Practical Philosophy

by phil on Saturday May 10, 2003 12:19 PM
Nietzsche, Sartre, existentialism, free will debate, free will debate

From Nietzsche, the best moment of practical philosophy, or rather, practical psychology, was in his discussion of free will. I can't remember where, but he says that there is no free will just as there is no unfree will. There are only weak and strong wills. And a strong will involves a sort of unification of the individual wills within us toward a singular, endorsed objective. This makes tremendous sense and is a good key to achieving happiness, fulfillment, consistency, etc. But, of course, a commons sense guide could have led you there without all the philosophical broo-hah....saying something like, "in everything we do, part of us wants to do it, another part doesn't, so the trick is getting everybody on board." Yay simple thinking.

From Sartre, my favorite moment of practical psychology comes when he discusses action and how actions retroactively determine for us what we think is right. If you want to know what you really want in life, all you have to do is look at what you actually chose to do. For you only let the strongest urges within you win, what reason is there to not endorse everything you do? The practical part is that it gives an argument for not worrying about what you do before you do it for you'll do what is best anyways. My counter-argument is that our "endorsement" will is a separate will outside of what we actually do. i.e. I may end up over-drinking, but I wouldn't be proud of my actions, and as a result, I'd be unhappy about that decision. Sartre would then argue well, your passion for drinking was stronger and by its strength, you chose to drink. Sure, one could say that on a technical level but that's not how we really work. We have guilt and regret and we don't find that everything we do is particularly great. Our sense of "great" does not line up exactly with doing what our emotions bubble up to choose what is great. Also, what if our will to regret is also strong and enforces itself over the desire to believe Sartre? Some people don't have this guilt and they permit everything within them. I presume that these people have a tremendous sense of self-satisfaction. Well, good for them, but I don't think that's the way I'm going to play the game.

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