Wednesday, 29 August 2007

So what's in a name?

So, I'm back from my petite holidayette and I am trying to get my brain back in gear. All those deep philosophical thoughts I was having before I went have been overwhelmed by the sights and sounds of new places and, I'll admit it, by relaxing and being happy. There's a thought - does one only have deep philosophical thoughts when one is unhappy? Nah - don't think so for a minute; I've had some of my best ideas sitting in sunshiney bliss surrounded by flowers and buzzy bees.

So anyway, any truth I laid claim to knowing on the topic of existentialism, optimistic nihilism et al I appear to have forgotten. Or perhaps it's having difficult questions posed by you fellow-bloggers out there... whatever, I don't know now whether I belong to a philosophical ism and if I don't, whether it matters. "Me" suggested in a comment that if Sartre and Camus had never lived that I couldn't have called myself an existentialist - I think I'm stating his comment correctly. I've been thinking about this and I don't think I agree, at least not completely. I call myself an existentialist because Camus describes in his writings exactly how I feel about life (haven't read any Sartre so can't say if I agree with him.) But Camus didn't invent these feelings or this state of mind or this attitude to life, he just described it better, more elegantly and more humanely than anyone else I've read. So when I call myself an existentialist it is, I suppose, shorthand for saying "Camus speaks for me." Perhaps I should call myself a Camusian.

By way of a present from my holiday, here's a jolly (and sustaining) quote from the bear of very little brain:

"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"
"What's for breakfast? said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"
"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully."It's the same thing," he said.

Hope you all had a good summer - here comes winter...


Me said...

To clarify: In my previous comment, I was not "suggesting" that you wouldn't call yourself an existentialist if Camus etc. had not existed, I was only ASKING you that question.
I am glad to know that you identify with what Camus says about life etc., and that these things were not invented by Camus, but only, as it were, discovered and made-explicit by him. But surely you do not mean that your thoughts ABSOLUTELY identify with his, in the sense that your thoughts begin and end precisely where his thoughts do so. Only if this happens, it is warranted to call yourself a "Camusian." (But perhaps, your thoughts actually go beyond his, for the better). Since there is an absolute dearth of such "Camusians" (or "Christians" or "Communists" or whatever), I repeat what you say: "What's in a name?". But for this very same reason, may be it is better to drop it.

reasonable robinson said...

I tend to go along with you DP on this...Surely something can exist prior to it's being given a name...and surely you can sense/ feel/ know something without knowing its formal/ academic name. Case in point...I was unaware of the notion of 'organisational learning' until circa 2000, yet I 'knew' that the organsiations that learned about their business environment were more successful than those that didn't and also those that placed importance on resourceful humans were more successful than those that didn't. When I read the literature on OL I was able to connect my experience to the category of experience provided by others. As it 'fitted' quite well I am happy to live with it for the time being. I might invent my own 'label' for something more like my experience in future. Although there is always the risk of lapsing into trite neo-logisms when doing this. Philosophy is frequently a refelective endevour and reflecting implies 'post hoc'. This type of sense - making can only be applied retrospectively (Karl Weik) Ref: last post - Names matter...they help classify and categorise our worlds, they can of course be value laden... however their helpfulness has to be to recognised and we should not be diverted into semantic navel gazing and hair splitting. If DP finds it helpful to classify her experience as Camusian then 'go for it' I say... Why drop names? (unless you like dropping names(sic))The most I would ask anyone is an interested 'how' do you see yourself as Camusian, unless of course you are the final arbiter of what being Camsuian is? Final point - DP is suggesting she is Camsuian (i.e. after Camus in several respects) she is not claiming to be Camus definitively.

kind regards