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Marxists vs. Existentialists

Discussion in 'Opinions, Beliefs, & Points of View' started by Zueri, Aug 19, 2007.

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  1. Zueri

    Zueri Well-Known Member

    I'm into philosophy. Deal. :rolleyes:

    Anyways, I found this essay recently that juxtaposes the arguments of Marxists vs. Existentialists on the matters of the science, universe, and reality.

    Science And The Absurdity Of Reality

    For existentialism the universe is irrational; for Marxism it is lawful. The propositions of existentialist metaphysics are set in a context of cataclysmic personal experience. They all flow from the agonising discovery that the world into which we are thrown has no sufficient or necessary reason for existence, no rational order. It is simply there and must be taken as we find it. Being is utterly contingent, totally without meaning, and superfluous.

    Human existence as such is equally meaningless. “It is absurd that we were born, it is absurd that we die”, writes Sartre in Being and Nothingness . We do not know where we came from, why we are here, what we must do; or where we are going. “Every existing thing is born without reason, prolongs itself out of the weakness of inertia and dies by chance”, says one of Sartre’s characters in Nausea .

    If the world is devoid of meaning and impervious to rational inquiry, a philosophy of existence would seem a contradiction in terms. In contrast to religious mysticism, philosophy aims to illuminate reality by means of concepts, the tools of reasoning. How is it possible to explain an unconditionally absurd universe or even find a foothold for theory in it?

    Soren Kierkegaard did contend that it was neither possible nor desirable to think systematically about the reality of life, which eluded the grasp of the abstracting intellect. Albert Camus rejected existentialist theorising on similar grounds. It is hopeless, he asserted, to try to give rational form to the irrational. The absurdity of existence must be lived through, suffered, defied; it cannot be satisfactorily explained.

    However, the professional thinkers of this school do not choose to commit philosophical suicide. They have proceeded, each in their own way, to elaborate a philosophy of “being in an absurd world”. There is logic to their illogicality. If everything is hopelessly contradictory, why should the enterprise of philosophy be an exception? The human mission, they say, is to find out the meaning of meaninglessness—or at least give some meaning through our words and deeds to an otherwise inscrutable universe.

    For dialectical materialism, reality has developed in a lawful manner and is rationally explicable. The rationality of nature and human history is bound up with matter in motion. The concatenation of cosmic events gives rise to cause-and-effect relations that determine the qualities and evolution of things. The physical preceded and produced the biological, the biological the social, and the social the psychological in a historical series of mutually conditioned stages. The aim of science is to disclose their essential linkages and formulate these into laws that can help pilot human activity.

    The rationality, determinism, and causality of the universal process of material development do not exclude but embrace the objective existence and significance of absurdity, indeterminism, and accident.

    However, these random features of reality are no more fundamental than regularity. They are not immutable and irremovable aspects of nature and history but relative phenomena which in the course of development can change to the extent of becoming their own opposites. Chance, for example, is the antithesis of necessity. Yet chance has its own laws, which are lodged in the occurrence of statistical regularities. Quantum mechanics and the life insurance business exemplify how individual accidents are convertible into aggregate necessities.

    Exceptions are nothing but the least frequent alternatives, and when enough exceptions pile up they give rise to a new rule of operation which supersedes the formerly dominant one. The interplay of chance and necessity through the conversion of the exception into the rule can be seen in the economic development of society. Under tribal life, production for immediate personal consumption is the norm whereas production for exchange is a rare and casual event. Under capitalism, production for sale is the general law; production for one’s own use is uncommon. What was categorically necessary in the first economic system is fortuitous in the second. Moreover, in the transition from one economy to the other the bearers of chance and necessity have changed places, have become transformed into each other.

    Social structures that are rational and necessary under certain historical circumstances become absurd and untenable at a further stage of economic development and are scrapped. Thus feudal relations, which corresponded to a given level of the powers of social production, became as anachronistic as Don Quixote and had to give way before the more dynamic forces and more rational forms of bourgeois society.

    The existentialists go wrong, say the Marxists, in making an eternal absolute out of the occurrence of chance events and unruly phenomena. These are not unconditioned and unchangeable but relative and variable aspects of being.

    As a result, of their conflicting conceptions of reality, the two philosophies have entirely different attitudes toward science. If the universe is irrational through and through, then science, which is the most sustained and comprehensive effort to render the relations and operations of reality intelligible and manageable, must be nonsensical and futile. The existentialists mistrust and downgrade the activities and results of science. They accuse the scientists of substituting conceptual and mathematical abstractions for the whole living person, proffering the hollow shell of rationality for its substance, neglecting what is most important in existence, and breeding an unbridled technology which, like Frankenstein’s monster, threatens to crush its creator.

    Marxism, which holds fast to the rationality of the real, esteems scientific knowledge and inquiry as the fullest and finest expression of the exercise of reason. It believes that the discovery of physical and social laws can serve to explain both the regularities and irregularities of development, so that even the most extreme anomalies of nature, society, and the individual can be understood.

    Where do you stand on science?

    Personally, I have to say I'm more with the existentialists. Science does seem to go too far - to the point where it starts to be destructive to its very creators.
    However, I have nothing to say against the advancement of PURE science. Researching simply to know is perfectly fine, in my humble opinion. Albeit, having the knowledge automatically presents the temptation to exploit it in some manner...especially with today's money hungry corporations and the desire to simply get things done faster.
    :dry: It's complicated...>.<
  2. ACRon

    ACRon Well-Known Member

    The laws of entropy prevented my brain from processing that information from about half way down. Was that advanced philosophy that a mere earthling like me wouldn't understand or should i consider going to the doctors to see if I suffer with some form of a.d.d.?

    I enjoyed the bit about bieng in an absurd world though :wink:

    I blame religion:mad:, it made my brain lazy :sad:
  3. I think that the universe is very random and shit happens. Does that make me an existentialist?

    I think that the environment we are in should be studied to help us function in it more effectively (what is effective depends on the social context) does that make me a marxist?

    I'm a marxistentialist!

    Philosophy makes my brain hurt, I wish I understood it.
  4. Sadeyes

    Sadeyes Staff Alumni

    I am reading Nausea right now (seems to fit my mood) so this thread is very timely for me...I have become a 'whatever happens, happenist', which has freed me considerably...thanks for the thought provoking thread...J
  5. Whitewolf

    Whitewolf Well-Known Member

    Double post oops
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 24, 2007
  6. Whitewolf

    Whitewolf Well-Known Member

    There is something wrong with enjoying philosophical writings? I think not! :biggrin:

    Hmmm Personal experience leads into....the agonising discovery :laugh:. Age and personal experience do not necessarily qualify a person to make such statements as these. To claim to understand the reason, that for them does not exist, for our purpose and our life. I believe on a topic such as this there are no such thing as "experts". Let me make an analogy, in order to demonstrate that person experience does not make one an "authority" on a subject. As you are aware no doubt aware, America is engaged in a struggle with an insurgency in the country of Iraq. When soldiers are asked "do you think we can win this war?" most say yes, but some say no. For them the experience of the insurgency is personal, but to claim that this experience somehow makes them an indisputable authority on the subject is ridiculous.

    Absurd? Indeed. Now please elaborate, how it is absurd. It is his perspective and opinion that holds human existence as absurd, not mine. It is absurd that we should value his opinion over our own. He justifies calling life absurd by letting loos the old where, why, what questions. So is he trying to make the reader infer that not knowing the answers to complex questions is absurd? I think this man is absurd then. Maybe some character in a book was born without reason but many people on this planet were born for a reason, and a desire. The desire was sexual, and the reason in many cases was love.

    It is a contradiction, it sounds to me like the writer of this article is trying to be wittier than he actually is when he says things like "a philosophy of existence would seem", when in fact he is pointing out the reality of this hypocritical view, why not just end his take on existentialism here?

    Absolute nonsense. Religious mysticism, was born of a desire to reason out how the universe worked. The same is true with philosophy. But whereas religion has the power to motivate people to accomplish extraordinary deeds of the "good" and "bad" varieties. Philosophy holds no such sway over the people. Is the rhetorical question designed to get the reader to think about questioning philosophy and perhaps not ruling out religion mysticism? Of course not. This is clear to me, by what follows.

    What an unhealthy line of thought this is? You see, these so-called "philosophers" are caught in a trap. They have no logical explanation for existence, of the universe, of ourselves, of anything. So instead of being truthful with us and saying they do not know the answers to the most important questions. Instead they say, and i will paraphrase "it is neither possible nor desirable to think systematically about the reality of life"

    Nothing is impossible, a philosopher should know that. A true man, one such as leonardo da vinci knew things like this. Flying?! Impossible! Do not even think of it! I'm sure his critics said to him, the impossible has become possible. Thinking outside the box is always desirable, some of the greatest concoctions have come from this method of thinking. Why must existence be defied? If you defy existence, then you are trying to not exist. Liberal drivel, at its worst. The goal is to destory all semblance of hope and true reason in a man and make him a lifeless robot obediant to the will of the ruling elite.

    I knew they'd drag suicide into this in some form or another, at least it was in another :smile:.

    Am i the only one to find this statement ridiculous? Once again, I believe the author is trying to sound wiser than he actually is. Making profoundly ridiculous statements, the aim, to confuse those of lesser minds and to appear to be making an ingenius statement when in fact, it's just complete rubbish. "There is a logic to their illogicality" is illogicality even a word? If it is I have never seen it used before in my nineteen long years of life :laugh: .

    So far, the only contradictory view i have seen presented is that of existentialism, as admitted to by the author of this article :blink:.

    Finally the author is speaking a bit sense. He states that we have no purpose and then says "The human mission, they say(who is they, everybody but him and his existentialist buddies?), is to find out the meaning of meaninglessness" So humans do have a mission and a purpose then? Yet another contradiction. The author does not identify this purpose, other than to say that is meaninglessness, yet again another word which I believe he has created on his own. He has to elaborate because he is starting to get wordy with things like this. The universe is inscrutable and yet every day we learn more and more about it? :laugh:

    He puts dialectical materialism and rationally in the same sentence :blink: . For those reading who do not know dialectical materialism is a marxist belief, the term itself does not originate from marx but the general idea does. The general idea is that all of history was shaped by class struggle. As a history enthusiast i can tell you now, that this is a gross over-simplification in some respects and in other respects completely false.

    I agree with this paragraph, with the exception of the last sentence. I do not believe scientists should be formulating laws, or helping to pilot human activity. To me that sounds like a restriction of freedom with a guise of for the greater good thrown on top of it. The people always will and always should determine their own fate be it for better or worse, not the elite.

    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 24, 2007
  7. Whitewolf

    Whitewolf Well-Known Member

    I completely agree, and that is why I dislike capitalism. However, have i turned to socialism or communism? No, and that is because i do not believe one has to choose between the lesser of two evils. One can choose no evil. Once again, thinking outside the box.

    Change is almost never the will of the people. It is always the elite, throughout history who have pushed change onto the people, all that has changed is that it was once done by the point of a sword, now this is accomplished by the point of a gun.

    I hate to agree with Marxists, so I'm not going to :laugh:, because this view is not solely held by Marxists.

    The existentialists make a fair point here, but is it science which neglects what is most important in existence or is it scientists which do so to further their own agendas? I believe it is the latter.

    Marxists seek to use science as a way to convince the people that their views are accurate, in the same way that Christians use the Bible combined with some historical events to try to gain validity for their viewpoints.

    Despite all the means things I had to say about the existentialists, I sympathize more with their viewpoint of the world. I agree, that science for the sake of science or for the sake of the welfare of the people is pure science and should be encouraged. However, i believe greed and power distort the minds of good people, just as you do. It is complicated, as you can see I have contradicted myself :D
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 24, 2007
  8. Zueri

    Zueri Well-Known Member

    Ah ha! But as the saying goes -
    "Interesting men contradict others. Wise men contradict themselves."

    Now, stop disparaging the ideas of my beloved existentialists and all will be well! :laugh: Anyways, excellent analysis! I loved reading your thoughts. ^^

    By the way - I believe the point Sartre was trying to make (if I succeed in adequately transforming my thoughts into words) is that no matter what "purpose" a person has in life, in the end he passes...and it simply doesn't matter. We can revert to the age-old children's questions at this point:
    Where did we come from?
    Why are we here?
    What purpose are we supposed to fulfill?
    What happens after we're gone?

    And so on and so forth. Seeing that these questions will never be adequately answered, he sees it fit to call the existence of humanity "absurd"...
    And THAT is what captivates me about existentialism...
    (I admit I'm heavily biased. :D )
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 24, 2007
  9. Whitewolf

    Whitewolf Well-Known Member

    I love compliments, especially ones I do not deserve :D .

    I talked to much, and made a lot of grammatical/spelling errors. I'm surprised you didn't call me out on them :D .

    We can continue to exist through our children. The stories of our lives stay with them. If we raise them well enough, and treat them kind enough, these stories may even continue to be passed on. I love history :) .

    I believe all those questions can be answered at an individual or group level, depending on the question. They may not be the right answers, or the answers that philosophers would like to hear. Still, they are the answers people accept. I think we all have our own theories when it comes to those questions. Even if, through some scientific or logical method we were to answer one of these questions "adequately" would people really change their attitudes and their long-held views and change their minds? I think the only people who care about the answers to those questions are the existentialists, who believe there are no answers to those questions. I understand where you are coming from, but i think the existentialist viewpoint is a depressing viewpoint, at least, it was for me while i held it.

    Personally, I can say i can answer those questions with considerable confidence because of the strong faith I have in myself, at times. (No I'm not a Christian).
  10. Azul

    Azul Well-Known Member

    Where did you find this essay, Syiah?
  11. Azul

    Azul Well-Known Member

    Anyway, I would never interpret the existentialist point of view in an epistemological way. I think an existentialist can be a deterministic materialist also, it would not change his view on personal freedom, because an existentialist deals with experience/existence, his views on the problem of matter and spirit might be materialist also, but these views have nothing to do with how he would view “lived life”.
  12. Zueri

    Zueri Well-Known Member

    I was just browsing philosophical writings - specifically existentialism - on google. :D I happened to chance across after around four hours of net time. -.- (Yes, I'm that much of a philosophy geek. :shy: )

    It's actually just an exerpt from a larger essay on http://www.marxists.org/. I highly recommend reading the whole work. It's amazingly well written for an online entry!
  13. Azul

    Azul Well-Known Member

    It seems to be written by one George Novack, an American author who died in 1992. Never heard of him.
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