Existence and my subjectivity

An excerpt of a talk I gave for a seminar in Existentialism in 1993.

I have consciously dealt with the issue of my subjectivity long before I was aware of the meaning of the word. From the time I made the choice to not believe in God's existence (and emphasise my own) to the present, where I attempt to lead a truly subjective life in this institutionalised world, I define my existence through my subjectivity.

Before this class, I always assumed that Existentialism dealt with the question "Do we exist?" rather than "How do we exist?" I have learnt that they are the same. I do not believe there is an intrinsic meaning to our existence and I believe that any meaning we ascribe to it is artificial. In other words, our existence is defined by how we exist, a so-called meta-philosophy or meta-existence. Different philosophers have different notion on the meaning of existence, but to truly exist, you should be able to define your existence and exist within that definition. It would behoove us to choose a broad definition, and that is why existentialists choose realms such as freedom, anarchy, and, in my case, subjectivity. The spheres of transcendence are all related. There is always anarchy involved when you do not let yourself be objectified. What you achieve, then, is freedom from objectification.

I have lived this philosophy since I was seven. That moment, I consciously chose not to believe in God and I have not set foot in a place of worship for the purpose of prayer nor have I prayed. The only God to me after that time has been myself.

Clearly, I resent being objectified and I take great pains to make sure I am not. It does not matter if my denial or expression of subjectivity is made public. What matters is that I do what I wish. I do not belong to any organisation on this campus. I do not consider myself a Member of The Senior Class of 1993; I just happened to graduate that year. I will not become a Ohio Wesleyan Alumnus; I will be someone who has studied at Ohio Wesleyan. I was born in a particular geographic region of the world, yet I do not consider myself to be of any particular nationality. I am not a member of society; my actions are solely based on Marginal Cost versus Marginal Benefit analyses (in other words, every action I take I evaluate with my own ethical framework without even remotely considering society's views). To take things to the extreme, I do not consider myself a part of the race that is Humankind; I am a subjective individual and nothing more.

The issue of classification is important. I am Homo sapiens. I am a mammal. I do not belong. This applies to all kinds of classifications. This distinction is important because it signifies that I have made a subjective choice (explicitly or implicitly) that allows for this classification. This is different from, say, being a member of an organisation or group. I am a hacker because of my love for computers (i.e., it's an activity I perform, like running or climbing or skydiving) but I am not a member of The Association of Hackers (or Runners or Climbers or Skydivers). What this means is that when you belong to a group, your subjectivity, in part at least, is taken away. Groups, I believe, achieve no purpose that cannot be achieved singularly. A collaborative effort is different. The Internet, for instance, is this world-wide network which runs perfectly without any central organisation but with a number of people cooperating. They all make their choices and perform actions; they do not have any sort of responsibility or power.

It is mostly society that objectifies you. The graduation ceremony, for example, makes you wear long black gowns so you can swelter in the hot sun. When you do wear such a thing, then your subjectivity is taken away. It is a choice as to whether you want to wear it. You can still receive the diploma in a T-shirt if you wish (as I plan to do). You will still graduate; there is no reason to wear it except for some tradition that has no meaning to you. The GRUB Pub recently introduced this menu system where they gave you a Customer Number. Now you see the "Number" blackened out. I spoke to the manager of the Pub and told him that assigning numbers to me took away my subjectivity. Apparently a few others thought so too, but no one really spoke to him about it. The issue really was that you were given a number that did not represent your identity.

I believe that expressing your subjectivity is what defines existence and the true way to exist. Denial, the appropriation of truth, and the will to power, is what will let us be completely subjective, not philosophising about Existence. If the whole population did such a thing, it will undoubtedly lead to anarchy; but our present societal rules should be eliminated before we can have a Democracy of Philosophers.

Pseudointellectual ramblings || Ram Samudrala || me@ram.org