On ‘Being Anxious’ and ‘Anxiety’

“Anxiety (Angst) is ubiquitous, but seems capable of a lower and a higher form.” I. Murdoch in her “Sein Und Zeit: Pursuit of Being”.

My question is: can being anxious be a good thing? If etymology would have the final say, the answer would be a straightforward: “No!”.  ‘Anxious’ comes to us from the Latin verb “angere” which means to choke (under a pressing uncertainty). Still, one can be anxious – at least according to Merriam-Webster – for positive news. Such a positive turn seems not to be on for ‘anxiety’. It would seem anxiety is something one can simply and only suffer from. Still, if one is anxious it would seem that the only thing that can describe what one feels is anxiety.

What’s up with these words then? How does their grammar work? Iris Murdoch does not explore this in the text I quoted but it seems a matter of some practical and philosophical consequence; maybe one of those rare occasions where these types of consequence meet. People tell me to try to stop being anxious (and just ‘be’). This always makes me anxious, for (what) would I be if I weren’t anxious for something? I’d certainly not be ‘me’.

I tend to agree then with Kierkegaard (whose lead Heidegger is basically following) that a life worth living is in a certain way always also a life of anxiety. The original question is then recast into: is this such a dismal state of affairs as it is made out to be?

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To the latrine with our doctrines!

6.54 

My propositions serve as elucidations in the following way: anyone who understands me eventually recognizes them as nonsensical, when he has used them—as steps—to climb beyond them. (He must, so to speak, throw away the ladder after he has climbed up it.)

He must transcend these propositions, and then he will see the world aright.” 

Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, Routledge Classics, 1961.

I’m reading Cora Diamond’s “The Realistic Spirit” in which proposition 6.54 is seen as the key to crack the code of continuity in Wittgenstein’s thought. I don’t know about that but I do know this: what she says resonates with why I always liked reading Wittgenstein. It’s not the famous proposition 7 calling bull-shit on philosophy that enticed me, calling bull-shit is easy. It’s the resistance to clear-cut philosophical doctrines and a view of reason as somehow beyond life as we know it which rings true to me.

Is it possible to do philosophy without leaving behind you beliefs that one p or another is true in a deeper way than pointing to the coffee mug and saying that it is on the table? In a way we’re all philosophers who want to believe that what we say matters in a way that is beyond being merely true. Philosophy, I believe (and I believe Wittgenstein believed all his life), is about showing that to be a terrible equivocation. A terrible equivocation more specifically on two crucial real-life common words: the demonstrative ‘that’ and the verb ‘to believe’.

Let me show you that. Maybe if you read on you’ll believe.

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Short review: Heideggers Sein und Zeit

This is a valiant effort by the young Heidegger. It will be hotly debated for two reasons: it opens a new road for research and it closes the old road of cultural optimism. That we all die is finally acknowledged as more than a mere contingent fact about our bodies. That a realization of this fact kills off any hope we might have had about a certain openness of our minds is what Heidegger concludes about the nature of our being.

He closes §34 in this way: “(.) it’s not superfluous to note that this interpretation has a pure ontological purpose and is very far from any moralizing criticism of the everyday Dasein as well as from cultural-philosophical aspirations.” Then §35 is entitled: “Idle Talk” (Gerede) – and the first sentence specifies the term should not be read as pejorative.

A new One is born amorally hovering over the old One. As it is announced to be the first -and therefore the last – One, it is potentially the most judgmental One ever. The question then is whether one could not take comfort in reading Heidegger as if it were idle talk.

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Wednesday January 17, 2018

From riches to rags, raving mad, he sat, solitarily, in his bed. Time and time again a story, a tune, had emerged with a plot that felt it could thicken but just proved to be thick. And, so, he found himself, as ever, on the losing side. The side that did not get sympathy, being still associated to previous success. What he wanted to be was a challenger. He knew that there was no cause left.

His nose was all there. He did not grow sticky feet overnight. Not even that. He just sat, in not so eager anticipation of a plot twist. The story was all out of him. The music had died, and so did he in that very moment. Pufffff, when the air goes out of a wrinkly balloon it’s not even an event. Be specific, he thought. Do something, he shouted to himself, hearing it as the faintest whisper.

Get yourself the fuck back on track.

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Thursday Take-Down of Our Education

Studying is essentially still this: converting stuff in books to stuff in brains. In order to do well in school you have to have a large storage and excellent read/write access to it. Very much as if processor, programming and sensitivity to context do not matter. It is like our education system is stuck in not caring about anything but our memory capacity. And so it produces the new standard uniform class of power people who have muscled memory, and the disciplined balls that go with it. I’ll try to explain why this is as unnecessary as it is bad and why it’s nevertheless unlikely to change.

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On Being Me

They tell me it’s difficult for all of us. The thing is that I know I’m not one of them. Pitch is black. Color is blue. I remember things about wanting to be a member of things. I wasn’t entirely bad at it. Some people were jealous. It seemed like I got it all. It didn’t seem at all like I didn’t get any of it. That’s how easy it is. Yet so difficult. So bloody difficult. Like you want to be run over by a truck.

My half of the car shred to pieces with me in it. Recognizable but maimed. Smiling ready for the thumbs up selfie. He finally made it. Pfew. Instagram it and dare people to like it. I would (dare people, not like it). What’s not to like about the life that once used to be mine to the detriment of everybody around me. Maimed they are and I was the truck. Things it is impossible to say nowadays.

Let’s be normal. Except I’m not. Div zero like thus:

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Towards a softly outspoken liberalism

Shouting begets more shouting. So I shan’t shout against a militant liberalism deafening our reason. I won’t even ironize about their inconvenient marriage with zealots. It’s their conviction that runs deep after all and we should respect people’s convictions.

I’ll just ask a simple question: “Are militant liberals still liberal?”.

There was a time not that long ago when being liberal was risky. It did not quite get you fed to the lions but it required you had a lot of money to get away with saying your piece. In an attempt to make peace, John Rawls said: “Thus I believe that a democratic society is not and cannot be a community, where by community I mean a body of persons united in affirming the same comprehensive doctrine.” Political liberalism was born again, and with it the new consensus of agreeing to disagree.

That got us here so another simple question is: “Were non-militant liberals ever liberal?”.

Scylla and Charybdis always all over again, can we find a way not to exclude the middle?

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