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Chapter 2. The Condition & the Odyssey. The Predicament . All philosophizing is rooted in one simple fact of our existence: each of us is trapped in an egocentric predicament that sets limits on the way we perceive the world and relate to others.

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Chapter 2

Chapter 2

The Condition & the Odyssey

The predicament
The Predicament

  • All philosophizing is rooted in one simple fact of our existence: each of us is trapped in an egocentric predicament that sets limits on the way we perceive the world and relate to others.

  • Can we overcome such a deep-rooted and troubling condition?

The coherent worldview
The Coherent Worldview

  • A worldview is a more or less coherent, all-inclusive frame of reference through which one sees the world; it is a subjective attempt to provide unity and consistency to the totality of one’s experience

  • It is one purpose of philosophy to help the individual build a worldview that is functional

  • The ideal worldview will be internally consistent, pragmatically realistic, and personally fulfilling

The egocentric predicament
The Egocentric Predicament

  • 1910, Ralph Barton Perry

  • To know what any real object/event is, we have to perceive it.

  • How then can we know whether our perception of an object/event changes it?

  • I am the center of MY universe, but not THE universe

Blaise pascal
Blaise Pascal

  • “It is pitiful to see so many Turks, heretics, and infidels following in their fathers’ track, for the sole reason that each has been conditioned to believe that this track is best. This accident of birth is also what decides everyone’s condition in life, making one man a locksmith, another man a soldier, et cetera.”

Aristocentric claims
Aristocentric Claims

Whenever any creature fails to correct for his egocentric illusion and begins to feel that he really is the center of the universe, and further, if he feels that he should be treated by others as though he were the center, then he has taken a giant step beyond the illusion itself.

He is making an aristocentric claim.

Egocentric illusions in time space
Egocentric Illusions in Time & Space

  • Time – our lifetimes are short in the perspective of geological time or human history, yet we tend to think of all existence in terms of our allotted span

  • Space – our life-space becomes the center of all things good, and more distant regions somehow lack the reality of our vicinity

We live in two worlds
We Live in Two Worlds

“From birth till death each of us is locked into a physical organism from which there is no escape.” This condition is known as “encapsulation”.

We confuse the “world in here” and the “world out there”


Albert camus man the absurd
Albert CamusMan & the Absurd

The problem lies in the individual’s relationship to the world. Man is not absurd, and the world is not absurd. It’s at the interface between man and the world that the Absurd is encountered.


  • The story of “the Three Christs of Ypsilanti” is more than a case study. It is a metaphor. As a metaphor, what does the account say to you about the claims and rationalizations that universally characterize the human species?

Chapter 2

  • Not a few philosophers have argued that the development of an authentic self is the central lifelong project for each of us

  • What does it mean to be a “self”?

  • Is the “self” something we can know and understand?

From the movie cleopatra
From the Movie Cleopatra

  • Mark Antony to Cleopatra, as he lay dying speaks of his impending death as “the ultimate separation of my self from myself”

  • What does he mean?

News item
News Item

  • A man is indicted for embezzlement, but he is never caught, and lives under an assumed name in another state for twenty-six years. Then, in a freak move, a relative turns him in. “Yes,” he confesses, “I did it.”

  • But did he?

From the sixth sense abc tv
From The Sixth Sense (ABC-TV)

  • Where are you?

  • I am sitting on a rock by the lake

  • What do you see?

  • I am not really at the lake. I am in the large mansion looking at the man I am about to kill

  • But you were not in the mansion were you?

  • No, I was sitting at the lake

  • Yes, I know, because I was sitting beside you

A sense of self
A Sense of Self

  • What each of us can become during our lifetime is determined by two fundamental conditions: (1) the degree to which we experience a more or less consistent sense of self or identity, and (2) whether the feelings we have developed about that self are predominantly good

A sense of worth
A Sense of Worth

  • How we feel about our selves strongly reflects how others felt about us during our earliest years

  • If we are loved = then we feel lovable = we can love ourselves

  • Most of us never move beyond self-consciousness

The autonomous self
The Autonomous Self

  • Autonomy – refers to one’s ability to function independently in terms of an authentic self

  • The ability to make autonomous decisions: 1) courage to be; 2) courage of self-affirmation; 3) understanding of culture-patterns

Ayn rand the productive life
Ayn RandThe Productive Life

  • Who is John Galt?

  • Ayn Rand was for: rationality, individuality, living life as an end in itself, courage, happiness, success, life, pleasure, joy, freedom, Aristotle, Aquinas, atheism, love, friendship…

  • Ayn Rand was against: the irrational, self-sacrifice, martyrdom, belief, anything that erodes self-esteem, sheep, suffering, failure, death, pain, hedonism, Kant…

  • Three cardinal virtues: reason, purpose, self-esteem


  • Have you ever made a list of the things you are for and the things you are against? How much of Ayn Rand’s “fors” and “againsts” can you agree with? Now clarify (to yourself) why you are for or against these things


  • What happens when we remove our masks – if we can?

  • What do we then become?

  • “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” --Kurt Vonnegut, Mother Night

When things go wrong
When Things Go Wrong

  • Harlows and the young monkeys

  • Human psychological development: 1) reassurance/security/trust; 2) courage/aggression/exploration; 3) self/autonomy/maturity

  • We know that something has gone wrong (when things go wrong)…and we wonder why

The masks we wear
The Masks We Wear

  • When things go wrong, the feeling that one does not know “who he is” may be intuited by ourselves and inferred by others, but it is perhaps the last thing we will confess. The pain of unmasking is too great. We can’t risk being open. We are ever fearful that someone might see beneath our masks and discover…nothing.

  • “It is easy to become lost in the other when we have no real sense of self.” --Richard Moss

I will not stop till i know
I Will Not Stop Till I Know

  • To be innocent is to not know

  • Therefore, to be innocent is to be dependent

  • Dependence requires trust and faith

  • Dependence requires obedience

  • Innocence is an instrument of control

Growth insecurity
Growth & Insecurity

  • Neophobia – we are afraid of new objects, unfamiliar behavioral patterns in others, strange feelings in ourselves, or any other new and threatening elements of life that we do not understand

  • Neophilia – if we have enough security when we need it, then we can explore more and more of the unknowns, assimilate them, explore some more, widen our horizons, and grow

The answer givers
The Answer-Givers

  • The actual fact is that answer-givers have a need to persuade. One of their goals is to contain us within a state of innocence and thereby establish control over us.

  • Their true motivation is disguised by perhaps the commonest of human rationalizations: that they are really helping us

Crisis of authority
Crisis of Authority

One of the major roadblocks to autonomy is failure to achieve separation from authority

Developing self awareness
Developing Self-Awareness

  • When we are open to experiencing our selves precisely as they are – rather than expending energy feeling anxious or guilty over what they are not – a change in feeling can take place

The law of pathei mathos
The Law of Pathei Mathos

It is a painful insight to discover that one holds a belief because one needs the belief, and not because the belief is true. This is the sort of insight one would like to make go away, like a bad dream or clouds on a rainy day

Sigmund freud humanity is blocked by our pain
Sigmund FreudHumanity is Blocked by Our Pain

  • We are blocked from being human by our own repressed pain and seeing the truth about ourselves could release enormous stores of bound-up energy for rich and responsible living

  • Id

  • Superego

  • Ego


  • Zero in on the problem of dealing with those who would “[provide] us with the answers before we have asked the questions”. Do you agree with the problem as stated in this chapter? How would you suggest that we confront such answer-givers?

Life time
Life Time

  • Direction?

  • Is life then goal-directed?

  • Are we driven, deeply and perhaps unconsciously, toward something or away from something? Is life inherently meaningful, carrying us toward a telos, or is it meaning-less?

All the world s a stage
All the World’s a Stage…

All the world’s a stage

And all the men and women merely players:

They have their exits and their entrances;

And one man in his time plays many parts.

Mapping a lifetime
Mapping a Lifetime

  • The four ashramas

  • Japanese fivefold division of the human lifespan

  • Freud’s five distinct stages in the development of a young human being from age zero to about eighteen

  • Shakespeare’s “seven ages”

The ground plan
The Ground Plan

  • Scientific studies have discovered that there exists within us a psychophysiological timetable that provides a plot for each individual human drams

  • The unfolding of this ground plan gives our lives a predictable structure and allows us to achieve a general overview of a full human life from birth to death

Infancy to childhood
Infancy to Childhood

  • Infancy

  • Early Childhood

  • Middle Childhood

  • Late Childhood

The adolescent years
The Adolescent Years

  • Early Adolescence

  • Midadolescence

  • Late Adolescence

The maturing years
The Maturing Years

  • Early Adulthood

  • Intermediate Adulthood

  • Middle Adulthood

  • Later Adulthood

The final phase
The Final Phase

  • It begins when we must face that fact that our own death is imminent

  • Reliving our past

  • An attempt to see the life/time drama in perspective, and to write a good completion

The shriek of ivan ilytch
The Shriek of Ivan Ilytch

  • Tolstoy’s Death of Ivan IIytch

  • As Ivan reflects upon the meaningless of his death, what hits him so forcefully is the meaninglessness of his life

The hero s journey
The Hero’s Journey

  • Joseph Campbell

  • The Importance of Myth

  • “There is a single formula, a single plot, to the hero’s adventure”

Voltaire the laughing philosopher
VoltaireThe Laughing Philosopher

“Crush the infamy!:

“My baffled curiosity continues to be insatiable.”

He had an abiding faith in the intelligence and rationality of man

“This century begins to see the triumph of reason”

“If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.”


  • If you think of life metaphorically as a “path” or “road,” can you locate yourself with some accuracy (somewhere) along that path? Did you personally go through the earlier challenges as described in this chapter?