HILOSOPHIZING ABOUT UMAN ATURE Nicholaos Jones Angst Ennui and Apathy ost people experience three significant emotions at various points in their lives
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HILOSOPHIZING ABOUT UMAN ATURE Nicholaos Jones Angst Ennui and Apathy ost people experience three significant emotions at various points in their lives

Angst is a feeling of anxiety appr ehension insecurity despair Heidegger offers an inside perspective in his Being and Time 1927 573485771157711573475775457690576935771857680577445819757347576025771857626573475779357630573475779357693577545769057347

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HILOSOPHIZING ABOUT UMAN ATURE Nicholaos Jones Angst Ennui and Apathy ost people experience three significant emotions at various points in their lives




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Presentation on theme: "HILOSOPHIZING ABOUT UMAN ATURE Nicholaos Jones Angst Ennui and Apathy ost people experience three significant emotions at various points in their lives"— Presentation transcript:


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| HILOSOPHIZING ABOUT UMAN ATURE Nicholaos Jones Angst, Ennui, and Apathy ost people experience three significant emotions at various points in their lives . Angst is a feeling of anxiety, appr ehension, insecurity, despair. Heidegger offers an inside perspective, in his Being and Time (1927):

d on to. The only thing that remains and come The main character Daria, in the MTV cartoon series of the same name (1997 2001), exudes angst. Many

lyrics from so brain keep falling apart / (mostly my heart) / And I hat / / DW Angst is most often observed in teenagers, where the transition from childhood to adulthood often brings with it emotional, and even spiritual, suffering due to confusion about the world and their place in it. Woody Allen parodied this feeling in the 1972 movie Play It Again, Sam WOODY ALLEN: That's a lovely Jackson Pollock, isn't it? GIRL IN MUSEUM: Yes it is. WOODY

ALLEN: What does it say to you? GIRL IN MUSEUM: It restates the negativeness of the universe, the hideous lonely emptiness of existence, nothingness, the predicament of man forced to live in a barren, godless eternity, like a tiny flame flickering in an immense void, with nothing but waste, horror, and degradation, forming a usele ss bleak straightjacket in a black absurd cosmos. WOODY ALLEN: What are you doing Saturday night? GIRL IN MUSEUM: Committing suicide. WOODY ALLEN: What about Friday night? GIRL IN MUSEUM: [leaves silently]
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| Angst is the feeling of not knowing wha t

to do with one's life, of lacking confidence in even one's ability to exert any meaningful influence over one's fate. Ennui [ahn wee] is a feeling of utter weariness and discontent due to dissatisfact ion with life's circumstances. It manifests itself most often as a profound bored om with what life has to offer. Heidegger, in The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics: World, Finitude, Solitude (1930), offers an illustration:

t/ ur hours until the next train

arrives. We look at the clock only a quarter of an & stone and in doing so catch ourselves looking at our watch yet again half an hour and so on. (Harold, in the movie 1971 Harold & Maude , provides another case study of ennui.) Ennui arises when the narratives we tell about our lives cease to grip our imagination, when we are struck by the inexorable, slow, steady pace of time drawing us toward our deaths, when we can conceive only the

coldness of our existence and the hollowness of all our plans and aspirations. Apathy , finally, is a lack of interest, co ncern, or engagement with life. It manifests itself most often as a conviction in the futility of maki g plans or pursuing projects. Whence d Young people on trial for serious crimes in court often appear to be apathetic, not caring enough to even show tension or nervousness about t heir trial. But one need not be under threat of punishment to feel apathy. Here is Veronica, a

character in the 1989 movie Heathers My parents wanted to move me into high school out of the sixth grade, but we / blah. Now blah, blah, blah is all I ever do. I use my grand IQ to decide what color lip gloss to wear in the morning and how to hit three keggers before kurfew. The Bible tells a story of Jonah aboa rd a ship heading to

Tarshish. The ship enters a massive storm, with wind howling and crashing wa ves threatening to destroy it. Everyone on the ship struggles frantically to keep the ship upright, except Jonah he is below deck, fast asleep, refusing to acknowledge his responsibilities and not caring what happens to the ship's passengers. He is, in other words, apathetic. (This res ults, eventually, in Jonah being swallo ed by a great Leviathan.) Cynicism and Pessimism These three emotions angst, ennui, apathy sometimes crystalize into coherent bits of thought rather than fleeting senses of discomfort. When they

do, they prompt philosophical questions. Apathy prompts us to ask, Why is my life not the way I want it
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| to be? Is there anything I can do about it? Ennui prompts us to ask, What do I really want in life? What am I doing here? Apathy prompts us to ask, What's the point , ultimately? < The Seventh Seal KNIGHT: I want knowledge, not faith, not supposition, but knowledge. I want God to stretch out

His hand toward me, reveal hi mself and speak to me. DEATH: But He remains silent. KNIGHT: I call out to Him in the dark but no one seems to be there. DEATH: Perhaps no one is there. KNIGHT: Then life is an outrageous horror. No one can live in the face of death knowing that all is nothingness. DEATH: Most people never reflect about either death or the futility of life. KNIGHT: But one day they will have to stand at that last moment of life and look toward the darkness. Prolonged struggle with these questions, and failure to find satisfying answers, sometimes produces two distinctive

personalities. Some people become cynics , distrustful of others, believing that those who do not endure the underlying emotions or carry on without realizing their significance are merely deluding the mselves in a poi ntless kind of kabuki theater. Whence William Somerset, in the 1995 film Seven /

/ / beat a child than to raise it. Hell, love costs, it takes effort and work. And Trent Reznor (of Nine Inch Nails ), in his song Hurt //

/ Other pe ople become pessimists , distrustful of life itself, believing that the best that can be had from life is the worst that can be imagined; that any relief from their struggle is sure to meet with more, and more severe, pain; that the most to be hoped for is the east discomfort and suffering. Whence Cioran, in the 199 2 film On Death
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| Naivete is the only road to salvation. But for those who feel and conceive life as a long agony, the question of salvation is a

simple one. There is no salvation on their road. ddE disease and some days I long ynicism and pe ssimism are extreme reactions. More commonly, people find ways to distract themselves from the emotions and their attendant questions. Partying, video games, books, drugs and alcohol, relations hips, sh here are count less ways to divert

attention. Cynics, of course, view these diversions as facile distractions, akin to folding laun dry while the house burns down. Pessimists view them as delusional grasps at impossible goals desti ned to be self defeating, akin to using a small bucket to keep a ship ful l of large holes from sinking. But even if the diversions are facile or delusional, there is no doubting that they w ork. There's no better way to stop despairing about the meaning of life than having an orgasm! Yet a problem remains. Diversions, no matter their awesome ness, are by nature temporary. Drugs wear off; video games

get boring; relationships turn sour; par tying becomes tiresome. Distracting attention is, at best, a temporary fix. This is not because there is anything inheren tly wrong with the diversions. It is not because some div ersions are better than others. It is because the diversions do not answer the questions that prompt their pursuit, and thereby do not allay the fee lings that generate the questions in the first place. Video games will never reveal the ultimate meaning of life; not even the most insane alcohol bender in the history of the world will provide one w ith a genuine purpose in

life. either the questions n or their a ttendant feelings just go away. Sometimes, they lead to negative emotions. Whence Kurt Cobain (of Nirvana ): // too, for being spineless and not always standing up agains t racism, sexism, and all those other

isms the counterculture has been whining about for years. Even in contentment we still feel the need for some imperishable bliss. ( Check out t^^D Theories of Human Nature If we want to answer, rather than avoid, the questions that stem from angst, ennui, and apathy, we want a theory of human nature . This is a narrative, worldview, or set of hypotheses that addresses three

questions: What, if anything, distinguishes humans from everything else? What tends to go wrong in human lives?
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| For what should we strive, and how can we reach it? An answer to the first question provides a therapy for apathy, by either revealing to us a special status or else explaining wh y our utter banality does not warrant despair. A n nswer to the second question provides a therapy for ennui, allowing us to understand our failures as correctable and temporary setbacks rather than inevitable and permanent losses. Finally, an answer to t he third question provides a

therapy for apathy, revealing to us worthwhile aims and helping us to focus our energies by giving directions to our efforts. Many of us are familiar with the sketches of at least one theory of human nature, be it a religious theory (such as Christianity) or a secular one (such as scientism or the new atheism). Even pessimists and cynics know of some such theories, and the fact that they fail to find some theories convincing or satisfying does not mean that others cannot have different attitudes toward the theories or that unknown the ories will not appeal to them. Our earliest exposure to

such theories likely comes from our family, and from there we might add and subtract elements learned from the wider community in an attempt to cobble together a coherent narrative that resonates with our personalities and rings true to our experiences. Of course, t he diversity of human culture and experience that shines through history all but guarantees that there are mul tiple theories of human nature. One of the salient features of these theories is that they are not mutually consistent: they cannot all be true. If, for example, some kind of secular atheistic theory is true, then theories

based upon the Abrahamic religions m ust be false (a nd vice versa). The diversity and joint incompatibility of these theories means that there is disagreement about which theory, if any, is the correct theory. Intellectual Attitudes here are several ways to respond to disagreement, each of which encapsu lates a different attitude toward believing any particular theory of human nature Some people are dogmatic in believing a particular theory of human nature. They allow no possible evidence to count against their favored theory, despite taking competing theories to be d ecisively refuted by

evidence. Dogmatists sometimes reject criticisms of their theory by attacking the motives of their critics; but they might also engage in apologetics, attempting to muster arguments that undermine the persuasiveness of any criticism. A paradigm instance of dogmatism is presuppositional apologetics, a school of Christian theology which takes for granted the truth of Christianity and, on the basis of this presumption, develops arguments to show that criticisms of Christian theology are misguided and alternative approaches to human nature are mistaken. Others are skeptics or relativists. Skeptics

efus to beli eve any theory of human nature. They allow evidence to count for and against various theories. But they maintain th at
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| the sum total of available evidence does not decisively favor one theory over another, and they take this situation to deman d that one abstain from belief. For, according to skeptics, one ought to believe a theory only if there is sufficient evidence to support the theory. Relativists , in contrast, deny that there is any such thing as the one true theory , maintaining instead that different theories can be true for different individuals or

different cultural groups. According to a relativist, a theory tha t is true for me might be false for you , in the same way that chocolate ice cream might be the best dessert for me but not the best dessert for you. Finally, some people are fallibilists . These people deny that the truth of a theory can vary with respect to the pers on who believes it, even though they accept that beliefs about the truth of a theory can vary with res pect to people who believe them . For fallibilists, theories of human nature are more akin to claims about the shape of the earth than to claim s about the best

dessert. Some people believe that the earth is flat; others, that it is roughly spherical. But this does not mean, for the fallibilist, that both think that s hape is. Similarly, fallibilists maintain that claims about, say, what tends to go wrong in human lives cannot be true for some people but false for others, because general problems of human living do not depend upon what people think those problems are. Fallibilists also reject dogmatism, allowing evidence to count both for and against different theories of human nature. For fallibilists, no one group of persons has the authority to

claim privileged access to the truth. Hence, they reason, people who dism iss competing theories of human nature without argument are being irresponsible and disrespectful of those with different opinions. This does not mean, however, that fallibilists must be skeptics: they will be, if they conclude that there is not sufficient evidence to support any one theory of human nature over its competitors; but if they conclude otherwise, they will not be skeptics. The Task of Philosophy The goal of philosophizing about human nature is to determine whether the sum total of available evidence favor

one theory of human nature over its competitors and, if so,

W about human nature thereby requires

that one acknowledge that there is genuine disagreement over which theory of human nature, if any, is cor rect that the disagreements concern matters of fact (like the shape of the earth) rather than matters of taste (like the best dessert). It also requires one to acknowledge that advocates of competing theories of human nature might be correct that those wit h whom one disagrees are not wrong merely by virtue of accepting a theory of human nature other in a philosophical spirit requires adopting a fallible attitude toward theories of human nature. For rel ativists fail to acknowledge the

existence of genuine disagreement, thereby failing to acknowledge that there are competing theories of human nature; and dogmatists fail to acknowledge
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| g the possibility While investigating human nature in a philosophical spirit is compatible with being a skeptic, it is not compatible with beginning as a skeptic. For to presume some form of evidence does not favor one theory of human nature over any other. But that is precisely the point of investigating human nature to begin with. Accordingly, philosophizing about human nature requires that one begin with a fallible

attitude about theories of human nature. This is not to say, however, that one must end with a fallible attitude. One might decide to cease inquiry, op ting instead for a dogmatic attitude. Or one might refuse to acknowledge the need for inquiry, adopting a relativistic attitude. Bertrand Russell, in The Problems of Philosophy (1912), offers some motivation for choosing to philosophize about human nature at least temporarily: There are many questions and among them those that are of the profoundest interest to our spiritual life which, so far as we can see, must remain insoluble to the human

intellect unless its powers become of quite a differen t order th an what they are now . Yet, however slight may be the hope of discovering an answer, it is part of the business of philosophy to continue the consideration of such questions, to make us aware of their importance, to examine all the approaches to them, and to keep alive that speculative interest in the universe which is apt to be killed by confining ourselves to definitely ascertainable knowledge. The value of philosophy is, in fact, to be sought largely in its very uncertainty. The man who has no tinctur e of philosophy goes

through life imprisoned in the prejudices derived from common sense, from the habitual beliefs of his age or his nation, and from convictions which have grown up in his mind without the co operation or c onsent of his deliberate reason . Philosophy, though unable to tell us with certainty what is the true answer to the doubts which it raises, is able to suggest many possibilities which enlarge our thoughts and free them from the tyranny of custom. Thus, while diminishing our feeling of c ertainty as to what things are, it greatly increases our knowledge as to what they may be; it removes the

somewhat arrogant dogmatism of those who have never travelled into the region of liberating doubt, and it keeps alive our sense of wonder by showing f amiliar things in an unfamiliar aspect. If different communities accept different, incompatible theories of human nature, and if each of us is just as likely to be born into a community that accepts a true theory as into one that accepts a false theory, t