Sunday, October 11, 2009

Preceding Camus

There seems to be some controversy over the role of genetics and external influence in our daily lives, whether or not our specific facticities, viewed through the lens of a geneticist or behaviorist, inhibit the practice of free will. For those born with one or more mental disorders, such as major (or severe) depressive disorder or generalized anxiety disorder, the feeling of free will is diminished in many cases. Often an overpowering sense of despair crushes the will to action, causing the depressed person to sit inert for any stretch of time. Alcoholism is a different bag. Some people use alcohol as a coping mechanism for the absurdity of life, its lack of external meaning, and the specific hardships faced, such as a splintered family. Sartre defines freedom as “autonomy of choice,” but he describes hardship in strictly physical terms in “Freedom and Facticity: The Situation,” using the example of the crag. He claims that the only limits placed on freedom are those which it imposes on itself, those created by attempting to perform some impracticable feat. However, a mental disorder does not lie without, something optional for a human to encounter. The generation of hardship on someone with life-long, hereditary depression does not require a person to attempt anything other than everyday life; external factors may exacerbate the problem but many times do not produce it. Hence an issue arises when Sartre asks, “Is not this sadness itself a conduct?” (231). At least with depression, it is an effect, not a choice of any sort. It often bubbles to the surface following the slightest mishap and sometimes skips over major tragedies. Perhaps it is also the case that in such an affected state, one recognizes the absurdity of life more often than others; people get caught up in whatever purpose they have created for themselves, be it a job, school, family life, and do not recognize the dark lens through which many others view the world. The need for “a reason to get out of bed” is recognition of the need for constant struggle for meaning, a seemingly simple exercise of free choice with which the depressed person has trouble. For some, merely dealing with the ubiquitous lack of integrity in modern life (i.e. the YellaWood guy, Corey Trotz commercials) is enough to inspire a move to the country, or to another country. I suppose a more direct involvement with the absurdity of life and the question of suicide would be helpful at this point, instead of the skirting I have provided here, but soon we’ll read a selection from Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus.

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