Patchwork Set of Beliefs

I hope someone in this forum can help me.
Please correct me if I have misunderstood, but existentialism tells us that human reason is inadequate to understand the world, that it only replaces the outside reality with a different inner one.
But because of my training, I can't ignore the spectacular triumphs of reason in explaining this outside world. Let me give an example: with only the light coming from distant stars as data, the scientists have been able to understand what happens inside the stars, an inside we never actually see!
Currently, I think that we can find the basic laws of nature, but cannot apply them to human affairs, as it becomes too complicated, hence reason is inadequate in these instances.
But this is kind of patchwork.
Can anyone help me reconcile these two extremes?
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14 Responses Dec 28, 2007

Human reason is based on experiences and perceptions and since no two people have the same experiences or perceptions there can never be a a true universal reality.<br />
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I can guess at your understanding of an event and we may reach some agreement on some points but it is unlikely we would be in complete agreement on any subject.<br />
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This is why existentialism focuses on the individual taking responsibility for their life based on their own experiences and perceptions and challenging your own belief system to find the meaning of life.<br />
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No one can do that for you or show you how it is done- it must be lived!

Very good discussion!<br />
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I have to agree with iggyht. I have limited knowledge of existentialism but it has been my experience that existentialists tend to appeal to the great complexity of human actions as being undecipherable by science and therefore outside of its realm. However, not long ago human experiences that were entirely attributed to the spiritual realm are now understood as a biological phenomenon. <br />
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Love and religious experiences are often thought as not only uniquely human but also as experiences that defined us as human beings. Science has now helped us to understand love and religion from a biological and evolutionary perspective that places these experiences in a greater context of other human behaviors. <br />
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Some may find the demystification of these most profound emotional experiences troubling. However, for me, knowing that the beautiful color of sunsets is created by dust in the atmosphere does not devalue my experience of sunsets and having a greater understanding of love as a biological phenomenal does not make me love less either. <br />
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We may chose to converse, exchange ideas, in a rational but non-scientific manner but it does not mean that it is beyond the scope of science. <br />
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Ultimately I am an empiricist, there are many great ideas and theories but the scientific method can inform us which sound good and which are supported by evidence.

iggyht! You were so close, then you took it back. You were right when you suggested that people aren't making choices because of there chemical and biological dillusions! But take it a step further. <br />
Everything in this universe that humans are aware of is predictable. EVERYTHING is governed by laws. Gravity for instance, will always diminish over distance. When it comes right down to it every choice I make is a reaction to imput from my environment. I see a flash of light, my eyes bl<x>ink as a built in reaction. It will happen everytime. Another reaction to that flash of light is I will think about it, every single time until a larger priority is in evidence. Then my thoughts shift to that greater priority. <br />
What I'm getting at is everything we do is governed by the sum of our past experiences and the physical condition of our bodies. So let's say I knew everything subject Peter has ever experienced, all of the imput he's recieved over his lifetime, including his physical reactions to things, no matter how small or insignifigant. With that information I would be able to predict ANYTHING Peter would do. If Peter was in a state of absolute boredome, I would be able to determine exactly what he would do, down to the very things he would contemplate. You could argue that I wouldn't know what he would be thinking, but everything he knows is stored in his brain, and some things are more readily accessable than others, and if you had all the right scientific data you could determine which memories would be revisited. <br />
If everything was known about the scientific workings and the present state of every being in the universe, one could then go on to predict what anything would do at any time, with complete precison and accuracy, because nothing in this universe is completely random. The universe was set in motion by some action, and everything from here on out is a reaction to that action.<br />
Assuming all of that, and please tell me if you have any evidence otherwise, where is the choice in anything? There isn't any, every being reacts to all the beings around it in a way predictable by the laws of physics. <br />
I sincerely believe all of that, and I can only think of one exception to that whole theory: God. Maybe God has granted us the gift of choice, don't ask me how since I don't know how we could deviate from the laws of physics, but there it is. Of course God, if you believe in him, would have the power of free choice, and since we were made in his image, perhaps he's granted us that same free choice. It would seem kinda silly for God to create man, give him no choice, then judge man on how he didn't have any choice but to react in the way he did, and condemn him. I'll let you make up your own mind on that though.

In the sense that a decision was made, an action was taken, yes. But as you are suggesting, the concept of a "mental calibration", if you will, seems to indicate that choices are arbitrary or at best purely subjective.<br />
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I believe this arbitrariness is precisely one of the dilemnas an existentialist recognizes as an example of the absurdity of meaning.

It's a can of worms, isn't it?<br />
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Just a thought.....<br />
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Anguish is a term used in contemporary philosophy, often as a translation from the Dutch angst, meaning "dread". It is a paramount feature of existentialist philosophy, in which anguish is often understood as the experience of an utterly free being in a world with zero absolutes (existential despair). In the theology of Kierkegaard, it refers to a being with total free will who is in a constant state of spiritual fear that his free will leads him to fall short of the standards that God has laid for him.<br />
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In the teachings of Sartre, anguish is seen when an utterly free beings realizes the unpredictability of his or her action. For example, when walking along a cliff, you would feel anguish to know that you have the freedom to throw yourself down to your imminent death.<br />
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This philosophy-related article is a stub. You can help Wikipedia by expanding it.<br />
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Not necessarily... that's where pioneers come in. He could be the first person to actually consider a high place as a good way to take his own life. Imagination, diving into something completely opposite of the laws we are governed by could result in creation, don't you think?<br />
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What if one accepts reason and meaning as two separate entities that correlate when needed? Maybe scientists use reason to cause meaning? And meaning, to them, is an answer to reason as a phenomenon? Coils within coils...

But in the context of the topic of existentialism, these are observable phenomenon, interesting and all that, fun to consider the far reaching implications like an infinite equation, but where is the Truth with the capital "T"?<br />
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So from Newton I know if I stand on the edge of a 20 story building and jump, I will fall and most certainly will die. But should I jump? Where is that answer. WHy should I choose to live or die, sing or moan?

But aren't the predictions basically "approximately" correct? And how do we define truth versus facts versus phenomenon?

I admit I am kind of a science minded person, but I think reason and science think too much of themselves. I think fiction can help us understnd the world too. I think understanding the world through reasoning it out is another way to come up with a story to explain things. I try to remember that science only sees a part of the world and it's good at explaining those parts. But it is not better or worse than other ways of explaining the world. But yeah, I don't mean to be so down on science! I love physiology myself.

Some would disagree about whether we can be freed, at least momentarily from what you call instinctive.<br />
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Real truth is not known by reason, reason helps us organize but is always a step or more short of actually knowing something. I am not sure that we can ever "know", but on the other hand some claim of "direct knowledge", an awareness that leaves no room for doubt and is beyond words.<br />
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Thus, an existentialist is left with uncertainty.

Ah, ways of knowing...knowing what? What now shall I do? Casn science or reason explain and know this? <br />
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Does reason explain what it is to be human? Reason lives in a vacuum. Reason says our thoughts are more real than the decipherer of thoughts. Can that be?

My first thought is.... stars are probably more complex if you look at them more closely. Right? I mean, neutrons and quarks and all that isn;t relaly understood all that well. The laws of physics as we commonly know them break down when we look at things very very closely or from a great distance. People seem pretty simple, or to fit some sort of stereotype, when you don't know them.<br />
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I guess what I think is... reason is good for figuring out the logical rule-following, rational things. But people aren't usually rational, although they tend to rationalize most of their actions and desires. And the parts of our brains that deal in logic is only a small percentage of our brains.<br />
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I guess I'm not helping, just wondering aloud... :) Good question!

I am not sure about the inadequacies of human reason...<br />
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Existentialism is more about the experience of being human and the lack of meaning one finds in the world. <br />
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I have a story posted already, you can read that if you want my take on existentialism.