Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Walter Brueggemann - The Bible Makes Sense - The Existentialist Model

The Existentialist Model

Persons who have found the model we have just described wanting, have looked for an alternative.  And they have found one.  They have wanted an alternative to a world that is rational and objective and so have fashioned a model of reality which in some ways is the very opposite of the modern-industrial-scientific model.  If we cannot live life by what we know in a cool way, perhaps we can live by the hot action of making decisions. 

Existentialism has many popular forms.  It is the loner “who must do his own thing” and who believes it morally irresponsible to rely on tradition, on longstanding communities and institutions.  It is felt by this model that a community is by definition an act of deception or bad faith and finally the individual person must live his/her own life by his/her own resources.  This tends to be evident among young persons who must leave home, among rebels who believe that all rules must be broken and all seasoned decisions rejected.

This perspective was originally articulated to present an alternative to a coldly objective and rational world of control and mastery.  Existentialism holds that meaning exists only in, and derives from, the decisions made by the individual in the present moment.  It is thus a protest, and an important one, against a static view of reality which regards everything as fixed and closed and insists on keeping it that way.  Conversely,  this model of reality tends to be community-denying, locating meaning only in terms of the solitary decision-maker who must not only make decisions alone but also live with the consequences.  

Along with such uncompromising individualism, this model also tends to devalue the historical process as it moves from event to event.  It finds no meaning in the sweep of history or in the continuities of the process because meaning is located only in the now of the present decision.  While this view does appreciate the full power of the present moment, it tends to leave the individual in a vacuum because, by definition, memories and hopes are not matters of significance for the identity or destiny of the individual.  

In brief, existentialism posits the human decision-maker as the sole agent of meaning.  Not only can meanings not be appropriated from others, there is no possibility of transcendent meaning in experience.  No meanings can be given to, or be prior to, the individual in the moment.  While existentialism intends to be a statement of radical freedom and responsibility, it also holds the likely prospect of weariness and despair.  While the promise is great, if my world depends solely on me, that is more than I can bear. 

Walter Brueggemann's second example of chosen framing of reality is one that was more influential among intellectuals when the book was written than it is now.  As you can see in his description, existentialism always tended to incoherence due to its rejections of everything from rationality and history and community, which must result in everything being arbitrary and even random.  I remember reading its literature wondering if it wasn't the decadence that set in when intellectuals, running up against the limits of human reason's ability to discern everything at ever level of focus had either a crisis of faith in their god, reason and turned against it (as the Angel of Light does in the Genesis story) or that they had a very academic, very well mannered tantrum.

I think that the longest lasting effects of existentialism is in the various theatrical poses it created or adopted, rugged individualism,  tragic rugged individualism,  persecuted rugged individual or, as in Sartre's theater works, totally abject, pathetic, victims beyond any hope of redemption.   I always found it telling that Sartre mixed existentialism with Marxism which was entirely incompatible with it.  I suspect it was all a matter of fashion, as so much in intellectual and, even more so, quasi-intellectual, journalistic circles is.   I mean, the philosopher of ultimate individualism co-existing with the ultimate denial of individualism.  He may as well have been a Nazi at the same time.

You might suspect that existentialism was a lot like the current materialist-atheist model* that I've written a lot about in that no existentialist ever really lived their life under its framing, it's mostly an intellectual pose, something to write about, something to use to attack those people and their ideas which you don't like.

I am not sure of what the intellectual status of existentialism is in academia.  I suspect its theatrical products are still shown or given but only as a theatrical spectacle, not as an intellectual discourse.  Having read quite a bit of the fiction of existentialism,  I can't say that it was persuasive or even attractive, it was often quite deliberately repulsive.   I suspect it will finally die when the junior faculty with an academic stake in it stop teaching or finally die, themselves and it is replaced in college curricula.  Sometimes you have to wait for them to die before a dead philosophical fad dies out.   It's not like psychotherapy or old fashioned phrenology, there isn't really a financial motive in keeping it going.


*  No "brain-only" materialist in the entire history of that ideological dogma ever lived their life as if they were a meat-automaton whose actions were merely as a result of the particular chemistry and physics at work in their brains, producing whatever results based on the combinations of randomly present atoms and molecules.  They certainly don't treat their opponents that way as they ridicule and brow beat them for merely and, inevitably correctly, expressing what those materialists claim is beyond their control, that their belief in transubstantiation or The Trinity or the worship of fire, etc. comes from their material precursors.

Note:  I just noticed that I posted this in a draft form and I can't fix it right now.  I will later.

24 comments:

  1. Get back to me when you've written something as great as Sartre's NO EXIT or Camus' THE STRANGER, asshole.

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  2. It's slightly amusing for you, one of the most conformist non-thinkers I've encountered online to be spouting that particular platitude. Maybe after the holiday I'll write something about Sartre who was quite able to blithely theorize in favor of Maoism even as it was killing tens of millions of people, a higher body count than the Nazis managed to amass.

    It's even funnier that someone who obviously didn't get the first inkling of an idea of what Sartre claimed in Huis Clos is holding up that turgid theater piece of theater, which has always been more rewarding in writing about it than actually watching it, is striking your pose.

    Which of its themes do you live your life by? Other than trying to embody the pop-intellectual level conception of his idea of being hell for other people?

    I can't say that it was when I realized how absurd and thin skinned that old fart was, that he literally believed that it was hell to have to think about how other people might see our actions and our words, even as he was promoting Maoism and other Marxist fads in Paris, in between sessions at cafes and lectures and media opportunities as people living under Mao were experiencing a somewhat more exigent form of hell... I can't say that was my first inkling that he was a hypocrite and a fraud, I did realize sometime while reading Les Jeux Sont Faites for a French class that he could be damned tedious. The verbal tenesmus he could engage in to squeeze out a little mouse sized idea leads me to think that you've got to engage him at the level of a particularly vapid theater major to be able to keep up much of it. I strongly suspect most of the people who claim to have read him were mostly skimming and reading what critics said about him.

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  3. Blah blah Wagner was an anti-Semite Clint Eastwood caused the election of Trump blah blah blah.

    It's so much watching you dis people more talented than you. It's pretty much all you do.

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  4. And trust me -- hell definitely IS you, Sparkles.

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    1. That from you, well, I have not lived in vain.

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  5. Oh, yeah, and Simps. Two things, 1. I've repeatedly said that I loathe Wagner, both the man and the music, 2. there's a huge difference between him being an anti-semite as Jews were not being murdered in huge numbers by any government he supported and Sartre being a Maoist as Mao who Sartre supported, both him and his regime, was murdering tens of millions of people. Notably, Sartre didn't seem to care much about the actual lives of the people of China, especially intellectuals, he cared about the IDEA of the people of China as an abstraction that could be made to fit his intellectual scheme. The man was a total and absolute piece of scum, that is if you take the lives of people in China seriously.

    I should research to see if he ever encountered Pol Pot as that mass murderer was learning the theory behind his genocide.

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  6. "there's a huge difference between him being an anti-semite as Jews were not being murdered in huge numbers by any government he supported "

    But Jews were murdered in huge numbers by a government that supported him.

    God, you're an idiot.

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    1. Hey, look, everyone, the great champion of existentialism doesn't understand how time works and the difference between past and future and the present.

      Simps, you've been made stupid by your life in pop-kulchur.

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    2. Also, that like Sartre, for him, tens of millions of Chinese murdere, meh, a mere detail.

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    3. Sparky Logic: Wagner inspired Nazism = Sartre inspired Maoism.

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    4. Note that this is typical of Simels' tactics on those inevitable occasions when he's got nothing, he lies about what was said.

      1. Wagner died in 1883, it's doubtful he ever met any of those who would construct Nazism. His relation to Nazism was about the same as that of Charles Darwin, only I'm not aware of Wagner ever saying that it would be a good idea to kill people who were biologically "inferior" so that those who were "superior" could benefit. Charles Darwin published that idea as hard science in The Descent of Man, a stand taken by his foremost German follower, Ernst Haeckel in his book, The History of Creation in even more stark terms, something which is the entire basis of the Nazi genocide. Still, Darwin can only be claimed to have inspired the idea of mass killings of entire ethnic groups as a boon to the survivors. He has an out when it comes to responsibility.

      2. While I doubt Mao ever heard of Sartre before Sartre joined in the Paris fashion for Maoism well after the Chinese Revolution, there is no disputing the fact that Sartre was inspired to action by Mao and Maoism in all its mass murdering horror. There was no secret that the Maoist government was murdering enormous numbers of Chinese People, of People in places like Tibet. That was known as Sartre was a full fledged Maoist celebrity. Those murders didn't happen almost a half century after Sartres death, they were happening as he was getting his picture in the paper handing out Maoist handbills in Paris and making public statements in favor of it.

      I think the role of race in the breezy dismissal of those like Sartre and his admirers, of those who were Maoists in the United States, so many of them our own lefty celebrities during the period and those who write for places like The Nation who pine for the days of the Maoist "Progressive Labor Party", it was AOK with them as long as those millions being murdered were not Europeans.

      Obviously, Simps, it's OK with you as long as it isn't Jews being murdered. I don't make that distinction, none of it is OK with me and those people who supported any government doing that is self-discredited scum.

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    5. The only thing in this discussion that's obvious is that you're an incoherent cretin with axes to grind too numerous and stupid to keep track of.

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    6. That would be ever more impressive if you hadn't just demonstrated that you can't navigate the concepts of future, past and present.

      What did I REALLY say that was stupid, not a lie you invented which I didn't say. Give full quotes.

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    7. Oh, and Sartre has to be judged by his own standard.

      Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.
      Jean-Paul Sartre

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  7. I never lie about you, Sparky. I do reductio ad absurdum, a literary device that you clearly do not understand, but which you, delightfully for me, make incredibly easy to employ.

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    1. Simps, you always end up lying because you're too stupid to a. keep from setting traps for yourself, b. pay attention, c. have any notion of integrity.

      Anyone who wants to check that out, look at Simps at 12:39PM and compare that to what I said before and in response to it. I know it went over Simps heads but I have a higher opinion of the readers here as opposed to the trolls.

      I know your audience at Baby Blue doesn't much care about the truth, pretty much anyone who did left a long time ago.

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  8. More like under my head. The irony escapes you, but then all irony escapes you.

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    1. There, see, the dope doesn't even understand the problem I pointed out. Apparently in addition to the worst case of Time Dysperception disorder I've ever seen he's got problems telling over and under.

      Simps, two words. "Sesame Street."

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  9. And the best thing is you think you're a laugh riot, rather than a figure of fun.

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    1. You're about as funny as Paul Horner and about as witty as Dennis Miller.

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  10. And you're utterly unqualified to make that judgement given that you have less of a sense of humor than any sentient mammal on the planet.

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    1. I'll worry about that when a sentient mammal says it.

      Really, Simps, what else don't you know? Shapes, colors, how to count your fingers?

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  11. It's amazing how he has nothing to say, and just keeps saying it....

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    1. I have thanked him for serving as a useful specimen of what's wrong with the typical pseudo-liberal-lefty secular culture.

      I should give him a special thanks because, due to him, I have a greater appreciation of just how dishonest you have to be to maintain the illusions and superstitions that you have to to remain part of that.

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