Happiness Occurs from Unconsciousness

Happiness occurs from unconsciousness, this was part of Camus’ argument in his work, The Myth of Sisyphus. He believed that Sisyphus only felt painful of the futile and hopeless labor when he realized his wretched condition(Page 19). This was an interested idea which I’d like to talk about.

Perhaps sometimes you may notice that there are different type of people around us all the time. However, some of them, you always see they’re at their best mood, how can that be possible. We are all human being and all suffering at some point. The difference is that they ignore the things which make them unhappy. The way we think about the same object or event can be totally from person to person. A negative way of thinking may cause to a bad mood and affect our life the following day or even longer than that. A positive one can look beyond and ignore the “unimportant” parts.

Yesterday, when I just went home, I opened the fridge and picked some shrimps for dinner. I washed them, and lay them out on a towel to unfroze them. As I was staring at the shrimp, suddenly I trembled a few seconds and wondered that why I gazed the “bodies”. Frozen shrimps basically are form of nice preserved body of shrimps. What would happen if we see frozen people’s bodies lay on the towel without head ?Would our saliva also comes out of the mouth ? That’s a good example which we ignore the undeniable facts in the reality. People create such illusion called food to help us have a better dinner experience, help us to forget the cruel human nature and help us to throw the great sympathy instantly like the one we giving to the human-friendly animals close to us. I can tell you I had a terrible meal last night.

All in all, like Camus mentioned in his passage, this myth was no longer tragic and the goal was no longer meaningless, if at every step the hope of succeeding uphold Sisyphus. Instead of thinking the heavy strong force in his hand pushing him down, he felt the supports from the steady warm earth boosting him to see the scenery at the summit. Was him happy during that journey of uphill? If we neglect all those stupid theories and ethics constitute the goodness for a little while during the holy period of feeding our belly, can we notice the sweetness covered by the pliable and juicy shrimp meat this time?

Is Meursault Really a “Stranger”?

In the novel, The Stranger, it is clear that the main character of Meursault seems to be a “stranger” in his world. From not showing any emotion at his mother’s funeral, to shooting a man with seemingly no remorse, it is hard for us as reader’s to completely understand why Meursault is the way he is. Sure, we could say he is a sociopath due to the lack of sympathy/empathy he shows throughout the text. However, I believe that us labeling Meursault as a sociopath is merely a cover up for something much deeper about his character; that being his similarity to us.

We all feel emotions on a day to day base. What I believe is the most frustrating thing in, The Stranger, is that we see almost no emotion come from Meursault. Is this necessarily a bad thing though? Meursault doesn’t feel many complex emotions, and he spends most of his time basing his life off of the physical sensations in life (sex, cigarettes, light, etc). He never seems to be happy, but he also never seems to be sad…

I believe that Meursault understands what emotions are and most likely feels them sometimes, but I think that he ultimately finds emotions (along with most things in life ) meaningless. Due to this, he remains indifferent about the majority of things in life until it comes down to physical sensations.

Now, going into the degree of Meursault’s “strangeness”:

I am sure that we all get excited for our birthday’s, Christmas, etc. Those days are the best days, right? But then you wake up the day after your birthday, or Christmas, and everything is exactly the way it was before. You might be a year older, or have a new computer; but what significance does that really bring to your life? None.

I am sure that we all have had sporadic moments in life where we have thought about how meaningless everything around us is. How your own personal existence does not really matter. How nothing matters. When we think about these truths, we for the most part, feel sadness. The people around us tell us, “No! Life is meaningful, you mean so much to this world” etc, and we think, “hmm they may be right”. We convince ourselves that we DO matter, and that the world is a better place with us on it. It would essentially be too hard to view the world as completely, and utterly meaningless.

All in all, I think that we have all been in Meursault’s shoes. So what if I kill a man? It doesn’t really matter. Nothing matters! We are all “strangers” in this world. Meursault has simply accepted that life is meaningless, whereas most of us are constantly searching for meaning in life. Which take on life is better?

Existentialism and Determinism: Why Free Will is an Illusion, Too (and Why It Still Matters)

During class for the last few days, we’ve analyzed existentialism, a theory that purports that every concept humans use to justify “meaning” in their lives is actually a social construct — an illusion that is more likely to make us unhappy in the long run when it cracks apart. Rather, the only thing that can give meaning to life is life itself and the choices we make while living it.

I’d like to talk about another philosophical argument, determinism. While existentialism says that the freedom to make your own life is the most important thing you can possess, determinism argues that the idea of freedom or choice on a cosmic level is absurd. To be clear, I’m specifically speaking about secular determinism, not predestination: not the idea that a god or some other being wrote our fates for us, but that events are set in stone simply because of everything that has happened before.

The universe is made up of fundamental particles that act in mostly predictable interactions with each other based on mathematical principles. We humans, as well as everything else in the universe, are made up of these particles and act accordingly. Everything we do can be reduced to a set of interactions between the quarks and electrons that form our atoms that form our molecules that produce our chemical compounds that bond to each other in set ways. We don’t understand those interactions fully, but if someone magically knew the location and properties of every particle in the universe, it only stands to reason that they would be able to predict every interaction they would have, and thus every single event in the future.

Every action we take is guided by neurons in our brain attempting to make the optimal decision to perpetuate itself based on evolved tendencies and patterns memorized from our lives, and those cells exist because macromolecules tend to organize into cells, which is simply because cells are better at preserving themselves, which means they survive more often to pass on their behavior. Those molecules are combinations of hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, et cetera bonding in predictable manners, which act that way because of their mathematical properties in certain fields that emerged at the universe’s creation.

Does this mean we don’t have free will? Well, it depends on what you define that as. Yes, we are essentially predictable beings. Yes, our actions are founded on small-scale interactions that we have no knowledge of or control over. In that sense, you are not in control of your own life, nor could you ever be.

On the other hand, secular determinism (or determinist existentialism) is one of the profoundest affirmations of free will — even if it’s “fake”. So what if your decisions are based on mathematical principles beyond any of our full understanding? They’re still your decisions. That collection of protons, neutrons, and electrons is you, and no one else. Take ownership of that existence and use it to chase your dreams. After all, those dreams are part of you, too — physically.

In this way, determinism isn’t so different from existentialism. The world’s events are already determined, but they’re also fundamentally absurd. It’s important not to confuse inevitability with meaning. None of these interactions inherently mean anything — which is important, because it means it isn’t someone writing your story for you. It’s just you.

Every decision is fundamentally predictable, but that doesn’t mean you didn’t make it. You were always going to act a certain way, but you were only ever going to act that way because of what makes you you. If someone else were inserted into the picture, they would act completely differently, because they’re not made of the same assemblage of matter that you are. (And how would they get inserted, anyway? You were always destined to be there.)

Your existence is unique. It’s a predefined moment in time and space that belongs to you and nobody else. So make it count.

Existentialism and French Power

In Albert Camus’ 1942 novel, The Stranger, Monsieur Meursault is impartial and indecisive. Little is important to him, he takes most things lightly. He doesn’t care about job promotions, marriage isn’t an important decision, and he doesn’t grieve the death of his own mother.

Despite not really caring about anything, Meursault seemingly has everything. He’s fortunate to have a career and a home. Money doesn’t seem to be an issue for him. He has plenty of friends and neighbors. Until his trial and imprisonment, Meursault is definitely doing okay.

But what allowed for Meursault to be so successful? Maybe it is that he was a Frenchman living in Algeria. In the 1940s in Algeria, tensions were rising between Arab citizens and French pied noirs. These Algerian citizens were treated almost as second class citizens in their homeland, while French people, like Meursault lived lives of privilege.

Meursault likes swimming and days at the beach. He’s fortunate enough to be able to enjoy those things. So it’s interesting that Meursault, an existentialist, rejects systems of power, even though it is a system of French colonial power that allows him the pleasures he enjoys.

“The Good Place” Is an Existential Comedy

*small warning* like super low key spoilers if you haven’t finished season 1

In recent years, network comedy shows and sci-fi dramas have emerged as part of an existentialist sub-genre. Black Mirror and The Good Place alike explore the human condition in their own alternate-universes. These and other shows, such as Lost and Forever, have an existentialist nature that breed characters who question the true meaning of life. In one way, Black Mirror takes a more dramatic approach that has twisted story lines, while Kristen Bell and Ted Danson in The Good Place offer up a way to laugh at the idea that maybe life is meaningless (i.e Chidi making candy chili during a mental breakdown). The supernatural elements combined with a strong comedic tone make it more comfortable to confront the deep, philosophical themes similar to what we see in The Stranger.

In the opening scenes of the show Eleanor Shellstrop finds herself in what appears to be heaven, prompting herself to ask a lot of broad questions. She is quickly introduced to her “soulmate,” Chidi, an ethics professor. The questions Eleanor asks in the beginning like “Where am I? Who are you? And what’s going on?” are questions that really explore the meaning of life.  The show continues to raise deep, existential questions as Chidi tries to answer “what do we owe each other?”

The ethics lessons that Chidi gives Eleanor also serve as lessons for the viewers. He talks about John Locke, popular philosophy books, and infamous moral dilemmas that all debate what constitutes a morally good human. The whole idea of the “good place” is also a contradiction. We see Chidi, someone who should’ve been the paragon of a morally flawless person, torture the people around him. We also see the seemingly perfect Tahani turn out to be selfishly motivated. Eleanor is supposed to be the morally worst character, but is actually clever and kind. Yet, they all end up in the same place (you know what I mean if you are past season 1). In recent seasons, The Good Place makes us question if what we do on earth really matters.