Jean-Paul Sartre’s Concepts of Freedom & “Existential Choice” Explained in an Animated Video Narrated by Stephen Fry


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Just a two minute video to help understand existentialism.

For the Existentialists, the self can be a prison, a trap, and a source of great anxiety. Heidegger called selfhood a condition of being “thrown into the world.” By the time we realize where and what we are, according to restrictive categories of historical thought and language, we are already there, inescapably bound to our conditions, forced to perform roles for which we never auditioned. Jean-Paul Sartre took this notion of “thrownness” and gave it his own neurotic stamp. We are indeed tossed into existences against our will, but the real condemnation, he thought, is that once we arrive, we have to make choices. We are doomed to the task of creating ourselves, no matter how limited the options, and there is no possibility of opting out. Even not making choices is a choice.

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Open Culture

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Simone de Beauvoir’s #MeToo


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This dissatisfaction has arisen on the basis of moral objections to particular actions in particular situations. So to Colosimo’s claim that #MeToo feminism promotes a view of women as “victims and helpless objects of male desire rather than free agents” we need to ask two questions: first, if in other moral contexts free agency involves the freedom to denounce behaviour that we consider harmful, what’s different about this one? Second, what is this ‘male desire’, such that women are victims of it?

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Kate Kirkpatrick — IAI

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Is there definitive proof of the existence of God?


How does Gödel try to show that God’s existence is possible? He argues that it is possible because God has only positive properties. If God were to have both positive and negative properties simultaneously it would seem impossible for him to exist because they would contradict each other. For example, it would seem impossible for God to exist if he were to have the property of being all knowing (a positive property) and the property of being ignorant (a negative property) simultaneously. Therefore God, as the greatest possible being, has only positive properties, such as the properties of being all knowing, all powerful and morally perfect, which, according to Gödel, do not contradict each other.

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Yujin Nagasawa — OUPblog

The Contagion of Euthanasia and the Corruption of Compassion


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Is euthanasia compassionate in some cases?

Humans do not live in isolation. The more our culture sends messages that some lives are less valuable than others, the more some people will internalize messages to end their lives. A psychological contagion of suicide is unleashed by euthanasia and assisted suicide laws. Condoning suicide in one circumstance implicitly condones it across the board. The wrong of suicide is no longer absolute: death is made a reasonable—even the expected—response to pain, misfortune, and sadness.

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Arthur Goldberg & ShimonCowen — Public Discourse

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Why Spinoza Was Excommunicated


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It is quite interesting to know that Spinoza was excommunicated from his community even before any of his books were published.

The document concludes with the warning that “no one should communicate with him, not even in writing, nor accord him any favor nor stay with him under the same roof nor [come] within four cubits in his vicinity; nor shall he read any treatise composed or written by him.”

Among the boldest elements of Spinoza’s philosophy is his conception of God. Spinoza’s God, as presented in the Ethics, is a far cry from the traditional God of the Abrahamic religions. What Spinoza calls “God or Nature” (Deus sive Natura) lacks all of the psychological and ethical attributes of a providential deity. His God is not some personal agent endowed with will and understanding and even emotions, capable of having preferences and making informed choices. Spinoza’s God does not formulate plans, issue commands, have expectations, or make judgments. Neither does Spinoza’s God possess anything like moral character. His God is neither good nor wise nor just. It is a category mistake to think of God in normative or value terms. What God is, for Spinoza, is Nature itself—the infinite, eternal, and necessarily existing substance of the universe. God or Nature just is; and whatever else is, is “in” or a part of God or Nature. Put another way, there is only Nature and its power; and everything that happens, happens in and byNature. There is no transcendent or even immanent supernatural deity; there is nothing whatsoever outside of or distinct from Nature and independent of its processes.

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Steven Nadler — Humanities

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Why is Stoicism Having a Cultural Moment?


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Have been reading Seneca this month. This needull takes a look at stoicism in today’s context.

The value for our globalized society of thinking and acting in a manner that emphasizes our similarities and increases our capacity for compassion and justice can hardly be overstated. Solving the problem of climate change, for example, will undoubtedly require us to draw upon and develop these qualities further than ever before. And yet, it seems to many that as a society we are only growing more fractured and detached from one another, focusing on our divergent political views, or our racial and religious differences, or our distinct lifestyle choices (all this notwithstanding our ubiquitous connectedness via the internet).The value for our globalized society of thinking and acting in a manner that emphasizes our similarities and increases our capacity for compassion and justice can hardly be overstated. Solving the problem of climate change, for example, will undoubtedly require us to draw upon and develop these qualities further than ever before. And yet, it seems to many that as a society we are only growing more fractured and detached from one another, focusing on our divergent political views, or our racial and religious differences, or our distinct lifestyle choices (all this notwithstanding our ubiquitous connectedness via the internet).

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Chiara Sulprizio — EIDOLON

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Literary Desire


In this review of Rita Felski’s The Limits of Critiquethe author looks at contemporary literary criticism.

Felski asks what might happen if we looked not “behind the text” but “in front of the text, reflecting on what it unfurls, calls forth, makes possible.” In doing so, she seeks to rehabilitate the validity and importance of what we might call “literary desire”: the force that drives you to reread your favorite book yet again; or to finish that work of genre fiction even when you know the ending; or to press a beloved book awkwardly into a distant acquaintance’s hands in hopes that she, too, will come to love what you love and might one day talk with you about it.

First Things

Painting by Brianna Keeper