26 votes

Does anyone else struggle with existential thoughts?

I've had derealization since august 2019, and about 1-2 months after that I started having uncomfortable existential thoughts. It all started with super reductionist thinking which made me aware of nihilism and had me struggle with that for a while before I finally stumbled upon existentialism which basically rendered nihilism void.

However, after that I read about Sam Harris and got into the whole free will rabbit hole, but nowadays I take solace in knowing that most philosophers believe in free will and think Sam Harris is a goof.

After that they kinda subsided for a while... but nowadays I freak out over the whole "self is an illusion" thing that's super prevalent in buddhist/drugs users/science circles, and it's by far the hardest to overcome. Like, with nihilism the solution is existentialism, with free will, well, there's compatibilism, but this? It seems like everything skews toward it being true and it deeply scares me. In fact, if it is true indeed, doesn't that automatically render existentialism and free will impossible as well? I mean, existentialism relies on the self and free will to create meaning, so if those aren't real, then the meaning crumbles apart as well. And free will also seems dependent on a self to exist.

Most people seem to not really care either way when I talk about it with them but for me it's nearly an obsession and I feel like I've discovered some sort of dark secret truth that I wasn't meant to see.

Does anyone else have this issue?

33 comments

  1. [3]
    highsomatic
    (edited )
    Link
    It sounds to me that your thoughts are a manifestation of anxiety and a form of escapism. I'm by no means a professional, so take what I say as inferences from my own experiences and those close...

    It sounds to me that your thoughts are a manifestation of anxiety and a form of escapism. I'm by no means a professional, so take what I say as inferences from my own experiences and those close to me. I sometimes entertain thoughts about reality on that level, but for me personally they're just a way to pass some time without causing me much grief. My conclusion, every time, is that the nature of reality would not change the experiences or the process of experiencing in my life in any substantial way. Whether free will exists or not, whether anything outside of my field of vision exists or not, the floor still needs to be mopped up or I'll end up with a dirty floor that would make me uncomfortable.

    I have friends who have gone through a similar experience to what you describe. From my view, it seems to have correlated to a time in their lives when big changes were happening in a chaotic time, and they were not able to adapt to them well, or were resisting them. Hence, these thoughts sounded like a form of intellectualization, used to avoid having to deal with pressing problems my friends were facing. Instead of facing their problems, they started thinking about their nature and went down the rabbit hole of reasoning their way to reality's nature. Ask yourself, does the onset or frequency of these thoughts follow a pattern? Is it when you have free time that intrusive thoughts come in? Is it when you need to do something that you particularly don't enjoy? Journaling here can help. If you just log the time and date of each onset, as well as a brief summary of what your thoughts are, you may be able to identify a pattern of recurrence. Whether at night time, or after work, etc.

    Personally, I sometimes become very aware of the fragility of one's own life. How easy it is to mess it up in a very permanent way. That, unless you get on with whatever it is you need to do, absolutely no one else will do it, and your life will pass by without you ever having realized those goals you'll 'one day' get to. These thoughts usually come to me when I procrastinate or take time off of studying or working, and I find myself alone, or when I'm shrieking my responsibilities. I won't deny that the anxiety caused by this hyper-awareness does give a boost to my productivity due to the fear factor, but on the other hand, relaxing has been carrying guilt with it for some time. The pandemic's isolation and the studying from home, in a small studio apartment, has greatly exacerbated this situation. I started having these realizations a couple years ago during a time in my life when I was financially struggling, and found myself eating rice with different sauces for about a week and a half. It left a particular imprint on my self-esteem, and has been since driving my will: I never want to end up not affording food again in my life. Something that I thought I would never have to go through in the first place, but the fact that I did, makes me aware that it is very easy to fall off that self-defined edge or limit, that, in your mind, is very distant and abstract, that other people may fall off of, but probably not you, because you're clearly above that standard, until you "let yourself go" for too long and one day realize you're on the other side of that border.
    So that's the story of my form of existential thoughts. They're a problem, but it greatly helps being aware of the cause of the problem, and the onsets. When doing the dishes for example, my mind would sometimes wander too far into this void and its derivatives. I realized that I need to constantly have something to think about. This is where listening to podcasts to keep my mind busy thinking about something helped me personally, when I need to do a boring mechanical activity.

    9 votes
    1. [2]
      PhantomBand
      Link Parent
      I think that does sound realistic, if I have to look at it like that then yes, it does seem like the situation (I'm generally indoors 24/7 since early 2019 and spend most of my time online) and...

      I think that does sound realistic, if I have to look at it like that then yes, it does seem like the situation (I'm generally indoors 24/7 since early 2019 and spend most of my time online) and the derealization is the cause.

      The pragmatism you speak of is a more healthy way to deal with this but it's rather hard since I keep second guessing everything's.

      I do suppose it'll get better once the pandemic's over though.

      4 votes
      1. highsomatic
        Link Parent
        I used to see myself as an idealist until I was around 23 (I'm now 25), and went through that event in my life. Since then, I have been described by a lot as a pragmatist. It really does have its...

        I used to see myself as an idealist until I was around 23 (I'm now 25), and went through that event in my life. Since then, I have been described by a lot as a pragmatist. It really does have its uses. Shaking your head when you realize you're going through these thoughts and telling yourself "Ok, what's next on my to do list for today".

        I'm generally indoors 24/7 since early 2019 and spend most of my time online

        I think that's the likely main culprit. Isolation can lead to these thoughts a lot as you forget of the outside world. Maybe you're craving a form of stimulation that you're not currently obtaining, and this is one way for your mind to keep itself busy, if it's not a form of escapism. Physical activity also helped me ground myself in reality, as it was (pre-pandemic) allowing me to go out and realize that a lot of things external to my mind are happening around me, and made me feel that I was indeed a part of this fabric that everyone else seems to blend in to so well.

        8 votes
  2. [2]
    Grimalkin
    Link
    You sound like me once upon a time and I found that thinking about/discussing such things brought some enlightenent but mostly consternation because of how dense the topics can be. At the risk of...

    You sound like me once upon a time and I found that thinking about/discussing such things brought some enlightenent but mostly consternation because of how dense the topics can be. At the risk of sounding like Sam Harris: Do you have any experiences with hallucinogenics? I had a few very impactful trips in a calm setting where I could take the time to decontruct ideas and put them back together in ways that my sober mind never could, and even since then have felt a far greater sense of understanding and acceptance about the way our shared reality works.

    Obviously milage can vary significantly, but I think it's something worth persuing if you can. Especially if you start with smaller doses and seeing how that affects you first.

    5 votes
    1. PhantomBand
      Link Parent
      No, and I'd like to keep it that way.

      Do you have any experiences with hallucinogenics

      No, and I'd like to keep it that way.

      2 votes
  3. DMBuce
    (edited )
    Link
    I used to, but I don't anymore. It could be that my senses are lying to me, or that my sense of self is an illusion, but if that's the case, it's just part of my experience. I know my experiences...

    I used to, but I don't anymore.

    It could be that my senses are lying to me, or that my sense of self is an illusion, but if that's the case, it's just part of my experience. I know my experiences even if I can't say for certain what it is that I'm experiencing, or if it's truly me who's experiencing it.

    It could be that tomorrow, the walls of reality will bleed away, and my sense of self will dissolve into the ether. But I know my self and my experiences in the here and now, and that's enough for me.

    3 votes
  4. [5]
    Rez
    Link
    Yeah I've dealt with it. Also am dealing with it - anti-natalists (I'm not one) are very funny to me in a strange way, I've rewatched a little bit of True Detective S1 and been reading Confessions...

    Yeah I've dealt with it. Also am dealing with it - anti-natalists (I'm not one) are very funny to me in a strange way, I've rewatched a little bit of True Detective S1 and been reading Confessions of an Anti-Natalist. I come at this from a scientific angle, having not used psychedelics or being a Buddhist - you did neatly wrap up the backgrounds of most people on this issue.

    You kind of have to try to go full circle with it. So you have no free will. What does that practically mean for you? Does accepting that statement mean you feel any different, that you feel less able than you did yesterday? Embrace the fact that you have programming. There's the life of the mind and then the life of your life. You can have them be different. You can thread the needle of compatibilism by accepting that anything you do is the inevitable result of determinism; however you answer the question of "Do I have free will?" ultimately really has no impact on what you're able to do in your life. Accept that you are some conscious entity trapped in your meat robot with its unique hardware and software; you can be the puppeteer controlling your own strings. At the end of the day, none of us are objective entities. You may be looking for a detached perspective that is fundamentally impossible for us to truly achieve, because at the end of the day, you are still trapped in your human body and its limitations and biases all the same. It's okay for you to be you, an animal that interacts with the other animals of its kind. A lack of free will doesn't mean you are any physically less able to pursue achievements, pleasures, close relationships and so on all the same. You can go for these things if you let yourself, and then when you achieve them, you can then placate yourself with the thought that it was all the inevitable outcome anyways if thoughts of free will and determinism still vex you.

    I think these existential crises can be a very complex form of analysis paralysis. It's a constant asking of "Why? Why do anything? Why do this over that?" leading to one doing nothing, but you have to learn to balance that act by being just as vigorous in asking "Why not?" You inevitably do have a self, even if it's tangled up in thoughts about having no self - at the end of the day you're a human all the same governed by its unique programming and experiences. Questioning the nature of your reality means you still have a reality to question, and questions don't make that reality go away. It's okay to play the role of yourself in the world. You might question if you're truly being authentic - am I being me with others, or just playing a role with them? If I have no self, then what does that mean for how I interact with others? But if you can't satisfactorily answer what it means to be "you", then the next, more practical question to address is do I play the role of myself with others, or retreat from interaction with them and the world and be nothing to others? And I think it's easier to answer that to say that yeah, it's preferable that you play the role of yourself rather than being nothing to others.

    You may not be real to yourself, but it's okay to be real to other people. When you interact with others and share your joys and sorrows and boredoms with them, you will very much come across as a real person rather than some selfless husk. So, pandemic pending, think these thoughts all you want as long as you aren't letting them get in the way of interacting with other people and the physical world. You don't have to be perfectly happy or sure of your decisions, as long as you're doing the minimum of making those decisions. Bringing in the Buddhist angle, you have to keep things in balance, a sort of yin and yang. Don't let the life of your mind get in the way of the life of your body. Getting too wrapped up in the life of the mind becomes endless self-reflection with no end, like two mirrors reflecting each other eternally. The self being an illusion doesn't mean that an illusion can't be real. A magic trick is still real even if you know it's a trick, and this is the one trick no one can explain.

    3 votes
    1. [4]
      PhantomBand
      Link Parent
      I understand that it's best to have a pragmatic approach to these sort of things, but if I really think about the implications of not having free will, I think it would effectively mean that...

      You kind of have to try to go full circle with it. So you have no free will. What does that practically mean for you? Does accepting that statement mean you feel any different, that you feel less able than you did yesterday? Embrace the fact that you have programming. There's the life of the mind and then the life of your life. You can have them be different. You can thread the needle of compatibilism by accepting that anything you do is the inevitable result of determinism; however you answer the question of "Do I have free will?" ultimately really has no impact on what you're able to do in your life. Accept that you are some conscious entity trapped in your meat robot with its unique hardware and software; you can be the puppeteer controlling your own strings. At the end of the day, none of us are objective entities. You may be looking for a detached perspective that is fundamentally impossible for us to truly achieve, because at the end of the day, you are still trapped in your human body and its limitations and biases all the same. It's okay for you to be you, an animal that interacts with the other animals of its kind. A lack of free will doesn't mean you are any physically less able to pursue achievements, pleasures, close relationships and so on all the same. You can go for these things if you let yourself, and then when you achieve them, you can then placate yourself with the thought that it was all the inevitable outcome anyways if thoughts of free will and determinism still vex you.

      I understand that it's best to have a pragmatic approach to these sort of things, but if I really think about the implications of not having free will, I think it would effectively mean that nothing I do has any meaning since I never actively chose to do, feel, think or say anything, which I think is the requirement for something to be meaningful. As a result, I feel like morality collapses since following this train of thought, everyone who's a good person and has done good things didn't do this of their own volition since there's none at all, and everyone who's a bad person and has done bad things is not bad either since they didn't really do it out of their own volition either (this concept also basically means that relationships become pretty meaningless and sterile). That's extremely disturbing to me. Pragmatically I understand that people are just like "whatever, everything just stays as-is, it's just a concept, it doesn't impact your life", but I keep fearing that people are just overlooking the more nefarious implications behind these ideas. Even more likely is just that it's my derealization messing with my head, but at the same time... idk, don't these conclusions sound totally plausible? Anyhow, that's definitely the reason why I'm clinging so hard onto free will being real.

      And on a side note, the whole "meat robot" way of talking also always kinda, idk, makes me feel rather gloomy, not sure why that is. But it's kind of a detail so whatever I guess.

      I think these existential crises can be a very complex form of analysis paralysis. It's a constant asking of "Why? Why do anything? Why do this over that?" leading to one doing nothing, but you have to learn to balance that act by being just as vigorous in asking "Why not?"

      That certainly does ring a bell, yeah. It's just hard to counter it, I have practically zero self-esteem so when I see people say stuff like "the self is an illusion", "free will doesn't exist", etc, even in the case that I might come up with a perfectly valid counterargument, I keep fearing the possibility that it's just me being in denial and that they're secretly right.

      You inevitably do have a self, even if it's tangled up in thoughts about having no self - at the end of the day you're a human all the same governed by its unique programming and experiences. Questioning the nature of your reality means you still have a reality to question, and questions don't make that reality go away. It's okay to play the role of yourself in the world. You might question if you're truly being authentic - am I being me with others, or just playing a role with them? If I have no self, then what does that mean for how I interact with others? But if you can't satisfactorily answer what it means to be "you", then the next, more practical question to address is do I play the role of myself with others, or retreat from interaction with them and the world and be nothing to others? And I think it's easier to answer that to say that yeah, it's preferable that you play the role of yourself rather than being nothing to others.

      This is not really what I'm concerned about, I do, in a normal sense, think I am being authentic and stuff, it's just that I fear that it might be an illusion, if people like the buddhists are right. And it seems most people (who know about the topic) lean in that direction, which is unnerving.

      So, pandemic pending, think these thoughts all you want as long as you aren't letting them get in the way of interacting with other people and the physical world. You don't have to be perfectly happy or sure of your decisions, as long as you're doing the minimum of making those decisions. Bringing in the Buddhist angle, you have to keep things in balance, a sort of yin and yang. Don't let the life of your mind get in the way of the life of your body. Getting too wrapped up in the life of the mind becomes endless self-reflection with no end, like two mirrors reflecting each other eternally. The self being an illusion doesn't mean that an illusion can't be real. A magic trick is still real even if you know it's a trick, and this is the one trick no one can explain.

      Two things here;

      1. I do have in fact pretty much zero communication with other people these days, I've been indoors nearly 24/7 since early 2019 and since I live with my parents, they are pretty much the only people I speak to most of the time. For the most part I'm either listening to music, browsing reddit or Tildes, playing games, etc. I also suspect that's why I have derealization.

      2. You say an illusion is not necessarily "not real", but isn't that precisely what an illusion is? A thing that seems real, but isn't? Like, an optical illusion or a mirage. Very interesting part though, I haven't looked at it like that before.

      Thanks for the interesting comment anyhow!

      1. Staross
        Link Parent
        I don't think that quite right, although it depends a bit on what definition if free will you are talking about. But in the "ability to do otherwise" one you are still making decisions, it's just...

        I never actively chose to do, feel, think or say anything

        I don't think that quite right, although it depends a bit on what definition if free will you are talking about. But in the "ability to do otherwise" one you are still making decisions, it's just that if we could rewind the clock and replay the scene you would take the same decision via the same thought process, simply because the same causes would imply the same consequences (if you think about it the contrary would actually be quite disturbing, it would mean your thought process is not reliable). But there's still an active decision process that takes place in your brain-mind that is decisively yours.

        For example if you have a thermostat with a small circuit that is in control of your heating system, even though its mechanically deterministic, it's still doing the decision making locally. And if for some reason it doesn't work you can blame it, throw it away or fix it.

        morality collapses

        It's kind of true if what you want is to blame people, but blaming people is stupid and useless. What we really care about I think is that undesirable outcomes (e.g. murder) occurs as less as possible, and if someone is shown to be prone to murdering, putting that person in jail is justifiable. Plus thinking in terms of causes and consequences is much more efficient in reducing undesirable outcomes, it allows for systemic thinking and prevention.

        2 votes
      2. [2]
        Rez
        Link Parent
        You kind of have to detach further and realize that true detachment is impossible for you as long as you're confined to the limitations of being a human being. You are detached to yourself, but...

        I understand that it's best to have a pragmatic approach to these sort of things, but if I really think about the implications of not having free will, I think it would effectively mean that nothing I do has any meaning since I never actively chose to do, feel, think or say anything, which I think is the requirement for something to be meaningful. As a result, I feel like morality collapses since following this train of thought, everyone who's a good person and has done good things didn't do this of their own volition since there's none at all, and everyone who's a bad person and has done bad things is not bad either since they didn't really do it out of their own volition either (this concept also basically means that relationships become pretty meaningless and sterile). That's extremely disturbing to me. Pragmatically I understand that people are just like "whatever, everything just stays as-is, it's just a concept, it doesn't impact your life", but I keep fearing that people are just overlooking the more nefarious implications behind these ideas. Even more likely is just that it's my derealization messing with my head, but at the same time... idk, don't these conclusions sound totally plausible? Anyhow, that's definitely the reason why I'm clinging so hard onto free will being real.

        You kind of have to detach further and realize that true detachment is impossible for you as long as you're confined to the limitations of being a human being. You are detached to yourself, but when someone looks at you, they just see a human being being a bit weird. There's no objective viewpoint. Morality only collapses if you think you have an objective, detached viewpoint. Why punish the criminal if it was inevitable for the criminal to commit that crime? Well, because it was also inevitable for the punisher to punish the criminal. You're not truly on the outside looking in as some existential judge of humanity, you're always playing a part of some kind in the human narrative and subject to the same constraints you imagine that anyone else has. And so if you acknowledge that, then you can also acknowledge that others act freely, so why not let yourself have that freedom as well? Or do you feel some ineffable force rendering you inert? I assume you have some instincts in you that say that murdering and other crimes are evil. It's okay to acknowledge that you have these base virtuous impulses and let them guide your actions. Additionally, a lack of free will doesn't change the fact that you don't know the future. I don't think a lack of free will necessarily means a lack of meaning - does the definition of meaning depend on free will to you? You can find a movie to be meaningful, but there's no free will to the characters, they're going to play the same role time and time again each time the movie plays.

        I do have in fact pretty much zero communication with other people these days, I've been indoors nearly 24/7 since early 2019 and since I live with my parents, they are pretty much the only people I speak to most of the time. For the most part I'm either listening to music, browsing reddit or Tildes, playing games, etc. I also suspect that's why I have derealization.

        Yes, that would be a significant component to it. Humans are social animals that are products of nature. If you're indoors barely communicating with anyone, you're out of your natural element and psychological issues will naturally follow, e.g. a person pretty reliably starts to lose it if placed into long-term solitary confinement. Consider a zoo. It's understood that to ethically house an animal, you need to properly recreate their natural environment and fill it with enough creatures of their kind as befits socialization. An ethical alien zookeeper would not keep you in a house with just your parents, they would place you in a savanna with a tribe of humans.

        If you want to ameliorate this existential crisis, you first have to acknowledge that it's going to be basically impossible to salve it if you're on house arrest. You have to try to make connections where safe and appropriate. Why not call up some old friend or acquaintance? You might say - well our relationship isn't at that point. But a relationship only gets there if you take it there. I understand that you're young, but I'm not sure exactly how young. If you've basically only been through the school system until the pandemic, then so far life has basically just been a thing that happens to you instead of something you're shaping. Then with the pandemic, life basically stopped for you it seems. It is a skill you have to learn to stop being passive in order to start actively shaping and creating your own life experience, rather than only letting life happen to you. You don't have to know how all things end to justify taking action, you just have to let yourself be an actor on that stage of life rather than a mere audience member. It really is okay for you to try much anything as long as you aren't hurting people. You have to work to cultivate your own interests and passions. The media portrayal of people consumed and driven by their passions concerns very few people; the rest of us have to cultivate that, and I'm not sure I would want to be a slave to a passion anyways. I get to cultivate and direct my own nature. You have to learn to be a part of the world, and not merely an observer or consumer.

        You say an illusion is not necessarily "not real", but isn't that precisely what an illusion is? A thing that seems real, but isn't? Like, an optical illusion or a mirage. Very interesting part though, I haven't looked at it like that before.

        Well, consider the idea that reality may be a simulation. It could be true. And if it is true, doesn't that mean that all of "reality" is an illusion, and always has been? Yet it subjectively feels real all the same. You have thoughts in your mind that are not the product of what your physical senses feed you about reality (or about the simulation) you know these thoughts exist absent any input from the real world, e.g. dreams. This is what is meant by solipsism and "Cogito, ergo sum". You can build your foundation of your perception of reality from this. You, above all, know that your mind is real. Your real mind feels like it has free will; that feeling is therefore real too. If free will is truly an illusion, no one has yet been able to raise the curtain on it. From a scientific viewpoint, you have to act on the evidence, even if it's personalized evidence. You have no proof that free will isn't real. But you have proof that your mind exists and that it feels like it has free will. So the evidence that exists leans towards the direction, that you have free will (you don't know about others, such as me, i.e. philosophical zombies), but you can say it for yourself which is all you need to do for your existential crisis. If you fundamentally can't tell the difference between what's real and illusory, what's left but to conclude that it must be real until proven otherwise? If free will is a perfect illusion, then a perfect illusion must be indistinguishable from being real, and therefore real, otherwise what then qualifies it as an illusion if you can't justify that? Life itself will always have an element of verisimilitude, where the truth is stranger than fiction.

        1 vote
        1. PhantomBand
          Link Parent
          This part resonates strongly, and yes I understand that the current situation is extremely problematic. The thing is, indeed so far everything has just.. happened to me (I'm 21 now btw). I have...

          If you want to ameliorate this existential crisis, you first have to acknowledge that it's going to be basically impossible to salve it if you're on house arrest. You have to try to make connections where safe and appropriate. Why not call up some old friend or acquaintance? You might say - well our relationship isn't at that point. But a relationship only gets there if you take it there. I understand that you're young, but I'm not sure exactly how young. If you've basically only been through the school system until the pandemic, then so far life has basically just been a thing that happens to you instead of something you're shaping. Then with the pandemic, life basically stopped for you it seems. It is a skill you have to learn to stop being passive in order to start actively shaping and creating your own life experience, rather than only letting life happen to you. You don't have to know how all things end to justify taking action, you just have to let yourself be an actor on that stage of life rather than a mere audience member. It really is okay for you to try much anything as long as you aren't hurting people. You have to work to cultivate your own interests and passions. The media portrayal of people consumed and driven by their passions concerns very few people; the rest of us have to cultivate that, and I'm not sure I would want to be a slave to a passion anyways. I get to cultivate and direct my own nature. You have to learn to be a part of the world, and not merely an observer or consumer.

          This part resonates strongly, and yes I understand that the current situation is extremely problematic. The thing is, indeed so far everything has just.. happened to me (I'm 21 now btw). I have had pretty bad social anxiety since I was a kid, and though I've had many uncomfortable situations (not actually bad ones, just uncomfortable because of anxiety), I've been practically "pushed" to go through with those anyways. Now, in early 2019 I finished exams of my last study, and since then... well yeah, it's a bit like a commercial break in the middle of a movie, except one that has been going on for way longer than it should've. The problem is, at some point I was going to get help with this and look for a job, but then the pandemic happened so on top of my usual sedentary, isolated lifestyle the pandemic also reinforced it, then I get derealization all out of nowhere in august that year and since then I've been in some sort of psychological horror story (well, it feels like that at least) where I slowly stumbled upon all of those topics I'm talking about, and now it feels like everything has just pretty much gone crazy. It's incredibly hard to get out of this phase. I understand that now is the time to do something, but I'm practically in a death grip by social anxiety (and the pandemic), so I'm stuck like a brick in a wall.

          Well, consider the idea that reality may be a simulation. It could be true. And if it is true, doesn't that mean that all of "reality" is an illusion, and always has been?

          There's a bit of an easy way around this particular thing though: if everything is an illusion, then the distinction between reality and illusion instantly disappears since there's no "other" to compare it to, so everything effectively becomes real again.

          Yet it subjectively feels real all the same. You have thoughts in your mind that are not the product of what your physical senses feed you about reality (or about the simulation) you know these thoughts exist absent any input from the real world, e.g. dreams. This is what is meant by solipsism and "Cogito, ergo sum". You can build your foundation of your perception of reality from this. You, above all, know that your mind is real. Your real mind feels like it has free will; that feeling is therefore real too. If free will is truly an illusion, no one has yet been able to raise the curtain on it. From a scientific viewpoint, you have to act on the evidence, even if it's personalized evidence. You have no proof that free will isn't real. But you have proof that your mind exists and that it feels like it has free will. So the evidence that exists leans towards the direction, that you have free will (you don't know about others, such as me, i.e. philosophical zombies), but you can say it for yourself which is all you need to do for your existential crisis. If you fundamentally can't tell the difference between what's real and illusory, what's left but to conclude that it must be real until proven otherwise? If free will is a perfect illusion, then a perfect illusion must be indistinguishable from being real, and therefore real, otherwise what then qualifies it as an illusion if you can't justify that? Life itself will always have an element of verisimilitude, where the truth is stranger than fiction.

          Interesting, thanks for that (and the rest).

  5. [2]
    post_below
    Link
    All the time. I think it's healthy to explore fundamental meaning and mortality, given that these things seem to so strongly, and often transparently, drive people's choices. Some people fill the...

    All the time. I think it's healthy to explore fundamental meaning and mortality, given that these things seem to so strongly, and often transparently, drive people's choices.

    Some people fill the void with pursuit of legacy, or quantifiable success that can be recognized by society at large. Others have religion or spiritual practices. There are endless ways to address the problem, which to me is evidence of it's magnitude.

    If you're lucky enough to be satisfied with an external system of meaning then there are plenty of pre packaged answers to meaning and mortality. Christianity seems to have the best marketing :)

    If not, embrace the void! The alternative is avoiding the question which, in my experience, just causes people to continue to be driven by the same fears without being consciously aware of it.

    I'm generally content with the idea that there is no fundamental meaning, which makes the meaning we create that much more profound. It's a kind of magic, making meaning.

    And there's the age old antidote to mortality: love. If you feel connected, it takes the edge off of existential questions.

    Maybe the pursuit of connection, and the meaning it creates, is the most useful answer. It also helps to be doing things with your days that you feel passionate about.

    Or to put it another way, it's all arbitrary bullshit, but brain drugs (oxytocin, dopamine) help a hell of a lot.

    3 votes
    1. ChuckS
      Link Parent
      This is pretty much the conclusion I've come to. If death is an empty void, if all eternity after I die is going to feel exactly the same as all eternity before I was born, then I've got this time...

      If not, embrace the void!

      This is pretty much the conclusion I've come to. If death is an empty void, if all eternity after I die is going to feel exactly the same as all eternity before I was born, then I've got this time to do what I want.

      It's my only chance, so I need to do the things that are meaningful and rewarding. I'm trying to be present as much as possible in the now with the realization that time is passing.

      1 vote
  6. bendersteed
    Link
    In judging such theories and asking which is true, I try to setup the environment in which I'm thinking: why am I thinking this? ie what is the gain of better understanding of that issue? what do...

    In judging such theories and asking which is true, I try to setup the environment in which I'm thinking:

    1. why am I thinking this? ie what is the gain of better understanding of that issue? what do I want to achieve?
    2. how am I going to approach this? what axioms am I accepting based on 1 so that I can judge the theory.

    In setting up the environment I try to understand things that I want to change, challenge and create. Only by observing the self, you can move forward in self-education. However some tools (and each theory in my mind is a tool) can only work good in a limited number of cases. Thus if you feel that your current theories don't align well with what you want (they become a non-creative struggle) feel free to try out others. Theory without practice is mostly moot.

    2 votes
  7. [6]
    Staross
    Link
    I think the issue here is why do you have so much emotional investment in those questions ? Personally I don't care too much, I mostly see these questions as intellectual masturbation (that's not...

    I think the issue here is why do you have so much emotional investment in those questions ? Personally I don't care too much, I mostly see these questions as intellectual masturbation (that's not saying it's a bad thing, masturbation is generally nice).

    It's often the case I find that people that do have some religious or spiritual background in which they have been sold (or sold themselves) grandiose, abstract ideas of "the self" or "free will", such that when those get knocked down a bit they feel major distress about it.

    In your case it could just be your derealization, hopefully you are being followed for that.

    2 votes
    1. [5]
      PhantomBand
      Link Parent
      I'm not really sure, it's just kinda like I'm losing grip on what's real and what's not and it's like I've stumbled upon forbidden knowledge and now there's no way back it seems.

      I'm not really sure, it's just kinda like I'm losing grip on what's real and what's not and it's like I've stumbled upon forbidden knowledge and now there's no way back it seems.

      2 votes
      1. [4]
        Gaywallet
        Link Parent
        Imagine for a second that you could wave a wand and gain omniscience into whether everything is real or fake. How would this shape how you interact with the world? You're still living in this...

        Imagine for a second that you could wave a wand and gain omniscience into whether everything is real or fake. How would this shape how you interact with the world? You're still living in this reality, whether it is fake or real - so how does this knowledge change the actions you are to take in the future?

        I believe the solace you seek is through the examination of "okay I know this, now what" and not on focusing on the knowledge itself.

        nowadays I freak out over the whole "self is an illusion" thing that's super prevalent in buddhist/drugs users/science circles, and it's by far the hardest to overcome.

        This is a recognition of how our own consciousness affects our ability to perceive things. To someone who is blind, color may not exist for them and therefore the way they observe and perceive the world is, in essence, an illusion from which they cannot escape. The statement is not meant to discredit the idea of someone existing, but rather to help put into words the idea that we perceive the world through a particular lens and that lens cannot possibly include everything (omniscience).

        4 votes
        1. [3]
          PhantomBand
          Link Parent
          I think this it yeah, right now they feel like massive questions I have to find an answer for before doing anything else. But I kinda want them done with so I can move on.

          I believe the solace you seek is through the examination of "okay I know this, now what" and not on focusing on the knowledge itself.

          I think this it yeah, right now they feel like massive questions I have to find an answer for before doing anything else. But I kinda want them done with so I can move on.

          1 vote
          1. [2]
            Gaywallet
            Link Parent
            Right, so how does this knowledge change what you do? If you know everything is real - how do you interact with the world from now on? If you know everything is fake - how do you interact with the...

            Right, so how does this knowledge change what you do? If you know everything is real - how do you interact with the world from now on? If you know everything is fake - how do you interact with the world from now on? How much or how little overlap you find between the two outcomes may shape the importance of how imminently you need to answer this question or whether this question is important at all.

            I often find people are very adamant about finding out the answer to a question they have about patient care at my work, only to take no different action once they have the data because the answer to this question does not inform them of how to change their interaction. Asking them upfront about what they intend to do with this information is often more important than asking what they want to answer first. They will often find different, more important questions which are tangential to the original curiosity which can and do shape how they interact with patients. This is where true value lies.

            2 votes
            1. PhantomBand
              Link Parent
              I don't really have any rational response for that, it's more just anxiety grasping to it. But I think if I'll encounter some shocking answers that I wasn't hoping to see, that'll probably make me...

              I don't really have any rational response for that, it's more just anxiety grasping to it. But I think if I'll encounter some shocking answers that I wasn't hoping to see, that'll probably make me pretty detached and more anxious.

              1 vote
  8. [2]
    ShroudedMouse
    Link
    You're doing philosophy the way philosophy teachers like to see it done - through lived experiences. These big ideas are like big meals that takes months/years to digest. Keep chewing I say and...

    You're doing philosophy the way philosophy teachers like to see it done - through lived experiences. These big ideas are like big meals that takes months/years to digest. Keep chewing I say and try not to cram too much in at once.

    When you're ready for more though, I suggest checking out different theories of Truth. Pragmatic, Consistent, Correspondent and Consensual are the four classical approaches.

    Exploring this stuff can be incredibly isolating (99% of people won't give a shit) so, again, please take care and try to remain connected to the rest of the world while you do it. :)

    2 votes
    1. PhantomBand
      Link Parent
      Honestly I never asked to get into all of this and I just want to live a normal life and let the people who care about it do it.

      Honestly I never asked to get into all of this and I just want to live a normal life and let the people who care about it do it.

      1 vote
  9. vaddi
    (edited )
    Link
    While I can't say that I've studied or even read about philosophical ideas such as nihilism and existentialism in depth (sometimes I like to read Wikipedia pages about this stuff, but that is...

    While I can't say that I've studied or even read about philosophical ideas such as nihilism and existentialism in depth (sometimes I like to read Wikipedia pages about this stuff, but that is about it), I can say that I personally believe that life is absurd and devoid of meaning. However I got to the conclusion that simply believing such thing does not bring me any benefit, and as a in someways minimalist I like to only keep stuff that has purpose or is somehow useful to me, be it physical objects or even ideas/concepts. In fact it can even get in the way and negatively impact your well being and daily comfort (and I really do like to feel comfortable).
    So I kinda try to use this idea in a conscious way when I need it, like a special ability that you only use sometimes in a video game.

    For instance I have some goals in mind, stuff that I want to do, not because I think they are worth or meaningful but simply because I want to do them. Stuff that we want to do more often than not depend on other people too. So when working towards those goals I try to drop my beliefs, put them on pause, and adjust as much as I can to the people around me so that I can help them help me. But I can also use my beliefs in the other way, when I'm feeling too stressed about something I try to remind myself that none of this really matters. In the grand scheme of things we are nothing, so why should I be stressing about stuff?

    Regarding free will, we do what society wants us to do. That is basically it. It is up to us to try and personalize our life as much as we can, but the majority of it is dependent on where, when and with whom we live. But we get to be able to personalize it a bit :)

    1 vote
  10. MonkeyPants
    Link
    @DMBruce touched on the slow track. The older you get, the less you will likely suffer existential dread. @Grimalkin gave you a tried and true way to fast track things, although acid is risky in...

    @DMBruce touched on the slow track. The older you get, the less you will likely suffer existential dread.

    @Grimalkin gave you a tried and true way to fast track things, although acid is risky in your current state of mind.

    But it almost seems you are being influenced by what you read. Consider reading something uplifting, like Tuesdays with Morrie.

    1 vote
  11. [8]
    Good_Apollo
    Link
    This is like asking if other people breathe oxygen. I’m pretty sure everyone struggles with existentialism. It’s tough, and for obvious reasons I don’t think you’ll ever find total relief or...

    This is like asking if other people breathe oxygen. I’m pretty sure everyone struggles with existentialism.

    It’s tough, and for obvious reasons I don’t think you’ll ever find total relief or answers. Some people claim religion does it for them but I have my doubts. There’s a difference between satiation and just pretending you’re not hungry.

    1. [7]
      PhantomBand
      Link Parent
      I don't think so, from what I can tell some struggle with it, some find it interesting, most don't really care. And existentialism is a philosophy, I think you mean existential thoughts in...

      I’m pretty sure everyone struggles with existentialism.

      I don't think so, from what I can tell some struggle with it, some find it interesting, most don't really care. And existentialism is a philosophy, I think you mean existential thoughts in general?

      It’s tough, and for obvious reasons I don’t think you’ll ever find total relief or answers

      Answers I agree, but I think I won't really mind those thoughts anymore once the derealization is gone.

      1. [6]
        Good_Apollo
        Link Parent
        Like death I think people pretend not to care, to others and even themselves, but they do. It's part of the human condition.

        Like death I think people pretend not to care, to others and even themselves, but they do. It's part of the human condition.

        1. Sand
          Link Parent
          It's part of the human condition to care about whether free will is real or not?

          It's part of the human condition to care about whether free will is real or not?

          2 votes
        2. [4]
          PhantomBand
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          Don't you think it's a bit overblown to claim this as some universal truth?

          Don't you think it's a bit overblown to claim this as some universal truth?

          1 vote
          1. [3]
            post_below
            Link Parent
            Assuming they're talking about existential thoughts (related to meaning and existence, almost always involving impermanence) I'd say it's fair to call it universal. No doubt some people make it...

            Assuming they're talking about existential thoughts (related to meaning and existence, almost always involving impermanence) I'd say it's fair to call it universal. No doubt some people make it through life without ever thinking about it, but those people are a rare exception.

            1. [2]
              PhantomBand
              Link Parent
              But not like in a 24/7 sense, right?

              But not like in a 24/7 sense, right?

              1. post_below
                Link Parent
                Right... unrelated to this branch, but rather about the whole thread: When it comes to meaning, there's no answer. No one knows what the hell is going on. And if it's really all meaningless, may...

                Right... unrelated to this branch, but rather about the whole thread: When it comes to meaning, there's no answer. No one knows what the hell is going on. And if it's really all meaningless, may as well find something fun to do while it lasts.

                Not that wondering about it isn't good. I wish everyone did more of that. But at a certain point, if you're just spinning, change gears. Hang out with great people, or go wander around somewhere wild. Do something physical and hard. We're built to move and engage more than a lot of us have been during the pandemic.

                Might not help, but can't hurt :)

  12. mrbig
    (edited )
    Link
    I'm religious and I do think there's a logic to the events of life, but at the same time I frequently entertain a sense of absurdism that gives me perspective while failing to drive me into...

    I'm religious and I do think there's a logic to the events of life, but at the same time I frequently entertain a sense of absurdism that gives me perspective while failing to drive me into despair. I believe it is frequently impossible to understand the events of our own lives, and it is important to welcome those feelings, but I still believe there is an ultimate meaning even if I'm not able to grasp it yet.

    Maybe you should read some absurdism in art, it can be oddly comforting. Paul Auster is certainly interesting. I love Beckett's Waiting for Godot. I'm sure you can watch it on YouTube if you prefer.

    Or maybe some Borges.