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Existential Stress

Meanwhile, the global community is working hard to improve survival rates. One’s attention should be drawn back to the existential scale. Existence comes with purpose. If we haven’t yet considered the reason for our existence, we should do so before time runs out. It is moment now to bring people aware of the Nietzschean greatest statement, “God is dead”. The declaration that awoke the masses from their grief and gave them hope to look back on a jumbled past and envision a meaningful future ahead. In this pandemic period, I’ve been reading stories of people losing their loved ones and being in a complete state of paranoia about ‘what to do next?’. The emotional stress and resistance they are experiencing is causing them to miss out on their life’s purpose. In this devastating time, it is difficult to give life a positive purpose. But I’ve also seen some great souls who, in the aftermath of tragedy, instantly called attention to ongoing losses and became instruments for preventing others from being victims. This is the symbol of great spirit, the element of divinity that resides within each of us. It manifests itself in specific circumstances, but if we make a conscious effort to recognize the one inside us, we can be able to add light to the world of darkness. The only aim of this article is to focus on the existential problem that must be rediscovered, as well as upon the current stress that must be identified, and a mission that must be established in order to make life valuable and worthwhile for those around us.

‘To be’ is ‘to exist’

Being signifies existence. The literal meaning of Being is ‘to be’ or ‘to exist’. What is this existence for? Why DO WE EXIST? To clear this concept in a better way, it is very important to define the nature of being or its concerning reality.

Problem of Being

There are so many questions arising on the nature of being or reality which many ancient philosophers have tried to answer from time to time. The basic questions are- ‘what is being?’ ‘What we should consider being or reality as?’ ‘What if reality doesn’t persist?’ ‘How can we define reality as?’ ‘What is the complete nature of reality?’ ‘What is considered as permanent and temporary?’ ‘How the concept of ‘being’ makes relevance in our life?’

The philosophers of the ancient period have tried to find out the answers to the above-mentioned questions using various ways. The deep intellectual thoughts and the reference to related texts may help to identify the real nature of beings. The sources vary from scripture knowledge to intuition. The natural things around us are the primary sources which anyone would believe in. This is because we always believe what we perceive. Right!

Cause of Existence

The philosophers of the early period found that complete existence is not dependent on the natural elements like air, water, fire, earth and ether. They felt that the elements can be considered as the cause of each other and other natural things found in this Earth. But the cause of ‘being’ cannot be related to the elements or atoms for sure. The cause of being or consciousness or existence could only be itself. This is the ontological view “on being” held by various philosophers.

Real & Temporary

We see philosophers comparing their lives from what they see around. The leaf appears fresh when anew but dries when it falls from the tree. The same is life -we die when our body weakens and is not able to support life. Some philosophers would take this theory to a great height. After understanding that death is real and nothing could stop it from happening, they would find out the possibilities after death? Do we die completely or still there is something left after death? These types of questions make philosophers query into the theory of reality. They say that something which has ended, is temporary or which undergoes complete extinction; cannot be said to be real. ‘When we are born, we would die’; ‘whatever is created has its expiration period’; and conclusively ‘the things which could be destructed is unreal or temporary’.This is a common saying by philosophers.

Knowing Reality

Now again to the same question ‘what is real then?’ Because thing we see around us changes or destroys with time, so they could not be considered as real.

This makes the conclusion that “real” is something which is indestructible, which is not temporary and which is forever. It has no origin, no source and no end. Real is something which is beyond time and space.

Ancient Greek Philosophers and ‘the concept of being’

Many natural philosophers of ancient Greece have tried to define the first principle or the ultimate reality or the ultimate cause of this universe. They tried to find out the essence of this objective world. Firstly, they tried to understand the objectivity of the world, then they moved to subjectivism. The interest was shifted from external nature to the internal nature of logic, ethics, psychology, politics, arts, ethics and conducts.

The first great problem of external nature was studied in the pre-sophistic period. The philosophers of naturalistic period tried to find out the nature of the substance from which this world is made. It was like ‘What is the basic substance responsible for the origin of ‘being’?’ The second was the problem of change: ‘How could change be defined?’

Nature Philosophers

Earlier nature philosophers of the Milesian school are- Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes. They have given the reason for the first principle to the natural substances. Thales defines the first principle as water whereas Anaximander believes that ultimate reality in boundless –which is not a thing. Anaximenes says that the first principle is air.

Pythagoreans see the ultimate reality in numbers. Numbers are the basic things because everything around us could be explained in terms of numbers. They fix their attention not so much upon a concrete, sense-perceived substance, but on the relation existing between two things, the order, uniformity, or harmony in the world. For more information on Pythagorean Theory of being, you could refer here.

The problem concerning the nature of substances or being (reality) was given some sort of definitions, the next problem was the theory of change.

Theory of change

The problem of change emerges in a radical form in Heraclitus and in the Eleatic school, of which Parmenides is the chief exponent. The question for them is not so much how the change takes place but whether there is any change at all. For Heraclitus, change is ultimate and permanence a mere sensory appearance. For Parmenides, the permanent is fundamental and change a mere appearance.

Later, Empedocles and Anaxagoras gave attention to both the problem of substance or reality as well as change. Empedocles and Anaxagoras agree with the Eleatics that absolute change is impossible, that nothing can become anything else, in the literal sense of the term. ‘Nothing can come from nothing; nothing can go into nothing, and nothing can change into anything absolutely different.’ Nevertheless- and in this way, they agree with the Heraclitus – things do change. The change, however, is only relative and not absolute.

Heraclitus nature of Being

The fundamental thought in the teaching of Heraclitus is that the universe is in a state of ceaseless change.

“Everything is in a state of flux”

‘One cannot step into the same river twice’.

For Heraclitus, the universal fire is the first principle, the most mobile substance he knows, something that never seems to come to rest, the ever-living fire- sometimes called by him vapour or breath – which is regarded by him as the vital principle in the organisms and the essence of the soul.

The primal unity itself is in constant motion and change, its creation is destruction; its destruction is creation. Everything is changed into its opposite and everything, therefore, is a union of opposite qualities.

Parmenides nature of Being.

According to Parmenides, there can be only one eternal, underived, unchangeable being. Since it is all alike and there cannot be anything in it but being, it must be continuous and indivisible. There cannot be any break in it, it is continuous. It must be immovable, for there is no non-being(empty space) for it to move in. Moreover, being and thought are one, for what cannot be thought cannot be, i.e, non-being cannot be thought.

Being or reality is a homogenous, continuous, indeterminate mass- which the aesthetic imagination of the philosopher’s pictures as a sphere- endowed with reason, eternal, and immutable.

According to Parmenides, the world is unity, unchangeable, and immovable. Sense perception, on the other hand, reveals to us a world of plurality and change; this is the world of appearance and opinion.

Atomists nature of Being.

The atoms and the empty space in which they move are the sole realities for the atomists: everything is void. Being or the full, and non-being, or the void, are equally real, that is real is not one continuous, undivided, immovable being, as the Eleatics held, but the plurality, an infinite number of beings separated from one another by empty space. All bodies are combinations of atoms and spaces; origin means union: destruction; separation.

Summary

Though there are some unanswered questions on the origin of being. But, the nature of being is somewhat made clear by the theory of philosophers of the various time. By knowing the nature of being, we can conclude the purpose of our existenc, space and many other forces responsible for the universe operation or function.

It is difficult to define the actual nature of our being. But, throughout humanity, people are trying to find out the complete meaning of the existence of being.

Hope you liked all the important definitions of ‘Being’ in one frame. I would love to hear your views on these concepts.

Thanks for sparing time and reading this blog. 🙂

John Dewey “Common faith”

American philosopher John Dewey (1897), in “My Pedagogic Creed,” concludes with these words:

“I believe, finally, that the teacher is engaged, not simply in the training
of individuals, but in the formation of the proper social life.
I believe that every teacher should realize the dignity of his calling; that
he is a social servant set apart for the maintenance of proper social order
and the securing of the right social growth.
I believe that in this way the teacher always is the prophet of the true
God and the usherer in of the true kingdom of God. (p. 95)”

The teacher is a prophet, a social servant; apart from teaching and following her duties, she must be an expert in managing and ordering the social life of an individual. According to Dewey, a man is never known by the recognition he has collected in his lives but by the contributions, he has made to society. One must be engaged in contributing to what one knows throughout one’s lifetime. Social struggle is a process of human betterment.

John Dewey ‘spirituality’

The major role of Dewey was to seal the gap between ‘Traditional organized religions’ and ‘Major advances in science’. He produced the concepts of spirituality which would help to maintain the balance between religions and science. The main idea of Dewey was to guide people the true concepts of ‘religions’ (he meant ‘spiritualism’) which is all in us but, we are diverted by the different norms of religious sects and cultures.

Dewey Rejection of ‘supernatural’

John Dewey rejected the ‘concept of the supernatural’ in religions. He affirms that there is nothing such as supernatural. Whatever is there could be observed and confirmed. Belief in the supernatural is the ancient human inabilities to understand the natural phenomenon. Whatever couldn’t be understood has given the name of ‘act of supernatural entity’. In today generations also, whatever phenomenon science is incapable to define is termed the ‘causation of God’.

In his contributions to the symposium “Religion and the Intellectuals” in The Partisan Review (Dewey, 1950), he projected his disbelief in the supernatural substances. The only solution to embrace spiritual qualities is to reject the concepts of ‘supernatural entities’.

Dewey’s meaning of religious

The true meaning of religions according to the point of view of Dewey is “sense of the whole”. The good relationships among individual and community are considered as the true meaning of religions. Organized religions institutions have missed the true meaning of religions and always bragged about the doctrines, theory, religious faith.

In ‘common faith’ (Dewey 1934) Dewey mentioned clearly about the wholeness of religions in maintaining relationships with others in the best possible ways. In this book he has written the four major concepts:

  1. The knowledge is unified-  Forms of knowledge shouldn’t be separated from one another. The religions and science should be considered as the same. One could only ‘experience’ the wholeness and oneness of all the knowledge. The individual should search for religions in every set of experiences.
  2. Knowledge is democratic– knowledge is public and everyone can reach out for it. It doesn’t matter what method you are implying in search of truth, what matters is the inquiry of truth.
  3. The pursuit of moral ideals requires moral faith– faith is the commitment to moral principles and ideals of the society that always works for the improvements of the society. The faith in religions is, therefore, important because it helps in self-improvements.

While you still feel a sort of ‘atheist’ in accepting religions, you could anytime refine your beliefs on the actual definitions of “being religious”.

Webster(2009) summarized religions as “religion is not something that people should have but should become like the way of living.”

4. The authority of moral ideals is explored by inquiry– Every moral ideal should be for the benefit of society. If an idea is stated in doctrine, but the society doesn’t feel secure by following it, then, the ideal could be eradicated and altered for the sake of society.

John Dewey has shared in his writings the benefits of ‘experiences’ in life. We all should have experiences to inquiry the truth of knowledge at its best.

“Experience gives meaning to existence” – John Dewey

Dewey is confident that the method of inquiry would give meaning to life and refine knowledge which isn’t possible without the self-experiences. The ‘experiences’ also leads to the development of moral values in life.

To summarize, acceptance of orthodox and standardized religious hierarchy isn’t needed for spreading the concepts of morality instead ‘wholeness of knowledge’ and ‘understanding democracy’ is the sole requirements for the ignition of ‘religious beliefs’.

The religion is realizing the perfect state between actual and ideal.  Humans have always looked for the problem-solver, the ultimate helper. But, he has not tried fully to solve his problems on his own. We should search for the moral ideals in our real lives instead of expecting some supernatural power to come and cherish our life.

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