Posts tagged ‘existential’

April 18th, 2013

The Absurdity of Life and the Grasp for Meaning

by Max Andrews

Midnight Dreary by Carla CarsonMan is alienated from himself, from other persons, and from God, and as a result man has been burdened with absurdity.  Absurdity ought to be understood in a dichotomous manner.  Absurdity is experienced subjectively, such that the individual experiences it in an autonomous manner.  The objective absurdity is the metanarratives of life.  This would include a lack of ultimate meaning, incentive, value, and purpose.

Overcoming this alienation and the notion of absurdity, primarily objective absurdity, can only be done so by a divine telos.[1]  It does seem that man lives his life as if he does have an ultimate meaning, incentive, value, and purpose.  However, if God does not exist, then the absurdity is not only subjective but itreally is objectively absurd.  The existence of a divine telos enables man to live a consistent life of meaning, incentive, value, and purpose.  There is a reconciliation of man to himself, others, and God by overcoming this absurdity.

December 19th, 2012

Reason: Nietzsche’s Savior

by Max Andrews

Friedrich Nietzsche’s Twilight of the Idols commences with his maxims and missiles, the wisest of proverbs Nietzsche embodies his thought in.  Initially, the maxims are not so clear and one may only speculate as to what Nietzsche really intends for them to mean.  His succeeding work is an exegesis of these maxims, an illumination of the text, and an expository revelation of Nietzsche’s assailment of the Christian church.

“The Problem of Socrates” was Nietzsche’s understanding of the life of the philosopher, or better yet, the death of life.  Socrates was the philosopher, one who embodied the reason, virtue, and happiness, one who understood the vanity of life.  Life was a sickness, as an individual philosophizing and as an aggregate society.  Socrates and Plato were the “symptoms of decline” for life.  Life’s sickness progressed as more reason revealed the sickness many covered.  This revelation was only known through the philosophers.  What then is the value of life?  Nietzsche’s response, a paradox:

A living man cannot [estimate the value of life], because he is a contending party, or rather the very object in the dispute, and not a judge; nor can a dead man estimate it—for other reasons.  For a philosopher to see a problem in the value of life, is almost an objection against himself, a note of interrogation set against his wisdom—a lack of wisdom.

September 27th, 2012

The Problem of Socrates

by Max Andrews

Friedrich Nietzsche’s Twilight of the Idols commences with his maxims and missiles, the wisest of proverbs Nietzsche embodies his thought in.  Initially, the maxims are not so clear and one may only speculate as to what Nietzsche really intends for them to mean.  His succeeding work is an exegesis of these maxims, an illumination of the text, and an expository revelation of Nietzsche’s assailment of the Christian church.

“The Problem of Socrates” was Nietzsche’s understanding of the life of the philosopher, or better yet, the death of life.  Socrates was the philosopher, one who embodied the reason, virtue, and happiness, one who understood the vanity of life.  Life was a sickness, as an individual philosophizing and as an aggregate society.  Socrates and Plato were the “symptoms of decline” for life.  Life’s sickness progressed as more reason revealed the sickness many covered.  This revelation was only known through the philosophers.  What then is the value of life?  Nietzsche’s response, a paradox:

A living man cannot [estimate the value of life], because he is a contending party, or rather the very object in the dispute, and not a judge; nor can a dead man estimate it—for other reasons.  For a philosopher to see a problem in the value of life, is almost an objection against himself, a note of interrogation set against his wisdom—a lack of wisdom.

September 4th, 2012

The Nature of Alienation

by Max Andrews

Once the philosopher finds himself participating in and engaged with the world, he will also find himself in a state of alienation.  Alienation is primarily two-fold:  an alienation from the self and alienation from the world.  It is the philosopher’s goal and, as Hegel may agree, the purpose of the philosopher.  The separation of the Geist is really an underlying notion that plagues philosophical inquiry.  Philosophy… does not merely discuss alienation; it is a peculiarly significant manifestation of it.  With this very simple and subtle premise, the very notion and presence of philosophical inquiry entails a separation from absolute mind, Geist.  It is certainly consistent that the philosopher lives in a state of alienation and philosophizing is contingent upon being in a state of alienation, for if Geist were an actuality all reality would be understood. Hence, the philosopher’s attempt to provide a reconstruction of reality and thus providing a purpose and need to overcome alienation.

Alienation from others and from the world is ultimately an alienation from the self as well.  Human anthropology, according to Hegel, is a man-to-man function.  Participation in the world is participation in all of mankind and humanity.  Any action is for the contribution of man.  For Hegel, this was religion at its highest, a religion of Nature. 

March 5th, 2012

How Does God Provide Meaning and Purpose?

by Max Andrews

Midnight Dreary by Carla CarsonMan is alienated from himself, from other persons, and from God, and as a result man has been burdened with absurdity.  Absurdity ought to be understood in a dichotomous manner.  Absurdity is experienced subjectively, such that the individual experiences it in an autonomous manner.  The objective absurdity is the metanarratives of life.  This would include a lack of ultimate meaning, incentive, value, and purpose.

Overcoming this alienation and the notion of absurdity, primarily objective absurdity, can only be done so by a divine telos.[1]  It does seem that man lives his life as if he does have an ultimate meaning, incentive, value, and purpose.  However, if God does not exist, then the absurdity is not only subjective but it really is objectively absurd.  The existence of a divine telos enables man to live a consistent life of meaning, incentive, value, and purpose.  There is a reconciliation of man to himself, others, and God by overcoming this absurdity.

Man exists in a state of alienation.  He is alienated from himself, from others, and from God.  Alienation from the self creates a subjective absurdity (this will be explicated later).  Because of his own nature man cannot stand in agreeable terms with himself.  His epistemic warrant is not always at ease.  He doubts.  He questions and is lacks sufficiency in his capacity to function in an ideal manner.

His alienation from others is subjective and experienced by the individual as well.  It too is a result of man’s nature and state of being.  It is at this level of alienation where man often attempts to create his own teleology.  He will construct an artificial and arbitrary teleology based on other alienated persons.  Man’s alienation from God is irreconcilable by man’s initiative.  Man cannot act outside of his closed system; thus, he requires an outside agency to overcome this alienation.

December 20th, 2011

Dear, Lewie… A Letter to My Younger Self

by Max Andrews

Dear Lewie,

I wanted to write to you with my best intentions of preparing you for the life to come.  I have so much to tell you and so much to prepare you for.  Don’t worry; I’m not ruining any surprises.  It’s like when you read the ingredients of your favorite dinner on the menu of your favorite restaurant.  You know what’s coming but knowing just that never seems to ruin the experience, does it?  You still experience the joy of the meal.  It’s a bit like that my friend.  This letter will only foretell you of things to come.  My purpose in writing you is to make sure you understand what it means to experience life.

I’ll cut straight to the core issue–your life is going to be good and I have nothing but good news for you.  Despite what you’re about to read it’s all beautiful.  Your life is going to change.  Okay, before I continue I know what you’re wondering and yes, you will get married.  You’re going to meet this beautiful girl in college.  She’s going to distract you from everything.  You’ll have a romantic tunnel vision.  Everything else is going to blur and you’re going to focus in on her.  Her smile is going to capture you.  Her eyes are going to melt you.  You’ll learn to love.  This is the love that can never be adequately expressed in words.  Actions and experience is the only sufficient way of knowing this love… a love that helps you understand God.

This brings me to my next point.  Sooner or later you’re going to become a Christian.  The thing is, this doesn’t make your life any easier.  You’ll go to a university and study philosophy and you’ll learn to love science.  Pay attention in school.  Please, if this finds you please study physics more before university.  It will make things easier for me here!  You’ll eventually aim to make a career in academia.

September 3rd, 2011

Why Study Philosophy?

by Max Andrews

I’m a graduate assistant and I assist a professor in teaching, lecturing, and course management.  I gave two lectures last week on logic.  Granted, it’s not the most exciting lecture either (that’s because they haven’t heard me teach on the multiverse yet!).  A student came up to me after classed and asked for help.  I got excited because out of a class of 250 only a few have asked for one on one help.  This student wanted to know why all of this stuff was needed?  Essentially, what good is philosophy and why should anyone study it?  I meet with this student on Monday to help with this question.  Here’s a few reasons off the top of my head.

  1. The question itself if a philosophical inquiry, so…
  2. To know what truth is.
  3. To know what knowledge is.
  4. To know what science and math is and how other disciplines relate.
  5. To know the nature of reality.
  6. To know the flow and structure of thought.
  7. To know who you are and what it means to be a person.
  8. To know ethics, what it means to do right or wrong.
  9. To know the aesthetics.
  10. To know whether or not God exists.
These are just ten broad and general reasons why one ought to study philosophy.  I’m more inclined to give more specific answers, which are finely tuned to the situation.  I believe that in order for one to answer the question, “Why study philosophy?” one has to deal with it on a case by case basis.  “How does this relate to me?” There are certain existential and teleological questions that must be answered.  This question cannot be blanketed with a bullet point response.  I believe the best answer you can get will be from a period of time when you reflect on introspection and ask questions… Primarily the ultimate WHY? question… For the Christian, I’d encourage you to ask God the deepest and most important question you can think of.  You may not realize it, but then you’ll be philosophizing.
August 15th, 2011

A Philosophy of Tattoos

by Max Andrews

There are many stereotypes associated with tattoos and the underlying commonality is difference.  People with tattoos are generally different in many ways from those who do not have tattoos.  I got my first tattoo when I was 19 years old and I’m not sure how many tattoos I have now.  I’ve gotten some that have evolved into bigger projects and absorbed by later additions. I wanted to share my philosophy behind why I get tattoos, what they mean, and provide thoughts on what the Bible has to say about tattoos.

My tattoos are manifestation of my existential reflections of life.  I once heard someone say that you should be able to look at someone’s tattoos and be able to tell most of everything about their life.  Tattoos become an outward expression of who I am.  I don’t do it for the aesthetic so much as I do it for myself.  I don’t find it as hedonistic; rather, I find it to be an artistic expression.  Here are my stories.


This is my right arm, which is almost complete.  I have a little bit of empty space before my sleeve is complete.  What these tattoos depict is my place, and humanity’s place, in this universe taken from Psalm 8 (“When I consider the moon and the stars, that you have ordained, what is it that you give thought of the son of man, that you care for him [non-Messianic]).  The background is full of stars and planets and it fades in to DNA and a carbon atom.  When you imagine the vastness of our universe, how incredibly large it is and then you reflect on humanity, how incredibly tiny we are on this spec of cosmic dust we call earth, you’ll understand our privileged place in this universe.  You’ll understand our privileged place in God’s heart.  The intricate details God used in designing our existence from the cosmos to the DNA and atoms used to make us up.  The pinnacle of creation is the cross and God’s love for us (in Greek around the cross is Mt. 22.37, the greatest commandment).  Below the cross reads fides quaerens intellectum, which is Latin for faith seeking understanding.

This is my left arm.  The Jerusalem Cross, also known as the Crusader’s Cross, has personal meaning to me that I have only told to my wife.  So, the meaning behind that one remains a mystery to everyone else.  On the back of my left arm I have “Send Me,” which is from Isaiah’s commissioning.  It represents my obedience to God’s will for my life.  Just like Isaiah, he willingly submitted himself to what it was the God had him to do and he did so by his initiative willingly obedient to what God had for him to do (I’m not speaking theologically as in God shaped his will by Isaiah’s initiative).  It’s quite reflective of my testimony and the purpose that God has for me.  The semi-colon is my fun/Crohn’s disease tattoo.  I recently had a surgery and had 15 cm of my small intestine, my appendix, and a few inches of my colon removed.  Hence… I have a semi-colon.

My chest piece is from Ecclesiastes, Vanity of Vanities.  It’s a reflection of life in the absence of God.  If there is no God then life is utterly absurd, there is no meaning, purpose, or value to anything.  There is no hope.  Even for the Christian, if one’s motives, focus, or ends are not for God and his glory then it is in vain.  (Excuse the clear bandage and Hohn line, the IV line, in my neck; I took these photos during my surgical recovery).  On my right shoulder, just below my neck, I have a celtic butterfly.  This is in memory of my niece, Alyssa.  My brother was in Iraq and his pregnant wife, Jessica, died (for causes still unknown to us today).  This tattoo is for my brother, Jessica, and Alyssa.  There’s a lot of pain and suffering behind this tattoo.  There are still wounds that must continue to heal and some that have yet to be healed.  These wounds will eventually heal and bring a new perspective and new life to all of us.  The thing is, these wounds may not heal until our new life at the resurrection in the afterlife.

Tattoos are much more than cultural fads or aesthetic complements (at least to me).  Mine tells stories and are life expressions that can be told without words.  As you can see, I have a lot of meaning and existential expression behind my tattoos.  It becomes an integrated part of who I am.  Some have deep meaning and my most recent one has meaning, but it is more fun than serious.  Tattoos aren’t for everyone.  However, those who do have tattoos need to understand that people are going to judge you know matter what your personal philosophy behind tattoos is.  It just comes with the ink, you’ll just have to get thick skin and get over it (Get it? It’s a tattoo joke… Ha… Anyways…).

It’s not wrong to get tattoos and it’s not unbiblical.  Here’s and exegesis of the Levitical mention of tattoos.  You’ll be quite surprised as to what tattoos and the intent of the passage really is.  It’s amazing.  I would encourage those who do not have tattoos to not be judgmental of those who do (or for those who have any alternative means of self-expression such as piercings, hair styles, or clothing styles that are less mainstream.  Also, consider a means of expression whether it be artistic, vocal, or alternative.  For those who do have tattoos, consider and reflect on your philosophy of tattoos.  What do they mean to you?  Why did you get them or why do you want more?  For those who do not have tattoos but one or some, I ask the same questions.  Why do you want them? What meaning will it have?  Tattoos don’t have to have deep meaning, they can be fun and goofy too.  In the end, it’s a personal expression and you give it its value.  I would recommend giving it a lot of value because this value will last forever.

July 25th, 2011

Existential Absurdity

by Max Andrews

Absurdity is an understanding or a concept in which the individual is superfluous.  This superfluity of being is due to having no allotted place in any necessary scheme of things. Some people invent teleologies in an attempt to lend things a place in overarching schemes but it is an illusion.[1]  According to Albert Camus, man has a longing for reason.  In this world people have understood that there is “irrationality” to reality thus a “despair of true knowledge.”  There still remains a longing for reason despite the recognition of absurdity.  From this, absurdity is born.[2] Camus recognized that man needs to understand this despair and come to terms with it.  His teleology was simply to live life together with others and love one another.

Absurdity is the denial of teleology.  It is a result of alienation.  If there is a connection or intimacy within the self, a lack of angst, it is difficult for absurdity to follow.  The same is true for an alienation between others and God.  Teleology is the only savior to absurdity.  The problem at hand is identifying what can provide such teleology, and if that provision is made, does it actually work?  Is it a binding teleology?

June 13th, 2011

Devotions With The Imprecatory Psalms

by Max Andrews

I’ve been stuck in the Psalms all year.  Every once in a while I travel to other passages sporadically throughout the Bible, but for the past seven months or so I cannot seem to find my way out of the Psalms.  As I laid in bed last night I flipped through some old notes of mine and began to read and think.  I woke up this morning and read a few psalms.  Then I decided to read the imprecatory psalms.  Now, I know this isn’t a term heard often but the imprecatory psalms are the psalms that make requests or desires known to God that are… well… evil.  Here’s a few.

Let death come deceitfully upon them; let them go down alive to Sheol, for evil is in their dwelling, in their midst.  Ps. 55.15

O God, shatter their teeth in their mouth… Ps. 58.6

May they be blotted out of the book of life and may they not be recorded with the righteous. Ps. 69.28

Let his children be fatherless and his wife a widow. Ps. 109.9

How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones against the rock. Ps. 137.9

I would encourage you to go to these passages and read them yourself.  Understand the contexts in which these words and thoughts were expressed.  Let’s not be too quick to say, “There’s no wrong in this!”,  “This is the Word of God, these Psalms cannot be evil!”  I’m not saying the psalms are evil, I’m saying that aspects of what are being expressed are evil.  The psalmist, David for the most part, is desiring justice and vengeance.  He wants them to have death be surprised upon them, for them to be buried alive, for their teeth to be knocked out, for them not to receive salvation, and for their children to die in the manner in which his people’s children have been murdered.  I’m just guessing but if I had not set up these imprecatory psalms in a biblical context already you would think that they were pretty evil–no?

So what do we do with these psalms?  We recognize them for what they are–honest.  God’s intention for these were not to be taken as these desires being pure and good.  God’s response to these are, “Yes, that’s right. I’m glad that you see that’s evil.”  Allow time to meditate and reflect on this.  How often do you find yourself desiring such thoughts on others?  Granted, you have not had the same experiences that inspired these desires, but you’ve probably had the same desires.  Manifestations of our heart and will must not be identical in its originating context to be the same manifestations of emotion and feelings.  Being in the world means that we must experience the tensions of life, not get rid of them.  Jesus didn’t come to earth and push the Easy Button to atone for this absurdity.  Jesus came to earth, lived and experienced the same temptations, tensions, problems, and absurdities that we face.  We happen to fall short in our response to these tensions and absurdities.  We respond as David does, though we are honest, we do not channel it properly.  Imagine God responding, “Yes, I’m glad you know these are evil. What will you do now?”  I think David collects himself after many of the psalms only for it to have it happen again.  He relies on God.  He’s obedient to God.  Justice, salvation, blessings… all these rest with God.  We want to chime in and tell God what to do and how to do it–and if it were the case that we got it our way, this is what it would look like.

I’ve come to the realization that I’m not so different in heart and mind from the psalmist who has such evil desires.  I need to learn to experience these tensions and problems properly.  It’s hard to say, but I don’t want the quick fix antidotes.  Experiencing these tensions, persevering through absurdity, and repeating the cycle again when we fail until it is all overcome by Jesus is the process we call sanctification.  When you find yourself in a situation when your prayer simply comes out as, “AHH!” trust that the Holy Spirit knows exactly what you mean and what you need (Rom. 8.27).  With this I will end with Romans 12.