make. All we can do is decide not to give our love to false gods. In the first place, we can decide not to believe that the future contains for us an all-sufficient good. The future is made of the same stuff as the present....

"...It is not for man to seek, or even to believe in God. He has only to refuse to believe in everything that is not God. This refusal does not presuppose belief. It is enough to recognize, what is obvious to any mind, that all the goods of this world, past, present, or future, real or imaginary, are finite and limited and radically incapable of satisfying the desire which burns perpetually with in us for an infinite and perfect good... It is not a matter of self-questioning or searching. A man has only to persist in his refusal, and one day or another God will come to him."
-- Weil, Simone, ON SCIENCE, NECESSITY, AND THE LOVE OF GOD, edited by Richard Rees, London, Oxford University Press, 1968.- ©
Albert Camus was looking for meaning in the world where it doesn't exist so concludes that suicide is a logical conclusion. Those like Simone sense that meaning is experiened beyond the confines of the world so strive to see it for what it is with the whole of themselves rather than react to it.

You don't get it but some do and those who do can can open to and become free from what you are reacting against. You prefer to bury Camus rather than draw the deeper significance from his experience. and what can be acquired from looking up rather than continually looking down

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Immanuel Can
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Re: Albert Camus: The Myth of Sisyphus

Post by Immanuel Can » Fri Feb 14, 2020 2:50 pm

Nick_A wrote:
Fri Feb 14, 2020 2:42 pm
Simone
We'd all love to hear what you think, Nick...but not what your girlfriend thinks. If we wanted that, we'd spend time reading her.

You're better off not playing her apostle and chief worshipper. And right now, you're just pushing past Camus, the actually subject we have in hand, in order to get to dear old Simone.

Start a Simone strand, and see who wants to join it.

I hope you get a million.

But not here.

Nick_A
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Re: Albert Camus: The Myth of Sisyphus

Post by Nick_A » Fri Feb 14, 2020 3:38 pm

Immanuel Can wrote:
Fri Feb 14, 2020 2:50 pm
Nick_A wrote:
Fri Feb 14, 2020 2:42 pm
Simone
We'd all love to hear what you think, Nick...but not what your girlfriend thinks. If we wanted that, we'd spend time reading her.

You're better off not playing her apostle and chief worshipper. And right now, you're just pushing past Camus, the actually subject we have in hand, in order to get to dear old Simone.

Start a Simone strand, and see who wants to join it.

I hope you get a million.

But not here.
No, you don't want to read what Albert Camus is saying but prefer to comment for the sake of self importance. Why not suicide if you insist on looking down glorifying your self importance.

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Immanuel Can
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Re: Albert Camus: The Myth of Sisyphus

Post by Immanuel Can » Fri Feb 14, 2020 3:41 pm

Nick_A wrote:
Fri Feb 14, 2020 3:38 pm
No, you don't want to read what Albert Camus is saying...
Actually, I've read "The Myth of Sisyphus" in its entirety. I certainly do want to talk about Camus.

Have you?

odysseus
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Re: Albert Camus: The Myth of Sisyphus

Post by odysseus » Fri Feb 14, 2020 5:57 pm

Immanuel Can

I've often noted that Nietzsche gets hailed as a proclaimer of freedom from faith -- often because his admirers know little more of him that the famous meme, "God is dead." After that, people seem to pretty much say, "Nietzsche said it, I believe it, and that's the end of it." So it's refreshing to get a more thoughtful take on him.
Freedom from faith? I like that, but it is because it begs the right questions: faith? freedom? Hmmmmm. There you are, 17 years old caught in a mysterious ritual, in the forest at night, which your sister talked you into, and then, found out! Tomorrow you will be burned alive at the stake, so happy in the knowledge that you are free from faith.

One has to look plainly at such things. For Kierkegaard, there are no institutional realities, no political realities, no cultural realities. There is only one: the self; the rest merely a quantifiable inheritance. He was right about this.

Nietzsche lived a life of terrible physical illnesses an spent all of his time "overcoming" these to push through and affirm himself notwithstanding. Extraordinary person by any standard. But it does put the matter of metaphysics to rest for him, after all, metaphysics never stepped in, did it? He was alone in a tortured existence and denied the temptation to have faith. Real strength there, but insight, a nuanced, analytical account of the world he did not have. Rage (philosophizing with a hammer!), and love cannot survive rage.
Tame because it amounts to a reductionism to the most accessible and tedious: affirmation in nihilism, the latter absurdly grounded ethical naivete.
I'd love to see this comment further explained, though.

Yes, Nietzsche leads nowhere but Nihilism, at the end of the day; but given his ontological supposition, how is it we would call his view "naive"? I think he sees exactly the right implications of his ontological premises, in regards to ethics, though I think the premises are wrong. And his attempt to recover by means of appealing to "the will to power" and the autonomy of the übermensch, well, that's just a hopeless step. But his ethical conclusions, if he is given his premises, seem right to me.
What ethical conclusions would that be? A denial of good and evil as absolutes, and so we had better stiffen our lip and yield to this, which is what it amounts to, a yielding, an accepting, which is not far at all from a faith, an affirmation. But is this the way the world IS; does this exhaust the, to borrow from Heidegger, the piety of the question? No.Inquiry is infinite, and our questions go deep, like the one about the girl above. The WHY of that girl should drive the compassionate soul insane. Camus and his ilk simply dismiss this, the most powerful and profound question that is embedded in our humanity: why are we born to suffer and die? This is why I think Nietzsche is tedious and accessible. as a "master of suspicion" (see the late Rick Roderick's lectures) all his energy is spend on disillusioning, and the affirmations are distilled out of this. I mean, what is left once the church and craziness is dissolved? Nothing? Of course not, I say. Everything is left, but divested of its illusions. Not to explore these structures is in itself an illusion. To pretend there is no metaphysical "presence" in our world is simply an illusion.

Earnest inquiry takes us to metaphysics at every turn (though there is a very interesting discussion of this by John Caputo in his Radical Hermeneutics where he traces "presence" from Kierkegaard to Derrida. Very good read!).
Camus just doesn't understand the metaethical dimension of our existence.

This, I don't quite get at all. I'd need some more unpacking of what you mean by that.
I guess my response to this lies in the above. Ethics is, as Levinas put it, first philosophy. There is a LOT of explaining in this. The down and dirty would be, as I see it, ethics is about value, a very,very mysterious thing. See Wittgenstein's Lecture on Ethics and his Tractatus--he will not discuss ethics, value or aesthetics, and turned his back. literally, when these matters came up. These are transcendental. G E Moore put the ethical good and bad as "unnatural qualities". If you like, I can sketch out how this is. Let me know. Metaethics is, in my thoughts, an extension of ethics necessitated by failure of ethical concepts and theory and empirical theory to do the explaining. The e.g. of the girl above is simply put, NOT stand alone.
Kierkegaard, on the other hand, holds that our quotidian life, the daily living and breathing of being a self, is nearly on a par with an animal, not yet risen to "sin," and when spirit is posited, the whole body of our affairs becomes sin until one affirm the eternal present's freedom, soul, God. The world, all our institutions and social "habits" are either sinful or presinful. That's radical, I would say.

I think this is almost right.

Kierkegaard, I find, isn't a social critic per se. His concern is wholly focused on the individual. When he mentions social structures, it always seems it's just to point out that thinking about fixing them is the wrong way to go, because the problem, as he sees it, it always ultimately in the attitude of the individual to his situation.
I'm drawing on his idea of quantitative sin in his Concept of Anxiety. It is a remarkable attempt to understand the Biblical notion of original sin as an existential structure issue. Reading it explains a lot of where Heidegger got his inspiration, though he doesn't give K credit. Quantitative sin is the burden of alienation from God and the soul passed down through the ages; it is our daily lives that are lived without God. Culture grows historically and turns out "habits" (see Camus' use of this, "the ridiculous character of habit" ch.1) are quantifiable, and he uses this term to offset it from qualitative sin, which occurs when one makes a leap of discovery and "posits" the spirit, which is this dialectical tension between the eternal and the finite. The social end in this is the "sin"(or "presin" since sin only arises when the spirit is posited, and if you never give this a second thought, you have not risen to sin yet), of living a Godless life doing one's errands, cooking dinner, raising children, and so on. All these engagements are quantifiable and historical. And the discussion goes into time, reason, the eternal present, and so on.

You're right, he wasn't a social critic, that I have read (and there is a lot I haven't) but a religious critic.
But I like the way you put it: they "do not think enough about it not to think it." (words yours, but emphasis mine, of course). It's not the deeply thinking person, the philosopher, say, who is subject to this despair alone. It's the ordinary man, caught in the modern condition, who absorbs it through the skin, and then lives it without ever really bringing it to consciousness. And maybe that's a service Camus does us: at least he makes the unconscious conscious, in that regard.
Right, after all, who wants to live like Kierkegaard did, in his interminable nights if inwardness. Camus is the same at this point, isn't he? To turn toward foundational issues of our being here, one has to turn away first, or at once. Can't have one without the other, for once you start looking at the level of basic questions in earnest, your confidence in this world is permanently undermined, which is why I think Sisyphus' rock can never be lightened. Here is something I rather think sums it up. It's Baudelaire:

Under a vast grey sky, on a vast and dusty plain without paths, without grass, without
a nettle or a thistle, I met several men bent double as they walked.
Each one of them carried on his back an enormous Chimera as heavy as a sack of
flour or coal or the paraphernalia of a Roman infantryman.
But the monstrous beast was no inanimate weight; on the contrary, it enveloped
and oppressed the man with its elastic and powerful muscles; it clutched at the
breast of its mount with two vast claws; and its fabulous head overhung the man’s
forehead like one of those horrible helmets with which ancient warriors hoped to
add to the terror of their enemy.
I questioned one of these men and asked him where they were going like that. He
replied that he did not know and that none of them knew, but that they were evidently
going somewhere since they were driven by an invincible need to go on.
A curious thing to note: none of these travelers seemed irritated by the ferocious
beast hanging around his neck and glued to his back; one might have said that they
considered it part of themselves. All these tired and serious faces showed not the
least sign of despair; under the spleenful dome of the sky, their feet deep in the dust
of the earth as desolate as the sky, they continued along with the resigned physiognomy
of those who are condemned to hope forever [SC’s emphasis].
And the cortège passed by me and disappeared in the atmosphere of the horizon,
where the rounded surface of the planet is concealed from the curiosity of the
human gaze.
And for a few moments I persisted in trying to comprehend this mystery;
but soon irresistible Indifference descended upon me and I was more
heavily overwhelmed than they were by their crushing Chimeras.
(Baudelaire, ‘Chacun sa chimère’, Le spleen de Paris, Armand Colin,
Paris, 1958:10–11


Terrifying, but great.
I think so. Just as literature can be truthful, as when it rightly represents the lived experience of an author or of the reader, I think it can lie. That is, it can tell reassuring lies about how things are. So, for example, if Hardy's great strength as a novelist was his ability to depict the angst of the agnostic from the inside, to tell the truth about that, so too we could get ideologues who tell us sunny stories about the inevitability of the triumph of the proletariat and the classless society. Those would be lies, but in narrative form: for the fault with the Marxist metanarrative is not merely that it hasn't happened YET, but that it never will, because it's assumptions are so horribly wrong. And still that narrative fires the imaginations of fools today.

Or take the story of "the Galileo Trial" -- not the historical facts of it, but the narrative made from it, that has been used as a paradigm example of religious ignorance pitted against scientific wisdom, framed in black hats and white hats...

Orwell knew narratives could lie. In fact, they are some of the most powerful lies, for they go around the critical faculties by means of entertainment.
Hmmmm. True, I think you're right and I won't make an issue of it.
Not weird at all, if you've had the experience.

As one comes to greater awareness of sin, one becomes sicker...closer to that "sickness unto death" of which Kierkegaard speaks. But one also has, at the same time, a greater possibility of repenting of one's sin as the symptoms of the disease become more pressing -- as despair sets in. Or, to put it in Biblical language,

"But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead. I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; 10 and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me..." (Rm. 7:8-10)

Of course, despair can also be greeted with a determination to double down -- and that is truly the sickness unto death. So that awareness brings one closer to crisis...but potentially closer to salvation.
This is well said, especially that about despair and crisis. I mean, there is something deeply profound about this, and it may be what a metaphysics of suffering is about. K thought the medievals were closer to faith and "posting spirit," as he put it.
I haven't read Fink. Tell me a bit more about that.
That would take some doing. Have you read Husserl's Cartesian Meditations? Fink was Husserl's partner and protege. His 6th Meditation is an analysis of the threshold between generated experience in which we are and from which all thought issues and the transcendental other that is revealed Husserl's phenomenological reduction. It is a rather technical work. Kantian, in that Kant postulates and "outside" or a transcendence to the origins of thought in his Transcendental Unity of Apperception. Fink takes this transcendental ego and gives it a greater analysis. Here is a taste of his thinking:

.....instead of soaring up over the world "speculatively," we, in a
truly "Copernican revolution," have broken through the confinement of the natural
attitude, as the horizon of all our human possibilities for acting and theorizing,
and have thrust forward into the dimension of origin for all being, into the constitutive source of the world, into the sphere of transcendental subjectivity.


I have this as PDF file if you want it. Mesmerizing, and a kind of, since it came out latter than the other meditations and after heidegger's B&T, response to Heidegger's rejection of loose talk about transcendental ideas.

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Immanuel Can
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Re: Albert Camus: The Myth of Sisyphus

Post by Immanuel Can » Fri Feb 14, 2020 7:47 pm

odysseus wrote:
Fri Feb 14, 2020 5:57 pm
There you are, 17 years old caught in a mysterious ritual, in the forest at night, which your sister talked you into, and then, found out! Tomorrow you will be burned alive at the stake, so happy in the knowledge that you are free from faith.
Er...sorry...you missed me. :shock:

What was "I" doing in the forest with my sister? And why was "I" burned alive? You might be thinking of somebody else, because I didn't do that.
For Kierkegaard, there are no institutional realities, no political realities, no cultural realities. There is only one: the self; the rest merely a quantifiable inheritance. He was right about this.
Right.
But it does put the matter of metaphysics to rest for him, after all, metaphysics never stepped in, did it?
"Metaphysics" so far as I know, is a subcategory of philosophy. So far as I know, it's never "stepped into" anything, nor was expected to.
He was alone in a tortured existence and denied the temptation to have faith.

Oh, I think this isn't true. Nietzsche had his own "faith": it just wasn't a conventional one.

He had faith that "will to power" was, in a strangely amoral sense of the word, "good." He had faith that history had a narrative structure of sorts, in which belief in God was at first a useful social construct, and then was later abandoned. What else can we make of the madman's claim to have "come too early"? Nietzsche, like Marx, thought of himself as a reader of history and a prophet of history to come.

Nietzsche had faith in all kinds of things...just not in God, like Kierkegaard.
Tame because it amounts to a reductionism to the most accessible and tedious: affirmation in nihilism, the latter absurdly grounded ethical naivete.
I'd love to see this comment further explained, though.

Yes, Nietzsche leads nowhere but Nihilism, at the end of the day; but given his ontological supposition, how is it we would call his view "naive"? I think he sees exactly the right implications of his ontological premises, in regards to ethics, though I think the premises are wrong. And his attempt to recover by means of appealing to "the will to power" and the autonomy of the übermensch, well, that's just a hopeless step. But his ethical conclusions, if he is given his premises, seem right to me.
What ethical conclusions would that be?
That his system if true, puts the realist "beyond good and evil." That ethics, as a category of thought, cannot survive Materialism.
The WHY of that girl should drive the compassionate soul insane.

I'm not thinking it should. The right answer is complicated, to be sure. But I think there are good reasons why such things can happen in this world. And they don't require us to disbelieve in ultimate justice, or in God.

Kierkegaard certainly saw this. His "Fear and Trembling" is, in part a response to that sort of objection.
Camus and his ilk simply dismiss this, the most powerful and profound question that is embedded in our humanity: why are we born to suffer and die?

I don't think he "dismisses" it. He certainly affirms it. But he denies that there can be a "why" which is not a product of the sufferer's own interpretation of the situation. Sisyphus has to transform "the rock" into "his rock," and thus become "happy."

I'm not saying I buy Camus's answer. But I am saying we can't accuse him of just "dismissing" it. He does recognize it.
Everything is left, but divested of its illusions. Not to explore these structures is in itself an illusion. To pretend there is no metaphysical "presence" in our world is simply an illusion.
Interesting comment. You must be using "metaphysical" here in a way different from what you meant at the start, I'm guessing. But correct me on that.
Camus just doesn't understand the metaethical dimension of our existence.
This, I don't quite get at all. I'd need some more unpacking of what you mean by that.
I guess my response to this lies in the above. Ethics is, as Levinas put it, first philosophy. [/quote]
I've heard this. I don't think it's at all true.

Ethics, I would insist, is always derived from ontology.

Before we can ask, "What should we do with X," we always have to ask, "What is the referent of X?" That is, until we know what we have, where we are, what's real and unreal, and what's going on here, we can't intelligibly ask, "how should we then live?" (ethics).
I'm drawing on [Kiekegaard's] idea of quantitative sin in his Concept of Anxiety. It is a remarkable attempt to understand the Biblical notion of original sin as an existential structure issue. Reading it explains a lot of where Heidegger got his inspiration, though he doesn't give K credit. Quantitative sin is the burden of alienation from God and the soul passed down through the ages; it is our daily lives that are lived without God.
So far, so good. I agree.
You're right, he wasn't a social critic, that I have read (and there is a lot I haven't) but a religious critic.
I don't think he saw himself as "religious" in any traditional sense. He was an iconoclast of "religion," in favour of a kind of personal addressing of God. The term "existential critic" would be better. And I don't think he believed for one moment that in being that he was anything other than a realist.
Right, after all, who wants to live like Kierkegaard did, in his interminable nights if inwardness.

Sign me up. I want to be a "knight of faith," as he calls them. But I agree this can go too far, if "inwardness" is the only direction it goes.
...once you start looking at the level of basic questions in earnest, your confidence in this world is permanently undermined...
I don't find this. It's one of the reasons Camus rings hollow to me. (I have several others, at the least) I don't think deep thinking needs to produce despair...or if it does, as Kierkegaard held, there is something on the other side of despair.

A curious thing to note: none of these travelers seemed irritated by the ferocious
beast hanging around his neck and glued to his back; one might have said that they
considered it part of themselves. All these tired and serious faces showed not the
least sign of despair; under the spleenful dome of the sky, their feet deep in the dust
of the earth as desolate as the sky, they continued along with the resigned physiognomy
of those who are condemned to hope forever [SC’s emphasis].
(Baudelaire, ‘Chacun sa chimère’, Le spleen de Paris, Armand Colin,
Paris, 1958:10–11


Terrifying, but great.
I like that.

At the same time, I don't think those beasts are inescapable. However, the very first step to getting the beast off one's back is to know that it's there. And that realization may well plunge one into despair -- especially if one doesn't know immediately how to get the bloody thing off. One may even imagine one was better and happier not know about the beast, then to know and be powerless against it.

But this is Camus's "intellectual suicide": the refusal to see what's really the case.
I think so. Just as literature can be truthful, as when it rightly represents the lived experience of an author or of the reader, I think it can lie. That is, it can tell reassuring lies about how things are. So, for example, if Hardy's great strength as a novelist was his ability to depict the angst of the agnostic from the inside, to tell the truth about that, so too we could get ideologues who tell us sunny stories about the inevitability of the triumph of the proletariat and the classless society. Those would be lies, but in narrative form: for the fault with the Marxist metanarrative is not merely that it hasn't happened YET, but that it never will, because it's assumptions are so horribly wrong. And still that narrative fires the imaginations of fools today.

Or take the story of "the Galileo Trial" -- not the historical facts of it, but the narrative made from it, that has been used as a paradigm example of religious ignorance pitted against scientific wisdom, framed in black hats and white hats...

Orwell knew narratives could lie. In fact, they are some of the most powerful lies, for they go around the critical faculties by means of entertainment.
Hmmmm. True, I think you're right and I won't make an issue of it.
Well, narrative is one of my things. I've read a lot of them, and thought about a lot of them. They are powerful things...and all the more powerful when they are not recognized as capable of lying.
Not weird at all, if you've had the experience.

As one comes to greater awareness of sin, one becomes sicker...closer to that "sickness unto death" of which Kierkegaard speaks. But one also has, at the same time, a greater possibility of repenting of one's sin as the symptoms of the disease become more pressing -- as despair sets in. Or, to put it in Biblical language,

"But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead. I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; 10 and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me..." (Rm. 7:8-10)

Of course, despair can also be greeted with a determination to double down -- and that is truly the sickness unto death. So that awareness brings one closer to crisis...but potentially closer to salvation.
This is well said, especially that about despair and crisis. I mean, there is something deeply profound about this, and it may be what a metaphysics of suffering is about. K thought the medievals were closer to faith and "posting spirit," as he put it.
This is a route I have followed.

I began as a big fan of people like Thomas Hardy. I thought, at first, they were telling the truth about everything because they were telling the truth about many things. I really felt the dark night of the soul, then.

You might say that I suddenly knew there was a beast on my back. And in that condition, I did not appreciate it one bit when people (philosophers and apologists for the modern age, mostly) told me two untrue things: one, that I didn't have a beast on my back, because beasts don't exist, or two, that I could make the beats go away by thinking about it differently. I knew better...and I was in no mood to be lied to.

(Camus, j'accuse de cette deuxième tromperie.)

I knew bloody well I had a beast. And I was determined to get rid of it, if such a thing could ever be done. What's more, I wasn't going to stop looking at it until I had an answer.

Back to your girl in the woods. I think we have to take the same hard-nosed and realistic approach to that. Not just to throw up our hands and cry out, "Oh the injustice of the world!" but to press further.

A starting point would be, "Whence this concept 'injustice'?" :shock: How does such an intuition -- such a strong and, I would argue, justifiable intuition -- ever arise this world, if the world is only constructed of events of chance? And who will answer this most natural cry of the human heart, if we are alone in this place? Indeed, why cry at all?

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Re: Albert Camus: The Myth of Sisyphus

Post by odysseus » Sat Feb 15, 2020 6:17 am

Immanuel Can

Er...sorry...you missed me. :shock:

What was "I" doing in the forest with my sister? And why was "I" burned alive? You might be thinking of somebody else, because I didn't do that.
Sorry, not very clear. One thing that is just wrong is the way philosophers discuss ethics as a concept. IN ethics as elsewhere, ideas about the world make dull what is originally clear, taking an actuality and reducing it to conversational utility, for it is ideas that are discussed. Derrida talked about how ideas "stand in" for their referents, rather than stand for them, and I thought he had it right, for when we talk, the actualities are all but absent. In ethics, I find this maddening. The girl in my example was simply an illustration in an attempt to bring out this original clarity. really, the more graphic the better, and extreme examples the most poignant cases. I could talk about how she felt the flames rising, approaching the sole of her feet, burning a ribbon of red across the heel, and so forth, and still, the words would not capture the actuality of being burned alive any more than reading a recipe could be a savory event. This is important, very, because if we are going to discuss ethics, we must talk about the actualities as these are the engines that drive ethics. They are what is real. I say, you want to know about ethics and the human condition? Take a lighted match and apply it to your finger. Now ask, what is THAT doing here, as a possibility in the world?
"Metaphysics" so far as I know, is a subcategory of philosophy. So far as I know, it's never "stepped into" anything, nor was expected to.
What I mean is that there is no apparent redress for our suffering beyond what is empirically verifiable. Lisbon was annihilated in 1755 on All Saints Day by a tsunami. Lots of praying on that day, very sincere. Nevertheless. Nietzsche, of course, likely never prayed at all, despite his wretched physical health. He made a philosophy out of self sufficient "will".

Oh, I think this isn't true. Nietzsche had his own "faith": it just wasn't a conventional one.
He had faith that "will to power" was, in a strangely amoral sense of the word, "good." He had faith that history had a narrative structure of sorts, in which belief in God was at first a useful social construct, and then was later abandoned. What else can we make of the madman's claim to have "come too early"? Nietzsche, like Marx, thought of himself as a reader of history and a prophet of history to come.

Nietzsche had faith in all kinds of things...just not in God, like Kierkegaard.
Oh, then he did have faith. Just as I have faith the sun will rise in the morning. But then, there is metaphysical faith in the redemption for human suffering. This is the ethical nihilism where Camus makes his stand. The absurdity of our existence is simply this: we suffer for no reason. Just suffer. Delight, of course, is wonderful, but it doesn't make for absurdity unless we talk about its absence. In an of itself, there is no argument. The same can't be said of suffering. Of course he talks a lot about our struggles, our hopes, our false moral pretentions; I mean, he knows how to make a point. But it all reduces to this.
That his system if true, puts the realist "beyond good and evil." That ethics, as a category of thought, cannot survive Materialism.
Sorry, I am still mystified. Ethics cannot survive materialism? i don't really know what materialism is. I find the word 'material' useful in certain contexts and I use it all the time. But as a philosophical idea, it simply stops making sense.
I'm not thinking it should. The right answer is complicated, to be sure. But I think there are good reasons why such things can happen in this world. And they don't require us to disbelieve in ultimate justice, or in God.

Kierkegaard certainly saw this. His "Fear and Trembling" is, in part a response to that sort of objection.
You mean by good reasons along the lines of the plate tectonics providing a good reason for the formation of geological faults? Certainly, suffering and joy in the world have their reasons: they are conduce to survival and reproduction of the species. But this kind of thing is not what I want to take issue with. It is the "presence" of suffering, or, the phenomenon and its descriptive account. The question is its existence, not how it got there. This is where we will disagree, likely. For I am an ethical realist and I think ethical good and evil are part of the fabric of the world. To show this I would need to argue the case. If you are interested, let me know. It rests with the distinction between contingent and absolute goods and bads.

But here, intuitively, I argue that our ethical intuitions are dulled by discussion. One has to look squarely at the suffering, in and of itself, not in some context that provides outside explanatory reasons. One has to do an epoche, as Husserl called it: a reduction to the thing itself. Here the actuality is laid bare and the question as to its existence is not misled by thinking that misses the mark. It is not about context or how we use language or how the concept is played out dramatically, or anything but the phenomenon itself. My claim is that there is an intrinsic "badness" is pain, and this makes the world qua world a moral place. What are we doing on this place such horrors occur? I ask Kiekgaard's question, from his Repetition:
Where am I? Who am I? How came I here? What is this thing called the world? What does this world mean? Who is it that has lured me into the world? Why was I not consulted, why not made acquainted with its manners and customs instead of throwing me into the ranks, as if I had been bought by a kidnapper, a dealer in souls? How did I obtain an interest in this big enterprise they call reality? Why should I have an interest in it? Is it not a voluntary concern? And if I am to be compelled to take part in it, where is the director? I should like to make a remark to him. Is there no director? Whither shall I turn with my complaint?”
I don't think he "dismisses" it. He certainly affirms it. But he denies that there can be a "why" which is not a product of the sufferer's own interpretation of the situation. Sisyphus has to transform "the rock" into "his rock," and thus become "happy."

I'm not saying I buy Camus's answer. But I am saying we can't accuse him of just "dismissing" it. He does recognize it.
Ok. It is rather hard to miss its presence, granted. But he doesn't take it seriously, which is rather the point of Sisyphus rolling the rock up the mountain with a smile. I think he is presenting a false idea, false about the world, for there is something in the suffering the joy that commands our attention, that intimates a profound dimension to our being here, and we should not live the life of Meursault, distant from life's depths.

Interesting comment. You must be using "metaphysical" here in a way different from what you meant at the start, I'm guessing. But correct me on that.
Ask what a thing is, Derrida says, and you will get vocabulary and after vocabulary, all of which requires more of the same. This has no end, for there is no definitive relation between language and actuality. And yet, there is actuality, this spear in my kidney or the taste of this bisque. This is one of Kierkegaard's major points in his Anxiety. The metaphysics of it lies in the ability to apprehend this in a nonconceptual way, and in this, the world is, if you will, saturated in metaphysics. It is where explanations run out having never touched the world at all. This is Sartre's radical contingency notion. Levinas gives metaphysics, the concept, it true place: Metaphysics is a transcendence, and all things possess this. That is what actuality is, says K.
Camus just doesn't understand the metaethical dimension of our existence.
This, I don't quite get at all. I'd need some more unpacking of what you mean by that.

I guess my response to this lies in the above. Ethics is, as Levinas put it, first philosophy.
I've heard this. I don't think it's at all true.

Ethics, I would insist, is always derived from ontology.

Before we can ask, "What should we do with X," we always have to ask, "What is the referent of X?" That is, until we know what we have, where we are, what's real and unreal, and what's going on here, we can't intelligibly ask, "how should we then live?" (ethics).[/quote]

Of course. And there is no greater ontological concept than ethics, for ethics is essentially about value, and value is what the entire human enterprise is about. Even Being qua Being cannot remove itself from value, for phenomena, the only thing we have ever actually witnessed, is what Being is. The greatest question we can ask is not What is Being? but, What is value in Being?

It is the primacy of value that makes this so. Value is THE primordial concept. All the questions in the world simply would not matter without....well, mattering.
Sign me up. I want to be a "knight of faith," as he calls them. But I agree this can go too far, if "inwardness" is the only direction it goes.
Me too. His nights of inwardness were not about his being aligned with God. He new he wasn't, and that he was no knight of faith. Such a knight would have live int he eternal present, yet could be a butcher or a baker, still IN the world. A very tall order to have your thoughts and actions issue forth like this, to live in a seamless continuity of present moments. The Buddhists come close, perhaps.
A starting point would be, "Whence this concept 'injustice'?" :shock: How does such an intuition -- such a strong and, I would argue, justifiable intuition -- ever arise this world, if the world is only constructed of events of chance? And who will answer this most natural cry of the human heart, if we are alone in this place? Indeed, why cry at all?
I think one has to keep in mind that the concept of chance is our take, and it is an interpretative one. The world does not disclose itself in all that it is. It does arise, this intuition. I argue most emphatically that this moral complaint against the world is founded on something just as doxastically coercive as, say causality. For me, it is quite literally impossible for the world to be simply as it appears, with all of its horrors unanswered and unredeemed.

I am aware that this is not a popular thing. I really don't know anyone who thinks like this, personally. Only Kierkegaard, Levinas and the like are kindred thinkers.

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Re: Albert Camus: The Myth of Sisyphus

Post by Immanuel Can » Sat Feb 15, 2020 3:13 pm

odysseus wrote:
Sat Feb 15, 2020 6:17 am
Take a lighted match and apply it to your finger. Now ask, what is THAT doing here, as a possibility in the world?
Yes.

This is the sort of thought with which I ended my last message. We have to square up to the problem of pain. But one question we must ask right away is, "Why is it a problem?" I mean, other than the fact I don't happen to like pain, which could be merely a contingent fact anyway, what is essentially wrong with there being pain in the world? (I don't mean this rhetorically, as in "pain is good," but literally, as in "what precise factor makes it the case that pain indicates a wrongness?")

Immediately we are thrown into the realm of ultimate goodness for the answer. Why is it that pain is "wrong" to us? Because we have a definite sense that things ought to be right...and they're not. But where does this sense of the oughtness of things come from? What is its justification? Is it real, or is it a mere accident of our nervous systems? Does it have any real referent in the actual world? And to whom are we appealing, when we cry out, "Little girls burning to death is so unfair!" :shock:
What I mean is that there is no apparent redress for our suffering beyond what is empirically verifiable. Lisbon was annihilated in 1755 on All Saints Day by a tsunami. Lots of praying on that day, very sincere.
It sounds to me like you've read Susan Neiman on that. We could talk about her objections.
Nevertheless. Nietzsche, of course, likely never prayed at all, despite his wretched physical health. He made a philosophy out of self sufficient "will".

He was a stubborn cuss, to be sure. But he died insane (and probably syphilitic too). So his "will" didn't get him as far as he hoped.
Nietzsche had faith in all kinds of things...just not in God, like Kierkegaard.
Oh, then he did have faith. Just as I have faith the sun will rise in the morning.

A good deal more than that, although that, too, might require faith. After all, we have no guarantees we will not die in the night. We just hope and believe so. But Nietzsche's faith extended to much less high-probability things, as I have suggested.
But then, there is metaphysical faith in the redemption for human suffering. This is the ethical nihilism where Camus makes his stand. The absurdity of our existence is simply this: we suffer for no reason. Just suffer.
Yes, Camus thinks this. There is no inherent justification for the rock, he thinks. It's just how this miserable place is. Suck it up, Chuck, and learn to roll it with some creative gusto. That's a terrible answer, of course.

But is it true? We may not all know the reason for every bit of suffering that happens. But sometimes we do. Sometimes, we know that the reason our muscles ache is that we are training to be triathletes. Sometimes we know that the ours of misery in the library got us the degree we now hold in our hands. And sometimes we even meet hard circumstances that make us say, "I know now that I am a better person than I was before I suffered. My pain has deepened me, and given me wells of compassion I never had before; and while I would not wish it to come again, I am glad to stand on the other side of my pain, and hold the goods it purchased for me." That sort of understanding is not too much to suppose, at least in some circumstances.

Of course, the Lisbon Earthquake isn't like that. Nor would the child burning to death be like that. But it raises the question: how are we certain that suffering can find no explanation? Is it because we currently possess none? But is that enough reason to believe that none can be had?

That's a difference again between Kierkegaard and Camus. For Kierkegaard, the absurdity of things is a product of our failures of epistemology -- not that there IS no answer to why things happen, but that, being merely localized, contingent, moribund human beings, we lack the means to achieve the perspective to see any answers, if answers there be. For Camus, on the other hand, absurdity is an inherent fact -- Camus thinks he's got it right, and anybody who even imagines there's a truth beyond the absurdity of things is merely deluded. Yet, why would we jump to the conclusion that Camus is right, and Kierkegaard wrong?

Now, of course, we cannot say with confidence -- at this point in our inquiry, anyway -- that an answer can be had. But we can realize we have insufficient evidence to blithely embrace Camus's despair, at the same time. And, if we are courageous, we can decline to embrace despair at this point, and say, I will continue to look; and as I do, more information may be available to be had.

I think that's what, perhaps, you might wish to be arguing for. Not a capitulation to despair, nor to a hasty conclusion that un-understood pains can never have explanation, but that a knight of faith would continue the quest for more answers. If he takes off his armour, and sits down in despair, he is most certainly no knight of faith, right?
That his system if true, puts the realist "beyond good and evil." That ethics, as a category of thought, cannot survive Materialism.
Sorry, I am still mystified. Ethics cannot survive materialism? i don't really know what materialism is. I find the word 'material' useful in certain contexts and I use it all the time. But as a philosophical idea, it simply stops making sense.

It's very simple, of course. It's just the idea that "materials" are all that constitute "the real." There are two types of it: reductive and non-reductive, but both presuppose that "matter" is the base substance of existence, and everything else must be explained in terms of material properties. In a subject like cognition, Materialism takes for granted that brain is the total explanation of mind, for example. Or in cosmology, it presumes that the accidental combination of matter into an accidental explosion, followed by a billions-of-years process of material change, is the total explanation of why we are here.

If such things are true, there is no "ethics." What is, simply is. All is accidental, all a mere chance combination of materials. And pain and suffering are just very strange facts which, for no possible reason, evolution has caused us to experience. Therefore, there is no "injustice" in our experiencing of them. And there is no "wrongness" to little girls burning at the stake, or to Lisbon being flattened. Whatever happens, just happens.

And like Camus says, then, you will find it nothing but absurd. Your cries to the effect that it is unfair actually make no sense in light of how things really are. All you can do is roll the rock. The whole sense of absurdity is an inexplicable, contingent byproduct of some evolutionary quirk; no more. It means nothing, signals no real absurdity, and ends nowhere.
I'm not thinking it should. The right answer is complicated, to be sure. But I think there are good reasons why such things can happen in this world. And they don't require us to disbelieve in ultimate justice, or in God.

Kierkegaard certainly saw this. His "Fear and Trembling" is, in part a response to that sort of objection.
You mean by good reasons along the lines of the plate tectonics providing a good reason for the formation of geological faults?
No. I don't mean mere causal "reasons." I mean existential reasons. Reasons that make sense. Reasons that explain not just the "how," but the "why."
Certainly, suffering and joy in the world have their reasons: they are conduce to survival and reproduction of the species.
No doubt. But what makes us think the universe "cares" about survival and reproduction of the species? Are these not also contingent facts of this quirky universe into which pure chance threw us?
This is where we will disagree, likely. For I am an ethical realist and I think ethical good and evil are part of the fabric of the world. To show this I would need to argue the case. If you are interested, let me know. It rests with the distinction between contingent and absolute goods and bads.

This is what I am MOST interested in. If you would make your case, I would be very grateful.
But here, intuitively, I argue that our ethical intuitions are dulled by discussion. One has to look squarely at the suffering, in and of itself, not in some context that provides outside explanatory reasons.
This was what I said at the end of my last message: we must face up to the "square look" at suffering. We must not hide behind explanations like, "Well, it's not so bad," or "Maybe it will issue in good things eventually," or "Well, if that little girl had survived, she would have bred the next Hitler, maybe." These are evasions.

But so is capitulation to despair. To conclude, prior to knowing, that the "square" way to look at suffering is to conclude that it is simply absurd, meaningless in itself, and devoid of possibility, is (I will say) a coward's move too. We have simply taken off our armour, and ceased the quest for answers. We have not at all established there ARE no answers, or that it is inevitably tragic if WE do not have all of them.
My claim is that there is an intrinsic "badness" is pain, and this makes the world qua world a moral place.

I want to know why we think this is so. There's no way we can say "Well, the fact that we don't like pain makes it intrinsically bad." Such an answer can be subverted seven ways.

I do not disagree that at least some pain is intrinsically "bad." But I do not think it's easy to adduce any remotely plausible secular reasons why it is inherently morally bad, or how our human desire to cast the cloth of morality over the hard table of facts is warranted at all. Hume saw this problem, and though I disagree very much with Hume, I don't on this. When two such opponents agree, it is a rare thing indeed, and often signals a very profound problem.
What are we doing on this place such horrors occur? I ask Kiekgaard's question, from his Repetition:
Where am I? Who am I? How came I here? What is this thing called the world? What does this world mean? Who is it that has lured me into the world? Why was I not consulted, why not made acquainted with its manners and customs instead of throwing me into the ranks, as if I had been bought by a kidnapper, a dealer in souls? How did I obtain an interest in this big enterprise they call reality? Why should I have an interest in it? Is it not a voluntary concern? And if I am to be compelled to take part in it, where is the director? I should like to make a remark to him. Is there no director? Whither shall I turn with my complaint?”
This is excellent. These are precisely the kinds of questions the knight of faith must pursue without relenting. But what quest is there that sets out with no hope of answer? Who is so foolish as to put on his armour knowing not only that there will be dragons to fight and enemies to vanquish, but that even if all of that is done, there is absolutely guaranteed to be no prize at the end? :shock:
I don't think he "dismisses" it. He certainly affirms it. But he denies that there can be a "why" which is not a product of the sufferer's own interpretation of the situation. Sisyphus has to transform "the rock" into "his rock," and thus become "happy."

I'm not saying I buy Camus's answer. But I am saying we can't accuse him of just "dismissing" it. He does recognize it.
Ok. It is rather hard to miss its presence, granted. But he doesn't take it seriously, which is rather the point of Sisyphus rolling the rock up the mountain with a smile. I think he is presenting a false idea, false about the world, for there is something in the suffering the joy that commands our attention, that intimates a profound dimension to our being here, and we should not live the life of Meursault, distant from life's depths.

Yes, I agree.
Ask what a thing is, Derrida says, and you will get vocabulary and after vocabulary, all of which requires more of the same.

I do not believe Derrida is right about this. He banishes the referent, and turns all into language games. There is a truth in the complexities of language; but language is a mere tool of meaning. Without the "prize," the language games all turn hollow.
And yet, there is actuality, this spear in my kidney or the taste of this bisque.
This is closer to the truth than is Derrida. I have no doubt, though, that he would have some explanation of how this is all just your nervous system, not the reality itself. And it would be couched in the most opaque and circular language-babble.
Metaphysics is a transcendence, and all things possess this. That is what actuality is, says K.
Well, K. has warrant to say so, granted his suppositions. I'm not sure what secular warrant can be found, though.
I guess my response to this lies in the above. Ethics is, as Levinas put it, first philosophy.
I've heard this. I don't think it's at all true.

Ethics, I would insist, is always derived from ontology.

Before we can ask, "What should we do with X," we always have to ask, "What is the referent of X?" That is, until we know what we have, where we are, what's real and unreal, and what's going on here, we can't intelligibly ask, "how should we then live?" (ethics).
Of course. And there is no greater ontological concept than ethics, for ethics is essentially about value, and value is what the entire human enterprise is about.
If' I'm Camus, then naw, I'm not buying that. "The human enterprise" has no special dignity, given Materialism. We might think we're "about" all kinds of things, but existence isn't actually "about" anything, in Camus's world. The "aboutness," he would say, can come only from how we think about reality...not from reality itself.

We have a belief in a thing called "ethics." So what? This is contingent. We might not have had. The universe is an indifferent collision of atoms, and cares nothing for our "ethics." Morality is not encoded into the fusion of particles that makes us what we are. And "enterprise"? We are merely here, contingently, for no reason, and doomed to extinction, also for no reason. The universe does not know or care. And our belief that it should is merely a flaw in our material sequencing.

So says the Tale of Atheism, anyway.
What is value in Being?
None, says Camus. "Valuing" is a gerund, a verb-in-action, a verb functioning the place of a noun, not a true noun, not a "thing" that can 'be". It's a thing we merely contingent human beings happen to do. It is not part of the structure of "being."
Value is THE primordial concept.
"No!" says Camus.

"Value" is a human overlay on inherently meaningless existence, he adds. To fail to grasp that is to miss one of the two essential polarities of the dialectic that brings us to the realization of the absurd (the other is our undeniable longing for value, value which we simply cannot have). You have let go of one of the poles, he would say: and in so doing, you are committing "intellectual suicide."
Sign me up. I want to be a "knight of faith," as he calls them. But I agree this can go too far, if "inwardness" is the only direction it goes.
Me too. His nights of inwardness were not about his being aligned with God. He new he wasn't...
He knew he aspired to be. And that was the whole point. Just as one becomes a self by recognizing oneself as standing before God, one become a knight of faith by embracing and living that recognition. To be such a knight is not a "fait accompli": it is a quest one embraces dynamically.

The knight of faith is not constituted as a knight of faith by his having arrived. :shock: He is constituted as a knight of faith by having embraced the quest in a dynamic, daily, ongoing, lived way. One cannot wear faith like a badge; one has to practice it amidst the terrors of unknowing, of big questions, of uncertainty, of doubt, and of fear. The knight of faith fears and trembles; but the knight of faith does not relent. He is a man-in-action, not merely the possessor of a title.
A starting point would be, "Whence this concept 'injustice'?" :shock: How does such an intuition -- such a strong and, I would argue, justifiable intuition -- ever arise this world, if the world is only constructed of events of chance? And who will answer this most natural cry of the human heart, if we are alone in this place? Indeed, why cry at all?
I think one has to keep in mind that the concept of chance is our take, and it is an interpretative one. The world does not disclose itself in all that it is.
Absolutely right. But since "the world does not disclose itself in all that it is," how have we managed to arrive at Camus's certainty that suffering can have no answer? :shock: We admit the data's not all in...the case is not closed...yet we will look no further, but will sit down and take off our armour? :shock: And conceit of conceits, we will preen ourselves on the conviction that that is not cowardice, but a hard-nosed looking at things-as they-are?" :shock:

Why?
For me, it is quite literally impossible for the world to be simply as it appears, with all of its horrors unanswered and unredeemed.
Ah, then you are putting your armour on, not taking it off.

Good. I thought as much. You didn't seem the sit-down type to me.

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Re: Albert Camus: The Myth of Sisyphus

Post by Nick_A » Sat Feb 15, 2020 4:55 pm

Hello odysseus

Which of these three ideas serve to start your personal contemplations of our universe:

1. Does it have objective meaning and purpose which sustains it but humanity as a whole has become oblivious of? 2. Is it meaningless as Camus suggests and meaning and purpose is our attempt to provide meaning to chaos as with all our BS? 3. Even if we cannot know for sure there is no use arguing about. just lean back, have a beer, play your music as the musicians on the Titanic did. Be happy, and ignore the chaos. 4. Is there another alternative?

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Re: Albert Camus: The Myth of Sisyphus

Post by Immanuel Can » Sat Feb 15, 2020 6:41 pm

I


"This is the situation in despair. And however thoroughly it eludes the attention of the despairer, and however thoroughly the despair may succeed (as in the case of that kind of despair which is characterized by unawareness of being in despair) in losing himself entirely, and losing himself in such a way that it is not noticed in the least --- eternity nevertheless will make it manifest that his situation was despair, and so it will nail him to himself that the torment nevertheless remains that he cannot get rid of himself, and it becomes manifest that he was deluded in thinking that he succeeded. And thus it is eternity must act, because to have a self, to be a self, is the greatest concession made to man, but at the same time, it is eternity's demand on him."

"...so much is said about wasted lives --- only that man's life is wasted who lived on, so deceived by the joys of life or by its sorrows that whenever became eternally and decisively conscious of himself as spirit, as self, or (what is the same thing) never became aware and in the deepest sense received an impression of the fact that there is a God, and that he, himself, his self, exists before this God, this gain of infinity, which is never attained except through despair."


Kierkegaard
Last edited by Immanuel Can on Sun Feb 16, 2020 1:07 am, edited 4 times in total.

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Re: Albert Camus: The Myth of Sisyphus

Post by Nick_A » Sat Feb 15, 2020 9:01 pm

There is a quality of ideas considered repulsive since they refer to someone who experiences them. BS ing about them is welcomed while experiencing them is not. Watch how Someone explains affliction. Those with an open mind can experience the deeper ideas they expose while comparing them to Kierkegaard. The closed mind only seeks attack to anything questioning the duality of everything under the sun. From wiki
Affliction

Weil's concept of affliction (malheur) goes beyond simple suffering, though it certainly includes it. Only some souls are capable of experiencing the full depth of affliction; the same souls that are also most able to experience spiritual joy. Affliction is a sort of suffering "plus", which transcends both body and mind; such physical and mental anguish scourges the very soul.[63]

War and oppression were the most intense cases of affliction within her reach; to experience it, she turned to the life of a factory worker, while to understand it she turned to Homer's Iliad. (Her essay "The Iliad or the Poem of Force", first translated by Mary McCarthy, is a piece of Homeric literary criticism.) Affliction was associated both with necessity and with chance—it was fraught with necessity because it was hard-wired into existence itself, and thus imposed itself upon the sufferer with the full force of the inescapable, but it was also subject to chance inasmuch as chance, too, is an inescapable part of the nature of existence. The element of chance was essential to the unjust character of affliction; in other words, my affliction should not usually—let alone always—follow from my sin, as per traditional Christian theodicy, but should be visited upon me for no special reason.

The better we are able to conceive of the fullness of joy, the purer and more intense will be our suffering in affliction and our compassion for others. ...

Suffering and enjoyment as sources of knowledge. The serpent offered knowledge to Adam and Eve. The sirens offered knowledge to Ulysses. These stories teach that the soul is lost through seeking knowledge in pleasure. Why? Pleasure is perhaps innocent on condition that we do not seek knowledge in it. It is permissible to seek that only in suffering.

— Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace (chpt 16 'Affliction')

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Re: Albert Camus: The Myth of Sisyphus

Post by odysseus » Sun Feb 16, 2020 2:45 am

Immanuel Can

This is the sort of thought with which I ended my last message. We have to square up to the problem of pain. But one question we must ask right away is, "Why is it a problem?" I mean, other than the fact I don't happen to like pain, which could be merely a contingent fact anyway, what is essentially wrong with there being pain in the world? (I don't mean this rhetorically, as in "pain is good," but literally, as in "what precise factor makes it the case that pain indicates a wrongness?")

Immediately we are thrown into the realm of ultimate goodness for the answer. Why is it that pain is "wrong" to us? Because we have a definite sense that things ought to be right...and they're not. But where does this sense of the oughtness of things come from? What is its justification? Is it real, or is it a mere accident of our nervous systems? Does it have any real referent in the actual world? And to whom are we appealing, when we cry out, "Little girls burning to death is so unfair!" :shock:
I invite you to trace your steps as they take your thoughts away from the actuality itself. The false step, I will argue, begins with the superfluous question, "why is it a problem?" You began with the actuality, then you moved to a mundane assumption that the answer to this is to be discovered in a system of already disclosed thought. Why would you do this? It is the "habit" of philosophy to have faith, if you will, in philosophical method, and this method is neverending in its execution, because it is a closed system of self referential ideas. You can spend the day wandering in this land of the familiar, pretending this is all there is.

The question, what there is wrong with there being pain in the world? is not going to be satisfied by qualifying the pain as "to us" and our "definite sense that things ought to be right". You see how this leads directly away from the phenomenon and toward an attitude, as if the the phenomenological "presence" of anything can be so relativized. Presence is there, in the world, and it is usually the case, in fact always the case with the singlel exception being here, that our understanding's grasp of a thing is through language and logic. The color yellow (G E Moore's example) is typical: one cannot "speak" the color; this is not what language does. It is not about the what, but the how. Empirical science is all about the how of things, and is clueless about the what, the actuality of actuality, if you will. Here, in this discussion of ethics, we have value, the ethical good and bad. The how of it is not at issue. ethical good and bad issue directly from the value of the what. Going beyond the value of the badness of the spear in my kidney, the "arrggg" is to stray from the source and to already abandon the thematized actuality: the pain qua pain.

Our "sense" of right and wrong is a marginal consideration, and it is NOT about the fairness of anything, because first the immediate apprehension, the perception, not the apperception, has to be given its due prior to discussions about this kind of thing. There is an "unknown X" in pain, utterly transcendental, but undeniable. One simply cannot in good faith say that being burned alive is on an ontological par with other mundane observations, like the chemical content of Jupiter's eye, or temperature differentials in geological sediments. This si why Wittgenstein says ethics is not factual, and why he simply refused to talk about ethics beyond the mundane, but remained very religious, There is, in Kierkegaard's words, a qualitative difference. He doesn't use this word as I am, and the fault is his, for he did not do a phenomenological analysis of pain and pleasure and all that lies therein. He was, as Heidegger said, a religious writer, too much so.
But is it true? We may not all know the reason for every bit of suffering that happens. But sometimes we do. Sometimes, we know that the reason our muscles ache is that we are training to be triathletes. Sometimes we know that the ours of misery in the library got us the degree we now hold in our hands. And sometimes we even meet hard circumstances that make us say, "I know now that I am a better person than I was before I suffered. My pain has deepened me, and given me wells of compassion I never had before; and while I would not wish it to come again, I am glad to stand on the other side of my pain, and hold the goods it purchased for me." That sort of understanding is not too much to suppose, at least in some circumstances.
But a causal history bypasses the phenomenological analysis altogether. The kind of entanglements you speak of are incidental. The actuality's presence is what is at issue, and the just accpeting it has its analysis, too. For what it to simply accept? It is to take what is before one and assimilate it into existing categories, which is why I say Camus and Nietzsche are not very extreme. It is in their failure too own up to what they ae doing: reducing the world to known thinking, as if the infinity itself were to be taken up as a concept of finitude. It is patently absurd, to use a term. I don't know what infinity is, I cannot encompass it, cannot reach into its depths, and I know it is therefore transcendental to my waking eyes, and who cares? There is no worries here, only the Kuhnsian (ref. Thomas Kuhn) understanding that paradigms will fail time and time again, perhaps reaching something qualitatively dramatic somewhere in the future. But value? It where's it "caring" on its sleeve.

That's a difference again between Kierkegaard and Camus. For Kierkegaard, the absurdity of things is a product of our failures of epistemology -- not that there IS no answer to why things happen, but that, being merely localized, contingent, moribund human beings, we lack the means to achieve the perspective to see any answers, if answers there be. For Camus, on the other hand, absurdity is an inherent fact -- Camus thinks he's got it right, and anybody who even imagines there's a truth beyond the absurdity of things is merely deluded. Yet, why would we jump to the conclusion that Camus is right, and Kierkegaard wrong?

Now, of course, we cannot say with confidence -- at this point in our inquiry, anyway -- that an answer can be had. But we can realize we have insufficient evidence to blithely embrace Camus's despair, at the same time. And, if we are courageous, we can decline to embrace despair at this point, and say, I will continue to look; and as I do, more information may be available to be had.
I guess you can think of K as presenting an epistemological issue, not "knowing" the true nature of the self. But I don't think he thinks we can't see the answer, hence the knight of faith: a perfectly possible condition. He thinks we can ascend to to authentic Christian faith, Abraham's, such that the world yields, in it ethics and indulgences, to God. But to know, this is the beginning. I put the book down at this point, and exercise my, if I dare say, intuitive power to stand in awareness of the world as Being. Odd way to put it, perhaps, but K requires this, because he's is talking about awareness simpliciter, that extraordinary openness where one sees that the desire to understand what one is, is bound to an alienation we experience that far exceeds what our familiar thoughts can deliver on. K was, on this, an implicit mystic. Camus remains closed to this. I think they both miss the mark: for the Hindus and Buddhists (Heidegger says in his "Only a God can Save US" interview that Buddhism may produce a language that hols the key to the primordialism he sought) move out and upward. Forget the myths. Yogas are like rafts leaving one shore for another. The raft ultimately abandoned.
I think that's what, perhaps, you might wish to be arguing for. Not a capitulation to despair, nor to a hasty conclusion that un-understood pains can never have explanation, but that a knight of faith would continue the quest for more answers. If he takes off his armour, and sits down in despair, he is most certainly no knight of faith, right?
Not quite. for me, it is not armor. The faith implicit in K is revelatory, and perhaps should not be called faith at all. To "posit" the spirit, as K says, is to understand in the eternal present the way things are. It is a very cryptic affair, for to stand in the present is to be free of recollection and its tyranny over the self, to be free of the motivations that drive us and to be free to choose among possibilities. This is NOT an intellectual business. It is existential, spiritual if you like. It is an experience, not a discursive body of reasoning. The discursiveness has utility, not authority. The authority issues from the revealed encounter with the world. The terminology needs to be dismissed; after all, language is only a pragmatic tool.
It's very simple, of course. It's just the idea that "materials" are all that constitute "the real." There are two types of it: reductive and non-reductive, but both presuppose that "matter" is the base substance of existence, and everything else must be explained in terms of material properties. In a subject like cognition, Materialism takes for granted that brain is the total explanation of mind, for example. Or in cosmology, it presumes that the accidental combination of matter into an accidental explosion, followed by a billions-of-years process of material change, is the total explanation of why we are here.

If such things are true, there is no "ethics." What is, simply is. All is accidental, all a mere chance combination of materials. And pain and suffering are just very strange facts which, for no possible reason, evolution has caused us to experience. Therefore, there is no "injustice" in our experiencing of them. And there is no "wrongness" to little girls burning at the stake, or to Lisbon being flattened. Whatever happens, just happens.

And like Camus says, then, you will find it nothing but absurd. Your cries to the effect that it is unfair actually make no sense in light of how things really are. All you can do is roll the rock. The whole sense of absurdity is an inexplicable, contingent byproduct of some evolutionary quirk; no more. It means nothing, signals no real absurdity, and ends nowhere.
The term "material" has always been a nuisance. If taken out of the context of empirical science and everyday talk, it is just a metaphysical term that says almost nothing. You might as well call noumea or the grand mysterium. Being is the only term that works for me, but that takes a reduction of what is to the function of language and it disclosure. I think this can be right, but that is a pretty big topic. But anyway: materialism does not as such preclude moral realism, for the "what there is" is still an open concept. Ask any physicist if the world's secrets have been exhaustively covered. Emphatically not, sh/e will say. The best way to understand it is do what the analytic philosophers do and "follow" science, so what is is what empirical science says isness is. But this is not the way of phenomenology, at all.
No doubt. But what makes us think the universe "cares" about survival and reproduction of the species? Are these not also contingent facts of this quirky universe into which pure chance threw us?
But then, we ARE the universe, no less than gravity. thirteen billion years of so ago, being was trust into existence, so to speak, and it then began torturing itself through the agency of US. And chance is an is a bit of language we use to understand things, and understanding is, aside from value, aesthetics and ethics, pragmatic. This is a longish discussion. See Dewey, Rorty; see American pragmatism.
This is what I am MOST interested in. If you would make your case, I would be very grateful.
Ok, but it will take a paragraph to sketch it out. We use the term good a lot, and it is meant contingently mostly. Something is good means that it fits an existing standard, like a good knife or a good kite. Good is very clear here for the criteria of assessment is objective, mostly: a good knife is sharp, balanced and comfortable to the grip. A good kite flies high, is sturdy, and so on. Note that when the criteria change, the goodness changes accordingly. A knife like the one above may be good for cooking, but very bad for a production of Macbeth. Here, a sharp knife is a bad knife! It is important to note that what was good is now bad. The goodness is relative. But now, take an ethical bad, and the most vivid examples make the oint most clearly: Torture a child, says this controlling agency, or a thousand will be tortured, and in a way that is far beyond what you can imagine. Clearly, I wold say there is a very strong utilitarian argument in favor of torturing the child. Forget the deontological issues that arise. It's really not the point. The point is this: when you choose to do the "good " option, unlike the sharpness of the knife, the "badness" of the torture of the child sustains intact. In fact, there is nothing, no imaginable circumstance, that can mitigate this. The thumbscrews will hurt all the same. The ethical badness of torture is an absolute, and this absolute applies across the board for all value assessments. Doing my math homework is tedious and dreary, and even though it works out for the best to do it, this does not diminish the dreariness one iota. Hitler salivated with anticipation of removing the Jewish population from Germany, but his being monstrously cruel does not diminish the joy he felt, nor did it blunt the taste of he expensive cigar he smoked as he gave the order to put Himmler in charge.

This shows pretty clearly, I think, that value sustains no matter what entanglements it finds itself in. Value as such, that is, is untouched by circumstance, just like modus ponens or tautologies and contradictions; it is universal, analytically verifiable, I argue, that pain is bad in the ethical sense.

Keep in mind that it is value AS SUCH that is on the table, and NOT the valuatively arbitrary entanglements that complicate the affair. The horrors of WW II does into enter into the discussion about Hitler's enjoying his cigar at all!
This was what I said at the end of my last message: we must face up to the "square look" at suffering. We must not hide behind explanations like, "Well, it's not so bad," or "Maybe it will issue in good things eventually," or "Well, if that little girl had survived, she would have bred the next Hitler, maybe." These are evasions.

But so is capitulation to despair. To conclude, prior to knowing, that the "square" way to look at suffering is to conclude that it is simply absurd, meaningless in itself, and devoid of possibility, is (I will say) a coward's move too. We have simply taken off our armour, and ceased the quest for answers. We have not at all established there ARE no answers, or that it is inevitably tragic if WE do not have all of them.
It seems like you are moving closer to my position??
I want to know why we think this is so. There's no way we can say "Well, the fact that we don't like pain makes it intrinsically bad." Such an answer can be subverted seven ways.

I do not disagree that at least some pain is intrinsically "bad." But I do not think it's easy to adduce any remotely plausible secular reasons why it is inherently morally bad, or how our human desire to cast the cloth of morality over the hard table of facts is warranted at all. Hume saw this problem, and though I disagree very much with Hume, I don't on this. When two such opponents agree, it is a rare thing indeed, and often signals a very profound problem.
The above I think responds to this.
I do not believe Derrida is right about this. He banishes the referent, and turns all into language games. There is a truth in the complexities of language; but language is a mere tool of meaning. Without the "prize," the language games all turn hollow.
Derrida is a radical Heideggerian, meaning he takes H's position that language is an interpretative medium of disclosure and to think,. as Husserl and others did, the world presents its "presence" to us somehow, is like walking of water. One can never escape the hermeneutics of time and projection. derrida takes it further and I don't think I can do that justice. I'd have to read a lot more about it, about how it is the centered knowledge claims are arbitrary, that there is no center, and so on. I sort of get it, but clearly how it worlks. But Heidegger was very, very right on this mater: our knowledge claims are interpretative and language, the "house of Being" is a disclosure of the world such that concept and actuality a joined at the hip: there is no pure apprehension of a thing, of anything.
Now, I am saying that while our concepts, our language, does not say what the world IS, the intimation of value, the stuff of ethics, is an intimation of an absolute. The term 'bad' may be an interpretative concept, but the actuality bound To that concept is apparent, making the ethical bad a transcendental concept.
Ah, then you are putting your armour on, not taking it off.
For me, there is no battle. Just my deficiencies in explanatory resources to convince.

odysseus
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Re: Albert Camus: The Myth of Sisyphus

Post by odysseus » Sun Feb 16, 2020 3:09 am

Nick_A
1. Does it have objective meaning and purpose which sustains it but humanity as a whole has become oblivious of? 2. Is it meaningless as Camus suggests and meaning and purpose is our attempt to provide meaning to chaos as with all our BS? 3. Even if we cannot know for sure there is no use arguing about. just lean back, have a beer, play your music as the musicians on the Titanic did. Be happy, and ignore the chaos. 4. Is there another alternative?
The first, Heidegger would say yes, but the meaning and purpose are not Bibilical, not absolutes, just meanings that remedy our alienation. My trouble with this is that this search for more primordial meanings in the historical, pre westerm metaphysics simply will not answer the profound questions, nor satisfy the ethical atrocities of our world. I insist, with Kierkegaard, that there is only one actuality, and that is the self. The rest are theoretical constructs, like this tree: ask me what it is and I will give you reason, narrative, definition, science...I mean, ther e is no "science" out there. Nor is there truth. Truth. Truth is either propositional, and there are no propositions "out there," or it is revelatory, as in the truth, the light and way. This is all us, and to move closer to the truth is to realize the eternal present, as Kierkegaard would put it. He was a Buddhist, of sorts, if you ask me. Number 2 is simply mundane. Camus was a journalist, not a philosopher. Like Hemingway, his thinking is droll and matter of fact and far too committed to the commonplace. trouble is, the world is NOT commonplace at all. 4? There is plenty to READ while you drink beer and contemplate your inevitable death. Read Keirkegaard, Levinas, Husserl, Heidegger, Buber, Kant...and so on; and discover the depth of human existence. Camus is a very smart man/woman-on-the-street. Alternatives? Meditate, do yoga, ask penetrating questions.

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