Experience is wholly unique. Your experience of life is hugely different from mine, and the same goes for each person. We can only experience life through our own body, our own person and self (if such a thing exists). There is no way of completely escaping subjectivity while conscious. Many things ‘take us out of ourselves’, such as music and sport, yet they do not relinquish subjectivity as a whole. In this sense, our subjective experience is always with us while conscious, and complete objective experience is not possible. This circumstance can be interpreted in different ways: it can appear to be wonderful, as our consciousness allows a unique way of life to be experienced, yet it can, contrastingly, appear to be troublesome and undesirable-sometimes we may feel a need to exit our own experience of life, maybe because we are not in a sound state of mind, or because loneliness has taken over and we wish to be able to experience something with another conscious being fully. Both of these, however, are mere interpretations, and the self can be seen in different lights. Yet it is clear that our conscious experience has limitations-we cannot experience the past again, nor can we experience what the future holds, and it is this which we do not like to accept-we feel somewhat powerless because we cannot change what we did yesterday and we cannot know what will happen tomorrow. Likewise, it is difficult, at times, to accept that only we can experience what we are experiencing right now, and that others’ experiences are, ultimately, inaccessible to us in their utmost being. This is not, however, something to be distraught about, but is rather something that must be accepted. The self is inescapable, but it does not follow that this is necessarily a problem. At times it may even feel like a blessing.
Change is inevitable. As long as time exists, change will exist too. We will, as people and as beings existent in the universe, change constantly. We must determine not that we change but how we change, for good or for bad. As the New Year draws near, change is at the forefront of many people’s minds. Change can involve planning, hard work and sacrifice, yet it can also involve laziness, impulsivity and apathy. Change can be active or passive-we can let ourselves be changed, or we can change ourselves.
It is not enough to plan positive change-it must be actively pursued and ascertained. Perhaps one of the greatest aids to positive change is that of the goal (the telos, the end, the purpose). A goal provides a ‘why’ for what you are planning, and therefore gives reason and purpose to your actions, so when asked ‘why are you doing X?’ you can reply ‘because Y’. Without knowing why you are doing what you are doing it seems almost inevitable that change will become passive.
For true fulfilment, for genuine satisfaction, there is no easy way. Nothing worth having comes easily. We all know this, but this isn’t the point. It’s not that we don’t know it, it’s that we’re too prone to forgetting it. We need constant reminders of what we know and the ideas and beliefs that drive us need to be refreshed often to keep us going. It would help if, every day, we took just a little time to stop and to reaffirm to ourselves why we are doing what we are doing with our one life. We want things to come easily. We are impatient and easily fall down before instant gratification. Deep down, though, we know that in the long run, it just isn’t worth it. Perhaps the only way to keep our path as straight as possible is to remind ourselves why we should continue. If you genuinely want something, if you really want to become a different person or achieve a goal, then you will persevere. There will be times of failure, but we should never ever give up. It may require what feels like extortionate amounts of sacrifice but it will be worth it. Yet first, we must remember that for even a small glimpse of heaven, we must delve deep into hell first.
Feuerbach begins to conclude his work by writing that believers in a monotheistic God are anthropocentric and that one begins to conclude that ‘everything is nothing compared with me…for everything is only a means for me.’ A miracle, Feuerbach writes, is the accomplishment of the dominion of man over nature-‘the divinity of man becomes a palpable truth.’ God works miracles for man, and so man feels as if he has power over nature, since God, the imaginary being, does, and therefore man must too. Feuerbach says that he hopes that the time of superstition and belief in God will pass and that ‘the pure light of Nature and reason will enlighten and warm mankind.’
Moreover, God is reliant on man, since not only is he from the mind of man, but also that God relies on the worship of man to become at all relevant. Feuerbach sums up belief: to imagine that something exists which does not exist. He uses the example of transubstantiation, an utterly irrational belief, and says that belief in God is like believing the bread and wine to become body and blood-‘something which it is not.’ The only place you will find God is in the imagination and faith of man, since God is nothing but the essence of these things.
Finally, Feuerbach writes about how the Greeks had limited gods because the Greeks themselves had limited wishes. So, Feuerbach writes, the God of Christianity in particular is unlimited because of the unlimited wishes of Christians themselves-‘their wish is a heaven in which all limits and necessity of Nature are destroyed and all wishes are accomplished.‘ Feuerbach says that ‘happiness and divinity are the same thing’ and that this is the ultimate goal of belief-to be indescribably and infinitely happy. Feuerbach finishes his work by summarising this point succinctly:
‘He who no longer has any supernatural wishes, has no longer any supernatural beings either.’
Ludwig Feuerbach 1804-1872
Feuerbach counters the argument that the preservation of the world and of mankind is some act of God which accords with his will. He says that nature has little care for single individuals-‘thousands of them are sacrificed without hesitation or repentance in the plenty of Nature’. This argument calls upon the existence of evil, especially natural evil, to present Nature’s merciless nature. Furthermore, since Nature does not care for us, and does not provide for us as we would like, Feuerbach says that at this point people turn to God ‘whose eye shines upon me just where Nature’s light is extinguished.’ When things are not going our way and nature can provide no help, it is then that we turn to God. Feuerbach also claims that God owes his existence to two things: fear and hope. It is these two feelings that rule our imagination of the future, and so we may find ourselves believing in God because of our fear and hope of the future since it is these two that sway most of our decisions.
Feuerbach argues that the existence of God stems from man’s desire to be like God: unlimited, self-sufficient, always good, immortal. God and humanity have the same rules of life, only that God has no exceptions or limitations, which is what we desire to have, and if we worship him, then we can be like that too-‘the Deity is the destruction of the deficiencies and weaknesses in man which are the very causes of the exceptions’.
In the final part, Pt.4, the thought of Ludwig Feuerbach in The Essence of Religion will be concluded.
Feuerbach writes about humanity and its relation to nature, saying that what we are as humans, God is also, just not ‘fallen’ like ourselves. We are rational, therefore God must be, and we separate ourselves from nature, so God must be separate too. He writes that one should be ‘courageous and consistent enough to give up God altogether, and to appeal only to pure, naked, godless nature as to the last basis of your existence’ because God, Feuerbach argues, only exists in our mind.
Another line of argument Feuerbach goes down is the idea of teleology, and the way that the world was designed is magnificent and clearly intellectual. He combats this, saying that due to the fact that humans have an intellect, ‘the unintentional effects of Nature appear to him in the light of his intellect as intentional ones, as ends and purposes.’ Nature is full of accidents, but due to our intellect, we perceive and interpret these accidents as purposeful. Moreover, Feuerbach uses the example of a bird to argue that the flight of birds is not founded on art or intellect. He believes that the view that thinking birds must have been designed and detailed by an intellect with intention is absurd. He says that ‘a bird cannot fly otherwise than it does, nor is it at liberty not to fly; it must fly.’ From this point Feuerbach then writes that it is our intellect that causes theoretical problems, and so what appears to be deeply intellectual and defined is, for nature done without any intellect or any difficulty caused by the intellect.
In Pt.3, further arguments by Feuerbach will be put forth.
Feuerbach was born in Bavaria in 1804 on 20th July. He was a humanistic philosopher, most famous for his book Essence of Christianity, written in 1841. The Essence of Religion, compiled in 1851, is made up of a group of lectures Feuerbach gave throughout his career. The key idea of this work is that rather than man being made in the image of God, as put forward in the book of Genesis, God is made in the image of man. There are a few certain ideas put forward by Feuerbach which I would like to touch upon.
Feuerbach points out that religion makes God an invisible being, rather than a sensual being, so that criticism and proof against the existence of God cannot be shown. It is easy to show that no blood flows through trees, as is Feuerbach’s example, because all one has to do is cut one open, yet God exists in the mind, and Feuerbach says that this is how religion escapes strong contradictions and disappointments.
A second concept that Feuerbach argues for is that God is a realization of human intellect, and its desires. The human being is limited and finite, yet God is infinite and an absolute being, and Feuerbach says that this is because monotheism makes the ‘essence of intellect, will and imagination the most real, absolute, supreme being.’ What man desires yet cannot have, God is. A further discussion of Feuerbach’s thought will continue in the next post.
Are we dreaming? Does the world we live in even exist? Do I exist? These are questions that have been grabbled with for thousands of years, and yet we still have no definite answers. The question ‘Do I exist?’ was best answered by Descartes when saying ‘cogito ergo sum’. However, there are still no satisfactory answers, it seems, to the question of whether anything outside of our minds is real.
There are many things which may make life seem real, especially when we compare our ‘real’ life to that of our own dreams. Our dreams tend to be disordered, random, and unpredictable. The conscious world is much more orderly and understandable than the murky depths of the unconscious. Maybe there is no world outside our minds, but even if there wasn’t, it probably wouldn’t change much. We cannot not live in this world unless we die. Of course, we don’t have to ‘die’ in the most fundamental sense. We can kill ourselves without really dying, and in today’s world this seems particularly applicable. How much of our time do we spend in the ‘real’ world? Was there once a real world which is no longer really accessible to us? We spend so much time watching other worlds, reading about other worlds, dreaming of other worlds, and creating other worlds that it is hard to decipher what is real and what is not. Is social media real? Or is it a virtual reality, a fake? We exist in this world, but are we living in it? Perhaps we have become too detached from what is real-nature and other people-that we have lost a sense of reality. Even if the world outside our minds isn’t real and other people and nature doesn’t really exist, it doesn’t matter, because they exist to us, and they are the most real thing we could ever experience.
If we want to live again, we must come back to reality, whatever that is. It may not be possible to say what reality is, only what it is not.
Addiction is most commonly associated with the category of drugs. But what if we all had different addictions, to different drugs? I’m not saying that we’re all secretly addicted to heroin or ketamine, because although we put these kind of substances in the group of ‘drugs’ that people take, there may be more and more drugs than we think. Are we all addicts?
Is there something which you need to get you through the day? Must you have coffee in the morning, or TV late at night? Are the Facebook and Instagram feeds your form of relief to make the day bearable? Do you have to read some of a novel to help you get work done? I’m sure everyone has some form of relief they use to get them through life. I may be wrong, but then again…
Addiction may not just be something to do with illegal or legal ‘substances’. In fact, addiction may be all around. The question is whether we are all addicted to something, something which makes the day bearable. This does not mean that addiction is wrong. What it does tell us is a key insight into human nature. If we really do need certain things to pull us through life, what is our natural state? If we are addicts, in one form or another, what is the norm without such things? It is hard to think that the state of humanity is anything but a dissatisfied one. It seems that boredom is natural to man, and that ‘happiness’, or ‘satisfaction’, is not the norm. Perhaps it is, and I am wrong, but throughout life today, the widespread use of social media, the excess of consumption in the form of clothes to the form of television seems to prove my point. We fill our lives with distractions because we are not satisfied.
It was Arthur Schopenhauer who proposed that life is a pendulum swinging ‘backward and forward between pain and boredom.’ When we are in pain, we fill it with things to relieve the pain, but after a while, we become bored of this. This is, according to Schopenhauer, how life works. Even if this is true, we must not despair. In one of my previous posts, ‘why suffering can be good’, I wrote about the usefulness of pain. Although at first we may want to immediately sedate the pain, this may not be the right choice, since it is only through suffering that we can grow as people and evolve. The most worthwhile of things are the products of hard work, sacrifice and suffering. Concluding that we are addicts at nature may help us realise two things:
- That it is not primarily our fault for our addictive nature-it is just the world we live in.
- Addiction is a way of dealing with boredom and pain. There are many various ways of dealing with this dissatisfaction, some better than others.
Rather than turning to heroine, binge-watching of television or social media feeds, we can, as Alain de Botton wrote, ‘turn pain into knowledge.’