Tuesday, January 26, 2010


You have most likely heard of the term 'existentialism,' before but do you really know what it means? Exactly at this point in life I have hit a crossroads between teen and the looming jump between leaving home and going to school, and this terminology is starting to have a real meaning. I'm counting on Wiki for the answer, just goes to show the new generation.
The early 19th century philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, posthumously regarded as the father of existentialism, maintained that the individual is solely responsible for giving one's own life meaning and living that life passionately and sincerely, in spite of many existential obstacles and distractions including despair, angst, absurdity, alienation, and boredom.

The existentialist concept of freedom is often misunderstood as a sort of liberum arbitrium where almost anything is possible and where values are inconsequential to choice and action. This interpretation of the concept is often related to the insistence on the absurdity of the world and the assumption that there exist no relevant or absolutely good or bad values. However, that there are no values to be found in the world in-itself does not mean that there are no values: We are usually brought up with certain values, and even though we cannot justify them ultimately, they will be "our" values.
In Kierkegaard's Judge Vilhelm's account in Either/Or, making choices without allowing one's values to confer differing values to the alternatives, is, in fact, choosing not to make a choice — to flip a coin, as it were, and to leave everything to chance. This is considered to be a refusal to live in the consequence of one's freedom; an inauthentic existence. As such, existentialist freedom isn't situated in some kind of abstract space where everything is possible: since people are free, and since they already exist in the world, it is implied that their freedom is only in this world, and that it, too, is restricted by it.
What is not implied in this account of existential freedom, however, is that one's values are immutable; a consideration of one's values may cause one to reconsider and change them. A consequence of this fact is that one is not only responsible for one's actions, but also for the values one holds. This entails that a reference to common values doesn't excuse the individual's actions: Even though these are the values of the society the individual is part of, they are also his own in the sense that she/he could choose them to be different at any time. Thus, the focus on freedom in existentialism is related to the limits of the responsibility one bears as a result of one's freedom: the relationship between freedom and responsibility is one of interdependency, and a clarification of freedom also clarifies that for which one is responsible.

A lot of blah, blah, blah for some of you, but for me Kierkegaard makes a valid point. There are flaws in existentialism, but doesn't everything? Can it be argued that Capitalism is better then Communism or vice versa *Marx's Communist manifesto. I want to seize life to the fullest but what does that mean...Living in a van in Cali dressed like a hippie and smoking skunk? Become a professional violinist in a symphony orchestra? Produce Hollywood movies, both as a play write and director? Work at a fashion magazine and write motivational articles for woman all over the world? Or go to Brown and mess around with classmates and divulge into the mind of philosophy?
The sad thing is that ALL of these options above sound better than what I will end up doing, that is going to Tuft's or a second-rate ivy school and studying away to be a doctor. After all both my parents are. I have been saying that this was my dream since 3rd grade, but is it? All of the things I also mentioned don't provide a stable source of income unless I am very successful and a little lucky.
What to do? What is the point of studying away for an A- average, just to go to a relativity good school and then killing myself with studies.
What do you all think, is there a point and which would you choose?

~Anna Maria

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