Thursday, January 26, 2012


NF's often been led to wonder if the existentialists' claim of finding subjective meaning in a meaningless, objective universe via love or religion or music or art or whatever isn't the classic case of the placebo effect's surprising efficacy even when its being placebo is known to the subjects.


ankurpandey said...

(1) The existential pursuit is more about making sense of the universe in the regularity of one's existence. His realization of meaningless, material universe ranges from inconsequential to useless- since his immediate problem is to come to terms with universe of, crudely speaking, his own 'order of magnitudes'. It doesn't matter if his pains are ultimately reducible to psychology or biochemistry or physics- to him the realities which are phenomenologically distinct are distinct enough. His quest is to dive into this bag of distinct realities & find a subset which sufficiently explains his place in the universe.

(2) The post title couldn't have been better since this kind of analogies, though humorous, are precisely the ones which existentialists explanations reject- since these do not capture the complexity, as well as are detached enough to even become something of a metaphysical stance.

(3) The medical 'results' have become so confusing, even in very routine ways, that I feel that any hope to use them as basis for philosophical arguments or even worldview is worthless.
Consider this, how was placebo effect first identified? Due to observation that the trial groups with no active ingredients were also getting 'improved', but wrt what? (ie. how do we know if this wouldn't happen anyway) Well, wrt comparison to another trail group with no active ingredients BUT who knew this was the case! Well, now even such groups seems to be getting better!
Maybe there's some insight one can derive afterall. 'Without education we are in a horrible and deadly danger of taking educated people seriously.'~G.K. Chesterton

Nanga Fakir said...

Subjective beliefs (totally incommensurate with reality) can definitely lead to objective changes in the real world with very, very real consequences (see in particular 'Sunspot Equilibria' in economic theory).

And although NF is by no means an epistemological nihilist, his uncompromising stance on ethical and existential nihilism lead him to view such existentialist programs with heavy suspicion.

ankurpandey said...

Regd placebo, the point I was trying to make is rather simple. Out of 3 groups possible- one with active ingredients, one without active ingredients BUT no knowledge of this, & one without active ingredients who know this is the case- the second is called placebo group since it demonstrates a stats. significant improvement over time 'wrt' 3rd group. Do you have an argument or answer to what I think is straightforward anamoly.

'My' understanding of existentialism & related concepts is that they regard self or experience as primary (sometimes only) objects of inquiry. Finding something like meaning may or may not be the quest, in any case I think such quest is only methodological in nature (ie. necessity of meaning etc is not required). Hence I used the 'regularity' instead of meaning. However, surely the existence of self is the assumption. But it is in some sense analogous to free will- ie. even if free will is a fact or illusion or emergence, its 'subjective' existence is undeniable.

So I think existentialism is more exhaustive than existential nihilism which does a metaphysical claim of rejecting meaning.

Nanga Fakir said...

Comment spaces on posts are too restrictive. The topic needs to be taken out in the open and fought over.

But that must wait for a meeting.


Tarun R said...

"Comment spaces on posts are too restrictive. The topic needs to be taken out in the open and fought over."

In other words, you concede defeat. But are not man enough to acknowledge it.

Nanga Fakir said...