The problem of existence arises from the self and its solution comes from the same source – the enlargement of consciousness that is the outcome of searching into it.

However…there is a tragic aspect to this search. The self that is the key to a metaphysical universe is also a function of physical being and is dependent on physical processes for its development. There is no escaping the physical world or the mortality that is its consequence. One cannot develop without the five senses and a functional brain, all of which are subject to decay and death.

The metaphysically developed ancients regarded reconciliation with death as an essential element of philosophy. The problem of existence has to reconcile metaphysics with the fact of one’s mortality

From the time of the Pharoahs, powerful individuals have tried to erect monuments and create entities that were meant to perpetuate their existence. Christianity invented the ideas of immortality and resurrection to evade the finality of death. On a more modest scale, there is the idea that generational continuity continues one’s existence or, even more modestly, that this is accomplished through influences and memories initiated during life.

Nevertheless, the tragedy of the disappearance of every vital self from the world at large remains a reality to be faced by all, especially philosophers. The miracle of the creation of a living mind has its end in time. No rationalization can avoid this inevitable occurrence.

An ameliorating thought remains for those who are capable of assimilating it. It is a shame to think and feel as if Kant never revealed the relativity of time and space. These are pseudo-dimensions erected by the mind as a practical affair in order to orient oneself amidst the chaotic quality of being. But existence is a permanent fact that cannot be abolished because its dimensions are imagined to be limited by time and space.

One exists in eternity, that is why deeper minds are in love with it. Although it is impossible to escape entirely the instinctual demand to perceive things as existing in a space-time continuum, it is possible to become aware of the relativity of these dimensions and come to a more reality-based appraisal of one’s place in the universe. Being cannot become non-being.

St. Augustine wrote that the only two problems of philosophy were God and the soul, but it is now appropriate to remove God from this list. The unique phenomenon of metaphysics is the development of an individual consciousness. The problem of human existence is to make this development occur. Analytic thought is a movement away from this process, albeit it may be necessary for controlling the physical elements of one’s existence. It is a loss to abdicate direction of this development to institutions of any type as freedom of thought is the sine qua non of metaphysical knowledge. The opposite of this knowledge is not error but ignorance, obtuseness, cowardice or shallow materialist thinking.

The creation of values is the special sign of a metaphysical consciousness. Every person is guided by values, the question is whether they are created or obtained second hand. The best way of judging an individual is to ascertain the nature of his values. There is no reason to shrink from this judgement, it is far better than judgements based on race, ethnicity, religion or even behavior. It is impossible to live without values, but to live fully one must create his own. Otherwise he is a puppet of society or an animal left to his primitive instincts.

The idea “reverence for the soul” comes from Nietzsche, not Albert Schweitzer. The inescapable fact is that the idea of a metaphysical self or soul is more in accord with the phenomena of Homo sapiens than are the dogmas of neurology.

We who live in the shadow of the overpowering forces of scientific technology can hardly be capable of assessing their impact upon ourselves. Sartre was correct in his thought that there is no escape of the individual from thesituationin which he finds himself. Our qualities and values are enormously determined by it. But the image and the ideal of the metaphysical self can still be brought into consciousness and valued more highly than it is today.

The metaphysical need can be acknowledged without violating one’s intellectual conscience and can be developed in full accord with the facts of existence. Philosophy is the name given to the effort to live up to this high aspiration.

Richard Schain
May 2003