Sinking into Chaos

The world no longer appears as an ideal place in which what happens or what is rational must happen. It does not guarantee on all the victory of the forces of good, of an ideal natural and moral order. On the contrary, the general tendency of the universe is to entropy and chaos.

time We swim upstream against a great torrent of disorganization that tends to reduce everything in balance and uniformity, to the thermal death described by the second law of thermodynamics. What Maxwell, Boltzmann and Gibbs understand through thermal death in physics has a correspondent in the Kirkegaard’s ethics, who showed that we live in a chaotic moral universe.

In this chaotic universe, our primary duty is to introduce arbitrary order and system enclaves. These enclaves won’t remain here indefinitely after we established them, just like the Red Queen from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass book. In the country led by Red Queen the earth turns so fast that just running at the same speed in the opposite direction you can stand still.

We cannot stay where we are unless we run as fast as we can. We are not fighting for a definitive victory in an undefined future. The greatest possible victory is to be, to continue to be and to have been.

No defeat can deprive us of the success of having existed at some point in time in a universe we are indifferent to. This attitude doesn’t mean defeatism, but rather the sense of tragedy that dominates the world, a world where necessity is represented by the inevitable disappearance of differentiation.

from Norbert Wiener, I Am a Mathematician

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Storm and Stress

In Germany, Enlightenment was followed by a movement called “Sturm und Drang” (Storm and Stress), animated by national ideals and militating for naturalism, and affirmation of sensitivity and genius. The rediscovery of the ancient ideal and the idea of man’s accomplishment characterize the orentation represented by Schiller, Hölderlin and Herder, and which found its superior illustration in Goethe’s writings.

Johann_Wolfgang_von_Goethe_(Josef_Stieler)

Johann Wolfgang Goethe (1749-1832), the greatest German writer and one of the brilliant spirits of humanity, was a personality developed in many areas, concerned with literature, art and science, excelling in all areas he had approached, and he can not be framed in a single domain.

The most important of these is his literary work, which includes lyrics, dramas and tragedies.

His masterpiece Faust is a creation whose elaboration had lasted almost 60 years, being complex and difficult to fit into a particular literary species. Goethe called it a tragedy, but we can think of it as a philosophical drama or a dramatic poem.

The subject of the man who has sold his soul to the devil appears in a medieval legend and, in the form of Dr. Faust, in folk books of the Renaissance. These sources of inspiration were used by Goethe in a original way and subordinate to a fundamental theme: the meaning of existance.

His masterpiece is preceded by a Worship and a double prologue: Prologue in Theater, an opportunity for Goethe to express his ideas about literature, and a Prologue in the Sky. Here comes a bet of God and Mephistopheles, the devil convinced that man is dominated by the principle of evil and who has committed to winning Faust’s soul.

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Faust is an old scientist at the end of hsi life full of study, and he expresses his dissatisfaction with the futility of never-complete knowledge. The tought of committing suicide is eliminated by the joy of the holidays outside and the crowd’s laugh in the nature of spring.

Mephistopheles appears at Faust and the two ones conclude a pact by which the scientist gets the youth and pleasures, promising Mephistopheles to give him his soul when the happiness will cause him to ask time to stop.

The adventures of Faust symbolize the steps of man in gaining happiness. Finally, Faust find happiness in the active life, in the useful creation for people. Old again and blind, pursued by Care, Faust has the vision of creative work in freedom and asks the moment to stop:

“To live with the free people on the free fields,

At that moment I would like to say to it for the first time:

Stay, you are so beautiful !”

Faust dies, but Mephistopheles won’t get his soul becaause his generous deed has forgiven him for the sin.

from Ovidiu Drimba, Literatura universala

 

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Albert Camus – Philosopher of Absurdity and Revolt

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Albert Camus

The Camus family, of Alsatian origin, moved to Algeria in 1871. Here, in Mondovi, Albert Camus was born on November 7, 1913, as the son of wine-maker Lucien Camus, who died soon of the injuries suffered in the Battle of Marna.

Camus’s childhood was sad and full of poverty and lived in an environment of poor and sick people living in a peripheral neighborhood of Algires, where his mother soon moved after her husband’s death.

During the school years Camus read with interest the work of Marcel Proust. He studied philosophy at the University of Algeiers, but at the same time he had to work to live.

After the invasion of France by Nazi Germany, Camus entered the Resistance, and in 1943 his resistance group moved to Paris. After war Camus traveled to North America, South America, Algeria and Italy.

Albert Camus is awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1957. He died in 1960 in a car accident.

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Camus’s book, The Myth of Sisyphus, belongs to the philosophy of the absurd. Sisyphus, a character of Greek-Latin mythology, has been condmned to always roll a boulder to the top of a mountain, boulder that  then rolls back to the valley, symbolizing the tragic existance of man. Between man and society, on the one hand, and between man and the universe on the other hand, there is an abyss that can’t be crossed. Man was not destined for the perfection to which he tends without ceasing, but for the misery of everyday life.

However, life must be lived, and man has found in the tragedy of his existance a way to face the absurd. Moreover, “Sisyphus find in his eternal torture the feeling of dignity, for although he was condemned to defeat, he doesn’t abandon but defy his destiny”.

sisif-camus

The Stranger is the literary transposition of ideas from The Myth of Sisyphus. The hero of the novel, Meursault, tells first seemingly meaningless occurrences, but which have decisively marked his existance. He’s not an exuberant, but an internalized. At the funeral of his mother he didn’t cry, and being asked if he loved his mother he was silent. The charcter seems to be an aboulic man. But one day on the beach being crazy because of the warmth of the sun, he kills an Arab.

“Killing because of the sun” is not a plausible reason for justice and the hero is sentenced to death. During his trial, he was accused of not having loved his mother because he did not cry to her death, which led the judge to consider him a man lacking human feelings.

In the days before execution, Meursault revisits his existance, finding it absurd, meaningless… Life is absurd, and people can not touch the absolute truth during their existance, which is why they will be condemned one day.

Ovidiu Dramba, Literatura universala

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