Archive for the ‘philosophy’ Category

Quora answer: Are the Tears for Fears band members existentialists?

I really don’t know about this band. But I was asked to answer so I watched the video and read the lyrics. The lyrics are more nihilistic than existentialist. Strange to say but Existentialism is about hope, at least Sartre’s version of it because it contends that each of us has absolute freedom to be who we are in a world without meaning. Nihilism is on the other hand about the loss of meaning. So Existentialism is a reaction to the nihilism inherent in the Western worldview.

Since the question has been brought up this is a good time to consider this duality between existentialism and nihilism. Nihilism results in alienation and anomie. This is because the world that we are caught up in, find ourselves sooner or later is realized to be inauthentic and a sham. This is especially true of youth when they realize the conventions of ordinary middle class society is not what they thought it was when they look under the surface. I tend to go back to the first use of the term which was in Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons ( where there is a young man who believes in Science and does not believe in the traditional mores of society. This is seen as very destructive of society by the older characters. But eventually this was radicalized by Nietzsche in to the idea that all truth is merely a lie. The basic problem was eventually seen to be with Being itself, and Existence was a concept that was not overloaded so it became the center of attention for authors like Kierkegaard, Dostoevsky, Sartre, Heidegger and other modern philosophers especially after World War II when after two World wars there was disillusionment with our claims of civilization. Given the number of wars worldwide since then and the threat of nuclear holocaust and the Cold War this view has only continued to intensify. Each generation discovers this anew for themselves as nihilism increases.

But Existentialism at least as seen by Sartre was thought to be an antidote for this. In other words if you realize that everything is meaningless and that alienation is the rule, then there is nothing to tie you to a given interpretation of the world, and therefore you are free to remake yourself as you see fit and manufacture meaning in your own life. Since Nihilism is directly related to Being, it is felt that by stepping outside of the influence of Being it might be possible to reverse the essence precedes existence orientation and instead realize that existence precedes essence. It merely says that you have to exist before you can be something. It recognizes that existence is more basic than Being. I have recounted the relation between Being and Existence in other posts. So I won’g recount that again here.

It is easy for youth to feel hopeless once they realize that the world they are in is inauthentic and conventional, and there seems to be no way out. However, this is extremely unfortunate for them and for society, and this feeling is picked up and amplified by the media, and songs like this.

So what is the answer. It is unfortunate that rebellion of youth is almost always negative and self destructive. It is possible also to rebel positively, i.e. by tenaciously and with perseverance doing what you can to change your world, even though that is for most of us close to impossible. Yet the valiant attempt produces a life worth living and meaning in ones life, and virtue, i.e. the opposite of Nihilism. Early on Nietzsche called these people Free Spirits, that is people who create their own values. There are people who do this and they are usually called Activists.  And of course these activists, like Greg Mortinson ( for instance, all pick something different to change in the world, and set about it single handedly and dedicate their lives to the effort. So the variety of the attempts to change things is bewildering, and most fail to change anything at all, but their cause, what ever it is keeps them going in the face of the disaster that is the world and also generates meaning for others in the face of nihilism.

But how do we get youth to rebel in a positive way rather than a negative way, when each person is isolated in their own world with family, school, friends and where what society is pushing is alcohol, drugs, mindless entertainment, negative messages in music and pop culture about the meaninglessness of life, and how suicide is the only out like the example given here in this question. Occupy Wallstreet seems to be an answer. It was just an idea that came out of nowhere and caught on. Perhaps we can move on from occupying the empty places in our society adjacent to the centers of power and injustice, to actually dwelling in the world in a way that transforms it. This thing normally fizzles out, but it is almost enough to give us hope that the transformative power of youth rebellion might be brought to bear on our most pressing problems, and at the same time generate meaning to counter the pervasive nihilism in youth culture.

TS Eliot said it all in the Wasteland concerning the nihilism we are experiencing in the world. But then he wrote Four Quartets that searches for an answer to that despair. We all need to write our own Four Quartets, where we reach back into our own history for the resources to go on in the face of the pervasive nihilism we experience to create our own meaning as free spirits and to weave that together with the meaning created by others until the fabric gives us a world worth living in so that dreams of suicide are not our best moments.


Quora answer: What’s so special about philosophers like Kant, Wittgenstein, and Nietzsche?

Who said Wittgenstein is all that great. Putting him between Kant and Nietzsche is a sacrilege from the view point of Continental Philosophy, Hegel belongs there. Wittgenstein is just the nihilistic opposite of Heidegger according to Stanley Rosen in Nihilism. My view is that all Western Philosophers are Sophists in Plato’s sense of the word, even Plato with the puppet he manipulates called Socrates on his hand. In the end you cannot distinguish between Socrates and the Sophists which he is at war with. It is ultimately impossible to make a non-nihilistic distinction here because saying they are foreign and take money to talk to you like modern psychotherapists just begs the question. If their ideas seem simple to you I suggest you try Hegel on for size. Hegel who was misplaced in your series. (Cf. Deleuze The Logic of Sense) Hegel understood everything about the Western worldview, and Blake saw it in a Vision. Nietzsche is just cleaning up after the master sculpture has done his work. Wittgenstein and Heidegger are setting on the side lines watching. While Kant is desperately trying to save the paradise of Reason in the Enlightenment which has not broken down into the Terror that Hegel will see as yet. Nietzsche merely sums up and shows us that madness is coming, called the Twentieth Century with Three World Wars, two hot and one cold.

Quora answer: What are the most interesting ideas in Kant’s book The Critique of Pure Reason?

I have been listening to the Bernstein Tapes ( which are lectures on Critique of Pure Reason after previously listening to his Hegelian lectures. His Hegelian lectures allowed me my first real access to Hegel’s Phenomenology of Mind/Ghost/Spirit for the first time. I have spent a lifetime stating and failing to finish that book. Bernstein says it is the most complex book in Western philosophy, and I just could not get through it myself on my own, even though I managed to do so with many other long complicated and abstruse philosophical classics previously. I figured if Bernstein could finally give me access to Hegel in a way that made sense to me, then he might also have some things to say about Kant that would help me understand Critique of Pure Reason. To me one of the most interesting parts of Western Philosophy is Heidegger’s attempt to appropriate Kant, to his philosophy. It is interesting that the key word for Heidegger is Ereignis which has one meaning that is Appropriation, because Heidegger is famous for appropriating other philosophers to his own thought, like Aristotle, the Pre-socratics, Husserl’s later work (where appropriation here is tantamount to stealing). So listening to these lectures on Kant gave me a new appreciation for his thought. I kept worrying that my understanding of Kant would be wrong, but in the end it was merely greatly enhanced. I had a good idea of the Architectonic of Kant’s philosophy, but I did not really understand how important the arguments were in the book until I listened to these lectures. And without command of the arguments then one’s understanding remains very superficial, whereas from reading other commentaries I had the idea that the arguments were not really very important. That is because most authors attribute to Kant what Bernstein calls a progressive reading, i.e. assuming that Kant is claiming more than he has a right to claim, and then blaming him for not succeeding, and then subsituting their own thought for that of Kant. So Kant just is a jumping off point for their own ideas, which normally are pretty strange, and there are few attempts to try a minimal reading that tries to stay close to what Kant himself really meant, assuming that he was not claiming more than he could deliver. Bernstein calls this the regressive reading.

My own approach to philosophy is to try to understand what the philosopher himself had in mind before placing my own projections on their philosophy. I think this is a minimal threshold of intellectual honesty. And then one should always differentiate ones own thought from those of the philosopher one is basing what one is saying upon. I like to try to use other philosophies as a whole without appropriating them to my own philosophy. Because my greatest interest is in the differences between philosophers rather than subsuming them to my philosophy, or one philosophers ideas to another. Of course, this is very hard because it is almost impossible not to misunderstand the precursors. We have this map of misreading as Bloom says. For instance how Marx misread Hegel for instance, perfect example of a dumbed down reading of Hegel which some people really want.

So from Bernstein’s presentation I learned that the arguments themselves have substance. When commentators over claim what Kant is trying to achieve, and then point out how he fails, then one tends to discount the arguments, and concentrate on the architecture of his thought, because that is not affected by the discounted arguments. But Bernstein concentrates on the arguments and brings out their substance and shows how they are still relevant in light of his regressive reading.

So from Bersteins view point the major idea in Kant is that the only way to be a Transcendental Realist is via Transcendental Idealism, and thus realism is dependent on idealism. And that is why our tradition turned toward idealism and away from either rationalism or empiricism. This essentially makes Kant primarily into a precursor to Husserl’s phenomenology. This for me was very good because what I have been saying for years is that Kantian transcendentalism is the basis for understanding Husserlian Phenomenology. However, this devalues the idea of transcendentals being headlands above the world as Nietzsche calls them. To the regressive reading Kant is critiquing these headlands and pulling the carpet out from under them rather than establishing them as the progressive reading would have us believe.

To me this is a very important issue. In Badiou for instance we see the use of Cohen’s approach to set theory that establishes the independence of the continuum hypothesis. Basically Badiou says that Set theory is metaphysics of Being, to which he adds the Event and Multiple to complete it and give a full fledged ontological meaning to set theory. But what I learned from Badiou’s use of Cohen is that if you have a transcendental, i.e. an invisible assumed ground over a domain of a certain size, and you expand the territory it covers, if it does not create a difference in the larger scoped territory, then it is essentially irrelevant and does not have to be taken into account in our metaphysics.

Now if we take this insight back to Kant, we see that Kant has three transcendentals The Subject, The Object, and God. God maintains the coherence between the transcendental subject and the noumena, i.e. the transcendental object. This is an invisible scaffolding around our worldview. The Copernican turn from dogmatism is to offer a critique of the necessary preconditions for possible experience. As I listened to this phrase over and over in Bernstein I thought about the Unnecessary Impossibility as its opposite. The transcendental subject as the source of Apriori Synthesis (space, time, categories, schemas) and the Noumena, what is there beyond the appearances are the Unnecessary Impossibilities. They are impossibilities because we cannot know them. And they are unnecessary because no matter how we expand the scope of our inquiry the scaffolding does not make any difference in experience that makes a difference (Bateson). Implicit in Kant’s argument is the opposite of necessary conditions of possibility, which is the unnecessary and insufficient reasons of impossibility of experience of the T. Subject or the T. Object, or God that which retains the coherence between these inaccessible invisibles which are beyond all experience. I have not heard of any commentator who points out this duality between necessary possibilities and unnecessary impossibilities. And this kind of reminds me of Zizek and his argument that Kant glossed the possibility of Ethical Evil, in other words he suppressed that possibility, thinking it impossible. This makes us think that this limit the unnecessary and insufficient impossible is really the core of Kant’s thinking that is unthought. We normally say that what is impossible is the same as the negation of necessity. However, like a priori synthesis there must open up a gap between necessity and its opposite impossibility. Necessity is aligned with Actuality, and Possibility aligned with the Arbitrary. But in order for something to cross over from possibility to actuality there needs to be another moment of potential. For something to be denied the ability to cross over from necessary to the arbitrary there must be the impossible as a barrier. And that means there must be a middle ground between actuality and possibility as well which we can call sufficiency.

Now if we take this conceptual structure as given as the background set of modalities that allow Kant to talk about the necessity that grounds the possibility of experience, then we can discuss the unnecessary lacks grounding for the impossible. In other words the impossible is unmotivated. It is truly spontaneous and the limit of spontaneity from which experience arises. We can read Kant as a meditation on modality, where he wishes to get from the necessary grounds of actual experience by means of positing the transcendentals as the impossible but sufficient lack of grounds for the unknowability of invisibles beyond experience. The spark that jumps this abyss is the intuition of a priori synthesis which gives us the potential for framing experience based on what is absolutely prior to it, in a logical sense.

Kant is always searching for the third moment that can link unreconcilable opposites. So for example he posits a priori synthesis in order to get beyond a priori analysis of reason, and the a posteriori synthesis and analysis within experience. Pure concept is connected to percepts by way of a third moment that connects them the projection of a priori synthesis that we intuit via the imagination. Heidegger seizes on his change in the status of the imagination between the first and second editions of the critique to interpret Kant as a pre-Heideggarian. Heidegger sees the more basic form of the imagination as equivalent to his idea of Dasein as the ability to project Being. Subsumed faculty of the imagination placed under another faculty is imagination tamed, and a step back from the abyss suggested by the free ranging imagination as an independent faculty.

So from all this I opine that the most basic and interesting concept in Kant is the one he does not articulate which is the unnecessary and arbitrary impossibility of the inexperience-able (i.e. the transcendentals) that gives rise to the potentiality to cross over into the necessary conditions for the possibility of experience. This intermediate realm of potentiality allows the sufficient conditions for the actualization of experience.

As we know from Kubler’s Shape of Time actuality is a great mystery which is rooted in potentiality and sufficiency as a middle ground between impossibility and arbitrary on the one hand and necessity and possibility on the other. (

Kubler is the only one I know that has tried to delve into this area of how things become actual, i.e. cross over from possibility to actuality in any serious or deep way from the point of view of an Art Historian, i.e. one who is concerned with the shapes that well up from oblivion based on their first coming into Being as artifacts of a civilization, and then the subsequent loss of this civilization. He uses the metaphor of a light house, whose strobe lights up the darkness momentarily, so that we get a glimpse of what was lost in oblivion, through the relics that were preserved. We embed our experience of time within the things we shape, and we uncover the times of others so different from our own and glimpse other kinds of time when we dig up the artifacts from lost civilizations. Compressing our comprehension of time into shapes is a way to give others access to our own views of time from very different civilizations that have other embodied concepts of time that they embed into their artifacts.

See also
“Ultramoderne”: Or, How George Kubler Stole the Time in Sixties Art by Pamela M. Lee in Grey Room, No. 2. (Winter, 2001), pp. 46-77

But even as Bernstein in his critique of Kant, for not recognizing that there were many kinds of time, and Kubler who sees various civilizations experience of time embedded in their physical artifacts that we use to draw them back from the abyss of oblivion, there is little exploration of the exact mechanism by which things move over from possibility to actuality. I formulated an answer to this question as an addendum to my dissertation which is unpublished based on the work of Ian Thompson ( and the theory of dispositions. Design occurs in Hyper Being of possibilities, but for things to come into existence we need Wild Being of propensities. And the key concept that allows us to move between the extremes of Actuality and Possibility, or Arbitrary and Necessary is the ideas of Potential and Sufficiency. But this is based on understanding the Ultra Being of Unnecessary Impossibility as a limit. Kant skirts around this Impossible possibility and unnecessary adjunct (i.e. supplement) to his philosophy the same way he skirts around the idea of ethical evil as Zizek accuses him of doing. But it is from this hidden singularity in his thought that Hegel sees the French Revolution springing, the Irrational from the heart of critical reason. It is not a necessary condition for destructive chaos being unleashed by the French Revolution throwing off the oppression of sovereignty which ultimately only led back to Napoleonic sovereignty, i.e. from one nihilistic extreme to its opposite, and then back to the first, only with an intensification of nihilism. Hegel saw the advent of Napoleon as the dawning of a new age win which Absolute Spirit was embodied, but little did he imagine the death march of the troops into Russia. (

[Note: E. Tufte’s lecture on this map accessed through Intelligence^2 is brilliant.]

The terrible defeat by nature of the army of Napoleon, his first exile, his escape and defeat at Waterloo, and then second exile show how irrepressible Absolute Spirit can be when embodied in a single man who is the motive force behind historical changes. His reassertion of Sovereignty shaped his times. In him Hegel saw Absolute Reason working itself out in History re-establishing the state which represented Absolute Spirit as embodied by Absolute Monarchy. And this is the fundamental shift after Kant to the recognition that the intersubjective cohort was a horizon on which the individuals humanity was achieved. Absolute Spirit can be seen as an embodiment of that unnecessary Impossibility as Absolute.

Quora answer: Why is there an is? Why is there an existence?


Why is there X where X = (Existence != IS).

As I have said in many answers, Existence does not equal IS. The normal formulation of this question is Why is there something rather than nothing which is called the ultimate question. But to ask why exists X and why is there X are two very different questions, not the same question as you have implied ranking them together as if they were synonymous.

One interesting thing is that there is no meaning to Existence, as existentialists continually point out. Being on the other hand equals intelligibility or meaning as Parmenides said “it is the same to think and to be”.

Saying Why there exists something means why do I find myself thrown in the midst of things within a world as a thing myself. This according to Heidegger is an existentiell question which is discovered (befindlichkeit). it is part of the nature of dasein to ecstatically project the world and itself as part of the world. It actually has no why per se rather it is a facticity.

On the other hand Why there IS something is tantamount to asking about the intelligibility of what “is” and the meta-question concerns the meaning of Being. Is “IS” a facet of Indo-european language in particular and is part of our “rede” talk another existentiell. But also IS confers understanding within our particular worldview and thus gives rise to our unique kind of “verstehan” understanding another existentiell according to Heidegger.

So it is interesting that it is only one existentiell that relates to existence while the other two relate to Being per se as linguistic intelligibility peculiar to the Indo-Europeans.

This is probably not something that Heidegger himself would agree with but it reinforces the point that for the Arabs wajud (existence) was part of Being (kun) but not all of it. A rock exists, but it does not project a world which it can discover itself to be part of. So to the extent that we can discover ourselves to be part of the ultimate horizon of world then we exist as an ecstasy, but to the extent that we can comprehend and talk about that world overflows from the ecstasy alone into the projection of meaning or intelligibility.

For Heidegger the key point is that these existentiels fuse together at the core of dasein as being-in-the-world as “Care” (Sorge). In other words the discoveredness of oneself within the world already as part of the ecstasy of projection is the same in some way as understanding it and being able to talk about it.

We can turn this around and say that because Indo-European language has Being, that affects the intelligibility of everything within that worldview and takes us beyond what we would have if we only had the standing of existence or the copula or some other central concept within our language, as other languages have. So there is a special kind of intelligibility that comes along with the concept of Being, and that intelligibility is expressed in our language and in our understanding which is unique. That uniqueness has to do with the way we use tropes like Metaphor, Metonymy, Synecdoche, and Irony. Other languages produce tropes by juxtaposition, while we use tropes by creating a substrate of connection through the projection of the illusory continuity of Being. In existence things stand on their own while in Being things stand through each other in an odd way. So Odysseus IS a lion which is more than the simile that could be had by juxtaposing Odysseus with Lion and allowing us to infer their similarity. Odysseus IS a lion means that somehow Odysseus and the Lion share the same substance.

So if we come back to the question Why is there an IS? the answer is we do not know why Indo-European has this odd yet unique peculiarity. But by the Worfian hypothesis we can infer that it must effect our understanding of the world when juxtaposed with the existence, copula or other basic concepts that are standings in other languages. Existence is a standing toward what is found (befindlichkeit) by finding ourselves already in the world. Copula (such as the Me in Sumerian) which is a unique agglutinative language is a standing of things toward each other. Interestingly the term Me also means something similar to the Tattva in Tamil which gives us the idea of dharmas in Buddhism. In this kind of language existence is fragmented into little mechanisms that just work, and we don’t know why but they are there in an array of juxtapositions in existence. On the other hand existence, like Wajud in Arabic is unified through its ecstasy that allows that which is to be found to be found.

Why there IS an “is” is unknown. But we do know it is a uniquely Indo-European concept that has a peculiar linguistic form in all related languages of that family. We also know that it is a construct because it is forged from different linguistic roots within proto-Indoeuropean, which is to say it is an artificially fabricated cultural construct, not something that arose naturally within the language, because it is constructed of disparate linguistic elements. And what we notice about the Indo-Europeans is that they were the first to domesticate the horse, and use that to conquer the unknown world making it known to them as their possession. It turns out that “having” is an equally fragmented linguistic root within Indo-European languages. Being and Having go together in some fundamental way in the Indo-European worldview. It was a linguistic project to forge Being/Having within this linguistic family, but why this is true we don’t know. But what we do know is that this has to do somehow with our ability to produce technology and that has something to do with the rife nihilism of our worldivew, at least according to Heidegger, and to some extent Nietzsche.

On the other hand, existence or copula has no why, in the same way as Indo-european has a why. In other words, without Being why itself does not have the same force. Within our language we have the fundamental structure Who, What, Where, When, Why and How, which in different ways probably exist in other languages as prominent. But after the ultimate question these are the subsidiary questions. And it is the Why that we associate with Being, because Being is for us the same as intelligibility and intelligibility is synonymous with knowing why.

If we ask Why is Being, then we get the answer of God’s will, or destiny, or fatedness (dreeing the wyrd)
If we ask Who is Being, then we get the answer God (Supreme Being) who is seen as Good only with evil a mere privation.
If we ask What is Being then we get the answer a substance that translates into omniscience of God which betokens the Rightness (RTA) of the Justice of God.
If we ask When is Being we get the answer the Hence/Thence (Now/Then) (Ongoing/Completed) which translates as the eternality of God which betokens the perfect order of Gods law beyond our understanding of the accidents of human life.
If we ask Where is Being we get the answer Hither/Thither (Here/There) which translates into the omnipresence of God which betokens the World as the dual of logos/physos, and the word that becomes flesh as an avatar that unites these duals. (omnipresence suggests omni-identity, omni-reality, and omni-truth, i.e. God is One, God is Reality, God is Truth, i.e. God is aspectival).
If we ask the How of Being we get the answer of omnipotence of God which betokens trinitarian mystery and the three fold nature of the existentiels.
This suggests that the subsidiary questions to the ultimate question has to do with the qualities of God as Supreme Being under the auspices of ontotheological metaphysics and that these are in turn related somehow to the nonduals at the core of the Western worldview, i.e. fate, good, right, order, etc.

The tropes are Metaphor, Metonymy, Synecdoche, and Irony:
God IS Being, Holy Ghost is God, Son IS Father, The three are one.

All this is OntoTheological Metaphysics according to Heidegger which is a metaphysics of Presence that discounts Absence, a metaphysics of Identity that discounts difference, a metaphysics of Truth that discounts Fiction (Lies), and a metaphysics of Reality that discounts Illusion or unreality. To the extent that we pay homage to formal systems and also are realists we continue this tradition. Formal systems are based on Truth, Identity and Presence aspects whose relations give the properties of completeness, consistency and clarity (well-formedness). When we add in the Aspect of Reality then oddly enough we generate meaning and also the properties of Verifiability, Validity, and Coherence. Together the properties of the formal system can give soundness but we need the properties that associate the formal system with reality to give correctness.

Peirce contributed the Existential Operator (Backwards E) to logic. Without that our logic floats free without any tie to actual facts. Logic itself is composed of three operations And, Or, Not. The other important operator that balances existence is All (upside down A) that differentiates the Universal from the Particular. The Universal indicates the Set Like differentiation of particulars. While Existence is Mass-like and indicates that there is a dual to sets which are Masses, and a dual to syllogistic logic which is the boundary or pervasion logics. Our culture forgets the non-count and emphasizes the count and thus we base our math on Sets, and our logic is syllogistic. We forget about non-count masses (like furniture) and pervasion or boundary logic (like Laws of Form, G. Spencer Brown). Masses and Boundary logic is more related to Existence, while Sets and Syllogistic Logic is more related to Being.

Thus the forgetting of Being is at the same time a remembering of Syllogism, and Sets and the Oblivion of non-Being as existence along with Masses and Pervasion Logic as the dual of sets and syllogism. One reason we cannot think Existence is because we have lost the tools of thought, and this is part of the OntoTheology of our worldview. Existence appears in our worldview as the dragon (typhoon, python) destroyed by St. George (Zeus, Apollo). This triumph of Being over Existence comes at a cost, one of which is our disconnection from the planet on which we live (unfortunately at this time as parasites). The benefit is the ability to integrate technologies that other cultures have not been able to do. No one knows who invented the wheel but Indo-Europeans invented the Chariot as the first war machine, when horses were big enough to pull them in a team, but not yet big enough to ride. This was the beginning of the first great colonial wave of Indo-European domination, the second wave of which was the colonization of the whole world by sea power and gun powder, and the third wave is globalization of Indo-European culture happening now.

Posted June 26, 2011 by kentpalmer in philosophy

Quora answer: What is the true meaning of existence, is it just being “alive” or is it doing something productive in your life?




We have to go back to the meaning of the term existence. As I have said in previous answers existence has an interesting history which has to do with the collision between Greek which is a language like all other Indo-European languages that have Being and one of the other myriad languages that do not have Being, but instead have either existence, or copula or something else which plays a similar role to Being as the central concept that relates things to other things. In this case the language was Arabic, and the Arabs were reading Greek Philosophy and realized that Being (ontos) in Greek was completely different from Existence (Wajud) in Arabic. So the Arab philosophers made up a technical term Kun (to make) to specify the difference between Being and Existence. Then during the Renaissance when Arab interpretations of Greek philosophy were translated into Latin there was no term for Existence in Latin which was an Indo-European language to, so the term Existence was made up to have the same meaning as Wajud in Arabic which means “that which is found” and also ecstasy. Heidegger uses this difference in senses of existence in Being and Time when he says that the projection of Being by dasein is an ecstasy. Existence means Exi-Stance, to stand outside of . . . Being. It is what is outside of our projection of Being, i.e. what comes before the Apriori Synthetic in Kant’s terms. Existence is what is found prior to any projections of ours onto what is there such as values for instance. So the rock beside the road that no one cares about has mere existence.

Now when we talk about True Existence then another aspect is revealed. What is interesting is that both Being and Existence are standings that share the aspects Truth, Reality, Identity and Presence. Thus in some sense aspects of Being and Existence are more fundamental than the standings themselves. So when you say True Existence, you are really talking about Existence without any contamination with the illusion generated as a projection a prior in Being. But also we could talk about Real Existence, Identical Existence, and Present Existence. In existence these different aspects are not separate from each other as they are in Being. That is a difference between Being and Existence. In Being the aspects are separated but in Existence they are interpenetrated.

The opposite of the Existence I call the Quintessence. The Quintessence is both aspect and anti-aspect, while Existence is neither aspect nor anti-Aspect. So the Quintessence is both True and False (Fiction) while Existence is neither True nor False (Fiction) and so on with the other three aspects. The main interpretations of Existence are Buddhist emptiness or Taoist void. That is to say Existence is interpreted as non-dual. In this interpretation it is not non-being and neither aspect nor anti-aspect but instead NOT (Aspect) nor (anti-aspect), nor (both aspect and anti-aspect) nor (neither aspect nor anti-aspect) but something else beyond these logical alternatives. That something else is interpreted as interpenetration which is the antipode beyond existence and quintessence. An image of the quintessence is the philosopher’s stone, i.e. the perfect transformative catalyst that in myth turns base metals into gold.

Now the model of Existence is the Special Systems and the Special Systems are interleaved with the Kinds of Being, so Being and Existence are duals of each other. The Special Systems are a model of interpenetration (cf Reflexive Autopoietic Dissipative Special Systems Theory of the author And the special systems describe the ultra efficaciousness of Life Consciousness and the Social. So in this sense the viability of just living is true existence. Doing something “productive” with your life is part of the projection of Being. And so from the point of view of this sort of Fundamental Ontology/Existentialism, existence covers life, consciousness, and sociality, but does not cover Productivity, which is part of the projection of illusion and delusion of Being. The best book about this is the Mirror of Production by Baudrillard where he says that what communism and capitalism share is the idea that we must be productive, to be human is to be productive, and what cannot be imagined is an unproductive life. However, Buddhism and Taoism and other non-dual spiritual ways undermine this assumption of the preeminence of productivity in human life and say it is enough just to be conscious and to recognize the purity of existence unsullied by the projections of Illusion that are founded in Being.

Thus I would answer the question you raised by saying that the true meaning of existence is in just viable living, purified conscious, positive and non-destructive social relations, and productivity is a delusion (like “Progress” for instance) which according to the Buddhists and Taoists would be based in delusion.

However, this said I do find that there is a big difference between the productive life and the non-productive life myself. And we must realize that productive and destructive are duals. Nietzsche says that all creation is based on destruction. So that productivity and destruction are intertwined as nihilistic duals that feed each other. So the nondual of existence has to be between and beyond these duals as it is with all duals. Thus it has to be a misinterpretation to say that the Buddhist or Taoist life is completely non-productive, but on the other hand it is not productive either. The difference is that in these contemplative kinds of life what we are trying to do is to produce a transformed self, so that our productivity is aimed back at our selves not at other things in existence. Zen/Chan aesthetic traditions make much of this in arts of Flower Arrangement, Archery, Gardening, Tea Ceremony, Calligraphy, etc. In other words, there is a certain attitude toward work, which all Zen monks are required to do, which does not focus on the end product but the consciousness of what is happening in the process of creation or production in the moment. An excellent example of this is the poems of StoneHouse (translated by Red Pine), where he criticizes the buddhist monks for begging, and prises the hermit who makes his own food or gathers it, or works gathering fire wood and is not dependent on the generosity of others for their livelihood. His poems are the perfect example of the blending of Taoism and Buddhism. In fact at a certain point in his poems he has a line of emptiness and a line of void, then a line of emptiness and a line of void. Much of Korean Zen comes from the StoneHouse lineage which combines Zen and Taoism while recognizing the difference between emptiness and void as two different attitudes toward existence. In Taoism there is the idea of “non-action” which does not mean not doing anything, but means not fabricating anything nor departing from the natural flow of nature which is he Way (Tao). In Taoism non-action may mean producing something or not producing something depending on the situation. The basic idea is that you remain unattached to production or non-production. But the emphasis in production or non-production is on the transformation of the self not the transformation of external products as it is in capitalism or communism which assumes that productivity/destructivity is a basic human trait.

Posted June 26, 2011 by kentpalmer in philosophy