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Yet rather than understand this revelation as something which is freeing, Sartre experienced it as something fearful. He speaks of this freedom as being a form of damnation:
Man is condemned to be free... condemned because he has not created himself - and is nevertheless free. Because having once been hurled into the world, he is responsible for everything he does..." (Gaarder, 379-380)
If one is free, then one has not way of knowing what to do -- and worse, if one is free then one has no one but one's self to blame for one's perceived failures. (Taking the further step to realize that if one is free that there is no standard to fail except those set by one's self is something undertaken more by the next philosopher I mean to discuss than by Sartre) can actually sympathize with this sense of terror in the face of one's own freedom, however I also find it to be an unhealthy response when protracted. Of course it is terrifying to realize that one cannot communicate fully with any other person, and that one is essentially alone in a universe in which one is free but somehow powerless. No two people, this theory suggests, truly understand each other. This is as terrifying as the idea that no matter what goes wrong, one can really only blame one's self. Yet one must not let the fear and terror of existentialism overwhelm one to the point that one can no longer appreciate the more important issue at hand -- that one is free, and absolutely free, to choose one's life.
Gaarder covers Nietzsche only very briefly, and I am afraid this is an error. On page 380 he glosses over modern philosophy, explaining, that it is in a state of flux and being influenced alternately by the nihilists and the existentialists, then in terms by the Nietzschean thinkers. Yet while he gives some time to Sartre, he seems to consider Nietzsche unworthy of more than a mention. Gaarder takes time to repeat what has become Nietzsche's signature phrase: "God is dead." (Gaarder, 156)
Much of Kurtz's book and Gaarder's as well seems to deal with the issue of whether or not God is actually dead for modern philosophers, killed by the rational mind. Neither party seems to consider that in the original work, Nietzsche did not suggest that atheism and philosophy killed God, but that he had been killed by the syncopathic "worship" of His own followers who served without imagination or love or willingness to truly understand or envision the world. God, Nietzsche suggested, was killed by those who were unwilling to experience him. Understanding this context actually makes a great deal more sense in the application of Nietzsche to current philosophy. Is God dead? If so, science did not kill Him. What killed Him, surely, was the unwillingness of religion to embrace change and fluidity and experience. The fear of being free, Nietzsche suggests, is the symptom of humans which were born only to be slaves. The Overman -- the truly aware and powerful human -- is the one who is willing to embrace this freedom rather than fear it. The death of God is only part of Nietszche's theory of freedom and the will, which actually (somewhat unexpectedly) goes a long way towards resolving the struggle between science and religion and between the need for meaning and the realization of existential freedom.
As I mentioned, Gaarder does not really cover Nietzsche in length. I had read some of his work previously, (namely "Thus spake Zarathustra" and selections from his work on the Dionysian principle) and had been privileged to hear a good friend speak at great length about his ideas. I was disappointed that Sophia's World did not address his contributions in more depth, but as he was mentioned, and as he had influenced my own personal philosophy, I considered him worthy of mention here. Nietzsche is vital to this discussion of the balance between philosophy, religion, and science because he is one of those wonderful and rare thinkers who does no seem to fear the answers he seeks.
Science seems afraid of discovering things it cannot explain, while religion seems to fear having its mysteries explicated. Humans fear the unknown, and cover it over with patchwork mazes of science and religion. Nietzsche suggests befriending one's existential freedom and also one's existential alienation. He is not a nihilist, though he finds what I would call "faith in nothing," and though he teaches that the strong should not be hampered by the weak he is at the same time not an immoralist.
A once read on a plaque the following quote from Nietzsche: "I want to have goblins about me, for I am courageous. The courage which scares away ghosts, creates for itself goblins -- it wants to laugh." This seems to me to very much express the solution to the inability of science and religion to mesh. The divide between science and religion assumes two things too many -- first it assumes that religion is defined by theism and by paranoia and superstition; secondly it assumes that science is more rational and more realistic than religion. Both of these assumptions are false. Religion can be essentially atheistic, as Zen Buddhism proves, and one can find a religious sort of belief and faith and mysticism in the pursuit of natural understanding that one finds in the pursuit of theistic understanding. Additionally, while one can describe the history of science as the history of intelligent science struggling to overcome superstitious religion, one can also describe it as a history of better theories struggling to replace entrenched previous theories. Science is not a series of small rational steps forward -- it is characterized by entire paradigm shifts, which tend to completely invalidate all that came before. The idea of "humours" characterized by different bodily fluids was good science in its day, and used to contradict the "superstitious nonsense" of pagans or priests who wanted to characterize disease as demonic possession or the influence of evil spells. Yet today, humours are seen as nonsensical in turn. Science does not provide a true explanation of the world any more than religion does -- both only provide one form of looking at the world. The courage which scares away religion creates science, the courage which scares away science creates new science... Or perhaps goblins.
My personal philosophy (pardon the hubris of calling mine anything so inspired by others, but all the things I touch or see are, in one sense, mine) suggests that the universe is in flux, forever alienated from us regardless of the best of our science or magic or religion. Each of these ways of approaching the world is only an invented form, which always feeds the minds that embrace them with self-evidence. Just as a convict always sees police about, the preacher sees the hand of God and the scientists sees the working of the laws of nature. We create forms for the world and for others in it, only because we are afraid to see the world as it really is, unpredictable and foreign to us. Televangelists complain that this generation has "faith in nothing." Unfortunately, this is not true -- this current generation fails to find faith in nothingness. Faith in the Nothing is precisely what is needed. The more that we can stare at the void and face the fact that it is staring back, the more we will be able to see God and the more we will be able to get past the created forms of today's paradigms and begin to create science outside the academic box. What is it that takes stardust and makes it for a moment more important than the stars themselves? It is that dust's experience of awareness, as breathtakingly small and infinite as the…[continue]
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