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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Philip K. Dick: Existentalist

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Over the course of my ten-year relationship with my husband, I learned that he was more an Existentialist than a Gnostic. His core ideas fall more into line with Kierkegaard and Nietszche, Kafka and Schopenhauer, than with the prophets of Nag Hammadi or the neo-Platonists.

Although he adopted some of the trappings of gnosticism, such as the demiurge and the veil of illusion, Philip K. Dick adopted an eclectic body of knowledge while educating himself at the public library. Like Schopenhauer, he came to the conclusion that the universe is not rational, so we cannot gain a rational understanding of its nature, rules and existence. Like Kafka, he saw us as prisoners who never know what crime has been laid against us.

In line with God's assertion to Moses that his name is "I am", Phil began his study of the human existence.

~~ More to come in future posts.
Thank you for reading!
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9 comments:

hapbt said...

"Like Schopenhauer, he came to the conclusion that the universe is not rational, so we cannot gain a rational understanding of its nature, rules and existence. Like Kafka, he saw us as prisoners who never know what crime has been laid against us. " -- that is a lovely quote!

MDK said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MDK said...

Hi Tessa,

Intuitively, I believe also that Phil was an Existentialist. Did he ever read Jean-Paul Sartre. I'm reading (after doing a 30 day novel writing stint) "Being and Nothingness", a non-fiction book.

tuffy777 said...

thanx, hapbt and MDK! those are high compliments!

yes, Phil read Sartre and many other philosophers

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rdsmith1964 said...

From what I understand he seems to have seen reality[s] as essentially consisting of a world of illusion or maya (the black iron prison), and then a higher reality behind or inside that. Existentialists tend to regard attempts to model as useless, whereas Phil seemed to have been building and scrapping models constantly. He was eclectic and was all over the map. Which is where I think a true philosopher should be. I do not think Phil could be labeled at all, let alone as a existentialist. Just my opinion

tuffy777 said...

thanx for commenting, rdsmith -- Phil developed and discarded at least half a dozen models for the universe, finding that none of them fit the facts as we know them. the more logical and rational the model, the less it fit. In fact,his best approximation was that our illusory world was crafted by an inferior god, and that is why it makes no sense to us. That is, we live in an irrational world created by an irrational god.

rdsmith1964 said...

So wouldn't the difference between a *traditional* existentialist and PKD be that the existentialist would not see any meaning to life at all, where as PKD did, just not at the physical level, because that world is the world of "James James," the evil god of this world. But above, or beyond James James, is the true God that is invading the world of the evil god? Phil wrote, "two realms there are, upper and lower," and it is the true God of the upper that provides meaning and would seem to separate PKD from existentialists per se. Furthermore, Phil seemed to be possessed by an internal struggle best portrayed in VALIS; just when you think he has given up on a search for meaning, suddenly Horselover Fat is reborn, and the quest for a *higher* (invading) meaning reappears, synchronicity breaks through, and we are back at the start again (he ends with the Tractates).

I think when most people think of existentialists they imagine some guy in a beret in a Jazz club that just does not give a damn about anything except enjoying the moment because it is pointless to try to decode a meaningless world; although I agree with the Encyclopedia of Philosophy (which PKD loved) when it says existentialism is so ill-defined as to be a virtually meaningless moniker. That same encyclopedia's entry for gnosticism, on the other hand, reads almost as if a verbatim description of Phil's esoteric writings.

Carter Kaplan said...

Tessa,

More on this subject would make a perfect essay for Emanations.

Carter

tuffy777 said...

thanx, Carter -- I'll work on that after I finish a couple other projects
8-)