On the possibility of an existentialism, which is just the complement of a scientific world-view
I have: [existentialism]:n. A philosophy that emphasises the uniqueness and isolation of the individual experience in a hostile or indifferent universe, regards human existence as unexplainable, and stresses freedom of choice and responsibility for the consequences of one's acts. Whilst the word 'existentialism' was obviously coined within the Continental Philosophical tradition ;
it seems to me it has taken on wider usage(s) in
1/ "existential threat": a non-contingent (aka absolute) threat to the existence of a person, society or species
2/ "existential choice": a non-contingent (aka absolute) choice; as a choice which can have no further justification
from URL: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/existentialism
There seems to me to be a modern usage of 'existentialism'; which is simply the complement of a scientific world view, whichdeclares agnostically ( as in "as far as one knows"); that as a species we inhabit a dangerous, ephemeral, uncertain and transient; material universe devoid of purpose or value and in which as a species we have no significance. That as individuals we briefly share that same universe and also form a part of societies; which have many of the same qualities as that universe. Thus if we as individuals require such things (values, purpose , relevance etc.) we will have to chose and / or make our own. (That we may share such values with other humans or other species is not considered relevant in this world view.)
Enlarging on "a scientific world-view"
With world-view as: a collection of theories, points of view ; approaches and values; there are are probably many 'world-views ' consistent with modern scientific knowledge .eg humanism, anarchism, socialism, rationalism even the romantic.
Here it is a particular one which is of concern. Conservative in the sense of making as few assumptions as necessary, so profoundly
nihilistic and agnostic. In regard to "as far as one knows", it is important to distinguish between a view which considers the above dire situation as a worst-case-scenario; from one in which it is considered to be the case ! eg. In Relativity which was initially based on the notion that there are no privileged frames-of-reference and all motion must be measured relative to a frame of reference. So
our velocity, speed and kinetic energy depend on the frame selected.
To a worst-case-scenario point-of-view; discovery of such a privileged frame of reference would be a surprising, but not a devastating discovery. Which is why the discovery of such a frame-of-reference, in Cosmic Background Radiation is interesting but not revolutionary.
Enlarging on scientific
Neither is this 'scientific' as some kind of 'hymn to rationality and reason'. Where reason is to do with logically determined causality a nd predicted consequence. What was reasonable for; a citizen of Rome in 20AD; a citizen of London in 1500AD, a citizen of Melbourne in 2014 AD or a citizen of the colony, at the Lunar north-pole in 2500 AD are and will be different; contingent on what that citizen knows.
Additionally this world-view has a very narrow sense of the word science as "objectively falsifiable knowledge"; which intrinsically excludes for example engineering design, mathematics, subjective/phenomenological experience, ethics, ideology, epistemology and ontology and contingently excludes many current fields of knowledge eg economics, econometrics, much social-science, much computer science; whilst paradoxically accepting many still qualitative studies like biology and botany; thus a much humbled endeavour of restricted scope and current achievement.
The question being raised
'So': the acceptance of, and/or choice from those values ; which we seem to have, or the construction of others; are considered an existential-choice and it's practitioners; "existentialists" in this sense. The question being raised is; what is the relationship
between existentialism in this sense and the original Continental sense(s) ?
See for example the commonalities underlying both theistic and atheistic existentialism in Gary Coxes essay. To such "existentialists" coming with this kind of scientific world-view, many of the concerns of Continental Philosophy; seem largely irrelevant.
1/ the concern with the death of an Abrahamic style god is unimportant, since it was never alive! Thus Laplace’s jaw droppingly magnificent arrogance in , "I had no need of that hypothesis,"
- a creator : just seems unnecessary and a moral arbitrator: ultimately yet another anthropocentric delusion.
- with the additional features of omniscience and omnipotence further emphasising, how much an idol of the human mind, the whole notion was and/or is.
2/ the concern with "freedom, choice, responsibility, authenticity, anxiety, despair, absurdity, etc."; some what puzzling, since
having removed all questions of value, relevance etc. to the realm of existential choice; we are still seemingly expected to be concerned with these, in a some non-existential way.
3/ the concern with whether 'existence precedes essence' or vice-versa either
- at best a confusion of an ontological question with an epistemological one or
- perhaps merely some scholastic controversy involving conflict with an earlier theory.
4/ the concern with the absurdity of existence and /or the universe; replaced with the view that it is the perceiving mind which,
has expectations that either should be different from what it is; being where the absurdity lies.
5/ Finally whilst the material, social and psychological universes are viewed as dangerous, transient, purposeless and uncertain and our lives irrelevant; these universes do seem to retain some comprehensibility and thus meaning in a certain sense;
So to repeat ; "Should this world-view be regarded as a form of Existentialism?"
Presentation to The Philosophy Forum. November 1st, 2014