At the beginning of this semester, my Existentialism professor said to us that she has had people come up to her at the end of the class and say that it has changed their life. Said the professor to us, “Honestly, that worries me a little bit.”
So, it’s not supposed to be a self-help seminar, but at times it definitely feels like one. Going into it I was expecting the discussion to be about whether or not things actually exist, and instead we’ve been talking about how we interact with the world and other people. Though the syllabus disappointed me at first, I’ve actually been enjoying the class a fair bit.
Sure, there are things about the philosophy that I would change. Sartre goes on and on about how our consciousness is not identical to itself, which I think is baloney. Nonetheless, as long as you are able to gloss over all this talk about being something in the mode of not being it, he actually makes some good points about it. Existentialism is about how we constitute the meaning in the world. If we are sad, it is not because the world itself is bleak, but because we interpret it as bleak. The world is still out there—we can’t create a chair in front of us by deciding that there is one there—but how we see it is at some level completely in our control.
Sartre’s way of talking is pretty depressing, always talking about things like anguish, bad faith, and shame, but I definitely see how taking up this kind of outlook can result in a positive and optimistic outlook. That is, if you can maintain it without falling back into bad faith. Oh those unstable equilibrium points.
Somebody told me today that I write in too many paragraphs. I had just sent him an email telling him he uses too few.
Meanwhile on Facebook I’ve changed my religious view to “Optimistic Nihilist” in some attempt at revitalising my profile. I was going to put a reference to existential in there too, but I thought I should wait until the class ends lest there be any nasty surprises. Nihilism also has this depressing quality about it, but I think it’s a great excuse to climb trees and look for squirrels.
A nihilist outlook doesn’t change the fact that I’ve still got a philosophy paper and an astrophysics assignment to finish in the next hour or so. I want to make a phone call, but can’t justify such active procrastination. (Writing this is better since at least I’m at my computer with equations at my elbows.) Instead I’m hoping there will be an incoming call and I can let procrastination find me…