Sartre’s Existentialism is a Humanism

“…man first of all exists…and defines himself afterwards. If man as the existentialist sees him is not definable, it is because to begin with he is nothing…until later, and then he will be what he makes of himself…”– Sartre

In Sartre’s existentialism, he had proposed that “Production precedes existence” and “Existence precedes essence”. Human is “self made” which one determines what it should be. This means that human’s existence is made of the product of one’s free choices that shapes its life.

Sartre also talked about anguish and despair in existentialism.

It is said that human are forced to choose what they should become and are responsible for their own self, “responsible for his cowardice”, “responsible for his passion”. That’s because there’s many possibility opened to human. Human have to create themselves. However, there’s no proof that any of the choices is right. Human are too “free” to choose how they should create themselves. Sartre described this situation as “the man himself interprets the sign as he chooses … every man, without any support or help whatever, is condemned at every instant to invent man.” This leads to human’s anguish.

Human are also in despair, which they feel hopeless, according to Sartre. Human are under the state of “abandonment” which they can only figure out things from probabilities. They also have to “invent” meaning and value to their lives. More than this, human have to choose/do actions without knowing what the results would be. Human could only figure out things from probabilities. It can’t be sure what would be better or worse. Even when thing has come to a result, there’s no authority to judge it as right or wrong. This makes human to feel hopeless to live a life that it could be confusing. For example, we never know which person to be our loved is the best, what job is the most suitable for us, what is the better way to do when you are deciding the live or death of a person…etc. We may say what is happening is better or worse than what other choices that could have been chosen when things come to an end, but sometimes we can’t be sure. Lacking of directions, human are in despair.

Somehow, you can see that human needs sense of security, which is a kind of humanity. This is obvious and can be shown in our daily life, such as our safety needs, property ownerships and our need in relationships. Why we need security could be brought back to how human lives in nature. It’s the fact that we are physically weaker than beasts and we need friends and shelters to protect ourselves. We also need partners to reproduce offsprings to ensure the continuity of our own species. Now, in this modern era, it is less physically demanding. We raise our sense of security with quality more than quantity. This brings to monogamy in our marriage in this modern era. We tend to have monogamy. We would make vows and sign contracts to promise and ensure that once we are married to our own partner, we would be loyal to each other. This shows how we gain security in relationship. Loyalty and trust are the keys. By counting on trust of one another, we feel more secure. Maybe this is one of the ways for human to keep themselves alive or feel better in “anguish” and “despair”, for the sake of species continuity. ( at least that’s what I know for now)


Frankfurt’s freewill AND concept of a person

Frankfurt claims some kinds of desires of beings. And for him, a person means to have second-order volition. What’s that?

I) 1st-order desires– Effective and non-effective

1st-order desires exist when a person wants to do something. For example, “I want to sleep/ eat/ swim”. And this kind of desire can be divided into effective and non-effective. According to Frankfurt, effective 1st-order desires is a kind of will. This kind of desire motivates a person succeed to do something they want, even there may be obstacles in front of the person. For example, “I wanted to swim today. Even it was raining cats and dogs, I still swam. Whereas non-effective 1st-order desires occurs when a person fails to reach its desires. For example, “I wanted to go swimming today but the swimming pool was closed due to the rain. I couldn’t swim like and I didn’t swim.”

II) 2nd-order desires & 2nd-order volition

While 2nd-order desires exists when a person wants the 1st-order desires. For example, I am phobic to snake. However, I think having a snake as pet makes me cool. I want myself not to be scared of snakes so I can have one as pet and be cool. However, still, deep down I don’t want a snake. Whereas 2nd-order volition is a desire from a person who wants 1st-order desires to be effective. Take the snake example again. I am phobic to snake. However, I believe and insist having a snake as pet makes me cool. I want myself not to be scared of snake to be effective, which I want myself to like snake and not scared of it thoroughly and fully accept to have snake as my pet and be cool.

Let’s look back to the question. Why is 2nd-order volition so essential for us to be a person? Frankfurt thought that having will is to have effective desires, whereas being a person is to have free will, which the person is able to have the will to have desire. This is how it make a person a person when it has second desire volition.

However, there’s still a question. Why does a person with second volition? I think this could caused by the evolutionary process. We want to do something that makes us feel good and something that benefits us. And based on our “free will”, we would then be willing to and able to do something that is beneficial in overall. There’s something special of us, which makes us different from other beings is, we relatively tend to seek for long term benefits instead of short term benefits. We do counter balance based on the pros and cons. In this case, second volition exists.

After reading Frankfurt’s claims, I indeed don’t agree with him in some extent. Frankfurt made this claim based on human’s uniqueness and essences, having 2nd-order volition. I admit that 2nd-order is essential to human but I doubt on this point that how do we know other beings, like plants, bacteria or other animals, doesn’t have 2nd-order volition? I have this doubt because I think not until we are the beings, we wouldn’t know exactly how they feel, think or live. Even we can do experiments on how the beings react to the surroundings, our information on them is limited. Even we have the experimental results, we are not sure what does the result indicate exactly. In this case, we can’t fully deny that other beings could have 2nd-order volition. 2nd-order volition may not a good way to define a person.

Hume on Determinism|| Are We Not Responsible?

Are we not responsible?

We somehow take #beingresponsibleisgood for granted. You can see that we tend to praise responsible people. Being responsible is a quality of a good person, at least that’s what our parents and teachers taught us.

Hume has some claims on determinism free will. One of Hume’s claims is that, we already know that human behavior determined and we are living in a world that is universally precise of cause and effect. According to Hume, “It is universally allowed that matter, … is actuated by a necessary force, and that every natural effect is so precisely determined by the energy of its cause that no other effect,… could possibly have resulted from it…”. Someone won’t act freely unless the person’s action is simply followed by its choice or act. Based on this claim, it’s proposed that human’s freewill is limited due to the “cause”, but we still have a certain level of ability to determine our “effects”.

For me, being a human I think we have to be responsible. Of course, if I were an alien, I won’t think the same way.

I see responsibility as a nature of human. Indeed, in biological context, it shares the same idea that we should be responsible as a species. Being responsible is beneficial to our species’ survival and continuity. A typical example like, once a mother and a father give birth to their baby, they should be responsible for it. The responsible parents then ensure the safety, physical and psychological needs of the baby, and thus its survival, growth and reproductive chance. By this, we tend to praise people with responsibility and criticize the people who lack of it.

On responsibility, there’s so many things are responsible for one event if we count on the event’s causes. Big Bang could be our cause of being lazy, dinosaur’s poop could be one of our body part and this responsible for our evilness… That somehow sounds ridiculous. Can we blame our laziness and evilness on Big Bang and dinosaur and force them to be responsible and pay for us? Probably not. I think that only the outbreak that is intentionally brought up is responsible for incidents.

As a human, I think we should be responsible for our actions because we have choices. Even though I understand that our choices is limited by our genes and how we are nurtured, we still have choices. I mean what defines human is that we have sense of self and sense of others. We are also taught to define what is you and me, yours and mine. We therefore have somethings that belong to us and those things become a part of us. For example, our values is what shapes us and a part of us. Once we follow our parts like values to make choices, it is our choices. Even you may say that our values are somehow shaped by external factors, it’s true that value is the thing that defines you and me. In this case, we should be responsible for our own actions.



“Memory can change the shape of a room…” That’s what Leonard said.

Leonard only had a few minutes lasting memory. You can see him had most of his body parts tattooed with messages, in order to remind himself to revenge on the intruder who raped and killed his wife. Driving around, meeting people, taking photographs and writing notes were his daily routine. Leonard relied on his notes to build his purpose and let his life make sense. However, if you had watched the movie, you will find Leonard indeed made fake notes to give himself purpose to live and revenge in the end. He was living without reliable memories nor notes. With this, does his life still make sense? Maybe for him, yes. But in my eyes, he didn’t.

Actually, we are in the same case like Leonard’s. Maybe our lives don’t make any sense either. Maybe our memories aren’t any better than Leonard’s notes, even though we have relatively complete memories. Why? It’s quite obvious that memories can be distorted like Leonard’s notes. You can see, we put what we perceive in life into memories and we retrieve what we remember and perceive it again and put them back into the memories. However, what we perceive usually isn’t as same as the one in the real world and what we remember isn’t as same as the one we first put into memories. At least this is the case that I can observe. Few days ago, I was reading the dairy that I wrote a year ago. I couldn’t understand what I wrote, why I wrote like that. It felt like that wasn’t me at all. At some points, I am holding a complete different view with the old me. But still, in daily life, I didn’t notice that I have been changing everyday. And that why I couldn’t perceive fully what I wrote. It’s very possible that what we call true in daily life and memories could be greatly distorted, silently.  Although our memories aren’t reliable, we’d better trust them as we need our memories to live our lives and build our identities. Otherwise, we have no way to find out who we are or where we are.

Can you imagine having no memory to rely on but notes only? Would you still have identity without reliable memories, and so did Leonard? I think he did. Hume said identity is just a habit we have, perceive, resemble and reflect. Leonard did have a “habit” to read and take notes. Even though it may not be a normal habit, you can see his routine. Every time he met someone, he asked “Do I know you? Are you…?”  and took photographs and notes and read them. And when he found out new things by inspecting his notes, he reflected on them and wrote down the new notes.
Notes and photographs were his replacement of memory. By this, his “habit” was a consequence from the stimulation around him. 

Indeed Leonard was just like us. We retrieve the memories in our brain and perceive and associate the information that we know, while he reread and perceived and linked the notes together over and over again. We process our memories generally in the same way: resemble and reflect. Leonard was still able to resemblance his experience and reflect on the causes and effects that he could perceive. At last, Leonard built his identity, a man who revenged and killed.

Despite the fact that Leonard faked his “memories”, he did have identity under Hume’s case. We are all like Leonard.

Infectious is the good Art? (feat. Tolstoy)

The stronger the infection, the better is the art as art…” — Tolstoy

Infectious is the virus that invades our population and flows through our bloodstream, and deeply into our organs. To Tolstoy, infectious is the artwork. The more infectious the work is, the better art piece it is. The level of infectiousness depends on how accurate the audience perceive and get moved by the artist’s feeling. And at the same time, it also depends on how many people do the same way. The more the people perceiving the work more accurately,  the better the art piece is. Otherwise, the art piece is bad. If you want to make infectious art, what should you do? Here are three advice from Tolstoy,

1) Increase the individuality of the work by doing it in the ‘state of the soul’ so that the audience could dig themselves into the work easier and receive the feeling stronger. (#31)

2) Let the feeling be clearly expressed in your artwork so more audience can ‘mingle in consciousness’ with you, and understand your feeling through the artwork easier. (#32)

3) Be sincere while making your artwork so that your feelings can be transmitted into the artwork fully and so  the audience. (#33)

As you can see, Tolstoy mentioned that good art is to infect people fully (let people understand fully) what the artist think or feel and it’s even better to let more people to understand that. Under his claim, the artist intends to transmit messages to others. By this, the artwork has to be understandable so as to transmit the message to the audience.

However, I don’t think it’s fully the case. I do agree that when the art is enough to let people understand what’s going on and is able to manipulate people even the audience do not experience the incident. It does indicate that the artist succeeds in transmitting its idea fully to the work, giving messages to and manipulate others. Still, I don’t see infectiousness as the essential way to measure whether a work is good or bad/ sincere or not. It is not necessary to infect all the people with art. Different people have different perceptions and ways to comprehend the signals around them, as different people grow up and raised differently, they experience different kind of things. For example, you can find some psychological picture game online. Different people see different things and meanings in the pictures. It could be duck or rabbit, skull or human body…etc. It’s understandable for people to interpret the same thing in various ways. It’s not the responsibility of the artist to make good art by infecting as many people as they could. As long as the artist has expressed itself fully ( which also require enough sincerity) throughout the art piece, it’s good art.

[Reference, “What Is Art?” (excerpts) by Leo Tolstoy, ]   

Descartes, Being Doubtful.

Descartes said he didn’t allow himself to be deceived anymore. — “I feel constrained to confess that there is nothing in all that I formerly believe to be true, … , if I desire to arrive at any certainty”. Descartes even claimed that we should never trust anything that has tricked us once.

But why? From the passage, I see some of his claims that made him thought that way.

  1. People may be deceived by their senses due to the restriction of the physical body.  “And how could I deny that these hands and this body are mine, were it not perhaps that I compare myself to certain persons, devoid of sense, whose cerebella are so troubled and clouded by the violent vapors of black bile, that they constantly assure us that they think they are kings when they are really quite poor… What we perceive may be deceived by our senses.
  2. He also claimed it with the phenomenon in dreams. He claimed that everything we perceive in dreams is a medley from parts of things that we experience when we’re awake. But it is not the whole picture of the reality in physical world. We may be in a similar situation like dream. I think he did prove something in here. As I see, to us, there are many illusions. Some are noticed by using tools, technology to see the image outside our naked eyes and skin. Like UV light, Gamma Rays… Some people also once thought the other side of the moon is blue cheese with imagination until we have satellites taking pictures of it. However, at last, we still need to use our body and brain to perceive all the data and information, the solved illusion could still be illusion deceiving us.
  3. We may be deceived by external factors, like the “evil” and God the “genius” as Descartes said. They may be deluding us about logic and reason.The general things that we perceive is less likely to be non-indubitable  (e.g Geology; Physics)
  4. “I think therefore I am.”Even though Descartes knew that everything including himself could be illusions, he thought that under his role of being a human in the illusion, he could think because he could doubt and think. I really appreciate his point of view. That’s because I understand there’re many limitations in human. We are somehow restricted by our senses and our perception to things around us. By this, we could simply use our senses, instruments that we make and logic to understand what’s happening. As long as we are still human, we can’t find out the true answers. Maybe believing in Descartes’ claim, “I think therefore I am.” is the best solution I know to prove that I exist, even I am just a role in a game or a story.

Reality And Copies


After watching “eXistenZ” the film,  let’s think about how does it fit into Plato’s hierarchical scheme of reality. How does the game in film, “Trancendenz” fit?

In Republic, Plato stated his hierarchical scheme of reality,

  1. Form is the truest and eternal reality
  2. Our physical world is something constantly changing and it’s not reality, it’s a copy of form (reality) instead
  3. Art is a copy of physical world, a copy of a copy of reality

In this case, where we are now is probably a physical world, a copy of form. Whereas the film “eXistenZ” is a copy of copy of the form, art.

It may be even more complicated.

In “eXistenZ”, the people tried to figure out which world is real, what reality is. There are a few layers of world in this film,

  1. The most likely real world that with the game “Trancendenz” existed
  2. The world of  “Trancendenz” that with the game “eXistenZ” existed
  3. The world of  “eXistenZ” with the micro pod existed
  4. The world (game)  that “projected” by the micro pod