Tuesday, March 7, 2006

What is it

Being and Nothingness, the for-itself and the in-itself, bad faith, and the existential predicament; these Existentialist concepts were central to the philosophical scene in Europe and America after World War II. Join the Philosophers as they examine the ideas of Existentialism with Lanier Anderson from Stanford University.

Listening Notes

Existentialism is the idea that existence precedes essence. Our guest, Lanier Anderson presents one way to look at this is by comparing a cutting knife with the human situation. The knife has its essence before it is ever manufactured-- it is for cutting. However, a human does not have any specific purpose or meaning before he comes into existence. Jean-Paul Sartre originally defined the word existentialism, and applied it to lots of people who never knew they were existentialists and who held a range of conflicting ideas on a variety of topics, the existence of god being one such debated topic.

Lanier states that the seventeen-year-old self in each of us is attracted to existentialism because there is a certain amount of freedom that we have in this philosophy. The essential idea is that we are whatever we make ourselves, that nothing about our essence is given to us. Certainly we have a facticity about us- essential aspects of our existence given to us in terms of our biological constraints- but nothing that really defines us. Lanier argues that this facticity as a whole will interact with your life projects, but you will have chosen those projects, which then gives the meaning to those things. From the point of view of the individual, existentialism takes nothing for granted and does not believe any mandates about human nature have been handed down to people. Individuals have to create meaning for and define themselves, Each person's own human nature will be dictated by the actions he pursues.  

Existentialism is a very influential philosophy that went through periods where it greatly affected politics and pop-culture, and is still very popular in certain circles. It is often a difficult philosophy to understand as well. John notes that there is so much terminology like the for-itself, the in-itself, and other existentialist ideas, that Sarte outlined all of these concepts in what amounts to eight hundred pages of translations.  

  • Roving Philosophical Report (Seek to 04:26): Polly Stryker addresses the intersection of psychotherapy and philosophy, specifically with father and son existentialist psychotherapists. They look at how existentialism can be useful in psychiatry, and how the issues people desire to address in psychotherapy are often of an existential nature, like life, death, and meaning.

Get Philosophy Talk

Radio

Sunday at 10am (pacific) on KALW 91.7 FM Local Public Radio, San Francisco

Podcast

Individual downloads via CDBaby and iTunes. Multipacks and The Complete Philosophy Talk via iAamplify

 

R. Lanier Anderson, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Stanford University

Upcoming Shows

11 December 2016

Weapons of Mass Destruction

The United States recently threatened military action against Syria in response to the Syrian government’s alleged use of chemical weapons. Similar threats have been made against states suspected of...
Read More

18 December 2016

The Metaphysics of Color

Is the red you see indeed the very same red that anyone else does? What is the redness of red even like? These sorts of questions are not just amusing, if worn-out, popular philosophical ponderings...
Read More

25 December 2016

Risky Business: The Business of Risk

There is an element of risk – either to ourselves or to others – in almost everything we do. By deciding to go to the grocery store, for example, we take a (very small) risk of getting into a car...
Read More