Wednesday, May 02, 2012


STEVE: "Hi Auralynn! I'm on Skype. Can you see me?"

AURALYNN: "Hi Steve! I see you fine!"

STEVE (VO): "Just a sec. I'm gonna switch to the laptop in the kitchen."

STEVE: "Okay, Here I am in the kitchen. Jo jo's with me." 

STEVE: "So, Jo Jo....Tell Auralynn what you told me about why existentialism sucks.  I don't know what I think about it myself. We should let Auralynn decide which of us right. "

JO JO: "Good idea! That's fine with me.

Okay, here's the argument. Existentialism  attempts to demolish morality without replacing it with anything of equal value. Sartre says that being a moral person is a symptom of bad faith...a sign that a man is surrendering to group think, and not being true to his own nature. But that's silly."

JO JO: "Is it a good thing if dictators and murderers like Mao and Stalin are true to their own natures? You don't want to blindly embrace traditional morality, but you don't want to reject it out of hand either. Morality creates a wall that shields us from barbarism and allows civilization to flourish."

JO JO: "I guess I believe in Cicero's notion of "Right Reason." We should accept as truth the fundamental moral principals that are common to all men and all nations in every time. Using those fundamental truths as a foundation, we should use reason to deduce a  specific morality.  We don't need Sartre's philosophy....."

JO JO: ".....or Camu's either. I mean, that line from Camu's 'The Stranger: 'I shot him because the sun was in my eyes'....that sounds fun and avante garde and all that, but if you actually knew someone who did that, you'd think he was crazy. You can't base a morality on silly stuff like that."

AURALYNN: "True, but in Cicero's time humanity may have been united in believing that slavery was natural and moral. You wouldn't want to base a morality on an idea like that, eith...mmf...blorf."

AURALYNN: "Oh, lips are dry and I had to....I'd offer you some lip balm, but......"


JO JO: "Okay, traditional morality has some flaws, and all of us aren't going to agree on what the basics are, but there is a consensus about most things, and what there is no agreement on....well, we apply a sort of lip balm to it. In lieu of a permanent solution...we discuss it. It'll work out eventually."

JO JO: "Alright, I rest my case."

STEVE: "i don't know, Jo Jo. You're not giving the Existentialists the benefit of patching up their inconsistencies with lip balm.'s all so confusing."

STEVE: "Auralynn, You're the tie breaker. Who won this discussion? Does Existentialism suck?"

AURALYNN: "Well...yes, of course it sucks."

AURALYNN: "I mean, Aristotle said that you can tell if an idea is a good one because a good idea is always beneficial to both the individual and to the community. What's beneficial to anyone about killing someone because the sun was in your eyes?"

JO JO: ""Thank you, Auralynn! You have earned yourself a doughnut and a YooHoo when next we meet."


Anonymous said...

Truth doesn't have to benefit humanity. Existentialism is based on logic, at least to a degree - objective morality isn't.

Paul Penna said...

On the other hand, an existentialist is only an existentialist, but a good doughnut is a snack. That's what I call benefitting humanity.

Stephen said...

Eddie, what an amazing world you live in, where old and young, male and female, man and beast, all come together to have philosophical discussions! To put my two cents in, I'd point out that "The Stranger" is a novel and not necessarily a work of philosophy. Camus never really considered himself to be an Existentialist with a capital E. There's actually a theory that the novel is about his native Algeria and the invisibility of the native Algerians in the eyes of the French colonizers, believe it or not. I haven't read it since high school which is some time ago, so I'd have to reread it to see what I think about that theory.

pappy d said...

I am shocked that a Randian like yourself would abstain from this discussion.

There is such a thing as human nature, but morality is more than a collection of moral instincts. It's a conscious choice of the individual. From a radical individualist perspective, we are free to shoot that person or not. In fact, we are free to be anything except not-free.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

pappy: You did a good job of summarizing Rand's thinking. I can't give you a satisfactory answer here but I feel I still did a public service by bringing the subject up.

The reason I tackle philosophical subjects here is because the short format forces me to talk plainly. I obfuscate just like everybody else in normal speech...that's a hard habit to break...but here I have no choice but to be brief, and the brevity gives the ideas a whole new and interesting dimension. It's as if I'm hearing them for the first time.

Of course I had to leave out some interesting opinions just to save space.

Philosophy is a fun subject when it's talked about in plain language, when objections are met head on, and when friends agree to stay friends, regardless of the disagreement.

Stephen: Haw! Thanks!

About Camus being a novelist: true, but he's taken seriously as a philosopher, even if he didn't always think about himself that way.

Besides, it's fun to challenge the ideas in literary books. My hunch is that more people acquire values through literature than through non-fiction. There has to be some way of discussing those ideas.

Taber said...

The face at the end cracks me up!

Stephen said...

I agree wholeheartedly about more people acquiring values through fiction than non-fiction. How many more people engaged with the horrors of poverty through a book like "Les Miserables" or "David Copperfield" or a movie like "The Grapes of Wrath", than through "Das Kapital". You could argue that Plato's banishment of Homer from his ideal republic had to do with more people turning to the Iliad and the Odyssey than any of Plato's works, which is as true now as it was more than 2000 years ago!

pappy d said...

Thanks, Eddie. I do try to employ irony in a Socratic way. I'm only trying to advance the discussion in an amusing way.

Recognising that consciousness resides in the individual, existentialism dispenses with collectivist exercises like morality.

As Auralyn points out, good & bad (& evil) change with our circumstances (& with our social class or individual perspective).

pappy d said...

P.S. I (unironically) love you, man.

Best blog ever!