Is Human Suffering Metaphysical or Mundane?

Originally published at Three Quarks Daily. If we are to believe the most prominent of the writers we now lump under the category of “existentialism,” human suffering in the modern world is rooted in nihilism. But I wonder whether this is the best lens through which to view human suffering. According to existentialism, as theContinue reading “Is Human Suffering Metaphysical or Mundane?”

Existentialism’s Mistake

Existentialism produced a lot of interesting philosophy and it had much to say about philosophy as a way of life. But it seems to me the core insight of existentialism is mistaken. Existentialism got its purchase from the insight that the death of God (Nietzsche, Heidegger) or the loss of metaphysical foundations for human existenceContinue reading “Existentialism’s Mistake”

Creativity and Becoming

This is remarkable advice to young people from the renowned author Kurt Vonnegut about what is important in life. (From Michael Warburton’s Twitter feed.) In 2006 a high school English teacher asked students to write to a famous author & ask for advice. Kurt Vonnegut was the only one to respond. His reply was aContinue reading “Creativity and Becoming”

How To Be Free

“I’m a product of my decisions, not my circumstances” so said my friend Will whose abusive, alcoholic dad was all the motive he needed to never touch booze. This sounds wise but it’s nonsense. If our circumstances influence us they influence our decisions as well. You don’t avoid the consequences of determinism by pointing toContinue reading “How To Be Free”

To Quell the Self-Sufficient Machine

In modern life, we have given up God only to worship the self. Staunch individualists celebrate “freedom” by refusing to wear masks or get vaccinated. Large swaths of American society treat with derision the idea that we might be responsible for the welfare of others or share a common fate. We fail miserably to musterContinue reading “To Quell the Self-Sufficient Machine”

What Parts of the Past Does the Future Need?

How is our past related to our (waking) dreams, the kind of dream referenced in the admonition to “follow your dreams?” The past creates those dreams, the threads of memory weaving a future that feels continuous, one that we might plausibly own, at least in our imaginations. Yet those threads of memory can be aContinue reading “What Parts of the Past Does the Future Need?”

How Not to Solve an Existential Crisis

How should we deal with an existential crisis (otherwise known as the feeling that one’s life is an endlessly tedious, worthless slog through a muddy salt marsh on the coast of Maine)? Heidegger was one of the few philosophers to write about this. (Although he never visited the coast of Maine.) According to him, mostContinue reading “How Not to Solve an Existential Crisis”

What Do You Really Desire?

Experts  in the media (both genuine and self-appointed) stream terabytes of self-help advice on how to get what you want out of life. But how do we know what we want? What sort of epistemic access do we have to our real desires? Of course, we know what our impulses drive us to do. WeContinue reading “What Do You Really Desire?”