12 July 2008

Existentialism's notion of freedom

I feel like I never really understood the term until tonight. I'm blockquote-ing this section of the Wikipedia article.
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 that there are no absolutely "good" or "bad" values.
I'm on board with this. There are no absolute values to be obeyed.
However, that there are no values to be found in the world in-itself doesn't mean that there are no values: Each of us usually already has his values before a consideration of their validity is carried through, and it is, after all, upon these values we act.
I'll reference this previous sentence below. Again, existentialism and I are in accord. I think I pretty much got to where I am by coasting. And then, abruptly, I stopped coasting and am having to deal with the atrophy.
...[M]aking "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.
I am acutely aware of this. I feel this way; recall abulia. My frustration with this observation is what leads me to think about these things.
This is considered to be a refusal to live in the consequence of one's freedom, meaning it quickly becomes a sort of bad faith.
"Bad faith" sort of translates to giving up and lying to yourself about it. And I am uncomfortable leaving important decisions to a coin flip.
As such, existentialist freedom isn't situated in some kind of abstract space where everything is possible: Since man is free, and since he already exists in this world, it is implied that his freedom is only in this world, and that it, too, is restricted by it.
Pure freedom – the misinterpretation – is indeed ridiculous. You cannot fly by flapping your naked arms: you are not free to do so. You cannot be a bluejay. Your freedom is inherently bounded in some ways. Recently, I have claimed to "not know myself anymore". What I mean is: I don't know what parts of me constitute restrictions and what parts constitute my free will. Is liking apples more than oranges a restriction? Or a choice? What about having children? Or a dependence on propinquity? What is hardwired in me – a restriction unless I follow asceticism, which I don't – and what it just up to me?
What isn't 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 (though this rarely happens).
A big YES here. I used to consider myself a rationalist, but I'm struggling through some emotional times. So I'm less taken with rationalism, since none of this seems rational. Recall the sentence I asked to you remember. I think one of those times when our values change is when we first attempt to validate them. For me, that took place when I first had to make difficult choices. It is embarrassing that I was 24 years old at the time.
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, because, even though these are the values of the society he is part of, they are also his own in the sense that 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 what one is responsible for.
The big question: am I responsible for my emotions? When should I use them to make a decision and when should I overrule them?

06 July 2008

Coinage, Sucka!

A portmanteau of beg and blog: to beg someone to post on a particular subject. I just blegged Graham to continue about LOST.

It's actually a coin flip between bleg and beblog. Bleg is easier to say, but just sounds odd.

03 July 2008

I think I'm obsessed

I dislike modeling dynamic systems. Here's my favorite quote from this article on bees' colony collapse disorder.
If it turns out that [we were wrong], it will be evidence that something is wrong with our model: perhaps it is too crude, perhaps we need better data, or perhaps a contagion is not responsible for colony collapse disorder after all.
I imagine this quote was followed by a drastic, slow shrug. The tricky part is we can only recognize that we don't have enough data or we have the wrong model after the fact &ndash which makes the predictive model pretty silly.