I am an existentialist, continued
Note: I received the following response to my previous post, "I am an existentialist":
Interesting article. My personal opinion is that "You have a choice" is a generalization. It varies from issue to issue and many times you don't really have a chance. Existentialism is an interesting theory. However unless it allieviates human suffering and helps solving personal problems, some of the features of such theories are intellectual gymnastics. Philosophers also need to be practical.
This is my reply:
Thank you for reviewing my article.
I feel that I do not have to defend existentialism ... far more erudite individuals than myself have already done so effectively.
But you raise a few points to which I have to take exception lest someone gets the impression that there is no argument to them.
Having a choice for the existentialist is a concrete situation, probably most graphically demonstrated by those who have used self-immolation as a form of protest.
Famous people who have chosen this way to die:
* Romas Kalanta, in protest against the Soviet Union's occupation of his homeland of Lithuania.
* Thích Quảng Đức, in protest against the oppression of Buddhism by the administration of Vietnamese Prime Minister Ngô Đ́nh Diệm.
* Norman Morrison, an American who self-immolated in protest against the Vietnam War
(See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_methods#Burning_oneself_.28self-immolation.29 )
Granted not everyone has the option of suicide, but that represents a "special case" set of individuals.
And as Mahatma Gandhi taught us, we also have the option of civil disobedience, which can be the simple matter of stopping what we are doing and doing nothing. Cindy Sheehan was arrested today in Washington, DC, for this form of civil disobedience while protesting the War in Iraq.
In the possibility of negation of active participation--either in a specific activity set or in life itself-- existentialism points out that the individual has a choice in the matter of her/his own existence which is not theoretical.
Further, my view of existentialism couples readily with Maslow's hierarchy of needs, agreeing that the best state of individual human existence is at the pinnacle of the hierarchy of needs, self-actualization, where I engage in the creative pursuit of fulfilling my imagined "objective" in my own existence.
I have been fortunate to have known no other situation during my entire life of 66+ years than this creative pursuit. And I have never been not able to satisfy my needs.
Of course, as Malow pointed out, if I am struggling to breathe, or to find water to drink, or food to eat, ... and so forth through the hierarchy of needs from physiological to safety to love/belonging to esteem leading to actualization ... I am not going to be otherwise engaged primarily. Self-actualization may have to wait at times. It's just that I have never experienced this other than in a situation where I have known I could satisfy my needs of the moment.
However, even without personal experience of dire unmet need--or quite possibly because of that lack of experience--my take on existentialism is that it does not deny the hierarchy of needs but that it understands, as Maslow did, that our resolution of these needs impacts and is impacted upon by our potential for self-actualization.
(See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-actualization )
Thanks again for reviewing my article.
Hilding "Gus" Lindquist