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A Living, Rational, Or Herd Animal?

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“Existence precedes essence”…”We are our choices,” J.P Sartre

Your being here is incidental occurrence or pre-ordained? From philosophical vantage point, necessity, causality and will drive occurrences. Your doing – is it incidental, an irrational motive driven, impulsive, or is it guided by reason. Or all that does not matter, just that you exist and ought to be living and striving for so no matter the WHATs and HOWs.

But what is beyond reasoning and causality? Let us go back to the zero equation. Nothing really happens or if it does, it keeps on occurring all the time. A happened or occurred event is the one you do not revisit. Mind is free from its regression. Yet, an event unfolds in varying forms and contours, times and times again until you start asking has it really happened for it continues to leave dispersions and trances. If you put innumerable mirrors and point a beam of light from an unknown point, the event i.e. the light becomes subservient to the flow, the vast field of occurrence across mirrors. What is, will be. Time is a flat circle in a spherical reality; remember that toe curling part in True Detective?

How to act? The Imperatives

Does what occur, occur outside of the self? Is the self projected out or it’s otherwise, as the Law of Attraction in Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret narrates; ‘Thought becomes things’. Or that, not the event itself but its continued nuances and our association of the self with it forces us to revisit it. It multiplies its existential incidence in time. You are angry, everything around you would anger you. Every time we revisit through head, varied interpretations follow. This probably qualifies our mind to be the dimension which travels across other dimensions. It makes one perceive reality across space and time as well as the language itself; our sense perceptions, conceptions, our experiences. Some experiences keep haunting us for life. Some choices leave us regret forever. Kant said we cannot be held accountable for the consequences of our actions because we exert no control over what follows the act. Only our will to act is what counts. He derived his categorical imperatives, aka ‘As Ifs’, from this vantage point; Act if as there is a God. Act as such if you wish it to be universal imperative; do unto others as you wish have them do unto you. As you sow, so shall you reap. What goes around, comes around. There is an element of unlimited recurrence(s).

You are lost, scared, separated from civilization in the middle of nowhere and suddenly you see someone coming from far. One thing keeps on pounding on your head. What do you do? What should you? Which of these questions is higher on precedence – what we ought to do is what we are taught in our textbooks. After all, what else is the point of education if it’s end is other than teaching how to act, how to achieve, how to make, how to give, how to take – the HOWs guide the WHATs. Isn’t what a function of how?

How much we care for HOW TOs

But consider this as we ask how to live morally, happily that what if humans do not want to live like this, as rational or moral imperatives might command? Is individual free to choose morals, or bound by enforced universals? Kantian response would be they are the same because they become the same. You choose or will to act as if you would want others to; thus the birth of universal yet subjective moral law.

But what of ‘Once burnt, always shy’; if you lose your faith in one person, you lose your faith in everything. That’s the birth of nihilism. And where does that lead us to? chaos or self discovery? A child tied and abused would live this experience for the rest of his life. The childhood trauma would keep on haunting him for the rest of his life.

Nihilism and birth of Morality – Irrationalism might just be another normality of human nature

How we act is a moral question. But much of morality is slave morality derived from Christian fundamentals. Majority in Europe lived in abject misery and religion, as a sigh of relief, served as a means to keep discontent in check. To born and remain poor was preordained and natural under religious worldview. Its untenable interpretation of this world as justification of suffering for hereafter rewards was marred with inherent contradiction. Nietzsche said that Christianity collapsed because of itself. Too much focus lay on after-world. But how about this world full of suffering? The untenability of one interpretation is: all other interpretations are false. In other words, my religious inclination is not merely true, but the only truth. This is bad faith, although a form of believing, which is inescapable because humans have inherent inclination to believe.

Problem in not believing anything gives away value system (i.e. on what ground you could say, ‘this is better than this’?); thus there remains no goal or Telos, no motivation or positive emotion (excitement etc.) to make us act. One is surrounded by negative emotions and prefers totalitarian certainty (slavery/sacrifice of reason) over nihilism’s chaos.While rational reasoning lay at the centre of Western renaissance and enlightenment thought, Dostoevsky believed man is not necessarily a rational being. He is often guided by impulses and irrational motives. He explains this well in “Crime and Punishment”. Despite rationalizing the committing of murder, subsequently the killer realizes he did so out of mere impulse. Moreover, rationality does not explain history which is full of slaughterhouse; genocides, ethnic cleansings. Man’s state of nature is chaotic.

Even if utopia is achieved; fulfilling people’s necessities, wants and giving them happiness would not make them sane or more good. The idea is that people would be good to show others they could be good. Yet, there would still be an element of insanity and ungratefulness, which is a part of man. May be that gives meaning to someone and we need to own this part. Man is not a piano-key. But how do we act rational? How free is free will if it has to coincide with normality of human action and interests and natural laws? Is it ‘normal’ we seek so much that we have trouble to come to terms with a new normal? Say COVID led one.

Man can curse, destroy, or become chaotic to gain his point. Even if all darkness and curses could be accounted for, tabulated to be prevented beforehand, that would not stop them all and reason won’t reassert itself. That is a problem in human though and action. As Kierkegaard asserted, there is necessity of difficulty—beyond ease in lives as e.g. due to science, men would want difficulty essentially.

Herd Morality – a check on irrationality

Against the horrors of irrational actions, to keep him intertwined, herd morality is imposed on an individual to regulate his behaviour. Individual becomes a specimen of its race, species, and hides under customs and traditions. Crowd/herd untruth, to Nietzsche, necessitates individual as truth. Bad conscience arises out of herd (morality) mode of thinking and acting. Why? Man takes comfort under herd, out of fear, or shame that follows with noncompliance.

Heidegger uses the expression Dasein to refer to the experience of being that is peculiar to human beings. It is a form of being that is aware of and must confront such issues as personhood, mortality and the dilemma or paradox of living in relationship with other humans while being ultimately alone with oneself. It is a projection of subjective perceptual world that inherits narrow space- past is implicit, folded in present, future gets unfolded in present. So is the element of spontaneous living. Today is the future of yesterday that does not exist no more in the present. Now is what counts. Rationality of Herd morality [e.g. Christian moral justification of human ills, suffering and despair] under reward in Hereafter renders present trivial. We generate psyche and meaning out of object. For instance, what is beautiful? i.e., beautiful to ‘us’ as we perceive it or beauty is something inherent that manifests itself through an object? There is potentiality of object, world. Your world is made of perceptions and your world is one of many possibilities. Ironically though, you being here is an incidental occurrence, one of many possible courses in time and space. Was it pre determined i.e. you being here? Living.

Our ‘Living’ part

In Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche portrays philosopher a living being than a rational being. He reveals himself from his philosophical themes/autobiography. Text and context intertwine with latter coming to light through former. Stories/ ethics are ingrained in us as is 3.5b year history. Perceiving coincides with believing. We may or may not know us believing as there are hidden/implicit beliefs and ethics.

Individual desires and their fulfillment process also become part of our inherent structures of perception/belief, our a priori presuppositions.

Text as will to power, to dominate; demonstrates knowledge is power. A subjective interpretation is to dominate over. So not the impulse/drive for knowledge but to be assertive using text as means relates to Marxist claim as well, i.e., bourgeoisie ideas as ruling. Ideas prevalent in a society are in fact ideas of ruling class. Who is leading recent activist movements? It is not difficult to imagine why voice of a far off rural woman is excluded and her woes left unheard in a feminist march.

The involuntary or unconscious Impulses/drives live as spirits and demons with autonomous wills inside human. What if they take the life of their own inside you, consume you, and drive you as a human? One giant trying to dominate over others; a war among them is perpetual. In light of singular value, unifying impulse, organizing these drives, to structure them is civilization’s aims. But will to power, to dominate-remains a challenge. Regardless, the dominant thought mandates individual following of a priori rules for the sake of progress and social harmony and gives no space for dissent. To dissent is natural, it is integral to development of subjectivity. Of what worth is progress if it excludes the ‘human’ part. Take, for example, advancements in technology and machine learning.Man is perpetually intertwined in eternal recurrence as to how to value this life amid chaos and order. Its either Nihilism or ideological totalitarianism, that society eventually embraces to escape from chaos. For example, post WW1 Germany craved desperately for order and fascism became an overly possessed answer to everything.

We despair over something, like without x, I can’t live. If u don’t get x, you hate self.  We hollow self all along while forgetting power of will to project beauty, relationship and identity over finite external. We undertake indirect communication through pseudonyms.

On the other hand, on the level of selfhood, self has two parts; infinite i.e. freedom and infinite i.e. necessity. Freedom is an abyss of innumerable possibilities. What happens when one stares at an abyss for too long? The key is to harmonize the two parts, think of despair as creative possibility thus achieving a genuine self. As Nietzsche said, “Whatever doesn’t kill you, simply makes you stronger.”

Mastered irony is that we are objective toward others but subjective toward ourselves. In the process of becoming objective toward self and subjective toward others, subjective truth is lived and experienced. It can be done under three spheres of existence, i.e. styles of living: aesthetic, ethical and religious.

Cultivating selfhood as ‘the single individual’ than escaping under crowd to lose self and responsibility makes imperative a choice; need for meaning, subjectivity, vs the mass man. A mass man imitates others, lives/behaves as others do. A herd animal has no self.  He is meshed in bonds of societal ties. Task is to become conscious as individual, separate from social identity. Be vigilant against hero following, cultivating false ideals, formulating exclusive world view, seeking normalcy and giving away uniqueness of being and possibility of becoming any.


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Naya Daur