[SEQ RERUN] Existential Angst Factory

post by MinibearRex · 2012-07-07T05:00:59.138Z · score: 5 (6 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 7 comments

Today's post, Existential Angst Factory was originally published on 19 July 2008. A summary (taken from the LW wiki):

 

As a general rule, if you find yourself suffering from existential angst, check and see if you're not just feeling unhappy because of something else going on in your life. An awful lot of existential angst comes from people trying to solve the wrong problem.


Discuss the post here (rather than in the comments to the original post).

This post is part of the Rerunning the Sequences series, where we'll be going through Eliezer Yudkowsky's old posts in order so that people who are interested can (re-)read and discuss them. The previous post was Could Anything Be Right?, and you can use the sequence_reruns tag or rss feed to follow the rest of the series.

Sequence reruns are a community-driven effort. You can participate by re-reading the sequence post, discussing it here, posting the next day's sequence reruns post, or summarizing forthcoming articles on the wiki. Go here for more details, or to have meta discussions about the Rerunning the Sequences series.

7 comments

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comment by Gastogh · 2012-07-07T20:21:52.056Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The two links to an article on Solving The Wrong Problem found in the original are dead. I'm doubtful of that article having much of value to add to what's right on the tin, but in case it did (or simply for the sake of completeness): does anyone know where it could be found? Googling the title returns thousands of hits, some of them blog posts by the same name by various authors.

comment by wmorgan · 2012-07-07T21:31:57.036Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Here you go.

comment by TCB · 2012-07-08T06:25:33.834Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

In this article, Eliezer implies that it's the lack of objective morality which makes life seem meaningless under a materialist reductionist model of the universe. Is this the usual source of existential angst? For me, existential angst always came from "life not having a purpose"; I was always bothered by the thought that no higher power was guiding our lives. I ended up solving this problem by realizing that emergent structures such as society can be understood as a "higher power guiding our lives"; while it's not as agenty as God, it suits my purposes well enough, and I've been free of existential angst ever since.

(I do agree with the main thesis of Eliezer's post; I think I was able to accept my philosophical solution to existential angst because of an increasingly positive outlook on life. I'm just commenting because I'm now very curious about what "existential angst" means to the rest of LessWrong. What does existential angst mean to you?)

comment by TheOtherDave · 2012-07-08T14:16:57.616Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I share your sense that existential angst is roughly equivalent to a sense of purposelessness. That said, a sense of purpose can come from a lot of places, not all of them philosophical. I know plenty of people who find a fulfilling sense of purpose in caring for their families, in performing their jobs, or similar things, without reference to more philosophical guiding principles be they theological or not. The happiest period of my life, for example, was between six months and a year after my stroke, when I'd recovered enough to not be profoundly depressed all the time but recovery was still my driving, fundamental, very concrete purpose.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2012-07-08T22:51:15.043Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

In this article, Eliezer implies that it's the lack of objective morality which makes life seem meaningless under a materialist reductionist model of the universe. Is this the usual source of existential angst? For me, existential angst always came from "life not having a purpose";

If I understand Eliezer's conception of morality correctly, he doesn't distinguish between these two things.

comment by JQuinton · 2012-07-10T16:23:31.277Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

For me, existential angst occurs in both a materialistic/reductionist world and a supernatural/theistic world. I'm not sure that objective morality would have made any difference on why god exists, and why god's existence isn't meaningless. And if god's existence has no purpose, I reasoned, then neither does ours (under a theistic framework).

comment by buybuydandavis · 2012-07-08T00:00:17.102Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't think it's something else that usually causes existential angst. The conceptual confusion of believing that life is pointless is what causes it to feel pointless. This is just one of the ways to wire up your moral circuits to make yourself miserable.