Existential Anxiety is Contagious

As a teacher of philosophy, the worst reaction I ever had to one of my lessons made me think twice about whether I wanted to deliver any more philosophy lessons.

It happened a decade ago, when I was studying for my PhD at Cambridge University. I was volunteering on the ‘Kings College Access Scheme’. Basically, we were trying to convince clever pupils from state schools to apply to Cambridge. My role was to present some introductory seminars on philosophy to visiting pupils who had expressed an interest in the subject.

On the day in question, I was assigned a group of sixteen-year-olds from Sunderland. They were a good-natured bunch, bright and enthusiastic; it was a privilege to have their attention. Alas, however, I think I may have conveyed to them the fundamentals of philosophy rather too successfully. 

Mind

My strategy in the lesson was to try to demonstrate to the pupils that there is a problematic relationship between the human mind and the universe. The problem, I explained, is that the mind and the universe don’t belong together. They are too different to belong together, I insisted; they oppose each other.

On the one hand, consider how the human mind opposes the universe. From the perspective of the mind, the very existence of the universe is doubtful. This point was famously made by Rene Descartes. He taught us that every single one of our beliefs might be false. Even our own bodies might not exist. The whole of our experience might be an illusion conjured up by an ‘evil demon’. As far as the mind goes, you can’t get there from here. You can’t get there (you can’t prove the existence of the universe) from here (from the uncertainty which is inherent to your mind).

On the other hand, consider how the universe opposes the human mind. As far as the universe goes, the mind is an inexplicable anomaly – so inexplicable, indeed, that the very existence of the mind is questionable. A mind comprises a perspective – a private, unique viewpoint that only one individual can ever access; in contrast, other objects in the universe can be viewed by anyone. A mind is free – it is governed, at least partly, by the decisions of its owner; in contrast, other objects in the universe are governed by the impersonal laws of physics. And a mind has ‘qualitative’ experiences – people see colours, feel feelings, smell smells and hear sounds; in contrast, other objects in the universe are comprised of colourless, painless, odourless and soundless tiny particles – or so physics tells us. As far as the universe goes, you can’t get here from there. You can’t get here (you can’t generate the mind’s perspective, freedom and qualitative consciousness) from there (from the perspectiveless, lawful, quantitative universe described by science). And nor, for that matter, can you get here via the human brain. The brain is a hunk of matter, like anything else in the universe. People who study the human brain typically conclude that the mind doesn’t exist. At best, they say, the mind is an illusion conjured up by the brain.

Your mind and the universe oppose each other; therefore you don’t belong in the universe. Such, in essence, was my message to my young charges on that fateful day in Cambridge. Little wonder, then, that one of my pupils found my lesson somewhat uninspiring. Looking up at me, his face contorted in anxiety, he exclaimed:

“But that’s dismal!”

universe

Dismal! He was right. And to this day I hope I didn’t ruin his life. I hope he worked out for himself that there was something else I should have told him and his peers – not to mention the many other students I’ve introduced philosophy to over the years. If it’s not too late, here’s what else I should have told them all.

I should have told them that the relationship between the human mind and the universe can be thought of as a solution instead of a problem. After all, the whole basis of the so-called problematic relationship between the mind and the universe is that you can’t get from one to the other. But note: you can only describe this as an actual problem (as opposed to a hypothetical problem) if you know that here and there both exist. In other words, you already know that the mind and the universe both exist in precisely the mutually opposing form in which you encounter them. The mind and the universe do belong together – otherwise it wouldn’t be possible to propose that they don’t.

That’s an arresting thought. If I’m right, you’ve got two options; you can unnecessarily make a problem out of your existence, or you can decline to do so. In declining to do so, you simply conclude that the relationship between your mind and the universe is inherently paradoxical; that is to say, your brain is a paradoxical object; your mind and your brain are unified and in mutual opposition. And what a felicitous paradox it is – it is the very stuff of your life!

Why do people make a problem out of the paradox of their existence? Why do people feel like they don’t belong in the universe? I think they are afraid of their existence; they suffer from existential anxiety. Throughout history, many philosophers have noted that their philosophising originated in a pervasive sense of fear, or, at least, in a sense that something isn’t quite right with existence. Socrates, for instance, declared that philosophy begins with a sense of ‘astonishment’. Søren Kierkegaard went further, arguing that philosophy starts in ‘fear and trembling’. And Arthur Schopenhauer agreed, insisting: “Life is a sorry business; I have resolved to spend it reflecting upon it.”

For what it’s worth, my own journey into philosophy began with anxiety. At the age of sixteen, I was mugged by a gang on a train one evening. The very next morning, I was astonished to see the muggers stroll through the canteen of my college. They were mature students, it turned out. I told the police, and the case went to court, but my college refused to expel the muggers, on the basis that they were innocent until proven guilty. The legal proceedings dragged on for two years. In the end, I was awarded damages. But during those two years I felt paranoid wherever I went. The last thing the ringleader of the muggers had said to me during the attack was: “if I ever see you again, I’ll kill you”. Amid the stress of it all, I cut my hair off and dyed it blonde, in an attempt to disguise myself. I bunked a lot my lessons in college because I was scared I would bump into the muggers. I screwed up my exams. I started having panic attacks, great swirling storms of anxiety that knocked me off my feet, leaving me groping at thin air to calm myself down.

It was around this time that I became obsessed with philosophy. Under the influence of the philosophy books I was reading, my stress about my personal circumstances expanded into a grim sense that my whole existence was a problem. I felt that I needed to escape from being here now. I dabbled in philosophical theories and isms that promised to show me that my existence was something other than what it appeared to be. Materialism told me that I didn’t really exist. Idealism told me that the universe didn’t really exist. Dualism told me that I exist and the universe exists, but in completely separate realms. Theology told me that neither myself nor the universe really exists; there is a third realm, a realm of salvation. Postmodernism told me that the only thing that exists is society.

But the only thing I wasn’t told by any philosopher was the obvious truth: I am here now. And that’s alright. I belong in the universe.   

existential anxiety

I owe a debt of gratitude to that lad from Sunderland, who alerted me to how “dismal” my worldview had become. He jolted me into wondering whether I was philosophising – and teaching philosophy – in the wrong way. Colloquially, the word ‘philosophical’ is supposed to mean something like: “I’m aware of the situation I’m in; I’m facing up to it; and I’m dealing with it”. I think philosophers should live up to the colloquial meaning of their vocation; they should face up to the truth of ‘I am here now’, rather than making a problem out of their existence. In turn, they should try to persuade other people to face up to existence. Philosophers definitely shouldn’t seek to inflict existential anxiety upon other people.

I am not saying that philosophers should deny that the mind and the universe oppose each other. Far from it: I am saying that philosophers should emphasise that the opposition of the mind and the universe is the fundamental fact of human existence; the mind and the universe belong together precisely insofar as they are opposites. By accepting, and teaching, this fact, philosophers will be embracing their existence rather than trying to escape from it; they will be declining to hide in theories and isms that promise, impossibly, to turn human existence into something other than what it is.

And here’s the most important thing: when you teach people the idea that their existence is comprised of, on the one hand, a critical perspective and a capacity to make choices, and, on the other hand, a real universe that transcends the human mind and operates by its own impersonal laws, you will imbue those people with a sense of responsibility. Being responsible means being self-aware – aware of your capacity to reflect and decide, and to act accordingly – while also being aware that all choices and actions have real consequences. Responsible people don’t hide from themselves or from reality. We should be encouraging young people to be responsible. 

Ben Irvine is the author of Mindfulness and the Big Questions: Philosophy for Now, published by Leaping Hare Press this month, RRP £12.99. Available from all good bookshops and online.

www.benirvine.co.uk  

Posted by Joe Tyler on 21st September 2017 at 12:00am

Comments

Ver película online - https://blog.libero.it/wp/veronlinegratisesp/2019/08/28/it-capitulo-2-pelicula-ver/ It Capítulo 2 pelicula It Capítulo 2 pelicula completa It Capítulo 2 pelicula 4 It Capítulo 2 películas It Capítulo Dos ver cine online It Capítulo 2 ver película It Capítulo Dos descargar películas gratis It Capítulo Dos ver peliculas en linea gratis It Capítulo Dos descargar pelicula gratis It Capítulo Dos youtube película It Capítulo Dos película completa en mexicana It Capítulo 2 pelicula mexicanas It Capítulo Dos pelicula cristianas It Capítulo Dos descargar pelicula It Capítulo Dos pelicula infantiles It Capítulo 2 pelicula en español It Capítulo 2 película online hd It Capítulo 2 pelicula fox It Capítulo 2 si película It Capítulo 2 pelicula 24 It Capítulo Dos cine It Capítulo 2 Ver pelicula It Capítulo Dos Ver pelicula online It Capítulo 2 Ver película en linea It Capítulo 2 ver película gratis

Posted by StevenRhymn on 10th September 2019 at 02:51pm

I’ll be honest, this is the first thing I’ve come across that’s actually helped ease some of my existential anxiety. Just knowing I do exist is a massive relief in an odd way.

Posted by Molly on 21st August 2019 at 10:11pm

It was a good quality post EXISTENTIAL ANXIETY IS CONTAGIOUS and I thoroughly enjoy the way you present this topic. I share you link where you to create your own site with WebHosting Uk Coupons in cheapest price.

Posted by freya martin on 16th July 2019 at 06:40am

Взять онлайн займ на карту можно тут все-займы-тут.рф Если случилось так, что Вам на настоящий момент жизни понадобилось взять микрозайм на карту онлайн срочно без отказов то наш интернет сайт будет Вам полезен. Вы извели весь бюджет, а до заработной платы ещё две недели? Неожиданные расходы могут быть связаны с чем угодно, возможно это свадьба родственников, незапланированный отпуск или праздник. Или у Вас произошел печальный эпизод, например, болезнь, которая требует затратного лечения. В любой ситуации мы будем рады Вам помочь наладить Ваши временные финансовые неприятности. Мы отдаем информацию о всех микрофинансовых организациях, их услугах и методах получить одобрение 100 %. Это будет бесплатно, заходите на наш сайт и получайте множество полезной информации. Нам доверяет огромное количество жителей России, которые уже успели воспользоваться услугами микрофинансовых компаний через наш интернет ресурс. Моментальные займы иногда очень выручают нас в трудных ситуациях, а всё потому что это самый быстрый способ займа денежных средств. Вам не требуется ходить в офисы банка, заполнять справки, приглашать поручителей, занимать у знакомых в долг. Всё что Вам нужно-это возраст 18 лет, паспорт, интернет и мобильный телефон. А также нужна банковская карта, если Вам будет удобно получить деньги данным способом. Перед заполнением заявки рекомендуем ознакомиться с предложенными условиями МФК. Все МКК работают на разных процентных тарифах, промежутке гашения и способах перечисления денег. Выбирайте то, что подходит именно Вам. На сегодняшний момент рынок срочных займов переполнен от конкуренции, поэтому бывает сложно выбрать проверенную МКК. Мы подобрали для Вас список самых популярных предложений от лучших организаций. Можете отправлять заявку без сомнений, что Вас обсчитают. При оформлении заявки на займ онлайн на карту без отказа без проверок обязательно вводите свои персональные данные правильно, в ином случае Вы не получите одобрение, ведь данные будут проходить автоматическую проверку. Если у Вас плохая кредитная история или есть открытый кредит, не стоит расстраиваться, ведь многие МКК могут дать Вам положительный ответ при таких условиях. Просто заполняйте заявки сразу в 3-6 компаний, чтобы увеличить шансы. Срочные онлайн займы имеют множество плюсов. После того, как Вам пришло одобрение, деньги мгновенно поступают на Вашу карту. Оплачивать займ можно также, в онлайн режиме. Если исполнять все условия, то переплата будет очень маленькая, а многие МФК представвляют акционные предложения для своих клиентов и могут перечислить Вам первый займ без переплаты по процентам. Также, если Вы оплачиваете быстрый займ без задержек, то у Вас будет хорошая кредитная история, а плохая-может улучшиться. Что бы не произошло в Вашей жизни, мы желаем в скором времени наладить Ваши финансовые трудности и рады пригласить Вас на лучший сайт все-займы-тут.рф с подборкой микрокредитными организациями.

Posted by BerzaimVeR on 26th July 2019 at 10:07pm

Hi My name is Jenny. I trying to find job in model or cinema business. If you have any offers for me, please contact me

Posted by Laurajoida on 30th July 2019 at 09:02am

Доброе утро. Реализуем услуги: модернизация промышленного оборудования, ремонт частотных преобразователей, ремонт устройств плавного пуска, ремонт силовой электроники, наладка промышленной автоматики, автоматизация технологических процессов, ремонт промышленной электроники: VZAB1P5EAA, ATV61HU15N4Z, EMX3-0023B-411, CIMRF7Z41600B, ATV21HD37N4, SMC921750, E1-9011 010H, M810-03200066A, EI-P7002-025H, CIMR-F7Z20P71, FR-E720-008SC, CIMR-F7Z40551A, N3-403-C, CIMR-J7AZ22P20, ATV61WD37N4U, FR-A024-2.2K, S102F50-41, CIMR-G7C44P01B, ATS22D75S6, CIMRL7B40157A, E2-MINI-S2L, ATV61HU55Y, CIMR-F7C45P51, FR-A840-06830, VFD022E21A, FR-A740-00120, CIMR-G7C41600A, CIMR VMS 2030, EI-P7012-150H, WJ200-004SF, M300-01100017A, FR-A520-55K, M800-08201320A, N3-225-N1, ATS48C48Q, ATS48D47YS338, M810-09202190E, ATV71HU40N4383, VFD007S43E, FR-V220E-5.5K, ATV61EXC5C13N4H, CFW110105T4ON1Z, EQ7-4010-C, CIMR-E7C40220, N3-201-CS, E1-9011 400H, ATV312H075M2, ATV71HD55N4383, CIMRF7Z40111B, ATV61WU15N4A24, PA7300-4040-N1, CIMR-F7Z40550, 3G3RV-A4075, FR-A840-01800, EQ5-4050-C, CIMRV7CC45P51, VZA4011FAA GBR, CIMRJ7AC42P20, SJ200-007NFU, VFD015E43A, CIMR-E7Z43P71, 3G3RV-B4750, EQ5-4450-C, SJ700-370LFUF2, ATV61EXC5C31N, VFD055B43A, SMC930600, EQ7-2001-C, CIMR M5A 2015, ATV61HD55N4, CIMR-V7CC22P27, CIMRF7Z40300A, E3-8100K-001H, SMC930030, 3G3RV-A4040, ATV71EXS5C40Y, CIMR-F7Z40301A, ATV71HD75N4383, CIMR-E7C25P51, E1-7011 030H, CIMR-E7Z44P01, SMC942500-P, ATV61QC31Y, CIMR-V7TCB2P27, CIMR-V7CU41P54, M3430B, CFW-090240TDZ, CIMRG7C40750B, ATV61EXC5C40Y, SJ200-015HFU, ATV61HU30N4, CIMR VM3 25P5, PA7300-4150-N1, CFW100026SAPLZ, ATV71H075M3S337, ATV71HD55N4, ATV61WD45N4U, MA7200-2002-N4, CIMRE7Z20551A, EMX3-0930C-411, и др. ремонт частотных приводов в Prom Electric

Posted by KryginUI on 1st August 2019 at 02:39pm

I really like the look of your site and its content. We Pimple Saudagar Escorts wait for the latest from this site.

Posted by shruti jain on 5th August 2019 at 08:41am

Ver pelicula online - https://blog.libero.it/wp/veronlinegratispelicula/2019/09/17/rambo-last-blood-ver-online/ Rambo Last Blood 5 pelicula en castellano Rambo Last Blood 5 cine online hd Rambo Last Blood 5 pelicula fox Rambo Last Blood si película Rambo Last Blood 5 cine 24 Rambo Last Blood película Rambo Last Blood 5 Ver pelicula Rambo Last Blood Ver pelicula online Rambo Last Blood 5 Ver pelicula online Rambo Last Blood 5 ver pelicula gratis Rambo Last Blood ver película latino Rambo Last Blood ver mexicana Rambo Last Blood Ver película català Rambo Last Blood ver cine galego Rambo Last Blood ver pelicula euskara Rambo Last Blood 5 y descargar cines gratis Rambo Last Blood 5 y descargar peliculas Rambo Last Blood cine latino en linea Rambo Last Blood 5 pelicula online gratis Rambo Last Blood online cine chilena Rambo Last Blood 5 película latino online Rambo Last Blood pelicula completa Rambo Last Blood 5 pelicula completa en linea

Posted by Davidker on 29th September 2019 at 02:24pm

custom phd best essay help A level art design coursework cover letter for journalist position https://essaywritingnow.com/abuse-in-nursing-homes-research-paper.php

Posted by BrendaHoure on 30th September 2019 at 08:02am

This article is informative and I wanna keep up to date with you for more posts and articles. I would like to inform you all that we are providing training in digital marketing, you can learn seo, SMO and other and after doing this you will get a career path and professional job opportunity

Posted by best seo training institute on 11th October 2019 at 11:06am

Всем Привет! Такой такой прикольный сайт. Море приколов...Фен, Mefedron, Героин, Спайс, и т.д. Переходи на сайт: http://xudra.kudavabydemi.ga

Posted by RobertFum on 11th October 2019 at 05:06pm

I read your blog, you are provided interesting information. If you are buy web hosting or domain so you can get more offers for new website. you can also use hostgator coupon codes https://www.webtoolsoffers.com/store-list/hostgator-coupons i got this benefit

Posted by Peter parker on 22nd October 2019 at 01:48pm

http://mysite.ru

Posted by Eliasgalay on 27th October 2019 at 05:51am

Ver Doctor Sueño 2019 pelicula en linea - https://www.ivoox.com/ver-doctor-sueno-pelicula-2019-espanol-completas-audios-mp3_rf_43676196_1.html Ver Doctor Sueño 2019 película online enlace alternativo - https://blog.libero.it/wp/veronlinegratispelicula/2019/10/21/ver-doctor-sueno-pelicula-online/ Doctor Sueño película Doctor Sueño pelicula 4 Doctor Sueño peliculas Doctor Sueño ver mexicana Doctor Sueño Ver cine català Doctor Sueño ver pelicula galego Doctor Sueño ver pelicula euskara Doctor Sueño y descargar películas gratis Doctor Sueño y descargar películas Doctor Sueño pelicula online gratis Doctor Sueño online película castellano Doctor Sueño película latino online Doctor Sueño pelicula completa Doctor Sueño pelicula completa en linea Doctor Sueño gratis Doctor Sueño película Doctor Sueño pelicula completa Doctor Sueño película completa en linea Tags: [Ignore Please - Doctor Sueño ver película online, Doctor Sueño pelicula completas, Doctor Sueño ver gratis, Doctor Sueño ver pelicula, Doctor Sueño pelicula latino, Doctor Sueño ver pelicula gratis, Doctor Sueño pelicula completas en mexicana, Doctor Sueño película mexicanas, Doctor Sueño ver online, Doctor Sueño ver completas, Doctor Sueño película completa 2019, Doctor Sueño ver pelicula online español, Doctor Sueño ver película completa, Doctor Sueño pelicula online españa, Doctor Sueño descargar película

Posted by Anthonyscorn on 31st October 2019 at 11:23pm

professional descriptive essay writers sites online osmosis in potatoes term paper A sequence to academic writing professional term paper ghostwriter website uk short essay examples about holiday Adult esl cover letter examples esl reflective essay writers for hire usa cover letter application job samples Advantages and disadvantages of using mobile phone essay research essay topics about education esl university essay ghostwriters service usa Aace international san antonio tx resume

Posted by Hollyrer on 6th November 2019 at 08:02pm

В строительной сфере деятельности большим спросом и популярностью пользуются вышки из легкосплавных материалов, такие как, алюминиевые вышки. По своему конструктивному исполнению они подразделяются на: экономные; стандартные; усиленные; евро-вышки. Популярность вышки из алюминия вполне объяснима, поскольку конструкция как в разобранном, так и в собранном виде имеет малый вес, проста и удобна при монтаже – демонтаже, легко перемещается вдоль строительного объекта. Вышка строителььная: можно Купить вышку туру цена и передвижная достаточно востребована при проведении строительных и ремонтных работ, частных домов и коттеджей, малоэтажных зданий и сооружений. Все типы конструкций различаются между собой не только по высоте, шагу секций, но и по размерам рабочей площадки, а также материалу, из которого она изготовлена. Так, эконом-вариант может иметь рабочий настил из деревянных досок, а евро-конструкция, из прочного материала со специальным люком. Вышка строительная алюминиевая, произведена в заводских условиях, в соответствии с разработанным технологическим проектом и расчетными данными, с учетом требований ГОСТ. Каждое изделие имеет паспорт и сертификат качества. Производство осуществляется на современном технологическом оборудовании, и высокоточных станках. Тура передвижная алюминиевая, имеет высокие рабочие параметры, легка и удобна при сборке-разборке. Чтобы собрать такую конструкцию, потребуется не более двух человек, что достаточно удобно при производстве наружных и внутренних отделочных работ. Отдельные секции надежно фиксируются к основной раме, что позволяет безопасно проводить работы на значительной высоте. А также предлагаем Строительная вышка купить

Posted by StevenIsods on 11th December 2019 at 01:56am

A debt of gratitude is in order for giving us such an extraordinary and brilliant article. It is to too helpfull for us and we are happy that you post this stunning article here and we effectively read this. http://www.russianescortsindelhi.in/ http://febdelhiescorts.com/ http://www.delhiexcellentescorts.in/ http://www.escortservicesindelhi.in/ http://delhiescorts69.org.in/

Posted by aliya arora on 11th December 2019 at 04:48am

sildenafil citrate soft tabs 100mg try this site sildenafil citrate review do you agree sildenafil online visit this page sildenafil citrate supplier reviews More Help sildenafil is generic for what you could try this out sildenafil 20 mg personal reviews visit your url

Posted by Bobwrina on 12th December 2019 at 11:52am