Existentialism and Dating


Dating brings us close to a particular strand
of philosophy that, the rest of the time, might not seem particularly relevant to our
lives: existentialism. One of the movement’s major proponents – Jean-Paul Sartre – developed
a set of ideas that help explain, and give dignity to, the anxiety, excitement and at
points vertigo we may experience as we go through the dating ritual. A key concept of
Existentialism is expressed in Sartre’s somewhat obscure but useful phrase: “Being
precedes essence”. What Sartre meant by ‘being’ are the bits of our life that
we are free to choose for ourselves: how we live, what job we do, how we conceive of what
happens to us. And by ‘essence’, he refers to things that lie outside our command: our
biological nature, the flow of history, the position of the stars… What Sartre wished
to point out to us, in a spirit of wanting to liberate us from certain rigidities of
mind, is that ‘being’ should ultimately be thought of as more important than ‘essence’.
However much we sometimes like to tell ourselves that things have to be the way they are, there
are in fact many radically different possible versions of ourselves available to us; we
can choose to an extraordinary extent how things might be for us. But much of the time,
Sartre felt, we don’t give this open-ended aspect of our identities enough space in our
minds. We assert that the way we live is inevitable and fixed, and imply that we have no agency
over our stories. But Sartre argues that this is an illusion: the kind of person we are
right now developed as a result of all sorts of small and large decisions: it could have
been very different, and may be different again in the future according to the way we
exercise of our will upon the raw material of life. Surprisingly enough, it is dating
that can bring home some of the richness of this dramatic existential insight. It is in
our dating years that we feel, perhaps more than at any point before or since, how much
our future is undefined, how little is preordained, how many options there really are; how frighteningly
free and fluid things can be. With each date we’re sketching – even if very lightly
– a possible future. If our date on Wednesday goes well, we could conceivably be looking
at (for instance) a life in which we have relatives in the highlands of Scotland, in
which a lot of the people we spend time with are in the technology sector and in which
we’ll probably move country several times; we might in time also have a child called
Hamish or Flora. Alternatively, if our date on Friday evening goes very well, we could
be edging towards a life in which we’ll be spending a lot of time in Amsterdam; we’ll
get drawn into the theatre world; if we have a child they might be called Maartje or Rem
and they’ll have a former cycling champion as a grandfather and an Indonesian grandmother. Once we make our choice, things may well start
to seem as if they always had to be, that there was some essence that we were always
moving towards, that we had to end up with little Maartje or sweet Flora crawling on
the carpet towards us. But in the dating period, we are closer to a grander and more visceral
truth: that there is no single script. Sartre’s second big point is that properly recognising
our freedom can lead us to a state of huge but inevitable and in a way salutary anxiety.
Conscious of our real liberty, we take on board that we have to make decisions and yet,
at the same time, that we will never have the correct and full information upon which
to base them with the sort of perfect wisdom and foresight we might desire. We are steering
largely blind, forced to make choices that ideally we’d leave to the Gods but that
in a secular world, we have no option but to take on for ourselves. As we date, we may
wonder: who should we settle for? For how long do we keep going? How can we tell whether
this one or that one is right? Sartre’s answer is that we can never properly know
but that we are never more properly alive and authentic than when we are turning over
such enquiries: the fluidity of our destinies is then palpable, with all the strangeness
and wonder this implies. Too often, the sense of fluidity is lost. We assume that what is
had to be and that we have no further choices left open to us. The dating years defy such
views. No wonder if they feel like high stakes. Sartre wished to embolden us for the sort
of challenges they present to us. Dating pushes aside the veil of our normal complacency and
reveals the sublime, terrifying and, at the same time, thrilling uncertainty of existence.
We should, with a host of existential challenges before us, at the very least, not be too bored. To learn more about love try our set of cards that help answer that essensial question; “Who Should I Be With?”

100 comments

  1. Our new app, available on Android, IoS and desktop top too, is now ready for you to try here (do click on this link):
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  2. We exist before our lives gain meaning. This is what Being precedes essence. That’s the way it was taught back in the 20th Century. Agreed?

  3. How is existentialism not relevant most of the time. It is the only philosophy that deals with the individual experience. Shame on you for saying it’s irrelevant

  4. Imagine being gay. At the very, very best, 1 out of every 10 ppl they meet of their own sex will also be bi or gay. Out of that 10%(and really, gays are just 2%of the population, so 98% is out of the window right off the bat), maybe another 35% will be attractive to the our gay friend. Out of that 35% of an original 10-2%, maybe another 25% will find our friend attractive. Out of that, maybe with 10% will there be an actual potential for a compatible long-term relationship. So, yeah, we just went through an exercise of depressing reality. So, having 98% versus just 2% as just an option, straights should really never bitch about how hard dating is.

  5. Dating provides a window for us to see ourselves from the perspective of others and to access some insight in our interpersonal strenghts or weaknesses.

    It allows and triggers motivation for growth and developpment of personnality and interest.

    As with all things, the easiest way to learn is by trial and error. In a way, dating is like the fast lane of the school of life.

  6. If the aspect of dating is taken away, this video seems to be discussing: Reframing. That would be a terrific topic to examine in your videos.

  7. i had so little choice during the dating period with my kids father. i actually tried to prevent it from happening. there was definitely a stubborn chunk of essence there, forcing its way into my life (and my uterus)

  8. There is no free will. That's it for Existentialism then. Turn the lights off on your way out. Not that you have a choice…

  9. Excellent topic. Old ways were more rigid and fatalistic because it worked better for the uneducated masses. That paradigm is dying. Life is about choice. Always was and always will be.

  10. Wow, who would have thought existentialism could be so interestingly described through the topic of dating. A fresh take on the dating years as a time of simply being and developing a appreciation for the randomness of it all, using that as a reminder that we are not fixed points.

  11. My daughter is taking HS philosophy and these bites I used for myself before now help me make sense of all this long forgotten stuff. Plus loved the illustrations and animation. The bot and Sartre bobbling around made me 😂

  12. Sartre spoke in complete sentences, not in breathless phrases like this pretentious narrator, whose affected delivery betrays his total ignorance of Existentialism.

  13. I am currently trying to woo a girl into liking me. I now understand the anxiety I am feeling more clearly. So, a small but relevant addendum to this video is that during the dating process, you may also feel anxious about whether the person you pick will pick you as well. So it is not just worrying about whom to pick, but sometimes you also worry about whether the other person likes you. And that also reveals the uncertainty about life and is frustrating but also what makes our lives colorful!

    But, le sigh… I wonder if she likes me!

  14. This is absolute CRAP that no one can understand. All toffee-nosed up-ya-ass philosophical bullsheet.
    Talk simple language that all your audience can understand. Farrrk. Even Shakespeare cannot understand this rubbish.

  15. I don't want no teenage queen I just want my M-14.

    That way I can blow the hats off those red hat wearing trumps supporters. The universe is meaningless, there is no god so bringing pain to those who I deem deserve it is better than sex.

    Fuck relationships burn the world to ash. Gotta love the age of extremist: get with it or get run over by it.

  16. This video misinterprets the meaning of "being precedes essence". By essence, Sartre is referring to the essence of a person. Before existentialism, many believed that you are a certain way by definition, and the best way to live was according to such essence. Existentialism says you exist and make choices that define your essence. It's not that 'being' is more important than essence, it's that being defines what your essence comes to be. Essentially it is saying that, in life, you choose your purpose and what makes you happy. The video takes a kind of narrow minded look at existentialism, discussing what possible futures you may have as determined by who you choose to have a relationship with. Existentialism is more accurately represented by saying, it doesn't matter who you choose to date, do what makes you happy. Not only do you have agency over your life, but saying choosing to date, say, a lawyer forces you into a certain lifestyle is asserting that your partner has an essence preceding your being. Neither of you are forced to live a certain lifestyle, you could just as soon choose to quit your jobs and live at sea if that made you happy. And because you don't have to live to your prescribed essence, that would be a totally legitimate choice to make.

  17. I think we have far less freedom than is suggested in this video. We are technically free, yes, but we are also a product of our inborn temperaments, early experiences, family life etc. I don't think we're as malleable as we think we are. Truly changing anything at all about yourself takes a lot of work and so the vast majority of people don't do it. It's like swimming upstream, really.

    And so, in the context of dating, yes you could potentially end up with all kinds of different people and live all kinds of different lives, but the truth is, you won't. You will end up with exactly the kind of person who matches your level of growth, and so it doesn't matter much if they live in Amsterdam or Scotland. On a deeper level, your life will be the same.

  18. With there was philosophy for autistics… I have no dating life therefore my being is mostly reflected negatively through my frustrations with my minds differences from others that go about the dating world with perceived ease.

  19. I was hoping this video would help in relating to normal people when you have read way too much existential literature and now think I’m completely existential terms always searching for the truth in every sentence with a capital T

  20. I used to leve this channel.
    Now i'm trying to distinguish between the worthwhile messages and the post modern politicaly correct inclusive messages.
    This one is a mix bag but, to be fair, it's more of the former.

  21. No one has this much control over their choices…time to wake up…Those with ambition don't let others gain control…
    And it is stupid for everyone to gain control… If they did it would become a complete jungle.

  22. Basically he's saying our choices not our circumstances define us and nothing exists in dating but decisions but most people don't know

  23. A set of ideeeassss that help explaaaaiiinn…..how we liiiiive, what job we dooooo. Sorry but I cant watch the rest of your video with random pauses and extended words. I know it is theatrical affection for the purpose of the video but its distracting and makes it difficult for me to focus on the content itself. Plus you didn't even get to dating for the first 1/4 of the video…

  24. So how do you choose between one agent or persona over another? Like, what makes one a better choice than another? And if any choice is equally good, or if "good" is the wrong way to think about it, then what gives our freewill any more value than, say, the roll of dice, or the motions of unquestioned instinct?

  25. This reminds me of visual novels. Although technically they are deterministic, VNs give the player a sense of agency, that they can somehow control the outcome of the story. In a sense, they can; while each route in the novel is deterministic, the branching decisions make for a combinatorial explosion of possibilities that cannot be all evaluated at once, therefore creating agency.

  26. The same thing happens in your late teens after graduating, when you have to choose a job and consequently, how a large part of your life will look like

  27. Thanks for the awesome videos. The complex philosophical concepts are explained beautifully and as straight forward as possible. I'm a recent subscriber and i would gladly recommend your videos.

  28. E=W/A [Existence is Word By Agreement – Summary]

    “n.b” [hopefully unnecessary] – speaks for nobody other than me.*

    All serious comments and questions will be happily responded to.

    _________________

    Understanding the Unhappening.

    “A rose by any other name….” is not !

    What I, (“man”) have been taught to observe, I organise and then manage – with my tool; vocabulary. Only ‘words’ define and proclaim The Existent. Remove ‘word[s]’ from humans, and their mode of communication would be similar to that of, say, dogs. A dog ‘recognises’ what it observes, through emulation and familiarity of encounter. The human mother enunciates “chair”, and points at it, teaching the child to identify it.

    To be and not to be

    If I declare that Existence simply “IS”, with or without me* – (or any ‘observer’) – this can only be conjecture. In order to ‘be’, a thing must be perceivable or demonstrably observable in some way. (How can it be here if it is not observed to be here?)

    So, ‘Existence’ is my deciding/agreeing that it is so. My [perceived] consciousness is the sole ‘creator' of what I [agree to] call Existence. I can postulate that ‘other’ “exists in any case” if I wish; but unless I myself perceive that to be so, it cannot be so!

    Homomal

    Not Man, the myth, but I, Homomal *, [animal-with-word], perpetually edit and ‘rewrite’, (to my ultimate satisfaction), what I observe and how I see it. My conclusion/acceptance that this is ‘The Here-And-Now’, is the only ‘proof’ I will ever have of it.

    “Immortality”[!]

    Today consists of the sum total of my perceived, [including remembered], existence. Tomorrow is not a reality; it is, at most, a presumption. Not waking up, [e.g., “Death”], cannot be experienced by me, so I live “forever”. As I will not be conscious of witnessing any 'ending', (and I can never know when I did not wake up!), my life can be said to ‘terminate’ whenever I next sleep.

    ‘I think therefore I am’ NOT.

    The human creature classifies the sounds he makes, as ‘words’.

    That there is no communicating to anyone or anything whatsoever UNLESS AND WHILE I AM ‘CONSCIOUSLY’ DECREEING IT TO BE SO, does not in any way, diminish my respect for, or pleasure in doing so – or in anything I do.* Quite the contrary! Finally released from guilt, doubt, and pointless illusion, I now freely and intensively enjoy all experience, to a far greater degree than previously.

    A better standing of the happening!

    Being delivered of the [‘fairy-tale-like’] expectations of Homo Sapiens, (dotingly bred into me), I now expect far less, (if anything at all), of anyone or of myself.

    I, (“Life’s” creator*), CHOOSE to be at least as responsible for and to “Life’s” rules and requirements as I was when I assumed “Life” was here of itself: (until I realised that it conjectured that something ‘other’ is responsible for “Life” being here.)

    The source of much of “man’s” misery is rooted in his unease and confusion as to ‘how everything got here in the first place’: but he truly underestimates his powers of invention. Staring straight at him, is the answer to the dilemma.

    In the mirror.

    _________________________________

    The full version of E=W/A is on LinkedIn: (5 mins reading time) https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/life-after-death-keith-perreur-lloyd-2c/

  29. Suggestion: By turning video device over so ridiculous irritating video can be ignored – this way, one may give complete attention to the relevant audio dealing with existentialism.

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