The Instigator
dairygirl4u2c
Pro (for)
Losing
6 Points
The Contender
Daxitarian
Con (against)
Winning
24 Points

existentialism is the preferred philosophy of life

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/27/2008 Category: Religion
Updated: 8 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 3,183 times Debate No: 2970
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (4)
Votes (8)

 

dairygirl4u2c

Pro

The reason why I refuse to take existentialism as just another French fashion or historical curiosity is that I think it has something very important to offer us for the new century. I'm afraid we're losing the real virtues of living life passionately, sense of taking responsibility for who you are, the ability to make something of yourself and feeling good about life. Existentialism is often discussed as if it's a philosophy of despair. But I think the truth is just the opposite. Sartre once interviewed said he never really felt a day of despair in his life. But one thing that comes out from reading these guys is not a sense of anguish about life so much as a real kind of exuberance of feeling on top of it. It's like your life is yours to create. I've read the postmodernists with some interest, even admiration. But when I read them, I always have this awful nagging feeling that something absolutely essential is getting left out. The more that you talk about a person as a social construction or as a confluence of forces or as fragmented or marginalized, what you do is you open up a whole new world of excuses. And when Sartre talks about responsibility, he's not talking about something abstract. He's not talking about the kind of self or soul that theologians would argue about. It's something very concrete. It's you and me talking. Making decisions. Doing things and taking the consequences. It might be true that there are six billion people in the world and counting. Nevertheless, what you do makes a difference. It makes a difference, first of all, in material terms. Makes a difference to other people and it sets an example. In short, I think the message here is that we should never simply write ourselves off and see ourselves as the victim of various forces. It's always our decision who we are.
Daxitarian

Con

To understand existentialism, I'll give a brief run down of other meaning of life philosophies and what they mean.

For religious people, the meaning of life is simple and objective: God's command. But since it seems like there isn't a God, you might as well be deluding yourself, so what is the difference between having God choose your meaning and being high on heroin all the time?

Nihlism would say there is no objective meaning to life. There is no god and we are just irrational fragments trying to make sense in an unrelenting black cosmos that has no direction. This seems to rest on the fallacy of division--just because the universe as a whole has no meaning, doesn't mean that we can't find meaning in our individual lives.

Existetialism would say, there is no inherent meaning to life, but that isn't a problem, because you get to "roll your own meaning." You get to choose whatever meaning you want. You choose the rules.

This philosophy was really influenced by Heidegger and associated mostly with Jean-Paul Sartre. And existentialism rests on one of Sartre's most famous lines: "Existence precedes essence." In other words, there is no such thing as human nature.

This doesn't seem to be right. Aren't all humans pleasure seekers in one way or another? Do not all humans rely on knowledge, theirs or someone else's, as their means of survival? Here is another example: which of these does not fit with the others. When I grow up I want to be, A) a doctor, B) a detective, C) an engineer, D) a caterpillar. The first three fit into the realm of how humans survive and interact; we are social primates. Choice D obviously does not fit.

So this brings me to what I think is a better philosophy of life, and that is Aristotelian virtue ethics. Aristotle and the greeks thought the meaning of life laid in human nature. A virtuoso violin players is one who plays the violin well, and a virtuous person is one who lives life well. And if character is built by practicing good habits, then the greeks thought that "eudaimonia" (which roughly translates into happiness or flourshing) would come about. I find this view striking because it lines up so well with some modern ideas about psychology (i.e. Maslow's hierarchy of needs).

One criticism leveled by existentialism at other moral philosophies is that it leads to a "child-like" or "slave-like" morality. This certainly may be true of some religious philosophies. But virtue ethics leaves the door wide open for creative possibility in exercising virtue. You don't have to be a doctor, a detective, or an engineer--you get to choose from a mixed bag of goods. But there are limits. And existentialists can't accept this position.

Which leads to some troubling conclusions if you follow the existentialism logic a little further. If the meaning of life is a sort of "collage" that you just get to make up, then anything flys. So, what then is so wrong about Adolf Hitler? If his purpose in life was to eliminate the jews, why would that be wrong if no meanings to life are any better than other meanings of life? Some existentialists would try to get out of this by claiming it might be preferable if other people look at your M.O.L "collage" and gave approval. But then this itself is conceding that we can establish some criterion for what makes one meaning of life view better than the other.

I'll stop there for now.
Debate Round No. 1
dairygirl4u2c

Pro

dairygirl4u2c forfeited this round.
Daxitarian

Con

Daxitarian forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2
dairygirl4u2c

Pro

-----------
--For religious people, the meaning of life is simple and objective: God's command. But since it seems like there isn't a God, you might as well be deluding yourself, so what is the difference between having God choose your meaning and being high on heroin all the time?
--Nihlism would say there is no objective meaning to life. There is no god and we are just irrational fragments trying to make sense in an unrelenting black cosmos that has no direction. This seems to rest on the fallacy of division--just because the universe as a whole has no meaning, doesn't mean that we can't find meaning in our individual lives.
---Existetialism would say, there is no inherent meaning to life, but that isn't a problem, because you get to "roll your own meaning." You get to choose whatever meaning you want. You choose the rules.
--virtue ethics leaves the door wide open for creative possibility in exercising virtue. But there are limits. And existentialists can't accept this position.
So, what then is so wrong about Adolf Hitler? If his purpose in life was to eliminate the jews, why would that be wrong if no meanings to life are any better than other meanings of life? Some existentialists would try to get out of this by claiming it might be preferable if other people look at your M.O.L "collage" and gave approval. But then this itself is conceding that we can establish some criterion for what makes one meaning of life view better than the other.
------

I think ultimately the professor, or my opening post, would not disagree with you per se that those ethics are okay. what we'd disagree with you on is that existentialism means hitler is justified.

existentialism wouldn't allow you to deny your own nature. ethics are inherently party of your nature. this appears objective, without any outside forces asking us to say otherwise.

now, i'm not saying your philophsy says outside forces are necessary... but for you to say existentialism would permit hitler situatios is like saying your system requires dogma and such rhetoric.

if you notice, in the opening statement, i posted that what you do mkaes a difference, and it sets an example. these are things that an existentiiast would agree with as a matter of objective appearing nature.
objective appearing is all we have to go on... and you couldn't go on lless, lest you run into being controlled by dogma, which would be lobbed at the ethics system you espouse more than anything.

the peeing man in the following hypothetical is rationalizing, in the tone of existnetialsm, but he's denying treating others the same.
"Once I saw a man peeing in a bus station. When I confronted him about it, he turned to me, without stopping, and said:
"Since the world is in constant flux, nothing that occurs has any relevance to anything else. What you believe, feel, or think is based on the assumption that truth exists. Thus, you're free to do anything that brings you pleasure. That humanity feels constrained by morals is one of the funniest jokes I've ever heard."
So I beat the sh*t out of him and took his wallet."

that man gives existentialism a bad name, but is not representative of true existentialism. he's denying to do unto others what you'd expect them to do to you... logically something you have to not be bad if you expect others not to, and objectively not somethig you want to do ie hurt your own species.

what ultimately is driving an ehtics person then? it's not God. if it's not some sort of dogma to avoid that criticism, what is it? a consensus? so while i think you can be a free thinking ethics person, if anything should be criticized for its stereotype, it's the ethics thing you propose.

at hte least, given the array of existentialism, and ethics ness, ta the very least, existentialsim should be defined as i posted in the beginning, and if i agreed ethics makes a diference, you can't use a lack of ethics as hurting my case.

but at per the definitions broadly, we can talk about an ethical existentialist, or a free thinking creative ethic-person.... but we shouldn't have to qualify the name of the philosophy. if existentialists ahve to, then you'd have to. both are seeking objectivity even if never getting it.

so i think really we're just playing word games.
Daxitarian

Con

"existentialism wouldn't allow you to deny your own nature"

Yes, that's exactly what existentialism is. Again, as Sartre said, "existence precedes essence." Existentialist would agree with nihilists that we are just a bunch of meaningless irrational fragments, but that is okay since we can make our own meaning.

It's not word games we are playing; it's just that you haven't explored the history of existentialism deep enough.
Debate Round No. 3
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by Kleptin 8 years ago
Kleptin
Whatever percentile you have to be in to hit CTRL+C, then CTRL +V
Posted by brittwaller 8 years ago
brittwaller
lol at comments below.
What percentile are you in again, dairy? :)
Posted by zander 8 years ago
zander
I wondered why something so striking came out of the blue like that. No offense, but this type of argument isn't exactly dairy's norm. To bad.
Posted by Kleptin 8 years ago
Kleptin
I was actually very impressed with this argument and was about to commend you for taking the time and effort to type something of such good quality. Then I discovered it was plagiarism.

Audio version of your stolen argument.

http://www.imdb.com...

Text version of your stolen argument.

http://en.wikipedia.org...

Source of your stolen argument.
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