Thursday, December 17, 2009

Nietzche, Kierkegaard and Russell: The Human Condition

For the final essay in my philosophy class, we were asked to decide who ultimately best described the human condition - Neitzche, Kierkegaard or Bertrand Russel. This essay turns out rather circular, because I was rather uncertain about how I felt about it. I spent about forty minutes writing this off the top of my head - I didn't edit it in class, I am not about to edit it here. That would bloody well be cheating...

I would also like to clarify that I do not mean anything disparaging by my comments about "the masses." I don't think there is anything the least bit wrong with caring more about living life, than about what meaning there might be in it all - or what
Truth might be, or if it even exists. Honestly, I am often of the mind that not giving a shit would really be preferable to never shutting this bloody damned thing down sometimes. Even with meds, my brain is going full tilt almost all the time - in some ways, cannabis was far more effective at slowing things down. Unfortunately, it also made it rather harder to think properly about things that I need to be able to think about...So it goes and so it is - and without further ado or banal babbling...

It is hard to say that any of these three truly described the human condition, if the human
condition is measured by the life experience of the majority of humans. For most the human condition is to toil as we must to garner material needs that sustain and as much luxury as can be afforded after those needs are met. Through the toil, most just want to do what they must and take their leisure time as just that – leisure. Most people do not want to think much about Truth, the mind or the abstractions that make up human existence.

I also think it is rather arrogant to assume that the dogmatism of those who never travel the
region of liberating doubt is an arrogant dogmatism. While there are certainly those who own an
incredibly arrogant dogmatism, most people engage in a very humble dogmatism, a meek and gentle dogmatism that stems from understanding they accept from others. They do not presume to know but accept the knowing from those who are engaged in the arrogant dogmatism of which Russell speaks. Accepting knowledge from people who claim to know doesn't make the person accepting it arrogant, it makes them quite human.

Throughout the history of our species, since the earliest development of rudimentary culture the
human condition has been to toil, humbly accepting the guidance of those who claim to know and
doing what we must. If left with enough to survive – sometimes when left with less, humans humbly accept the leadership they are given. Given enough discontent and leaders willing to rise up from the humble masses to engage the masses in revolt, the humble masses will change leaders – but even there, the heart of revolution, the masses are humbly accepting the orders of new leaders.

In short, the human condition is the will and striving to survive in the best comfort possible,
dreaming dreams of the young that change to simple desires as one ages. The general human condition simply does not care about philosophy or engage in much consideration of abstractions. The human condition has neither the energy or concern.

But then there is the human condition of thoughtful people. People who are not content to
accept knowledge or dogmatic certainty. For these I think that all three men are correct. The human condition of the thoughtful is to desperately seek for Truth in the face of uncertainty, to accept that such truth may not be found and to be the best they can be by their own regard. It is also to consider and sometimes accept that the truth may be that which is arational, even irrational. Finally, I think that the ultimate joy to be found is the awe and wonder of the child. The acceptance of liberating doubt, is the joy of seeing what is familiar, through the lens of doubt – in essence seeing them for the first time, every time.

What is better than the beauty of the world made fresh and new with every glance. Considering
the mundane in the light of accepting that while Truth may exist, while it is possible that humans may one day find there are no more horizons to delve – it will not happen in my lifetime and therefor my life can be filled with awe and wonder at the mysteries left to consider, the vistas left to explore.

I think that in the final tally, the human condition is all of this. The humble masses who toil and
seek to survive, who accept knowledge, know things for themselves. They also know doubt, for there is ever uncertainty about things that might be considered. And they know wonder, largely stemming from that doubt. At the same time, thoughtful people are not bereft of dogma, some arrogant and some plain – fed them by those who know what they do not know. Accepting there are vistas left to explore, there are those that are and for which they know.

In the end we are, all of us, human. Contradictory, contrary and paradoxical. Each and every
one of us has these characteristics described by Nietzche, Kierkegaard and Russel, in various measures. There is no way to claim that one of these men understood the human condition better than another, because each of them described aspects of the human condition that no person can avoid. What they described is absolutely what it means to be human and likely what it will always mean to be human.

I would just add to this, I am not nearly as humble as I should be most of the time. I too often take myself too seriously and tend to be an all too arrogant motherfucker. I have nothing but the more profound respect for those who are actually humble and arrogantly like to mock those who are more arrogant than I am - reveling in my superior ability at humble grace...(in case you didn't realize - that last line was sarcasm)


Abby Normal said...

I don't know about all that "human condition" stuff. Everything I know about philosophy I learned from kissing. I mean, we all know about platonic kisses. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Aristotelian kiss
a kiss performed using techniques gained solely from theoretical speculation untainted by any experiential data by one who feels that the latter is irrelevant anyway.

Hegelian kiss
dialiptical technique in which the kiss incorporates its own antithikiss, forming a synthekiss.

Wittgensteinian kiss
the important thing about this type of kiss is that it refers only to the symbol (our internal mental representation we associate with the experience of the kiss--which must necessarily also be differentiated from the act itself for obvious reasons and which need not be by any means the same or even similar for the different people experiencing the act) rather than the act itself and, as such, one must be careful not to make unwarranted generalizations about the act itself or the experience thereof based merely on our manipulation of the symbology therefor.

Godelian kiss
a kiss that takes an extraordinarily long time, yet leaves you unable to decide whether you've been kissed or not.

Socratic kiss
really a Platonic kiss, but it's claimed to be the Socratic technique so it'll sound more authoritative; however, compared to most strictly Platonic kisses, Socratic kisses wander around a lot more and cover more ground.

Kantian kiss
a kiss that, eschewing inferior "phenomenal" contact, is performed entirely on the superior "noumenal" plane; though you don't actually feel it at all, you are, nonetheless, free to declare it the best kiss you've ever given or received.

Kafkaesque kiss
a kiss that starts out feeling like it's about to transform you but ends up just bugging you.

Sartrean kiss
a kiss that you worry yourself to death about even though it really doesn't matter anyway.

Russell-Whiteheadian kiss
a formal kiss in which each lip and tongue movement is rigorously and completely defined, even though it ends up seeming incomplete somehow.

Pythagorean kiss
a kiss given by someone who has developed some new and wonderful techniques but refuses to use them on anyone for fear that others would find out about them and copy them.

Cartesian kiss
a particularly well-planned and coordinated movement: "I think, therefore, I aim." In general, a kiss does not count as Cartesian unless it is applied with enough force to remove all doubt that one has been kissed. (cf. Polar kiss, a more well-rounded movement involving greater nose-to-nose contact, but colder overall.)

Heisenbergian kiss
a hard-to-define kiss--the more it moves you, the less sure you are of where the kiss was; the more energy it has, the more trouble you have figuring out how long it lasted. Extreme versions of this type of kiss are known as "virtual kisses" because the level of uncertainty is so high that you're not quite sure if you were kissed or not. Virtual kisses have the advantage, however, that you need not have anyone else in the room with you to enjoy them.

Nietzscheian kiss
the character of this kiss is determined more by the lack of certain experiences than by those it had. But before its effect one believes in different causes than one does after the effect.

Kierkegaardian kiss
a very passionate kiss as it's happening. But upon reflection it is really just two pairs of lips, slightly moistened and pressed together.

Zenoian kiss
your lips approach, closer and closer, but never actually touch.

BlankGeneration said...

1) Love the title, "Traumatized by Truth"

2) I just started my philosophy class, and I think that you did a great job.

3) Kierkegaard is a bitch to spell right if your not looking at it.