gooollysandra

Thoughts on thoughts and images of beautiful things

Category Archives: Philosophy

An experiment with Simone de Beauvoir’s philosophy

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As a Philosophy major as an undergrad, I read a little bit of Simone de Beauvoir, so when I saw this article about someone recounting their journey in her footsteps, I was definitely inspired. I’m not sure I could hike in the Alps for seven days in espadrilles…but this just proves how much of a badass she was. The author explains Beauvoir’s philosophy of not letting “her ideas succumb to reality” and that we can create what we want for ourselves and actually make it happen. She doesn’t agree with Beauvoir entirely in this respect, but she does acknowledge that it’s an interesting way of life to try for a short time:

It is a delusion to think that life has no wills but your own, or that you can thrive without the care and concern of others. But sometimes you can engineer a temporary condition, and produce a sense of accomplishment and self-reliance that uplifts you.

The ever elusive search for authenticity

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As a graduate of the University of Chicago, I receive the University of Chicago magazine, and there was an interesting read about authenticity in the latest Fall 2016 issue. The quest for authenticity, or even just trying to decipher what authenticity is and means, has been a recurring struggle for me, as I think it is for most people. It’s really at the helm of why we are on this planet and I think it’s something that we are continually striving for. Perhaps we will never achieve this authentic status that we picture for ourselves, and maybe that’s ok. Maybe we just need to realize that the constant pursuit of authenticity is an authentic state in and of itself.

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According to David Grazian, “authenticity is a figment of our collective imagination.” So maybe this notion of authenticity that we so eagerly chase after isn’t even a real thing at all. The article spanned from his love for penguins and the manufacturing of authenticity in zoos, to his research on blues clubs in Chicago. In regards to blues clubs, he thinks: “The authentic blues club of his dreams was full of tourists who were chasing the authentic blues club of their dreams.” If we look at it this way the quest for authenticity is essentially a never-ending game of cat-and-mouse. So chase away!

Phases

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One has to wonder if life is nothing but phases of interests that come and go, or if there is a constant driving force that propels us forward. Lately, as I’ve noticed my interests changing pretty drastically over time, I’m worried that the former might be the case, at least for me. And if that is so, how are we to ever know when we can commit to something without being concerned that we’ll soon move past that phase? I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing, as I do believe an ever-evolving, ever-growing nature is healthy and should be cultivated, but it does make it awfully hard to know when we are ready to commit to something…

Film meets philosophy

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Jean-Luc Godard

What a wonderful combination of one of my favorite directors and a female philosopher I greatly admire. Jean-Luc Godard reads Hannah Arendt’s “On the Nature of Totalitarianism.”

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Enjoy it here!

What does it mean to really love someone?

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What does it mean to really love someone? This is not an easy topic to talk about, and it is harder still to define exactly what love means. Having just finished a class on precisely this topic, I am left unsatisfied with the conclusion, or lack thereof, at which we arrived. Though various scholars have tried to shed some light on love, it still does not seem like we are able to have a firm, concrete grasp on the concept of love. However, it is worth trying to spell out some of what has been theorized about the topic.

In Plato’s dialogue, the Phaedrus, we get a picture of love as madness that takes hold of us and is beyond our reason. In the Symposium, we get a picture of love in which we love the forms, or the highest ideal of reality, but we must love another person in order to do so; that is, we have to love another person in order to reach the level of recognizing the forms and of being able to love the forms. In Diotima’s famous speech on love there is an ascent of love that we are to attempt to follow, beginning with appreciating the beauty of one body, then moving up to the beauty of bodes in general, then the beauty of the soul, then the beauty of customs, laws, and activities of society, then the beauty of particular types of knowledge, and finally beauty itself, which we can appreciate, or attain, once we have mastered an appreciation for the previous kinds of beauty.

Hegel believes in an optimistic, ideal kind of love in which two people become one and love together, not separately. Two people become one entity and whatever one person does for the other, that person is doing for oneself, and whatever one does for oneself, one is doing for the other. Achieving this kind of completely unified relationship is not easy though. The two people have to overcome shame of their most inward selves; that is, selfish preoccupations that one might have, the banality of everyday life that one endures, one’s potential ineptness, etc. One needs to be willing to share all of these fundamental qualities that make up who one is in order to approach the relationship with one’s whole being. These include qualities that one might not want to share, and would not otherwise share with someone whom one is not trying to form a complete, unified relationship with. While Hegel does not say this explicitly, one would have to assume that maintaining this kind of unified relationship is a constant struggle between the two people involved, and is not a state that simply exists once it is achieved. It seems as though the two people have to continually work to maintain the unity.

Roland Barthes gives us yet a different concept of love in A Lover’s Discourse, which brings to light the asymmetrical dynamic in a loving relationship in which there is no equal sense of commitment, investment, or love between two people. It seems as though there is always a power dynamic in relationships where there is one person who is more committed, invested or in love than the other, and this dynamic can shift back and forth between the two people throughout the relationship. It seems that it is very hard, if possible at all, to achieve an equal playing field, as it were, where both people are equally committed, invested, and in love. Barthes would probably consider hoping for this kind of equality in love a fantasy. In this kind of model, we are more concerned with the love we are giving than the love we are receiving, and it is more ego-centered than say, Hegel’s model.

In thinking about which of these models of love I identify with the most, I think I find Barthes account most accurate, in my experience at least. Hegel’s model is the most ideal of course, but it is hard to say if that model is truly achievable. In looking at certain relationships from an outside perspective, I think it is easy to say, “That couple has a completely unified relationship.” But without being inside their heads or hearts and knowing exactly how they feel, we cannot know if that is really the kind of love that they share. On the other hand, perhaps some people are in unified relationships like the one Hegel describes, and to that I say, “Kudos to them.” It is truly an achievement. Furthermore, perhaps there are some of us who have been in a unified relationship but did not recognized it when we were.

All this is to say that love is a very complicated notion that is so very difficult to grapple with, which makes loving relationships the challenge that they are. If they are not a challenge, then the people involved are missing the point.

Coincidences

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How exactly do coincidences work? What if you think that something is a coincidence, but it’s not? How would you even know whether or not it really is a coincidence? The conundrum between fate and coincidence is long-standing and everyone has their opinion in support of one or the other as being the way that the world works. I think oftentimes we hope that fate plays a role in our lives and so when things happen, when random coincidences occur, we so badly want to say, “Ohhh, it’s fate!” But what if it’s not? What if we’re lying to ourselves? I can’t say one way or the other – if things happen by coincidence or fate. Although I’m amazed by people who can feel so certain one way or the other. But I can keep wondering and speculating as to what the nature of occurrences really is, because I don’t think we can ever know for certain. And that’s just what I’ll do.

Can’t, don’t

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There are things that I can’t do and don’t do because I know I can’t do them, and there are things that I can’t do and don’t do simply because I don’t want to. This distinction came to me last night as I was falling asleep and I’m honestly surprised that I remembered it this morning. I’m not sure what the significance of this is, but it seems to bear some weight that I simply don’t yet understand. But perhaps it will be made clear, one night as I’m falling asleep again…

Worlds created

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I think we create worlds and ideas for ourselves that are not always real and connected to reality, but what does it matter if they are real to us? Why can’t we create our own ideas for what the world is and means to us? I mean, I don’t see anything wrong with that, and whether or not our ideas bear meaning in the real world is irrelevant if they are real to us. Some may call this delusional, and perhaps it is, but it can also mean that the world is simply perceived uniquely by each individual and one can place an original lens on the world that gives it meaning to that person.

Experiences as works of art

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John Dewey believes that certain extraordinary experiences can be works of art – the kinds of experiences that make us feel completely in the moment and that are really memorable. I have to agree with him because there are certain experiences that stand apart from others because there is a certain feeling of genuineness about them – things like a Sunday drive or an outing to a place you’ve never been before that you end up thoroughly enjoying even though you had no expectations.

Many of the experiences that we have on a day-to-day basis do not possess an extraordinary quality. However, some experiences seem to evolve in a way that is very satisfying to us and perhaps we learn something from the experience that helps us makes sense of our lives or enlightens us in some way, giving us direction.

Likewise, many things in life are constantly evolving, which is why it is so important for us to fully immerse ourselves in an experience so that we do not miss the evolution of the experience. Dewey argues that it is when we are fully immersed in an experience that we are living most artfully. If one focuses on an experience and becomes part of the experience and directly involved with it, rather than standing outside the experience looking in on it, one can have a truly magnificent experience. On the other hand, if one goes through life not paying much attention to his experiences, therefore preventing the possibility of an extraordinary experience, this would be an indifferent stance toward life and not recommended by Dewey, or myself. Clearly, the former attempt of truly immersing oneself in an experience in order to have a unique, extraordinary experience is the better path through life, as it is richer and more fulfilling. 

Filling the void

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One of the hardest things in life is recognizing that although we build up our lives around certain ideals and follow a path that we create for ourselves, at the end of the day, we’re alone. We can fill our lives with people, activities, work, pleasure, etc. all we want to, but they are not going to fill the void. They might cover it up the and help us not feel so alone, but we are still fundamentally lonely by nature. This is something that is hard to come to terms with and learn how to cope with rather than let it destroy us, and I imagine people spend a lifetime trying to reconcile it. But we must find a way to make ourselves happy, or at least content.