existential term

Existentialism is a term applied to the work of certain late 19th- and 20th-century philosophers who, despite profound doctrinal differences, shared the belief that philosophical thinking begins with the human subject—not merely the thinking subject, but the acting, feeling, living human individual. In existentialism, the individual’s starting point is characterized by what has been called “the existential attitude”, or a sense of disorientation and confusion in the face of an apparently meaningless or absurd world. Many existentialists have also regarded traditional systematic or academic philosophies, in both style and content, as too abstract and remote from concrete human experience.

Søren Kierkegaard is generally considered to have been the first existentialist philosopher, though he did not use the term existentialism. He proposed that each individual—not society or religion—is solely responsible for giving meaning to life and living it passionately and sincerely (“authentically”). Existentialism became popular in the years following World War II, and strongly influenced many disciplines besides philosophy, including theology, drama, art, literature, and psychology.


People are obsessed with the progress of electronics and high speed machinery and things like that, but first things first. If you ask “what has been the most important invention of the past 100, 150 years?” it’s been the synthesis of ammonia. If we could not synthesize ammonia by taking nitrogen from the air, hydrogen from natural gas and pressing them together in the Haber-Bosch cycle… if we could not do this to make nitrogen fertilizers, we could not grow enough food for about 40% of people. So you are talking about something like three billion people. In existential terms, that is the most important invention.
—  Václav Smil
Existentialism, John Silver style

I think part of the reason why I can relate so strongly to Silver’s decision in the finale is that at the core of my convictions, I’ve always seen existentialism as fundamentally true.

The idea of being condemned to freedom (as a lack of superordinate morality and purpose), to an existence that does not have an inherent meaning but gains its meaning only through personal actions - an existence where the inidivdual and their choices are not good or evil but only true or not true to their own inner conviction - is reflected exceptionally well in Silver’s arc in Black Sails. It’s made explicit when Silver himself refuses to attach meaning to the events of his past in 4.09, where he outright denies the existence of a storyteller. Due to that lack (and rejection) of a “higher” purpose, Silver becomes one of two (arguably three) characters in Black Sails to choose his own fate through an act of personal sacrifice. 

I’ve seen a piece of meta very recently that basically said that Silver had no right to act the way he did because he was taking choices away from Madi (and the maroons). That way of thinking is deeply foreign to me, because existentialism is all about individual choices. The characters in Black Sails have always been strongest when they were taking responsibility for their own actions - when they were acting true to their own nature. 

If going along with Madi’s and Flint’ war went against the things Silver truly believed in, should he have done it only for her and Flint’s sake? That might have been more loyal on a surface level, but it would have required of him to act against his own convictions.

Besides, none of the main characters have ever worried all that much about taking choices away from anyone, not, at least, when it came to politics. Flint, Silver, Vane and Billy didn’t show any kind of hesitation to undermine the governor’s position by threatening and intimidating every pirate who had taken the pardon. And Madi was also willing to go to great lengths to make that war happen, even in opposition to Julius, who had valid reasons to oppose it. I think it’s only fair to add that Madi had also selfish reasons to want that war - as a young woman, stepping out of the shadow of her parents, trying to establish herself as a leader to her people, in opposition to the more protectionist rule of her mother. That war was her personal quest, her coming of age.

In any case, all throughout the series, the parties who wanted the war didn’t much care about other people’s opposition. And war is what they got until Jack, Max, and Silver pulled a page from their book and put a stop to it. 

Do we believe for a second that Madi would have left the war behind for Silver? Of course not, and we woulnd’t expect her to, because she was deeply convinced that the war was a righteous cause.

Then why do we expect Silver to go along with the war for her sake, even though he truly believed it was the wrong thing to do? THERE IS NO MORAL HIGH GROUND. Black Sails has shown us both the noble sheen of a war for freedom and the horrible price people have to pay for it. The whole tragedy of the ending is that we have two people who deeply love and respect each other, but whose belief systems don’t work the same way. 

The strongest existentialist struggles are always found where people claim their own freedom, where they make difficult choices not according to what other people believe, but to their own values. Where they take a stand

Of course, this existentialist freedom only exists where people are actually free to decide -, only then can it be acknowledged and claimed, and only in that moment, people actually are free. Free to be bound by nothing but their own conscience - free to fight an inner battle when the outer circumstances allow for that kind of luxury. Mrs Hudson is not free to make a choice based on her inner convistion because she’s bound by her love and responsibility for her children. Likewise, Vane, the character for whom freedom is the first and foremost priority, avoids every kind of attachment to material goods, any commitment that would bind him, knowing they are civilization’s greatest weapon. When Vane chooses his death, that’s an existentialist choice right from the textbook - while the decision to hang him is Eleanor’s, he chooses the terms and the meaning of his execution, and ultimately, he chooses to die because his death will be a catalyst for a revolution. That’s not the same as, say, someone committing suicide to escape neverending horrors. Choosing the lesser of two evils, forced by the circumstances, is not freedom. The truly existentialist choice is the one you make willingly, the one not dicatetd to you by others.

The interesting thing about Silver is that he has that feedom on a very basic level right in the beginning - as a drifter, committed to no one - but then he gives it up, or rather, loses it in a variety of ways. And when he decides to put an end to the war, that’s both reflective of who he truly is - a pragmatist, a survivor, a man who does not understand the idealism that drives Flint and Madi - and what he truly believes. That’s what makes his decision so important. He’s not a hero, he’s not a villain, but maybe for the first time, he is authentic. And his act is more tragic and, in a way, even heroic, because it requires him to betray the two people closest to him and condemn himself to a life that lacks all its glory. 

Comparing Siver’s situation with Max’ decision to prioritize her relationship with Anne over a position of power makes it obvious how much more difficult Silver’s decision is. Max makes a simple choice, one that requires a personal sacrifice - giving up power - but allows her to act in accordance with her truest believes. What she doesn’t do is betray her loved ones on a personal level, quite the opppsite; it’s her way to make up for an earlier betrayal. There is quite an allure in self-sacrifice, if it means you can go on knowing you have the moral high ground. Max does it, and the narrative rewards her for it, telling the audience, quite clearly: “You chose love over power, and it was the right choice.” The narrative favors Max to an almost incredible degree. Max gets to be governor. Max also gets Anne’s forgiveness.

But it’s not Max’ personal sacrifice that makes it happen, it’s Silver’s.

Silver, by acting in accordance with his truest believes, gives up everything he’s won. He doesn’t get the fame. He doesn’t get the captaincy. He doesn’t get the treasure. He has irreparably damaged every meaningful relationship he has ever had, and what is his gain?

I can’t emphasize this enough: it would have been a lot easier for Silver to go along with what Madi and Flint wanted. If Silver had only been interested in his own, short-lived gain and gratification, if he hadn’t felt active disgust at the person he was becoming - the person who killed and tortured and betrayed his friends and orchestrated the death of people under his protection for the greater cause - then he would not have acted against them. What he did was not the action of a person who chose the path of least resistance. It was the action of a man who found the strength and conviction to make a choice. It was the action of a man who no longer wanted to do bad things in the name of a good cause. 

Did he have the right to make that choice? That’s a moot question, because under these existentialist terms, having the power means having that right. Silver was in a position to end the war, and that’s what he did.

What Silver is, in that moment, is the master of his fate, and there’s really no bigger accomplishment in terms of existentialism. 

Robert Louis Stevenson based his character of Long John Silver on William Ernest Henley, who is most famous for his poem “Invictus”, which may be the epitome of the kind of freedom at the core of existentialism : 

It matters not how strait the gate

how charged with punishments the scroll

I am the master of my fate

I am the captain of my soul.

That’s what Silver is doing, in this final episode. Instead of letting others decide for him - instead of blindly following Madi and Flint into a war which, in Silver’s understanding, is the horror - he uses all the means at his disposal to help Max and Jack to put a stop to it, and he does it without further bloodshed. It is only Silver who is in a position to achieve this ending. It is only Silver, with his cunning and his inventiveness, who can be Flint’s end without killing him. 

I have no understanding for people who are trying so very hard to deny the difficulty of Silver’s choice, and what it cost him, and what it means for him in terms of character development, who are completely willing to throw him under the bus and deny that his feelings and respect for Madi were ever real, or that his decision to send Flint to Savannah instead of killing him was not an act of love and mercy on his part. 

In contrast to this, the inauthentic is the denial to live in accordance with one’s freedom. This can take many forms, from pretending choices are meaningless or random, through convincing oneself that some form of determinism is true, to a sort of “mimicry” where one acts as “one should.” How “one” should act is often determined by an image one has of how one such as oneself (say, a bank manager, lion tamer, prostitute, etc.) acts. This image usually corresponds to some sort of social norm, but this does not mean that all acting in accordance with social norms is inauthentic: The main point is the attitude one takes to one’s own freedom and responsibility, and the extent to which one acts in accordance with this freedom.


anonymous asked:

Do you think Jon Snow will be a much darker character when he is resurrected from the dead?

Hi anon!

I’ve thought a lot about this topic, and here’s where I stand: upon his inevitable resurrection, Jon will certainly experience rage and trauma regarding the assassination, but that might actually be the least of the changes he undergoes in The Winds of Winter. There are two major and intertwined shifts on his story’s horizon, one existential and one in terms of genre, that will largely supersede any lust for Bowen Marsh’s blood (or Ramsay’s, for that matter; in my Stannis-fanboy fantasies, Jon’s king cuts down the Bastard of Bolton before the now-former Lord Commander even returns to his body).

I’ll tackle the latter first. Jon’s story changes genre with each successive book, in a manner that both reflects and contributes to his increasing depth as a character. In A Game of Thrones, we get a fairly standard coming-of-age plot set in your classic fantasy Shaping Boys Into Men insitution, rife with training regimens, multiple mentor figures, and friendships forged by bending the rules. Things get more amorphous but also more compelling in his Clash of Kings arc, a Conrad/Coppola journey into the unknown, highlighted throughout by moral set pieces (deciding the fates of Gilly, Ygritte, and the Halfhand) that prompt the character growth somewhat lacking in Game.

His Storm of Swords chapters, by contrast, move through multiple modes, as if GRRM was testing the character’s range in preparation for the calamities to come. The author first sets Jon on an undercover mission, veers sideways into doomed romance, builds up to multiple battles wherein his leadership provides the payoff to that aforementioned growth, and ends with a final (beautifully written) emotional test, Stannis’ offer of legitimacy and lordship weighed against Jon’s loyalty to the old gods and the Watch, culminating in his election as Lord Commander. That perfectly sets up his Dance with Dragons arc, the ironclad spine of my favorite book in the series and an intricately structured, deeply moving political portrait I could ramble on about forever. Jon’s brain becomes an incredibly rewarding place to live in Dance; the dynamic between his inspiring radical humanism and his tragic blind spots is no less affecting for being so subtle and complex. Indeed, by the time he and Tormund achieve the impossible—bringing the Free Folk peacefully through the Wall—Jon Snow has earned the title of protagonist.

And then, of course, GRRM burns down everything I just described, the Pink Letter serving as kindling. That leads me to the genre gearshift coming for Jon in The Winds of Winter, which will dwarf all those before it. Up until now, for all the aforementioned directions GRRM has gone with Jon’s story, it’s all been filtered through the cultural, political, and military relationships within the Watch and between the Watch and the wildlings. No more. Daenerys decides in her mind-blowing soul-searing final installment in Dance (my #1 chapter in the series) that she is done trying to enact reforms by incremental, institutional means, and I think Jon’s arc has come to a similarly clean break. He’s exiting the political realm and entering the magical one.

So here’s what I think Jon will get up to in Winds: run around as Ghost for a while, get resurrected, escort Selyse, Shireen, and Melisandre to Winterfell, reunite there with both Stannis and Rickon, head north to Hardhome (possibly with Tormund and his warriors), find that everybody there is dead or worse, and finally encounter Benjen, who reveals R+L=J. All along the way, both as Ghost and back in human form, Jon will be plagued by visions along the same lines as Bran’s after his traumatic near-death experience, marking Jon’s absorption into the magical plot. Indeed, Bran and Bloodraven will probably play an active role here, as they are currently in Theon’s storyline. I wouldn’t call all this dark, necessarily. It’ll certainly be emotionally fraught, but also psychedelic and revelatory. The changes will come so quickly and with such force that outside the tearful family moments, Jon won’t really have time to brood.  

Of course, he may also lack the capacity for such introspection by that point, which brings me to the existential transformation. Jon’s layover in Ghost will open him up to the metaphysical side of the Song, but at a price. GRRM kicked off Dance with Varamyr’s prologue for a reason, after all.

“They say you forget,” Haggon had told him, a few weeks before his own death. “When the man’s flesh dies, his spirit lives on inside the beast, but every day his memory fades, and the beast becomes a little less a warg, a little more a wolf, until nothing of the man is left and only the beast remains.”

Jon isn’t going to be darker, he’s going to be different, in a manner beyond human considerations like pessimism or despair, and that’s way more frightening. He will move on from the Night’s Watch and his life at Castle Black, not because he’s made his peace with what happened, but because he simply will not be the same person. He will be, at least partially, post-human. And as with Beric Dondarrion and Lady Stoneheart, there will be no going back.

i’ve thrown around the term “existential crisis” a few times in my life but never really knew what it felt like til now, the double whammy of my sisters brand new baby being born on tuesday and my boyfriend’s graduation alongside talks of engagement and plans of moving in - all very exciting and very GOOD things, it’s just weird to fully realize the obvious sentiment that we are never going to be younger than we are right now ever again. to see a new baby and realize that was us 24 years ago and the time between then and now will never be felt again and can hardly even be felt in the foggy memories we hold of it. the question to have our own children or to not have them when you really have no idea what you want. the realization when a 6 year old at the market calls you a “lady” to her mom. we are adults now no question no ifs no buts and i’m feeling a really confusing cocktail of 3 parts excitement, 2 parts bewilderment and 1 part kinda depressed. shaken not stirred.

life!!!! so overwhelming!

Facticity is both a limitation and a condition of freedom. It is a limitation in that a large part of one’s facticity consists of things one couldn’t have chosen (birthplace, etc.), but a condition in the sense that one’s values most likely depend on it. However, even though one’s facticity is “set in stone” (as being past, for instance), it cannot determine a person: The value ascribed to one’s facticity is still ascribed to it freely by that person. As an example, consider two men, one of whom has no memory of his past and the other remembers everything. They have both committed many crimes, but the first man, knowing nothing about this, leads a rather normal life while the second man, feeling trapped by his own past, continues a life of crime, blaming his own past for “trapping” him in this life. There is nothing essential about his committing crimes, but he ascribes this meaning to his past.

However, to disregard one’s facticity when, in the continual process of self-making, one projects oneself into the future, would be to put oneself in denial of oneself, and would thus be inauthentic. In other words, the origin of one’s projection must still be one’s facticity, though in the mode of not being it (essentially). Another aspect of facticity is that it entails angst, both in the sense that freedom “produces” angst when limited by facticity, and in the sense that the lack of the possibility of having facticity to “step in” for one to take responsibility for something one has done also produces angst.

What is not implied in this account of existential freedom, however, is that one’s values are immutable; a consideration of one’s values may cause one to reconsider and change them. A consequence of this fact is that one is responsible for not only one’s actions, but also the values one holds. This entails that a reference to common values doesn’t excuse the individual’s actions. Even though these are the values of the society of which the individual is part, they are also their own in the sense that they could choose them to be different at any time. Thus, the focus on freedom in existentialism is related to the limits of the responsibility one bears as a result of one’s freedom: the relationship between freedom and responsibility is one of interdependency, and a clarification of freedom also clarifies that for which one is responsible.


The end credits scene of Weirdmageddon II and its mind-blowing nod to Jean-Paul Sartre

If you have seen the emotional and spectacular second part of “Weirdmageddon” you might be familiar with the end credit scene, in which Craz and Xyler sit on a bench looking upon the  town in the midst of the apocalypse and Xyler (or is it Craz I don’t know) makes an outstanding remark by referencing to Jean-Paul Sartre. The citing is in itself awesome and all as it destroys the previously assumption that Mabel’s “dream boys” are only looks and no brain by revealing their deep philosophical insight. But I believe it goes beyond that: That choosing this philosopher follows the intention of delivering more than one message to us.

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8 questions for the USWNT in 2017: From Hope Solo, to the CBA, to the newbies

Caitlin MurrayJan 2, 2017 at 3:13p ET

Although 2017 is very much a quiet year for the USWNT with no major tournaments, it doesn’t mean there isn’t work to be done. Far from it. The new year represents a crucial stretch where no changes or experiments are off limits. By the time 2018 rolls around, the team will start preparing for the 2019 World Cup, so this year is about figuring out the fundamentals.

Given that 2016 was probably the worst year on record for the USWNT, the team is ripe for changes, too.

What will the USWNT’s new CBA look like?

The USWNT’s collective bargaining agreement with U.S. Soccer ended when the calendar turned to 2017. By all accounts, the existing contract is simply rolling over while talks continue, but negotiations are going to be a big distraction until they are finished. The USWNT recently fired their legal representation, which doesn’t suggest negotiations have been going that well.

But the collective bargaining agreement could affect a lot of things, from how many games the team plays, to how many new players coach Jill Ellis is allowed to call into camp. A new agreement will set a new tone and the rules under which the team operates for 2017 and beyond.

Will Hope Solo be back?

After her high-profile firing from U.S. Soccer for calling a superior Swedish team “cowards,” Solo has mostly been laying low and serving her suspension. She stepped away from her club season with the Seattle Reign and Ellis started doing something she hadn’t done in a while: letting goalkeepers other than Solo start games.

But Solo’s suspension is up in February and if Ellis wants her back, she can return. Solo has said she hopes to return to the USWNT and it doesn’t sound like she is ready to hang up her goalkeeper gloves just yet. But she is also 35 years old and trouble has followed her for the past few years. Whether or Solo returns will probably say a lot about how strong Ellis feels the goalkeeper pool is.

What is the team’s attacking identity?

For years, thanks in large part to Abby Wambach being the best header the women’s game has known, the USWNT have focused on direct, long-ball soccer. But without Wambach on the team anymore and teams like Sweden figuring out how to limit those chances to break in behind, the USWNT faces something of an existential crisis.

In terms of pure athleticism — speed and stamina to race in behind back lines for 90 minutes — the USWNT often has the upper hand. But they also looked more dangerous and able to break down defensively stout teams by attacking with the ball on the ground via the wings. Maybe they don’t have to pick one or the other approach exclusively, but they probably need to be more comfortable doing both, which they haven’t been.

Are players like Lynn Williams and Kealia Ohai the future?

In closing out 2016, Ellis did something new: She called in a slew of young, uncapped players and left veterans, like Alex Morgan, off the roster. That was already pretty remarkable, but even more was the fact that players like Williams and Ohai made immediate impacts and showed themselves to be contenders to fight for spots.

It’s a good bet that Ellis will continue calling up young players from the NWSL, and the question is how much they can push existing veterans out of the picture. If Ellis is willing to hit the reset button in 2017 some more, the team that plays in the 2019 World Cup may look nothing like the one that won the 2015 World Cup.

Is there any room for Sydney Leroux or Amy Rodriguez?

It’s built into the USWNT players’ contract that no one can lose their spot on the team just because they have a baby. So, Leroux and Rodriguez will likely get an opportunity to win back their spots, if they want it. But with youngsters like Williams, Ohai and even Christen Press — who has been on the team for years but has seldom been used as a striker in important games — there just might not be any need for Leroux or Rodriguez.

Leroux was struggling with a goal drought before her pregnancy, with some pundits speculating she wouldn’t make the Olympics roster even before she removed herself from consideration. But Rodriguez came back in 2014 from having her first child and played some of the best soccer of her career for both club and country. If Leroux, 26, can be rejuvenated in a similar way, she could surely fight for a spot.

What is the right role for Carli Lloyd?

The thing about Lloyd is, she’s the type of player who can step up in big-game moments and score goals, which is very valuable. But in letting her do that, Ellis has given her a pretty undefined role. She’s supposedly a No. 10, but she plays more like a withdrawn forward, but even then, she really isn’t focused so much on linking up with striker Alex Morgan.

Basically, Lloyd just kind of roams around and does whatever she wants. And the USWNT attack has been built around the idea that that’s how Lloyd is best. But can the USWNT continue to count on that and sacrifice having a true playmaker or a true second striker?

What system makes the most sense?

Coach Jill Ellis has been tinkering with a 3-5-2 to close out 2016, and it’s easy to see why. The Americans were unable to penetrate Sweden’s 4-5-1 and it punished them with an early Olympics exit. The worst part is that Ellis and the USWNT knew exactly what Sweden’s Pia Sundhage had up her sleeve and they still couldn’t break it down.

Will they stick with the 3-5-2 as a way to get more players into the midfield, even if it limits the team in other ways? Then there are other questions, like whether Alex Morgan (assuming she remains the undisputed starting striker of the USWNT) plays better with or without a partner. How attack-oriented should the fullbacks be? Should the USWNT have a dedicated playmaker in the central midfield? Should the USWNT make a long-awaited return to having a dedicated defensive midfielder?

Will more players leave the NWSL for Europe?

With Alex Morgan set to join Olympique Lyon in France, the superstar striker marks the first USWNT player leaving the NWSL, which is where all the USWNT players ply their trade, except for college players. The move is something of a mixed bag — it may not be great for the NWSL, which counts on USWNT players to attract fans. But for Morgan, it’s a move that should improve and expand her game.

It’s doubtful Morgan will be the only one to leave. Crystal Dunn has expressed interest in going abroad and a move doesn’t look far off from happening. But USWNT coaches, including Ellis, have said that players being spread out abroad can be a challenge for the USWNT, particularly because U.S. Soccer tends to schedule games outside FIFA dates. If more USWNT players leave the NWSL, that could affect upcoming camps in a very direct way.

@poorquentyn​ – who is an inspiration to me when it comes to ASOIAF – uses the term “existential victory” a lot and I think it’s a valuable lens with which to examine ASOIAF, so I just wanted to write down some untagged, disjointed, and probably incoherent ramblings inspired by PQ’s brilliant blog.

For example, I’m totally in agreement with PQ about how R+L=J will be devastating to Jon [x] [x] [x], and how Jon’s going to have to spend the next books grappling with being The Fantasy Hero of Prophecy, until he finally decides to save the world because he wants to, and not because he’s a part of Rhaegar’s War for the Dawn survivalist checklist. 

And I think this post painted Dany’s choices very vividly in my mind, that Daenerys will actually be capable of having a child, and the continuation of the Targaryen dynasty will be the low-hanging fruit with which GRRM tempts her. I’ve been saying for years that Dany is going to die, but requiring her to sacrifice herself would mean so much more if she has the opportunity not to be the last (legitimate) Targaryen … and she willingly gives that up and sacrifices herself to save the world, to save all the world’s children.

And Tyrion – my child, my fav, GRRM’s fav, the reason I opened this post:

It all goes back and back, Tyrion thought, to our mothers and fathers and theirs before them. We are puppets dancing on the strings of those who came before us 

^^It’s this Our Heroes have to overcome, the thread that unifies their individual “existential victories,” I think. Jon has to realize that he isn’t Rhaegar’s pawn of prophecy, dancing to Rhaegar’s tune, and Dany has to let go of the dynasty her ancestors worked so hard to build, and Tyrion, Tyrion, Tyrion … “Even from the grave, Lord Tywin’s dead hand moves us all.” 

Tyrion’s story is not Jon’s; it’s the inverse of Jon’s. Jon’s secret father will wreck him, as much as Tyrion’s own father has nearly destroyed him. Tyrion’s father – his real biological father, Tywin Lannister – is the obstacle Tyrion must overcome. “If I had not loosed, he would have seen my threats were empty.” Throughout the books, Tyrion has modeled himself after Tywin: “He reached for his father’s voice, and found it.” And he continues to do this in ADWD, vowing vengeance that would almost make Tywin proud if it weren’t directed at House Lannister. Tyrion will have to choose between the War for the Dawn – the selfless war, the thankless war, the war for humanity – and his own personal war against House Lannister. 

Vengeance is easy. Tywin’s mantle is an easy one to pick up and cloak oneself in. Vengeance is the poisoned apple proffered to Tyrion, complete with fiery dragon and knowledge of Casterly Rock’s drainage system, and Tyrion has to reject it, just as Dany will have to reject a Targaryen legacy. 

I’m just so eager for Tyrion’s “existential victory,” for Tyrion to cast off Tywin’s legacy, to find his way out from Tywin’s long, black shadow that hangs over ADWD, and what better place to do that than beyond the curtain of blinding light at the end of the world?