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Thread: Are we playing a fictional role in life?

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    Are we playing a fictional role in life?

    Are we playing a fictional role in life?

    Sapiens are a species that has lost many of their animal instincts and our “soul” replaces these instincts. I use the word ‘soul’ to signify what many might call consciousness, spirit, conscience, mind, reason, etc. We are thus thrust out of the arms of Mother Nature and onto our own ability to adapt and survive. We are forced into replacing the natural selection process, which has led to our evolution, and we are thrown upon our own abilities to adapt or to be extinguished. It is our “soul” that creates the games we play. These games replace natural selection; and determine our survival as a species.

    Socrates was an intuitive genius, who may have been the first to understand that man needs to function in a shared social fiction before he can earn his own social honor, and social approval. But even Socrates could not intuit the degree to which this need was rooted. He could not see how deep ‘social performance’ goes and the degree that it is rooted in the anxiety of all sapiens. Humans cannot recognize their own self-worth without the word from their own social group.

    We have successfully struggled against Mother Nature to gain great material wealth only to discover that, as Pogo might say, “we have met the enemy and it is us”. The enemy is our great material play-form itself; it is our own profit-and-loss economy, our money-over-the-counter game that is defeating us. We have lost all relationship with our nature. Our created fiction has crippled our ability to rationally adapt to our world we have created. We run as fast as we can from school to shopping center to the bank and back home in our new SUV only to discover that the gods have already made us mad. Our own fictions are killing us.

    War itself is a fiction, it is a game, and it is a play-form. Roman civilization itself was a great “potlatch spirit” (a ceremonial feast of the American Indian of the northwest coast marked by the host’s lavish distribution of gifts or sometimes destruction of property to demonstrate wealth and generosity with the expectation of eventual reciprocation). What begins as simple contests, develop into complex play-forms. “Poetry, art, law, philosophy, war—all are contests or play-forms.”

    To call them play-forms is not to say that they are not serious. In our great game of society we create meaning; fictional meaning but nevertheless these fictions are life-meaning fictions. Me and Earnest agree, our problem is that we must create better fictions to live by, because our present fictions are killing us.

    What is the difference between playing a fictional role in life versus a non-fictional role?

    Ideas and quotes from Beyond Alienation by Ernest Becker

  2. #2
    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    Are you being serious?
    War itself is a fiction, it is a game
    Let me tell you my friend. If you were to be hit by a 7.62mm bullet fired from an AK-47 or 5.56mm from a M16 rifle you would know just how real war is. I get up every morning, I shower, dress, and go work for 9 or 10 hours a day. At the end of a day I'm pretty damned tired. I ain't playing any fictional role. I ain't playing any games. I'm earning a living. This philosophic mumbo jumbo is laughable.
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

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    Dreaming away Sapphire's Avatar
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    I have to say, that by using the words "fictional" and "game" my common sense reaction would be "you cannot be serious - life is but a game?!". That is hard to accept

    But in the defenitions you mention, I take it that, as It is our “soul” that creates the games we play, life can not be anything else. If you want meaning to life, it has to be a game. Now that is an interesting way to look at it...
    Do I understand correctly, that it is impossible for people with soul to lead a non-fictional life? The question What is the difference between playing a fictional role in life versus a non-fictional role? would then be answered by "using your soul".
    I can not see, in this context, how humans could possibly play a non-fictional role.

    I wonder how Becker thinks about philosophists like Rousseau. Does he mention anything about Rousseau's teachings?

    And why, oh why, did he choose the loaden words "game" and "fiction" to describe our every day life? Was he maybe inspired by Shakespeare, All the world is a stage, and all the men and women merely players?
    It is not too late, to be wild for roundabouts - to be wild for life
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    Registered User JacobF's Avatar
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    I think there's a difference between experiencing something intellectually and being there first hand. The concept of war is like a game -- you have two sides pitted against each other both trying to achieve victory. But I think, like Virgil said, as a soldier fighting in that war, you aren't playing a game. I think war is one of the most "real" things in the world, close to love.

    And you say we've lost our animal instincts. By that, I'm guessing you mean the desire to reproduce, scavenge for food etc. But still, most of our actions, even the ones which are unique to humans, stem from our biology. Conscience, mind and reason and the capacity in which we achieve these things comes from our brain. Therefore, I'm not sure how you can say we are "thrust out of the arms of mother nature." As a species we're still evolving.

    I think I know what you mean by "us playing a fictional role" -- the world which we have contrived for ourselves -- but I still don't see how going to work, the mall and the bank are fictional tasks. We're contributing to our species, technically, when we go the the bank and make a deposit, go to school and educate our children to they can contribute to their society, and go the mall to bring food home to our families. Please point out what exactly is "fictional" in all this. Artificial, materialistic, and mundane? Possibly. But fictional? I don't see it.

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    As one example I think that our role as consumer is very large, it is a fictional role, and is alien to our nature.

    This role as consumer has led us into our credit card mania that has resulted in our financial melt down.

    Our role as parent is certainly not fictional.


    We still have instincts but they play a much diminished role in our welfare. Our welfare is determined primarily by our artificial life of meaning that we have created.

    The great truth of human nature is that wo/man strives for meaning. S/he imposes on raw experience symbolic categories of thought, and does so with conceptual structures of thought. “All human problems are, in the last resort, problems of the soul.”—Otto Rank

    In the nineteenth century, after two hundred years of opposition paradigms, science faced the dilemma: if we make wo/man to be totally an object of science, to be as this object merely a conglomeration of atoms and wheels then where is there a place for freedom? How can such a collection of mere atoms be happy, and fashion the Good Life?

    The best thinkers of the Enlightenment followed by the best of the nineteenth century were caught in the dilemma of a materialistic psychology. Does not the inner wo/man disappear when humans are made into an object of science? On the other hand if we succumb to the mode of the middle Ages, when the Church kept man firmly under the wraps of medieval superstitions, do we not give up all hope for self-determined man?

    “Yet, we want man to be the embodiment of free, undetermined subjectivity, because this is the only thing that keeps him interesting in all of nature…It sums up the whole tragedy of the Enlightenment vision of science.” There are still those who would willingly surrender wo/man to Science because of their fear of an ever encroaching superstitious enemy.

    Kant broke open this frustrating dilemma. By showing that sapiens could not know nature in its stark reality, that sapiens had no intellectual access to the thing-in-itself, that humans could never know a nature that transcended their epistemology, Kant “defeated materialistic psychology, even while keeping its gains. He centered nature on man, and so made psychology subjective; but he also showed the limitations of human perceptions in nature, and so he could be objective about them, and about man himself. In a word man was at once, limited creature, and bottomless mystery, object and subject…Thus it kept the best of materialism, and guaranteed more than materialism ever could: the protection of man’s freedom, and the preservation of his inner mystery.”

    After Kant, Schilling illuminated the uniqueness of man’s ideas, and the limitations from any ideal within nature. Schilling gave us modern wo/man. Materialism and idealism was conjoined. Wo/man functioned under the aegis of whole ideas, just as the idealists wanted, and thus man became an object of science while maintaining freedom of self-determination.

    The great truth of the nineteenth century was that produced by William Dilthey, which was what wo/man constantly strived for. “It was “meaning” said Dilthey, meaning is the great truth about human nature. Everything that lives, lives by drawing together strands of experience as a basis for its action; to live is to act, to move forward into the world of experience…Meaning is the relationship between parts of experience.” Man does not do this drawing together on the basis of simple experience but on the basis of concepts. Man imposes symbolic categories of thought on raw experience. His conception of life determines the manner in which s/he values all of its parts.

    Concludes Dilthey, meaning “is the comprehensive category through which life becomes comprehensible…Man is the meaning-creating animal.”

    Does it make sense to you that “All human problems are, in the last resort, problems of the soul”??

    Quotes and ideas from “Beyond Alienation” Becker

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    Coberst that's an interesting use of the word fictions. Correct me if I am wrong but are you saying that the method of current governing is far removed from how humans are supposed to behave innately? Yes we are animals, but why do we have to prescribe to natural selection the way nature intended? Does innate necessarily mean better or more fitting?

    I think that our current "fictions" is really just a manifestation of natural selection. Whats the point of raising your child better than your neighbors if you do not just want your DNA to have a better chance of survival. In order to have a better child you need more money, time and education. Therefore all the posturing of material wealth is a manifestation of the same innate function. That goes the same for war; much of which was posturing and the desire to rid other strains of DNA in order to promote your own.

    I'm going to have to disagree with the statement that our current "fictions" are killing us. I think it has been more forgiving and merciful. If we are completely acting the way nature intended, it would be cruel. Natural selection doesn't really pity anyone where as our current institutions do. I rather have systems of obtaining wealth and trading where at its worse people are poor rather than dead. If anything we are moving away from wars and physical contest and more into material capital contests. It comes down to individuals and corporations battling for pieces of the wealth. I would prefer this fiction over primal contests and concerns.

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    I use fictional to mean not natural. In this sense consumerism is fictional parenting is natural. Most of the things that we will kill or die for are fictional. Most of the modern world is fictional.

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    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    Well, I'm not familiar with the ivory tower world you live in.
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

    "Love follows knowledge." – St. Catherine of Siena

    My literature blog: http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/

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    Serious business Taliesin's Avatar
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    The idea that many things (among them many important things) are essentially games reminds me "Homo Ludens" by Johan Huizinga. Mind you, Huizinga stressed that games are very, very serious things - they have their own rules, breaking of which is followed by contempt by other players. (He also stressed that while cheating is frowned upon, it is still accepted - the thing that makes people really mad is breaking the game - saying that it is just a game).
    Whereas a lot of culture elements seem to have so real consequences that in might seem like absolute silliness to call it a game, real consequences don't make it less of a game. Think of poker, for a simple example - most people would agree that it is a game, but you can lose all of your money and property on it.

    I wouldn't say that games are a bad thing, though. They don't make us less of a human or take us away from Nature or whatnot - rather, they make us more human.
    If you believe even a half of this post, you are severely mistaken.

  10. #10
    Some interesting reading coberst, when you talk of the modern world being fictional are you talking about a form of social construction? There's a lot of things to take in from your post (and I don't have the time right time) but one thing I can't agree on is that man has lost his/her animal instinct and that natural selection has been in some way replaced. I still think that the raw basic instincts, namely sex, the need for food, shelter, social status etc, underlie the present socially constructed world we live in. Many of the artificial things we think are real, if I get what you are saying, are masked by basic human needs and desires. At least that would be the starting point for my argument.

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    Registered User JacobF's Avatar
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    there is no spoon.

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    Jai Keshava NikolaiI's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sapphire
    And why, oh why, did he choose the loaden words "game" and "fiction" to describe our every day life? Was he maybe inspired by Shakespeare, All the world is a stage, and all the men and women merely players?
    Or perhaps Blake; "Do what you will, this world's a fiction and is made of contradiction."

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    spiritus ubi vult spirat weltanschauung's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by coberst View Post
    Are we playing a fictional role in life?

    Sapiens are a species that has lost many of their animal instincts and our “soul” replaces these instincts. I use the word ‘soul’ to signify what many might call consciousness, spirit, conscience, mind, reason, etc. We are thus thrust out of the arms of Mother Nature and onto our own ability to adapt and survive. We are forced into replacing the natural selection process, which has led to our evolution, and we are thrown upon our own abilities to adapt or to be extinguished. It is our “soul” that creates the games we play. These games replace natural selection; and determine our survival as a species.

    Socrates was an intuitive genius, who may have been the first to understand that man needs to function in a shared social fiction before he can earn his own social honor, and social approval. But even Socrates could not intuit the degree to which this need was rooted. He could not see how deep ‘social performance’ goes and the degree that it is rooted in the anxiety of all sapiens. Humans cannot recognize their own self-worth without the word from their own social group.

    We have successfully struggled against Mother Nature to gain great material wealth only to discover that, as Pogo might say, “we have met the enemy and it is us”. The enemy is our great material play-form itself; it is our own profit-and-loss economy, our money-over-the-counter game that is defeating us. We have lost all relationship with our nature. Our created fiction has crippled our ability to rationally adapt to our world we have created. We run as fast as we can from school to shopping center to the bank and back home in our new SUV only to discover that the gods have already made us mad. Our own fictions are killing us.

    War itself is a fiction, it is a game, and it is a play-form. Roman civilization itself was a great “potlatch spirit” (a ceremonial feast of the American Indian of the northwest coast marked by the host’s lavish distribution of gifts or sometimes destruction of property to demonstrate wealth and generosity with the expectation of eventual reciprocation). What begins as simple contests, develop into complex play-forms. “Poetry, art, law, philosophy, war—all are contests or play-forms.”

    To call them play-forms is not to say that they are not serious. In our great game of society we create meaning; fictional meaning but nevertheless these fictions are life-meaning fictions. Me and Earnest agree, our problem is that we must create better fictions to live by, because our present fictions are killing us.

    What is the difference between playing a fictional role in life versus a non-fictional role?

    Ideas and quotes from Beyond Alienation by Ernest Becker
    this is so true, despite what the ones with less penetrating comprehension may say. humankind has completely lost the genuine means of existence and connection to nature, and what we have now is a ridiculous brave new world in which people are bred to portrait a specific role in the artificial society we have created. we are taught from birth to obbey meaningless rules and behave predetermined ways as in to eternalize the status quo we did not create but was imposed into us, and anyone who tries to fight against that is ostracised and most of the times destroyed. the cattle is pushed into this and that because it doesnt even know its being controled in every means, and the circle of manipulation continues endlessly into the eternity of time.
    people are more worried about looking or seeming a certain way than being themselves. they are more worried about being accepted by the other oblivious automatons then questioning the true nature of their actions, and standing up for something they believe. most people i know would never say something in front of a crowd that they were not absolutely sure everyone else would agree, and maybe that questioning seed is in there, but will never blossom, because to most people what is most important is the group's aproval. i believe we live in the world of collective personality, where there's always a semi-retard leading the croud of jelly brains, and the rest are blind followers, who are happy being that because at least they belong somewhere where they always know what to do since there is someone deciding for them. they never have to think for themselves because thats the job they gave to their mongoloid leaders.
    war has long lost that initial meaning of discovery and conquest, and today its simply an expensive make-believe game of artificial warlords, who will never be found in the fields fighting. they only press buttons and send kids to fight their stupid game of lies.

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    natural selection is very much alive and well. also if you feel that our instincts have replaced our souls you are dead wrong. soul is likened to spirit which is somewhere along the lines of character in my opinion. what you do when nobody is there to account for your behaviour. that is your soul brotha! instincts and natural selection are very much alive. think about when you go to a party or a club, you talk to the person you think is 'hot.' do you think that you pour over the implications of such hotness. NO! you act on your instincts and you talk to the chick!

    i do agree with the social agreeability thing (maybe a little different wording). i think it is typical to establish a social network and seek approval from it to validate one's belonging to something. everyone wants to belong.

    i disagree with the fiction stu this ff. if you can touch fire and call it fiction, then your argument is valid. this world is pretty real to me.

    Quote Originally Posted by weltanschauung View Post
    this is so true, despite what the ones with less penetrating comprehension may say. humankind has completely lost the genuine means of existence and connection to nature, and what we have now is a ridiculous brave new world in which people are bred to portrait a specific role in the artificial society we have created. we are taught from birth to obbey meaningless rules and behave predetermined ways as in to eternalize the status quo we did not create but was imposed into us, and anyone who tries to fight against that is ostracised and most of the times destroyed. the cattle is pushed into this and that because it doesnt even know its being controled in every means, and the circle of manipulation continues endlessly into the eternity of time.
    people are more worried about looking or seeming a certain way than being themselves. they are more worried about being accepted by the other oblivious automatons then questioning the true nature of their actions, and standing up for something they believe. most people i know would never say something in front of a crowd that they were not absolutely sure everyone else would agree, and maybe that questioning seed is in there, but will never blossom, because to most people what is most important is the group's aproval. i believe we live in the world of collective personality, where there's always a semi-retard leading the croud of jelly brains, and the rest are blind followers, who are happy being that because at least they belong somewhere where they always know what to do since there is someone deciding for them. they never have to think for themselves because thats the job they gave to their mongoloid leaders.
    war has long lost that initial meaning of discovery and conquest, and today its simply an expensive make-believe game of artificial warlords, who will never be found in the fields fighting. they only press buttons and send kids to fight their stupid game of lies.
    less penetrating comprehension, or less cynical disposition? just because you have friends does not mean you are a mindless automoton.

  15. #15
    spiritus ubi vult spirat weltanschauung's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by robertlc53 View Post
    less penetrating comprehension, or less cynical disposition? just because you have friends does not mean you are a mindless automoton.
    red herring, argumentum ad ignorantiam, non sequitur, petitio principii, ignoratio elenchi...

    by the way, "less cynical disposition" is very different from blissful oblivion.

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