Sunday, May 10, 2009

73b Jean-Paul Sartre: a second lecture

Following Heidegger, Sartre argues that mankind is abandoned in the world. This is not to say mankind has been abandoned in the sense of 'left behind' or 'neglected' by somehting or someone.

For Sartre there is nothing "out there" that could have abandoned us in this way. Rather, mankind is abandoned because there is no God to give human life purpose of moral direction.

Sartre's adoption of the notion of abandonment is the clearest possible expression of his profound atheism, his view that mankind is a cosmic accident and not the product of some higher design on the part of God or gods.

This conclusion brings us to the quintessence of Sartre's existentialism. As the human being is uncreated the idea or essence of each person does not precede his existence. Thence existence precedes essence.

With this maxim Sartre wants to say that the human being first exists without goal or definition and finds himself in the world. As a reaction on this awareness he defines the meaning of his existence.

This is the very opposite of philosophical idealism which we already find with Plato and Aristoteles. For Sartre it is not ideas, essences or minds that are primary but pure existence in the form of Being-in-itself.

Being-in-itself, like a stone just IS, does not depend on anything else for its being, whereas Being-for-itself, the basis of consciousness and ideas, arises through the negation of Being-in-itself.

Sartre places negation at the centre of his ontological theory of consciousness, his theory of Being-for-itself. In "Being and Nothingness" he argues that the only kind of being that can exist as a relation to reality or the world is a being that is, in itself, nothing, the negation of Being-in-itself.

This may sound pretty abstract and you may wonder what he means by this. Let me try to explain. We are in the world in two ways. On the one hand we are a material object, a body and as such we exist in the same way a stone exists.

Consciousness, however, makes us aware of our Being and is as such the negation of our Being-in-itself. We become without purpose or design a Being-for-itself. Impossible to be in the world like a stone is.

The designer of the meaning of our live are we ourselves. We create ourselves by making choices, groundless choices, but we have to choose for even not choosing is a choice.

Sartre's general claim is that ultimately choice is always and unavoidably based upon arbitrary decisions. His view is that if a choice could be guided and influenced in any way by beliefs, convictions or values, it would be a caused phenomenon rather than a genuinely free choice.

Unwilling to take ful responsability for our (past) actions calls Sartre a proof of bad faith. Sartre explores bad faith extensively in his novels, like "Nausea" and the three volumes of "Roads to Freedom".

Last February I bought the three volumes of "Roads to Freedom" on a secondhand bookmarket in Amsterdam. The first books by Satre, which I read when I was 18.

Now they patiently stand and wait on my bookshelves ready to accompany me on my coming vacation, which I now have to define as Being-elswhere and not at home (^_^).

The Discussion

[13:18] Ze Novikov: lol
[13:18] Gemma Cleanslate: ;-)
[13:18] Alarice Beaumont: hahah.. so we shouold have waited wiht the sartre lesson ;-)
[13:18] Ap4ch3 Xingjian: :)
[13:18] Herman Bergson: Why so Alarice..?
[13:19] Gemma Cleanslate: until after you read them again
[13:19] herman Bergson smiles
[13:19] Gemma Cleanslate: some new insights
[13:19] Herman Bergson: I dont remember their content, so I am very interested to re-read them
[13:20] Herman Bergson: especially now that I have reviewed Sartre himself too
[13:20] arabella Ella: perhaps Herman may consider another class on Sartre after he has re-read the books
[13:20] Gemma Cleanslate: good thought
[13:20] Gemma Cleanslate: i was thinking the same
[13:20] Herman Bergson: Oh..that might be interesting
[13:20] arabella Ella: great gemma
[13:20] Ap4ch3 Xingjian: did satre ever say anything about randomness as a physical thing?
[13:21] Herman Bergson: comparing the novels with his philosophical writings
[13:21] arabella Ella: yes
[13:21] Alarice Beaumont: you could tell us much more
[13:21] Herman Bergson: I'll keep it in mind
[13:21] Alarice Beaumont: so after your vacation we have to talk about sartre again ;.-)
[13:21] arabella Ella: we all seem to be so thirsty for new knowledge
[13:21] Alarice Beaumont: :-)
[13:21] Herman Bergson: yes...seems so..:-)
[13:22] arabella Ella: that is why we are here
[13:22] Herman Bergson: What do you mean by randomness AP?
[13:22] Vladimir Apparatchik: Did Sartre therefore believe in "free will " and if so how did it work?
[13:22] Ap4ch3 Xingjian: random - not able to be predicted exactly
[13:22] Gudrun Odriscoll: herman, I really liked the exit, with all the dead people living besides the alive ones
[13:23] arabella Ella: sartre has such a realistic and vivid imagination he is brilliant
[13:23] Herman Bergson: I cant place that Ap...
[13:24] Herman Bergson: Yes Vladimir....according to him we are even convicted to freedom
[13:24] arabella Ella: and are we fearful of our freedom Herman?
[13:24] Vladimir Apparatchik: so where did it come from - was mind separate from matter to him?
[13:25] Ap4ch3 Xingjian: His view is that if a choice could be guided and influenced in any way by beliefs, convictions or values, it would be a caused phenomenon rather than a genuinely free choice. <--- if randomness was physical we could possibly argue that you can have free choice could be a 'caused phenomenon'
[13:25] Gudrun Odriscoll: convicted to freedom is good, freedom can be very scary - no grounding sometimes, to much choice
[13:25] Herman Bergson: He said indeed that this freedom leads to anxiety
[13:26] arabella Ella: i personally think his views and ideas are very relevant both for believers and non believers herman
[13:26] Herman Bergson: I think we'll find these themes in his novels
[13:26] Ap4ch3 Xingjian: sorry i did lots of qm .. i had to think about randomness a lot :P
[13:26] Vladimir Apparatchik: i've never understood how randomness can lead to free will
[13:26] Herman Bergson: yes..about religion he said, that as an existentialist you can be religious
[13:26] Herman Bergson: it is your choice
[13:26] arabella Ella: yes i can identify with that view
[13:26] itsme Frederix: Ap4ch3 Xingjian very interessting conclusion
[13:27] arabella Ella: when i last visited paris i made it a point to visit his grave to pay my respects
[13:27] Vladimir Apparatchik: some people argue that quantum mechanics rescues free will but I cant see it
[13:27] Herman Bergson: I am no expert on quantum mechanics, sorry..:-)
[13:27] Gudrun Odriscoll: isn't quantum mechanics sometimes overused in philosophy?
[13:27] arabella Ella: sounds like a pre-determined type of free will to me Vladimir
[13:28] arabella Ella: we are free to some extent but our freedom also has its limitations
[13:28] Ap4ch3 Xingjian: yes gudrum.. mostly qm is overused in philosophy, with gm its much better to shut up and just calculate ;)
[13:28] Vladimir Apparatchik: :)
[13:29] Herman Bergson: being with the Other is our limitation and our responsability
[13:29] Vladimir Apparatchik: OK I should never have raised QM :)
[13:29] arabella Ella: lol
[13:29] arabella Ella smiles
[13:29] Gudrun Odriscoll: herman has kristeva thought about sartre's other? sorry but am really interested
[13:29] Ap4ch3 Xingjian: :) was me not you vlad
[13:29] itsme Frederix: if you make a free coice you are "bound" to it, neglecting that makes you less free and redraws the choice
[13:30] Herman Bergson: Kristeva?
[13:30] Gudrun Odriscoll: vald, QM ist quite exciting, but I think a lot of disciplines misappropriate it
[13:30] AristotleVon Doobie: absolute free wiil could only exist if there is exist nothing else but yourself
[13:30] arabella Ella: modern psychology also demonstrates the fact that our choices may be determined if we take the whole range of variables ... nature and nurture ... into soncideration
[13:30] arabella Ella: consideration
[13:30] Vladimir Apparatchik: Ap - a superposition of states maybe - you and I
[13:31] Ap4ch3 Xingjian: lol vlad :P
[13:31] itsme Frederix: to much QM was said
[13:31] Gudrun Odriscoll: Juli Kristeva, she wrote a really interesting essay on the other, French philosopher originallyh from Bulgaria, still alive, teaches at Uni 5
[13:31] Herman Bergson: Yes..stop that QM chat..:-)
[13:31] itsme Frederix: zizeck?
[13:31] arabella Ella: zizek is very existential too prob influenced by sartre too
[13:31] itsme Frederix: no that one is slovenian
[13:32] Herman Bergson: Not familiar with the name, sorry
[13:32] Gudrun Odriscoll: zizek is interesting too, he is from Slovenia, I know him actually, he is mad mad mad and he is a Lacanian
[13:32] arabella Ella: ziezek is not mad he is very intelligent but controversial
[13:32] itsme Frederix: Lacanian's do they still exist?
[13:33] Gudrun Odriscoll: arabelle, he is mad, but of cosurse interesting, if you listen to him live he can't stop talking, it is like he listens to himself again and again
[13:33] Gudrun Odriscoll: itsme, Slavoh Zizek was actually a pupil of Lacan
[13:33] Gudrun Odriscoll: Slavoj
[13:33] arabella Ella: i said that gudrun cos i recently saw one of his movies
[13:33] arabella Ella: and i was very positively impressed
[13:33] Ap4ch3 Xingjian: got to go, bye all :)
[13:33] arabella Ella: he sure has guts
[13:34] arabella Ella: bye Ap4ch3
[13:34] Herman Bergson: What has this to do with existentialism..?
[13:34] Alarice Beaumont: bye Ap
[13:34] Hello: Reisekaufmann Zehetbauer donated L$50. Thank you very much for supporting us, it is much appreciated!
[13:34] Vladimir Apparatchik: back to free will herman - how does Sartre think we can be free - separate from the physical world - ishe a closet dualist?
[13:34] Herman Bergson: They are existentialists
[13:34] itsme Frederix: so it seems Sartre's idea's still live
[13:34] Gudrun Odriscoll: by Ap4ch3, no QM
[13:34] arabella Ella: Zizek is a thinker who was influenced by existentialism and probably by Sartre too and he has made some controversial movies
[13:36] Gudrun Odriscoll: hei, I fear that Zizek is really more influenced by Lacan, by Marx and funnily enough by Schelling
[13:37] Birgie Breck: QM gets talked about too much...I know high energy physists... who even have listened to Tollar in person, who say that they had to just go on faith and "do" QM
[13:37] Gudrun Odriscoll: sorry maybe we should more talk about sartre and freedom again
[13:37] arabella Ella: ok
[13:37] Birgie Breck: and then, later, when they were more mature, they suddenly had their "aha" moment
[13:37] Herman Bergson: there is recently published a nice book on Satre..."The Sartre Dictionary"
[13:37] Birgie Breck: almost a religious moment... when at last they understood
[13:37] Herman Bergson: By Gary Cox
[13:38] Birgie Breck: so I get jittery when non physists talk about QM
[13:38] arabella Ella: i think sartre is brilliant with his ideas on anxiety and our being in the world in an inauthentic state
[13:38] Herman Bergson: yes indeed Arabella
[13:38] arabella Ella: because we would all like to live authentic lives but we are surrounded by 'others' which makes being authentic in a sartrian way even more difficult
[13:38] Herman Bergson: therefore I look forward on re-reading the Roads to Freedom again
[13:39] arabella Ella: and de beauvoir made this clear when she wrote about the effects of living in a relationship in the 'gaze' of 'the other'
[13:39] itsme Frederix: Satre is a little bit pessimistic/realistic Herman - be aware
[13:39] Vladimir Apparatchik: Sartre is intersting in what it is like to feel like we have free will - and live our life accordingly - but he doesnt address whether free will is actually real
[13:40] Herman Bergson: He claims his existentialism is optimistic in character
[13:40] arabella Ella: Vlad i think he is influenced by Heidegger's notion that we are 'thrown' into the void of the world where we helplessless get swung by circumstances and others
[13:40] arabella Ella: his views are very realistic and easy to identify with
[13:40] itsme Frederix: sure optimistic but heavy "duty"
[13:41] Herman Bergson: He doesnt speak so much of free will.....but of freedom of choice
[13:41] arabella Ella: and how free are we really when we make choices?
[13:41] itsme Frederix: and even more about being faithfull to your choice
[13:42] Vladimir Apparatchik: sorry herman - not sure what the difference is
[13:42] arabella Ella: there are limitations to our freedom
[13:42] Gudrun Odriscoll: arabelle the gave of the other, or the gaze of the other (sorry am a bit late)
[13:42] Herman Bergson: there isnt so much a difference, except that free will not a special issue is for Sartre, and freedom of choice is
[13:43] arabella Ella: yes that is something simone de beauvoir wrote about gudrun
[13:43] itsme Frederix: Vladimir if you have a choice about 2, you are free to choose but not free to will - you have to choose, and there are only 2
[13:43] Gudrun Odriscoll: sorry ara, I was actually kind of asleep you said gaze
[13:43] arabella Ella: yes i did
[13:43] AristotleVon Doobie: our choices must be made based on interference from 'others' and nature
[13:43] Herman Bergson: you got a point there Itsme...
[13:43] Herman Bergson: freedom forces to choose
[13:43] Emily Wind is Offline
[13:43] Herman Bergson: when you refuse to choose you still choose
[13:44] itsme Frederix: thats what Sartre argued!
[13:44] Herman Bergson: indeed
[13:44] AristotleVon Doobie: of course, so you can not refuse to choose
[13:44] arabella Ella: gudrun what de beauvoir said was that in a relationship we are greatly influenced in our choices and actions by the other person in the relationship and how he or she 'gazes' or views us
[13:44] arabella Ella: therefore we are no longer free
[13:45] Alarice Beaumont: well.. but we choose to be with that person
[13:45] Vladimir Apparatchik: sorry I still dont see the difference
[13:45] itsme Frederix: thats what Sarte also wrote when describing the waiter in L'Etre&Neant
[13:45] Alarice Beaumont: and that was free will - to choose after knowing that person
[13:45] arabella Ella: yes we do but the amount of influence is tremendous and more than we expect
[13:45] arabella Ella: itsme ... i love the piece on Andre
[13:45] Gudrun Odriscoll: beauvoir is right, arabella
[13:45] arabella Ella: i think it is in nausea
[13:45] itsme Frederix: he had a lot of examples about that "bad faitfullness"
[13:46] arabella Ella: yes Gudrun i agree too
[13:46] Herman Bergson: but Sartre would call that bad faith
[13:46] AristotleVon Doobie: and that relationship freedom is relative to the balance of the relationship
[13:46] itsme Frederix: arabella you are well informed - i read (parts) 5 year ago in the... pyrenees
[13:46] Alarice Beaumont: yes... got a point there Ari
[13:46] arabella Ella: yes but sartre wanted or claimed he wanted to be free and that is why he never married du beauvoir ... he was totally against marriage
[13:47] arabella Ella: itsme ... my background is philosophy
[13:47] arabella Ella: altho i rely on memory
[13:47] Gudrun Odriscoll: and beauvoir kind of suffered that he was not totally commited to here, he had all these other women
[13:48] Herman Bergson: Free to choose, he was....hmmmm
[13:48] AristotleVon Doobie: so he was more free than her
[13:48] arabella Ella: exactly gudrun ... but they are buried next to each other at montparnasse cemetry in paris and their grave is somewhat of a shrine today
[13:48] itsme Frederix: I wonder if you could talk about bad faith between Sartre & Beauvoir in that way
[13:48] Herman Bergson: there is one grave stone bith both their names oin it..
[13:48] Birgie Breck: she did not sit around pining for him tho... she got out and had her male friends
[13:48] arabella Ella: sartre was more free than du beauvoir but gender differences were normal in those days and perhaps expected too
[13:48] Gudrun Odriscoll: he was more free than her, I think because he called the shots somehow in the relationship
[13:48] Herman Bergson: they even share their grave
[13:49] arabella Ella: the parisians always smile nostalgically when the sartre and de beauvoir grave subject is brought up in a discussion
[13:50] AristotleVon Doobie: I think it is hard to judge the degreee of love they may have had for one another by their sexul activities
[13:50] Vladimir Apparatchik: Will a grouplike us be talking about Sartre in 100 years time, like we have with others, I'm not sure - he feels very much of his time
[13:50] Herman Bergson: You could say that Aristotle
[13:50] arabella Ella: i think there was a lot of love but fear of possessiveness
[13:50] Ze Novikov: good point Vladimir
[13:51] arabella Ella: Sartre adds romanticism to Paris as he used to spend time in cafes smoking, writing and discussing philosophy
[13:52] Gudrun Odriscoll: I think arabella, you are right, there was fear of possessivenes, but thinking about her memoirs, there was also a certain melancholia, and some desire for something other
[13:52] Herman Bergson: There on the wall the grave of sartre and de Beauvoir
[13:52] itsme Frederix: sure, he also visited RAF people - he was remarkable
[13:52] AristotleVon Doobie: cool, Herman
[13:52] Vladimir Apparatchik: and his politics was very suspect
[13:53] arabella Ella: but his philosophy raises questions which each of us raise at some time or other in our lives ... who am I? what am i doing here? what is the purpose of my life? why do others control my choices the way they do? etc
[13:53] itsme Frederix: sure
[13:53] Gemma Cleanslate: always back to basics :-)
[13:53] Herman Bergson: I didnt pay much attention to Sartre when he went on the marxist tour
[13:53] arabella Ella: well i think we have to remember what happened in paris in 68 ... the student riots etc
[13:54] itsme Frederix: well it was a "better" doing than Heidegger with Nazism
[13:54] arabella Ella: communism and socialism were considered romantic in those days
[13:54] arabella Ella: or perhaps 'nostalgic' for want of a better word
[13:54] Vladimir Apparatchik: only just - he was a defender of Stalin at times
[13:54] Herman Bergson: very true Itsme.....heidegger even didnt revoke what he had said, after the war
[13:55] Herman Bergson: Well....looking at the grave of Sartre I think it is the right moment to end here
[13:55] Gemma Cleanslate: ty Herman
[13:55] Ze Novikov: yes ty
[13:55] Herman Bergson: thank you for your attention and participation in the discussion
[13:55] AristotleVon Doobie: Thank you Professor

Posted by herman_bergson on 2008-06-03 05:14:08

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