Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Not everyone who lives exists

I love integrating some basic philosophies and life principles in my mathematics class and that's perhaps the reason why I tend to stick to a particular topic longer than it could be probably studied. 

Recently, I have been discussing about limits with my Grade 12 class and learned that a certain variable could approach to a particular number in either ways. It could start from the left or it could start from the right. For example, x could get nearer and nearer to  2 either from values which are less than two or from values which are greater than two. I mentioned that there are some instances that a variable could approach a particular number only from a single origin and we call that one-sided limit, that is, the limit from the other side does not exist. The word EXIST became the tipping point of a profound philosophical discussion I had with my students. What does "exist" mean and when can we say that a particular body exists? Is existing the same as living? These were some of the baffling questions we had in our math class.

In a thought-provoking manner, I told my students, "Not everyone who lives exists!" 

Etymologically, the word existence came from the Latin word  "existere" which means to "stand out." Drawing connection from the etymological meaning of the word existence, we could simply say that existing is far more than just living. Existing is all about finding meaning for one's life and making life meaningful. As Sartre puts it in, "man first of all exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world – and defines himself afterwards."  To exist is to believe in one's personal judgments and values and not in the arbitrary values of the outside world. To exist is to accept one's personal responsibilities and act upon them. 

Do you exist?

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