back to the beginning: dasein

From the film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button:

[b]A woman in Paris was on her way to go shopping.

But she had forgotten her coat and went back to get it. And when she had gotten her coat the phone had rung and so she had stopped to answer it and talked for a couple of minutes.

And while the woman was on the phone Daisy was rehearsing for that evening’s performance at the Paris Opera House.

And while she was rehearsing the woman was off the phone had gone outside to get a taxi.

A Cab comes to a stop she moves to get it but somebody gets there first, the cab drove off and she waits for the next one.

Now this taxi driver had dropped off a fare earlier and had stopped to get a cup of coffee.

He picked up the lady who was going shopping who had missed getting the earlier cab.

The taxi had to stop for a man crossing the street who had left for work five minutes later than he normally did because he forgot to set his alarm.

While the man, late for work, was crossing the street making the cab wait Daisy, finished rehearsing, was taking a shower.

While Daisy was showering the taxi was waiting outside a boutique for the woman to pick up a package which hadn’t been wrapped yet because the girl who was supposed to wrap it had broken up with her boyfriend the night before and forgot to.

When the package was done being wrapped the woman was back in the cab but the taxi was blocked by a delivery truck.

All the while Daisy was getting dressed.

The Delivery truck pulled off and the taxi was able to go while Daisy, the first to be dressed, waited for one of her friends who had broken a shoelace.

While the taxi was stopped, waiting for a traffic light, Daisy and her friend came out of the theater.

And if only one thing had happened differently…if the shoelace hadn’t broken or the delivery truck had moved moments earlier or the package had been wrapped and ready because the girl hadn’t broken up with her boyfriend or the man had set his alarm and got up five minutes earlier or the taxi driver hadn’t stopped for a cup of coffee or the woman had remembered her coat and had gotten into an earlier cab…

Daisy and her friend would have crossed the street and the taxi would have driven by them.

But life being what it is, a series of intersecting lives and incidents out of anyone’s control, the taxi did not go by and the driver, momentarily distracted hit Daisy and her leg was crushed.

Her leg had been broken in five places and with therapy, and time, she might be able to stand, maybe even walk.[/b]

Of course Daisy’s leg was no ordinary leg. It was the leg of a world renowned ballet dancer. And now, because of these “intersecting lives and incidences out of anyone’s control”, her life was forever changed.

And this works the same for all of us, of course. We think we are free to go about the business of living our lives autonomously. And up to a point this is true. But how is this point to be determined?

In a large sense our intertwining lives are akin to countless balls on a gigantic pool table. We zig and zag, caroming into each other in ways no one can truly grasp. Yet we can potentially create havoc in another’s life simply by stepping back into our apartment to retrieve a coat.

And when people’s lives are changed they meet new people, have new experiences, come into contacts with whole new ways of understanding the world.

In other words, the inextricable and oftimes precarious, helter skelter world of daseins.


From the AP wires:

The night sky may be a lot starrier than we thought. A study suggests the universe could have triple the number of stars scientists previously calculated. For those of you counting at home, the new estimate is 300,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. That’s 300 sextillion.

And here we are on this tiny little planet in the vastness of it all trying to speculate on what it all “means”.

Here is how I [often] see things:

Albert Camus speculated that meaning is existential. And by this he meant that, on the wheel of life, there is no ontological rim or teleological hub. There are only the individual spokes [daseins] joined together by whatever God or ideology or philosophical claim of “noumenal reality” that is made.

We come from nothing, live out our 70 odd years and then return to nothing. And that can only be as meaningful as we construe it to be.

And how many other life forms orbiting all these stars are pondering the very same mysteries?

Why not just be dumbfounded by all the things we don’t even know that we don’t know yet?

And what if there is an infinite number of parallel universes in turn?

Where do “I” fit into it all?

If there’s room for you, you fit.

Answers are sought so as to disable the question. At some point, one must question the wisdom of questioning literally everything.

The wise attend to what is relevant to themselves. They seek answers to questions that potentially interfere with their harmony. Their focus and attention, is really only on their own environment. That which is too far away, or too insignificantly disturbing, is irrelevant.

But of course in order to discern what is relevant to oneself, one must seek beyond oneself toward the sources of potential or actual disturbance. “What it all means” is a question that relates to the very core priority of all decisions being made in life. As long as that question remains unanswered, it remains a source for doubt and interferences from others if not yourself.

Where you fit into it all, is where everyone has always fit into it all, as well as all things… You fit into it exactly where you are, whether great or small, seeking harmony despite interference, as with the rest of the entire universe, grand, small, living, or not.

How many have never had hope of being any more than a germ, a flower, an ant, a bee, a dog, or a tree.

Must one be King to merely have a life?

I agree. I think we as merely pieces of infinity are infinity itself. A little bit of everything is still everything

When it comes to issues of infinity, you are right.

What is lesser than you is equally as infinite as what is greater than you. You are the go between from the infinitely small to the infinite great. The point to life is to not slide downward, even if not able to climb upward.

“where do I fit in? right here”

Some questions, of course, disable all answers. “Who am I?” being one of them. “I” now is just one circumstantial landslide away from falling apart at the seams.

And the truly wise grasp the extent to which that deemed “relevant” is just another point of view. The “self” is prefabricated in a particular world viewed in a particular way and no one really knows where to draw the line between “I” and “we” as the old environments give way to the new ones.

Instead, most folks are more than willing to reduce their sense of identity down to that which makes them—emotionally and psychologically—feel coherent and whole and necessary. A sleight of mind as it were.

When people don’t know how to handle their anxiety or its true cause, they ask questions until they feel better…, or die in the distracting and futile effort.


But the questions I ask don’t make me feel better. They merely expose the manner in others prefer answers that make them feel better instead.

In other words, not only do some claim to “know thyself”, they claim to know what to leave in and what to leave out in order to do so.

Now, please, by all means, respond more substantively to the points I raise.

But James has gotten to the nub of it, iam. Your body of work here reeks of anxiety. And what i have been trying to tell you is that the approach you take - the very philosophy of anxiety - Existentialism - only reinforces this.

Do you not realise this yourself? Existentialism is all about anxiety. It’s caused by anxiety, and it in turn causes more anxiety. Existentialism embraces and glorifies anxiety.

James could not have responded more substantively to your post.

This is not ad hom - it’s directed at Existentialism itself.

You mean it’s not ad hom when a Moderator does it, but regular Members cannot without warnings and such?

You can no more psychoanalyze me by claiming to grasp the “true meaning” of my words than I can you. But even so the extent to which a thinking man or woman is not familiar with anxiety is the extent to which he or she barely scratches the surface in probing the problematic [and oftimes precarious] ralationship between “I” and, over time, “I” becoming nothing at all.

And you are, I believe, “apolitical”, right? That’s got to do wonders for a frame of mind intent on avoiding anxiety. Not to mention outrage.

But, again, because I probe this more singularly than I suspect you do does not lessen the fullfilment I am able to garner through music, food, film, literature, sex, love, art. There are, after all, any number of distractions we can partake of.

Existentialism roots words like identity, value, freedom, justice and choice in ambiguity and uncertainty—in contingency, chance and change. And it acknolwedges that each of us is situated in a particular world that may be [circumstantially] terrifying or exhilarating—or any combination of [human all too human] reactions inbetween.

But what doesn’t change is how we view this from a particular vantage point and that any particular vantage point is not necessarily more ethical or “authentic” than any other.

It is the vantage point of dasein. Why does that seem to perturb you so? Perhaps because your “logic” is often so useless there.

Well, I do try to grasp the meaning of posts that i read. I’m not sure how you can fault me for that. If i didn’t think I had a shot at it, then I wouldn’t respond to any posts.

I think that’s probably correct. I think anxiety is a good thing to avoid.

I am glad to hear it.

It’s quite true that Existentialism has little to do with reason.

Don’t you love it when we agree?

Did you miss the “distractive and futile” part of my sentence?

Others offer the answers that they found as solace for their questioning minds. Note the answers are seldom logical, yet manage to appease them. If the answer isn’t going to be logical anyway, but merely appease the doubt, why ask the question - because you want that appeasement too. You just can’t feel it. You can’t feel it because the question isn’t really the cause of the anxious need for appeasement, it is only one of many fruits of the tree of desperate yearning.

Perhaps I don’t understand your questions as I thought I had done so in my first post. :-k

Iam, your op seems to be kind of a description of a random and chaotic universe–or the way I conceptualize it, at least. It’s not so much existentialism as it is absurdism, imm.

This doesn’t seem to be the basic direction of your op, however. You appear to be standing in awe rather than angst; however, one can’t progress if one is perpetually in an awe-full state. We need to contract–restrict–our mind’s eye in order to deal with our perceived realities. We can still be in awe, though–it’s good for our egos.

Existentialism is addressed to anxiety. Absurdism is really another way of stating the problem of anxiety. You can find the root of anxiety all the way back in Plato. When you come up out of the cave, you get blinded by the light of the sun (revelation). A better word than blinded is “dazzled”, because the problem is not that you see nothing, but that you immediately see everything. Eventually you are able to make out articulate shapes, but then you have to go back into the cave (to do politics, lead, or work in the public world) you are used to the light, and can’t see in the dark as well as the cave-dwellers.

Being dazzled is an experience of chaos. There is an ambiguity as to what is relevant to a given “whole”, be that the self or the state, etc; because all of a sudden you are overwhelmed with so much light/sight. In this sense chaos goes hand in hand with anxiety.

This is why Camus (the #1 handler of the Absurd) is often lumped in with the existentialist. Partly it’s just a chronological issue, he was working around the same time as Sartre (they came to very different conclusions). Absurdity for Camus has to do with a lack of meaning in the things we do and the things that happen. I.e. in the Plague. The doctor character in the Plague realizes that there is no cure for the plague. Prayer does nothing. Medicine does nothing. At first he does not acknowledge this. He flees his anxiety, thinking he will find a cure. Then, failing that, he gives up and loses hope. But there is a third stage where the doctor realizes that there is no cure, but returns to absurdly do what he can in the face of this absurd calamity.

This is the absurd problem for the self. You do not choose to be born, or who your parents/what your status will be. Once we start to get these ideas of Natural Rights of Man it begins to seem totally arbitrary whether one is born into a rich family or a poor one. Of course these crisis points gather anxiety. We are dazzled with the disparate possibilities of what life can be.

Absurdity and anxiety are deeply connected.

I don’t completely agree, but that’s because I take into consideration the ‘time’ in which these philosophies were formed by Camus, et al. Post WWII French existentialism and absurdity were greatly influenced by their era and Kierkegaard. I think there’s validity in both existentialism and absurdity, but I think it has to be weighed with the time during which they appeared.

Experiencing the complete annihilation of everything–country, loyalty, patriotism, philosophy would lead, imm, to the nihilation of everything previously believed and the attempted birth of new thought in light of the past.

In the meantime, do ILPers need to constantly resort to little known terms in order to say something? “Dasein”–German vernacular for ‘existence,’ doesn’t mean much to the laic. Why not just say, ‘existence?’

My point however is that much deemed meaningful by dasein is rooted not in “true meaning” [or the “real me”] but in an ever evolving existential narrative. And in order do go much below the surface of it you would have to be very close to the person you are trying to understand. But you don’t know me at all. Just as I don 't know you. We are reacting only to the language we use in the exchange. And that is of very limited value regarding discussions such as this.

iambiguous wrote:

And you are, I believe, “apolitical”, right? That’s got to do wonders for a frame of mind intent on avoiding anxiety. Not to mention outrage.

Perhaps, but some might argue the world is as it is because we let it be. Although, admittedly, to the extent we try to change it is the extent to which we invite anxiety [and outrage] into our lives.

I suspect those who react to existentialism that way are perturbed by the manner in which it focuses on the things I do:

  • the problematic and precarious nature of dasein
  • the limitations of reason in probing value judgments
  • the ever vexing presense of contingency, chance and change
  • the absurd
  • the futility of espousing deontological ethics
  • the rejection of both philosophical realism and political idealism
  • the inevitability of oblivion

I am not trying to psychoanalyse you. I like you, but not that much. Anxiety is the motive for Existentialism. It’s got little to do with you as a person.

And some would argue that this is narcissism. Which “we” am I supposed to be a part of? The “we” that made the world as it is, or the “we” that can change it? I am certainly not willing to bear responsibility for all that has happened in human history.