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Astonishment at Being

 
 
Reply Mon 15 Feb, 2010 03:45 am
As a young teen, before I knew anything of philosophy, I was sometimes struck by the "miracle" that anything existed at all. These moments were accompanied by an intense sense of the beauty of things. It's all too easy now for me to forget this astonishment. Heidegger clicked for me right away as I feel that he was referring to the same thing.

Why is there something rather than nothing? An old question. Do we really expect an answer, or is this question a poem?
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Krumple
 
  1  
Reply Mon 15 Feb, 2010 03:58 am
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;128414 wrote:
Why is there something rather than nothing? An old question. Do we really expect an answer, or is this question a poem?


Perhaps this something is actually nothing. The deeper we dive into quantum physics the more we realize that matter and energy are not how we perceive them to be.

I'm reminded of one particular aspect to help illustrate what I mean. Dreams. They are just electrical impulses created by our brains which we interpret in visual imagery. While they happen we believe them to be real. If we never woke up would we ever know we were in the dream world? Some people can be conscious of their bodies while they are sleeping, but what if you were not consciously aware of your sleeping body? Could you determine if you were awake or asleep? Probably not is my guess.

My point being? Perhaps this existence is just a shared dream of sorts. We believe matter to be a solid thing, but really the only thing we experience as solidity is energy repulsiveness. You don't actually ever connect with another object but instead the molecules repel each other like two similar poles of a magnet repel each other.

The question then becomes why are we having a shared universal dream? Maybe it's due to the inverse of your question. Why would nothing always exist as nothing and not spring to become something?
Reconstructo
 
  1  
Reply Mon 15 Feb, 2010 04:11 am
@Krumple,
Krumple;128418 wrote:
Perhaps this something is actually nothing. The deeper we dive into quantum physics the more we realize that matter and energy are not how we perceive them to be.

I'm reminded of one particular aspect to help illustrate what I mean. Dreams. They are just electrical impulses created by our brains which we interpret in visual imagery. While they happen we believe them to be real. If we never woke up would we ever know we were in the dream world? Some people can be conscious of their bodies while they are sleeping, but what if you were not consciously aware of your sleeping body? Could you determine if you were awake or asleep? Probably not is my guess.

My point being? Perhaps this existence is just a shared dream of sorts. We believe matter to be a solid thing, but really the only thing we experience as solidity is energy repulsiveness. You don't actually ever connect with another object but instead the molecules repel each other like two similar poles of a magnet repel each other.

The question then becomes why are we having a shared universal dream? Maybe it's due to the inverse of your question. Why would nothing always exist as nothing and not spring to become something?


I appreciate the feedback. I'm not sure if you see where I am coming from. Heidegger wanted to isolate the concept of Being from any particular beings.
When you say dreams are only electrical impulses, you are coming from an objective point of view. I'm coming from a phenomenological idealist point of view in this case. For me, experience is reality. I can't agree that a dream is just electrical impulses because these electrical impulses are just the linguistic-mathematical dream of the dreamer they mean to describe.

I am aware of the quantum physics issue you mention, and that is good topic, but it doesn't fit what I'm going for here. I'm not saying it has to go my way but I would like to get your response on this.

The question is as much an expression of wonder as a sincere question. Heidegger liked this question because it was not practical. He though Western Philosophy was on a power trip, and had lost the wonder it began with.
Why is there anything at all? Why is there consciousness? To be amazed at existence is the theme of this thread. To step back from beings and their relationship and consider Being, the "light that discloses beings."
Krumple
 
  1  
Reply Mon 15 Feb, 2010 04:26 am
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;128422 wrote:
I appreciate the feedback. I'm not sure if you see where I am coming from. Heidegger wanted to isolate the concept of Being from any particular beings.
When you say dreams are only electrical impulses, you are coming from an objective point of view. I'm coming from a phenomenological idealist point of view in this case. For me, experience is reality. I can't agree that a dream is just electrical impulses because these electrical impulses are just the linguistic-mathematical dream of the dreamer they mean to describe.

I am aware of the quantum physics issue you mention, and that is good topic, but it doesn't fit what I'm going for here. I'm not saying it has to go my way but I would like to get your response on this.

The question is as much an expression of wonder as a sincere question. Heidegger liked this question because it was not practical. He though Western Philosophy was on a power trip, and had lost the wonder it began with.
Why is there anything at all? Why is there consciousness? To be amazed at existence is the theme of this thread. To step back from beings and their relationship and consider Being, the "light that discloses beings."


I guess our definitions of being are different. Where I see energy impulses being intercepted you see a substantial entity. I don't see experience as a being. Consciousness for me is just two data sets uniting and that is it. If those two data sets do not unite, there is no being. Not sure if you know what data sets I mean but anyways to get back to how you would like the question to be investigated.

I'll just say that nothing can last for ever, not even nothing and that is why we have a something. It is that simple for me.

If there is a calm, that calm would be the nothingness, but when that calm is disturbed, that disruption, I call something. It might be just that simple.
Reconstructo
 
  1  
Reply Mon 15 Feb, 2010 04:34 am
@Krumple,
Krumple;128427 wrote:
I guess our definitions of being are different. Where I see energy impulses being intercepted you see a substantial entity. I don't see experience as a being. Consciousness for me is just two data sets uniting and that is it. If those two data sets do not unite, there is no being. Not sure if you know what data sets I mean but anyways to get back to how you would like the question to be investigated.

I'll just say that nothing can last for ever, not even nothing and that is why we have a something. It is that simple for me.

If there is a calm, that calm would be the nothingness, but when that calm is disturbed, that disruption, I call something. It might be just that simple.


I still don't think you get what I'm saying. Experience is an abstraction of course.

I think you are coming from a strictly objective angle which doesn't fit the theme. Are you familiar with Heidegger, Hegel, Husserl, Kant? Basically with the Germans? Here's a little background.
Heidegger's philosophy is founded on the attempt to conjoin what he considers two fundamental insights:

  • The first of these is Heidegger's observation that, in the course of over two thousand years of history, philosophy has attended to all the beings that can be found in the world (including the "world" itself), but has forgotten to ask what "being" itself is. This is Heidegger's "question of being", and it is Heidegger's fundamental concern throughout his work from the beginning of his career until its end. One crucial source of this insight was Heidegger's reading of Franz Brentano's treatise on Aristotle's manifold uses of the word "being", a work which provoked Heidegger to ask what kind of unity underlies this multiplicity of uses. Heidegger opens his magnum opus, Being and Time, with a citation from Plato's Sophist [16] indicating that Western philosophy has neglected "being" because it was considered obvious, rather than as worthy of question. Heidegger's intuition about the question of being is thus a historical argument, which in his later work becomes his concern with the "history of being", that is, the history of the forgetting of being, which according to Heidegger requires that philosophy retrace its footsteps through a productive "destruction" of the history of philosophy.
  • The second intuition animating Heidegger's philosophy derives from the influence of Edmund Husserl, a philosopher largely uninterested in questions of philosophical history. Rather, Husserl argued that all that philosophy could and should be is a description of experience (hence the phenomenological slogan, "to the things themselves"). But for Heidegger, this meant understanding that experience is always already situated in a world and in ways of being. Thus Husserl's understanding that all consciousness is "intentional" (in the sense that it is always intended toward something, and is always "about" something) is transformed in Heidegger's philosophy, becoming the thought that all experience is grounded in "care." This is the basis of Heidegger's "existential analytic", as he develops it in Being and Time. Heidegger argues that to be able to describe experience properly means finding the being for whom such a description might matter. Heidegger thus conducts his description of experience with reference to "Dasein", the being for whom being is a question.[17] In Being and Time, Heidegger criticized the abstract and metaphysical character of traditional ways of grasping human existence as rational animal, person, man, soul, spirit, or subject. Dasein, then, is not intended as a way of conducting a "philosophical anthropology", but is rather understood by Heidegger to be the condition of possibility for anything like a "philosophical anthropology."[18] Dasein, according to Heidegger, is care. In the course of his existential analytic, Heidegger argues that Dasein, who finds itself thrown into the world amidst things and with others, is thrown into its possibilities, including the possibility and inevitability of one's own mortality. The need for Dasein to assume these possibilities, that is, the need to be responsible for one's own existence, is the basis of Heidegger's notions of authenticity and resoluteness-that is, of those specific possibilities for Dasein which depend on escaping the "vulgar" temporality of calculation and of public life
Krumple
 
  1  
Reply Mon 15 Feb, 2010 05:06 am
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;128429 wrote:
I still don't think you get what I'm saying. Experience is an abstraction of course.

I think you are coming from a strictly objective angle which doesn't fit the theme. Are you familiar with Heidegger, Hegel, Husserl, Kant? Basically with the Germans? Here's a little background.
Heidegger's philosophy is founded on the attempt to conjoin what he considers two fundamental insights:


I'm familiar with them. All I am saying is that my definition of being is that there is no being. For me it is just the two data sets coming together. Sort of like some light hitting a surface showing an image of an object. You would not mistake the image of the object to be the actual object, instead the image is just a representation of the object. If you see an image of a mountain you don't call the image a mountain.

I am saying that I do not find a being anywhere at all. There is no object called a being. I am saying it is a mistake like a person calling the image a mountain. When you talk about being, this is what I hear. I am saying, the data we are using for me is just a representation of a being but not a being at all. So that is why I slip into the outward objective definition of reality rather than defining what being is. To me being is nothing but the merging of two data sets.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Mon 15 Feb, 2010 08:06 am
@Krumple,
Krumple;128435 wrote:
To me being is nothing but the merging of two data sets.


I must admit, I never quite thought of it in just that way.
0 Replies
 
jgweed
 
  1  
Reply Mon 15 Feb, 2010 11:32 am
@Reconstructo,
Heidegger, especially after he abandoned his project of Being and Time, turned his attention towards the attempt to rediscover the fundamental problems of existence, of which he considered Being the most fundamental and important, because our conceptions were chained by several thousand years of philosophy (what we might now call, in common parlance, intellectual baggage). He also argued that contemporary man, through many accidents of philosophy, science, and technology, had become separated or divorced or alienated from Being, with disastrous results.
Reconstructo
 
  1  
Reply Mon 15 Feb, 2010 02:27 pm
@jgweed,
jgweed;128526 wrote:
Heidegger, especially after he abandoned his project of Being and Time, turned his attention towards the attempt to rediscover the fundamental problems of existence, of which he considered Being the most fundamental and important, because our conceptions were chained by several thousand years of philosophy (what we might now call, in common parlance, intellectual baggage). He also argued that contemporary man, through many accidents of philosophy, science, and technology, had become separated or divorced or alienated from Being, with disastrous results.


Yes, and isn't it a fascinating move? Heidegger seems to me to be scraping away an incrustation of perception. He reminds me of Blake. We have such a technical relationship with reality, that some have no idea what H means by forgetfulness of Being. Precisely because they have forgotten it, the words seem empty. Philosophy has become so obsessed with manipulation that it has lost the ability to be astonished, to experience mystery, wonder, the raw thrill of existing.
Reconstructo
 
  1  
Reply Tue 16 Feb, 2010 02:18 am
@Krumple,
Krumple;128435 wrote:

I am saying that I do not find a being anywhere at all.


A being is any thing that exists. It's an abstraction.

Being is trickier. Being is the light that discloses beings. Consciousness. But words like "Consciousness" and "Being" are objects.

So Heidegger would cross out the word "Being," to emphasize that no concept was anything more than just a being, not Being.

It's strange stuff, yes. It's like negative theology, but perhaps more negative. It's sort of like the Black Painting which re-appears in modern art. A painting that swallows itself.
jgweed
 
  1  
Reply Tue 16 Feb, 2010 09:06 am
@Reconstructo,
Kierkegaard tells us that we have lost our essential relationship with God. Nietzsche tells us that we have lost our essential relationship with life and have become diseased. Heidegger tells us we have, as human beings, lost our essential relationship with Being. Each offers not only a devastating critique of modern life, but each suggests different ways to recapture ourselves as human beings in the face of conditions that seem to thwart this.

This demand for authenticity must employ language that tends toward its opposite, so it must (like poetry in a way) stretch and bend words, many of which we take for granted, to express a new way of thinking and seeing.

Everyone knows what is meant by Being, says Heidegger; but the more we think about Being the more we understand that we don't at all, just as Sokrates would question the common definition, say, of justice, or Nietzsche reminded us that becoming was a part of Being, or in his case all of Being.

Heidegger looks backwards to the ancient philosophers to find a more authentic relationship with Being, and goes to great lengths to draw from their fragments (in the case of Presokratics) and their writings (Plato and especially Aristotle---remember the question posed elsewhere in philforum?) this relationship. Whether the philology of Heidegger or Nietzsche is completely "accurate" may be debated, but that their analysis and interpretation can unveil new ways of thinking cannot.
Pyrrho
 
  1  
Reply Tue 16 Feb, 2010 12:25 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;128414 wrote:
As a young teen, before I knew anything of philosophy, I was sometimes struck by the "miracle" that anything existed at all. These moments were accompanied by an intense sense of the beauty of things. It's all too easy now for me to forget this astonishment. Heidegger clicked for me right away as I feel that he was referring to the same thing.

Why is there something rather than nothing? An old question. Do we really expect an answer, or is this question a poem?


I have never thought that the question, "why is there something rather than nothing?" to be of any particular importance. It seems to me to be a misuse of language, a bit like the question, "why is there water in this bucket instead of nothing?", but abstracted beyond all significance. And I don't know why people feel it is a "miracle", as you put it, that there is something rather than nothing. Why shouldn't there be something rather than nothing? Why wouldn't it be "miraculous" for there to be nothing instead of something? It is as if people imagine that there was at one time nothing, and then miraculously there was then something. But there is no reason to suppose that there ever was nothing.

(The idea of the Big Bang does not influence this, as right now the universe is, they say, expanding, and the things in the universe are slowing down due to their gravitational pull on each other. Now, it could be that the momentum is greater than the gravity, so that things will continue moving outward forever, or it could be that the gravitational pull is greater, so that everything will slow and stop, and then reverse direction, moving faster and faster as things are pulled closer and closer, eventually leading to a massive collision, a big bang, if you will, in which things will ricochet off in all directions, gradually slowing, of course, as gravity pulls on everything. This could be going on over and over, forever, and there is no particular reason to suppose that this has not been going on forever.)

As for how people feel about all of this, that is a question for psychologists to examine.
0 Replies
 
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Tue 16 Feb, 2010 12:55 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;128889 wrote:
A being is any thing that exists. It's an abstraction.

Being is trickier. Being is the light that discloses beings. Consciousness. But words like "Consciousness" and "Being" are objects.

So Heidegger would cross out the word "Being," to emphasize that no concept was anything more than just a being, not Being.

It's strange stuff, yes. It's like negative theology, but perhaps more negative. It's sort of like the Black Painting which re-appears in modern art. A painting that swallows itself.


According to Meinong (and Husserl, whom Heidegger prevented from continuing in his position at the university because Husserl was a Jew) some things that do not exist are beings. For example unicorns.
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Tue 16 Feb, 2010 02:32 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;128414 wrote:
As a young teen, before I knew anything of philosophy, I was sometimes struck by the "miracle" that anything existed at all. These moments were accompanied by an intense sense of the beauty of things.


I would say, that is one of the most important things to retain. It is elusive and not highly valued. It reminds me of this verse from the Tao Te Ching:

[CENTER]The highest goodness is like water
It does good to everything
and goes unmurmuring to places men despise
And so, is close in nature to the Way.

I think what stands between us and that state is (as remarked above,) the accumulation of memory, experience, like and dislike, that we call my self. So to me the aim of philosophy - this is not the way the subject of philosophy sees it - is to recapture that sense of delight about life, knowing what we now know.

[/CENTER]
0 Replies
 
Reconstructo
 
  1  
Reply Tue 16 Feb, 2010 02:33 pm
@jgweed,
jgweed;128962 wrote:
Kierkegaard tells us that we have lost our essential relationship with God. Nietzsche tells us that we have lost our essential relationship with life and have become diseased. Heidegger tells us we have, as human beings, lost our essential relationship with Being. Each offers not only a devastating critique of modern life, but each suggests different ways to recapture ourselves as human beings in the face of conditions that seem to thwart this.

Well said. This parallel presentation brings out the similarities well.

---------- Post added 02-16-2010 at 03:34 PM ----------

jeeprs;129103 wrote:
I would say, that is one of the most important things to retain. It is elusive and not highly valued. It reminds me of this verse from the Tao Te Ching:

[CENTER]The highest goodness is like water
It does good to everything
and goes unmurmuring to places men despise
And so, is close in nature to the Way.

I think what stands between us and that state is (as remarked above,) the accumulation of memory, experience, like and dislike, that we call my self. So to me the aim of philosophy - this is not the way the subject of philosophy sees it - is to recapture that sense of delight about life, knowing what we now know.

[/CENTER]


I love that quote. I have the Stephen Mitchell translation and it's meant much to me. I also love Hesse.

---------- Post added 02-16-2010 at 03:35 PM ----------

kennethamy;129061 wrote:
According to Meinong (and Husserl, whom Heidegger prevented from continuing in his position at the university because Husserl was a Jew) some things that do not exist are beings. For example unicorns.


Sure, concepts are beings. "Being" is a being. Therefore it is written crossed out, or under erasure.

---------- Post added 02-16-2010 at 03:39 PM ----------

Pyrrho;129051 wrote:
I have never thought that the question, "why is there something rather than nothing?" to be of any particular importance. It seems to me to be a misuse of language, a bit like the question, "why is there water in this bucket instead of nothing?", but abstracted beyond all significance. And I don't know why people feel it is a "miracle", as you put it, that there is something rather than nothing. Why shouldn't there be something rather than nothing? Why wouldn't it be "miraculous" for there to be nothing instead of something? It is as if people imagine that there was at one time nothing, and then miraculously there was then something. But there is no reason to suppose that there ever was nothing.


I sincerely answer that you are missing the point. Heidegger was well aware of this objection and stated explicitly that this was exactly the sort of response he expected. You seem to be patting yourself on the back for your immunity to wonder, astonishment. Rorty interprets this aspect Heidegger as a consciousness of the radical contingency of everything.

This isn't philosophy to work with. That's the point. The instrumental conception of thinking is what Heidegger is criticizing. Thinking is no longer thanking. I'm not saying that Heideggers position is exactly my own, as Rorty's criticisms are persuasive. But a sense of wonder and beauty is not something I'm going to regret.
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Tue 16 Feb, 2010 03:01 pm
@Reconstructo,
It is quite common to be inoculated against wonder of any type. Wonder, after all, is subversive.
0 Replies
 
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Tue 16 Feb, 2010 03:01 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;129104 wrote:
Well said. This parallel presentation brings out the similarities well.

---------- Post added 02-16-2010 at 03:34 PM ----------



I love that quote. I have the Stephen Mitchell translation and it's meant much to me. I also love Hesse.

---------- Post added 02-16-2010 at 03:35 PM ----------



Sure, concepts are beings. "Being" is a being. Therefore it is written crossed out, or under erasure.

---------- Post added 02-16-2010 at 03:39 PM ----------



I sincerely answer that you are missing the point. Heidegger was well aware of this objection and stated explicitly that this was exactly the sort of response he expected. You seem to be patting yourself on the back for your immunity to wonder, astonishment. Rorty interprets this aspect Heidegger as a consciousness of the radical contingency of everything.

This isn't philosophy to work with. That's the point. The instrumental conception of thinking is what Heidegger is criticizing. Thinking is no longer thanking. I'm not saying that Heideggers position is exactly my own, as Rorty's criticisms are persuasive. But a sense of wonder and beauty is not something I'm going to regret.


Wonder and beauty of what. Something? Just something? What does something have that nothing doesn't, for heavens sake? If there were nothing, you might be even more enchanted. Some people have ".plenty of nothing, and nothing's plenty for them".
Reconstructo
 
  1  
Reply Tue 16 Feb, 2010 03:19 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;129118 wrote:
Wonder and beauty of what.


Being. The light that discloses beings. Consciousness. Pure subjectivity. All of these words are beings or objects of consciousness. As far as "nothing" goes, Hegel said that indeterminate being was nothingness. Kojeve conceives of man as a nothingness that nihilates in space. Man is time is a nothingness, a desire for a desire. And so on. All kinds of mind-twisting beautiful and difficult conceptions that indeed may be characterized as poetry by those who have more limited conceptions of the purpose of philosophy.
Pyrrho
 
  1  
Reply Tue 16 Feb, 2010 03:32 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;129104 wrote:
...
I sincerely answer that you are missing the point. Heidegger was well aware of this objection and stated explicitly that this was exactly the sort of response he expected. You seem to be patting yourself on the back for your immunity to wonder, astonishment. Rorty interprets this aspect Heidegger as a consciousness of the radical contingency of everything.

This isn't philosophy to work with. That's the point. The instrumental conception of thinking is what Heidegger is criticizing. Thinking is no longer thanking. I'm not saying that Heideggers position is exactly my own, as Rorty's criticisms are persuasive. But a sense of wonder and beauty is not something I'm going to regret.



No, I am not immune to wonder or astonishment. But I do hope I am immune to drivel masquerading as profundity. Very often, people are confused by language, and imagine all sorts of nonsense as a result.
Reconstructo
 
  1  
Reply Tue 16 Feb, 2010 03:43 pm
@Pyrrho,
Pyrrho;129131 wrote:
No, I am not immune to wonder or astonishment. But I do hope I am immune to drivel masquerading as profundity. Very often, people are confused by language, and imagine all sorts of nonsense as a result.


Yes, I agree with you here. But this is where first-science comes in. Many a man would call Plato drivel, or Shakespeare drivel. We must be careful, in my opinion, not to rationalize writing something off by pretending to be too smart for it. I'm not accusing you of this. I'm just saying that the knife cuts in both directions. Psychology is a two-edged sword.

I was tempted to write off Hegel and Heidegger once because I bumped into cynical comments about their style or their "pseudo-profundity." But when a clear writer like Rorty kept mentioning them, and making them sound exciting, I finally had to bite the bullet and study them. Turns out, H & H are two of the most exciting if admittedly difficult philosophers. Hegel is attempting something huge. I think he failed beautifully. His fragments are treasures. Heidegger was attempting a paradigm change. Sometimes I think he was full of crap. But it doesn't seem laudable to me to write off something not yet truly engaged. It's human, all too human, I agree. Because we don't want "truth." And what is "truth" in the first place? Your name is Pyrrho so I'm sure you're a skeptical guy. So am I. If it's all just poetry, it's great poetry.
0 Replies
 
 

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