left biblioblography: Philosophy 101–Essence Vs. Existence

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Philosophy 101–Essence Vs. Existence

“Existence precedes essence” – Sartre. Existentialistsheep

Cross posted @ the Atheist Oasis

As a nice change of pace, let’s discuss an existentialist concept, a very divisive one. It cuts to the very root of the dissension between theist and atheist.

Is this the ‘what came first, the chicken or the egg” question? Well, the reality is, the egg precedes the chicken by some millions of years. (Of course, the creationists still think this is a pertinent question – which is why nobody engages them in a ‘debate’ anymore.)

What prompted this post (no, this is not a ‘blog’, it’s a blog POST – I wish people would get this right!) was that I was watching a new show on Netflix, called ‘Madam Secretary’. It’s quite good. However, at one point in the pilot episode, Dr. Elizabeth Faulkner McCord’s husband is introduced, a one Dr. Henry McCord, a professor of theology. The moment was showcased by his claiming that ‘essence precedes existence’.

Now, due to the entrenchment of religion in our culture, my response a decade ago would’ve been, ‘wow, how interesting’. But this was one of those ‘yell at the TV moments’, and caused me to straightaway look this nonsense up. (Despite one of my recent muck-ups, yes I do indeed research 99% of the time, even when I’m confident I’m right.)

This then, is the source of ideological divisiveness in this country. Claiming that essence precedes existence is essentially a dualist concept (and we all know how much I detest dualism) – and it is what fuels the conflict between the ‘pro-lifers’ (another nauseating neologism I despise) and the pro-choice crowd. It is the belief that a soul exists.

This is presuppositionalist nonsense. It is anything but rational, anything but scientific.  It is, however, an invidious, insidious concept that we are surrounded by, in multiple forms, both blatant and subtle. It is so much in our culture, that when someone says ‘energy is never destroyed, it only transforms’ (in reference to the claim of soul existence) that I almost pop a vein.

As a reductive materialist, everything is rooted in the physical. And until there is some replicable results that prove otherwise using strict empirical methods, that’s it. Done. We’re here, we are, get used to it.

Because as I constantly tell people (being an aged flatulence means I get to repeat myself more often than someone younger), it’s not about whether the energy is still there – it’s a question of, what happens to the information? Because that is the actual crux of that issue lies here – if the book is burned, what happens to the words?

They become ash. That’s all. Any other proposition is wild speculation without scientific proof.

Till the next post, then.

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