EXISTENTIALISM: It emphasizes (dwells on) the human individual as a conscious subject, the sense of the meaningless and nothingness of human existence, and the anxiety and depression which pervade each human life.
Soren Kierkegaard (1818-1855)
1. The theme of anxiety pervades the works of Kierkegaard (one of the forerunners of existentialism) who lived in Denmark.
"I stick my finger into existence - it smells of nothing. Where am I? What is this thing called the world? Who is it who has lured me into the thing, and now leaves me here? Who am I? How did I come into the world? Why was I not consulted."
2. Kierkegaard believes that the meaningless of one's existence fills him with anxiety and despair, a sense of hopelessness and deep depression.
3. He maintains that life is not designed for pleasure, yet we strive for happiness in order to escape anxiety and hopeless depression (which is despair).
a. But there is no escape - no matter how much pleasure and comfort we experience in order to hide from the truth.
b. Kierkegaard insists that anxiety and despair is the universal condition of man.
c. We suffer from anxiety even when we are not aware of it, and even when there is nothing to fear or be anxious about.
4. Kirkegaard said that anxiety is not objective at all, it is subjective anxiety -- it is the universal fear of something that is nothing.
5. For Kierkegaard only absolute faith and turning to God can one overcome the meaningless of existence.
a. This can only happen by a restoration of orthodox Christianity.
b. The surrender of reason to Faith can overcome the sense of anxiety and hopeless despair of solitary individuals.
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
1. To Nietzsche, who is also considered a forerunner of existentionalism, Kierkegaard's religious solution to the problem of meaningless of life is unacceptable.
a. It is unacceptable because it represents man as weak, powerless, and even cowardly.
b. One's total loss of faith in himself propels him into absolute faith in God to solve his problems in life.
2. Kierkegaard's religious solution was unacceptable for a far more fundamental reason.
a. Nietzsche sees him as a champion of the past, trying to solve the problems of the modern world by turning the clock back.
ie. a return to Christian Absolutism.
b. Nietzsche says that this is impossible because God is dead.
3. The Concept of the Death of God
a. By the death of God, he means our belief in God.
b. It is our belief in God that is dead from the constant attacks of empiricists like David Hume.
4. Nietzsche claimed that the crisis of the modern world is that, in the loss of our belief in God, we have lost the foundation of our truth and value.
a. He also says that man's loss of belief in God will enable him to lose his childlike dependence upon God.
b. Human beings must now find the courage themselves to become gods in a world without God.
5. The greatest need of civilization now is to develop a new type of individual, supermen who will be intellectually and morally independent.
a. They will break the foundations of the old Judeo-Christian morality which was a life denying morality that still enslaves the masses.
b. The only morality of the supermen will be to affirm life: to be powerful, creative, joyous, and free.
The Influence of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche on 20th Century Existentialism
1. Both Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, like Marx, perceived the Western World to be approaching a time of crisis.
2. All three addressed their philosophies to the coming crisis - they offered a diagnosis of their own time, and what ought to be done about it.
3. Both Kierkegaard and Nietzsche rejected any diagnosis which treated the problem as a collective one, one of social classes in conflict.
a. For both of them and existentialism the crisis of the modern world was a problem concerning the individual, the human self.
b. The consciousness of the human subject is the only key to the diagnosis and possible cure for the modern world.
c. Existentialism maintains that in philosophies such as Hegel and Marx, with their exclusive sociological concern with a social group, social institutions, and the social system -- the individual - self disappears in social collectiveness.
4. Both Kierkegaard and Nietzsche prepare the way for existentialism by rejecting all past philosophies as showing no interest in the existence of the human individual and the effect of philosophy upon his consciousness.
5. Both share an intense and subtle concern with psychology, with mental states.
The Social Genesis of Existentialism
1. Existentialism developed in the 20th Century within both Germany and France.
2. The outbreak of World War I destroyed the belief in the continuing progress of civilization toward truth and freedom, peace and prosperity that had been fostered by the Enlightenment.
3. World War I brought the collapse of what had appeared to be a stable balance of power among great nations.
4. The Communist Revolution of 1917 in Russia shattered the confidence in political stability, the confidence that the revolutionary era was over.
5. Economic Structures were also perceived as crumbling as the Great Depression of the late 1920's and 1930's spread from Europe to the United States.
6. There began a rejection of the external authority of government, the economic system, and the scientific and intellectual world as illegitimate.
a. The human individual could only retreat to the internal authority of the self.
b. This was the logic of the existentialists who turned to the human-self as the true center of philosophy and the sole legitimating authority.
7. In its revolt against existing political and intellectual structures, existentialism was following the path of 19th Century German Romanticism.
a. The philosophy that had emphasized the human spirit, the conscious subject as the only legitimate authority.
b. It provided a shelter in the self from the coersions of German political authority and from the intellectual limitations of the Enlightenment (ie. empericism).
Existentialism: Priority to Existence over Essence
1. Its widely accepted definition is that it is the philosophic standpoint which gives priority to existence over essence.
2. Existentialism affirms the ultimate significance and primacy of one's existence and consciousness of himself and of the objects of which he is aware.
a. It rejects efforts to define him as a Platonic essence, a Cartesian mental substance, or a Hegelian carrier of the spirit of his culture.
b. Classical and modern rationalism regarded self-evident ideas as having primacy over individual things, existentialism claims the primacy of individual existence.
c. Rationalism also claims that the individual is knowable only by means of essences or concepts.
d. Existentialism denies that an individual existence can be comprehended by the concept or essence or by any conceptual system.
3. Existentialism maintains that man in his concrete existence as a conscious being has been neglected by philosophy, science, political organizations, and religion.
a. It calls for one to be concerned with the perceptions and feelings of the human spirit as opposed to attempts to analyze, predict, and program human beings.
b. Existentialism may be seen as the champion and defender of the human spirit focusing solely upon human existence.
c. It is not a philosophy of nature, of science, or history -- it is a philosophy of concrete human existence, a philosophy of man as a conscious being.
Approach to Man as Conscious Being
1. Discovery of human existence cannot be achieved by sense perception -- this simply leads to empiricism.
2. Discovery of human existence cannot be achieved by reason -- this simply leads to rationalism. (essence, definitions, and logical argumentations.)
3. An individual can take the path of crisis or of communion.
a. A crisis is a happening which suddenly removes you from ordinary routines of your life.
ie. you cannot react with everyday, habitual responses.
b. Communion is a process of self-discovery that happens when an individual feels that he is one with a group.
ie. religious unity, political unity.
4. This new approach of philosophy has been presented with new themes, such as nausea, anxiety, throwness, nothingness, and authenticity.
Themes of Existentialism
1. First is the view that existence precedes essence, and has primacy over essence.
a. Man is a conscious subject not a thing to be predicted or manipulated.
b. Existentialism says I am nothing else but my own conscious existence.
2. Second is the view that anxiety or anguish is a generalized uneasiness, a fear or dread that is not directed at any specific object.
a. It is the claim that anguish is the underlying, all-pervasive, universal condition of mankind (of human existence).
b. It views human existence as a life of suffering and sin, guilt, and anxiety.
c. This leads existentialists to reject ideas such as happiness, enlightened optimism, a sense of well-being or serenity (peace).
ie. because they reflect a superficial and foolish understanding of life by denying despair and the real tragic aspects of life.
3. The third view is that of absurdity.
a. It is the view that each of us is simply here, thrown into this time and space with no apparent reason or purpose.
b. Pascal (1623-62) a French philosopher and another early forerunner of existentialism said:
"When I consider the short duration of any life, swallowed up in eternity before and after, the little space I fill, and even can see, engulfed in the infinite immensity of space which I am ignorant, and which knows me not, I am frightened, and am astonished at being here rather than there, why now rather than then."
ie. Life is absurd.
4. Fourth is the theme, which pervades existentialism, of nothingness or the void.
a. The existentialist rejects all philosophies, political theories, and religions since they fail to reflect his existence as a conscious being.
b. The result is then that there is nothing that structures my world.
ie. I am my own existence, but my existence is a nothingness.
5. Related to the theme of nothingness is the existentialist theme of death.
a. Nothingness is a form of death which is my final nothingness.
b. The unaware person tries to live as if death is not actual, he tries to escape it.
c. Martin Heidegger (1889-1976):
"If I take death into my life, acknowledge it, and face it squarely, I will free myself from the anxiety of death and
the pettiness of life - and only then will I be free to become myself."
d. The French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre disagrees:
"Death is as absurd as birth - it is no ultimate, authentic moment of life, it is nothing but the wiping out of my existence as conscious being. Death is only another witness to the absurdity of human existence."
6. Alienation or estrangement is a sixth theme which characterizes existentialism.
a. The existentialist says that science has alienated us from nature.
b. The Industrial Revolution has alienated the worker from the product of his labor - the worker has become a mechanical component in the production process.
c. We are estranged from human institutions - government, political parties, corporations, and national religious organizations.
1. They all appear to be vast, impersonal sources of power which have a life of their own.
2. Individuals neither feel they are a part of them nor can they understand how they work.
d. The existentialist also maintains that we no longer have a sense of having roots in a meaningful past.
1. As a result we do not see ourselves moving toward a meaningful future.
2. We do not belong to the present, past, or future.
e. The existentialist finally says that personal human relations are poisoned by feelings of alienation from any "other".
1. Alienation and hostility arise within the family between parents and children, husband and wife, between children.
2. Alienation affects all social and work relations, and most cruelly alienation dominates the relationship of love.
Sartre's Early Life
1. The Words (published 1964) is an autobiography of Jean-Paul Sartre up to the age of twelve in 1917.
a. It is an aggressive attack on his parents, grandparents, and the bourgeois society into which he was born.
b. Sartre denounces all of these from his viewpoint as an existentialist and from his more recent Marxism.
2. Sartre was born in Paris in 1905:
a. His father, a second lieutenant in the French Navy, had contracted an intestinal disease while serving in French Indochina.
b. He died when Jean-Paul was only 15 months old forcing his mother, Anne-Marie, to return to the home of her parents.
3. The Schweitzer family had their roots in Alsace which at this time had become a part of Germany.
a. The son of Charles Schweitzer's younger brother was the famous theologian and medical missionary to Africa, Albert Schweitzer.
b. Charles was a language teacher, and author of a German language textbook used in French Secondary schools.
4. Charles Schweitzer who was ready for retirement went back to work to support Anne-Marie and her son.
a. Anne-Marie became, in effect, an unpaid housekeeper for her parents and was totally subordinated to their instructions and wishes.
b. Sartre says in his autobiography:
"she was not refused pocket money; they simply forgot to give her any. When her former friends, most of them married, invited her to dinner, she had to seek permission well in advance, and promise that she would be back before ten .... invitations became less frequent."
c. Sartre in making the point that as a young child he was perceiving in his grandparent's treatment of his mother the exploitation of workers practiced by the bourgeosie.
5. Sartre's autobiography is especially savage in exposing the bourgeois, hypocritical pretentiousness of Charles Sweitzer.
a. Sartre condemned his grandfather's's view that literature could provide man's salvation.
b. Sartre maintains that literature is justifiable only as a mirror which gives us a picture of ourselves.
6. Sartre eventually attended some of the finest schools in France - after graduation, he took competitive examinations for college teachers of philosophy.
a. Sartre failed it in his first attempt, but the second time - he took first place and second place was taken by Simmon de Beauvoir.
b. They first met in the Spring of 1929 (shortly before their exams) and they became friends and lovers, as well as partners in philosophy and politics.
c. Their relationship lasted for over fifty years until Sartre's death, although they both rejected the bourgeois concept of marriage.
7. Both eventually became college teachers of philosophy.
a. In 1933 and 1934 Sartre managed to be released from teaching which he regarded as imprisonment for himself and his students.
b. Sartre obtained a scholarship to the French Institute in Berlin, where Hitler had just become Chancellor of Germany.
c. Neither Sartre nor de Beauvoir at this time had any knowledge of politics, nor interest in it.
d. Both were passionately opposed to the bourgeois world, and were dedicated to destroying it.
ie. through literature not politics.
e. It was during this year of the establishment of Nazism that Sartre with his political naivete established his ties to existentialism.
1. One of Sartre's first philosophical works was a novel titled Melancholia which the publisher changed to Nausea.
2. When Nausea was published in France in 1938, it became an immediate success.
a. The central character Antoine Roquentin became a familiar figure in Western literary culture.
b. He became representative of one's melancholy of concrete existence, one's depression and nausea, and the anguish which occurs whenever the consciousness of modern man is examined.
3. Existence and Essence: Absurdity and Nausea
a. Sartre through Roquentin has reached the same conclusion David Hume did two hundred years earlier.
b. The world of existence, of matters of fact has no connection with the world of words, reason, mathematics, and logic.
c. To Sarte, there is no rational explanation as to why there is any world at all, rather than nothing.
4. To Sartre, philosophy is something we live by -- it exercises a powerful effect upon human psychology.
a. If (in contradiction to traditional philosophy) nature has no rationality, no order, no structure, then anything can happen in the universe.
b. A world in which essences do not fit existence and in which there are no necessary cause-effect relations is a world without any structure.
5. Conclusion: the key is absurdity - the fundamental lack of any rationality in the existence of things.
a. "Every existing thing is born without reason, prolongs itself out of weakness and dies by chance."
b. Nausea is what human beings cannot help feeling in the face of a world which is irrational and thus absurd.
The Loss of the Cartesian Self and Universe
1. The self which Roquentin assumed he had is only an interpretation, an essence which he has constructed for himself.
2. Human existence, like the existence of things, escapes all essences, interpretations and explanations.
3. There is no essence that fits the self -- there is no Cartesian Cogito.
4. The self exists only as a consciousness which is conscious of a succession of objects.
Sartre's Life: War Years
1. Sartre is famous for the idea that we are condemned to be free - an idea which runs through all of his writings.
2. The meaning of human freedom is disclosed in Sartre's important philosophical treatise of 1943, Being and Nothingness.
3. In 1939 Sartre was drafted and served in the corp of meteorologists with considerable free time to write.
a. When the French Army surrendered in 1940, he became a prisoner of war.
b. He was interned from June 1940 until March of 1941 when he was released for reasons of health.
c. During his internment he helped to organize an anti-fascist group and kept alive his ideas for Being and Nothingness.
4. The occupation of France by the Germans transformed Sartre, the apolitical intellectual into a political being.
5. The Cafe Philosopher:
a. Much of Being and Nothingness was written in Left Bank cafes of Paris.
b. Satre was occasionally accused of being a cafe philosopher.
6. Sartre was seeking to develop a philosophy of human existence which would confront the moral issues of the modern world.
BEING AND NOTHINGNESS
1. Hegel's systematic philosophy in Phenomenlogy of the Spirit and its claim to knowledge of total reality is rejected by Sartre as a failed product of abstract rationalism and essentialism.
2. Phenomenology for Sartre is the modest study of phenomena, of appearances in relation to the structures of human consciousness through which they appear to us as they do.
3. Sartre proposed to study being as it appears to human consciousness.
1. Descartes' Argument: Every time I am conscious of thinking, I exist; I have substance which is in this state or act of thinking.
2. Sartre found it necessary to revise Descartes.
a. He maintains that my being conscious of thinking is said to prove that I exist as a substance whose essence is to think.
b. Sartre takes the view that consciousness is always referring to an object.
3. Sartre agrees with Descartes that consciousness is always consciousness of itself.
ie. to be aware of an object is to be aware of being aware.
4. Sartre concludes that consciousness is the starting point of philosophy.
a. The concept of the Cartesian Cogito is rejected.
b. Consciousness is intentional and transparent, a nothingness.
The Regions of Being (Being-for-Itself/Being-in-Itself)
1. Sartre now lays down his Phenomenology of being as it appears to consciousness.
2. He maintains that there are two kinds or "regions of being" that appear within the consciousness.
3. There is the being of myself as consciousness and the being of that which is other than myself.
1. There is existence independent of consciousness which is without consciousness and is causally determined (existing without freedom).
2. These are objects of consciousness, the being of existing things, -- a pebble, a chestnut tree.
3. They exist in-themselves and are subject to causal laws and thus are causally determined to be what they are.
4. They have no consciousness and thus no awareness of anything other than themselves.
Being-for-Itself (Conscious Being)
1. Sartre now calls the conscious being, being-for-itself.
2. By being-for-itself, Sartre means the self-conscious.
3. Sartre says it is not pure consciousness, but is transparent (since it is the self-consciousness of objects).
4. There is no "inner life" of thoughts, beliefs, feelings within consciousness of which one is aware.
5. To be a conscious being is to be aware of a gap between my consciousness and its objects.
a. It is to be in the world, and yet to be aware of not being one of the causally determined objects of the world.
b. It is to be aware of a distance, and emptiness, a gap that separates me from the region of things.
6. Sartre now argues that through conscious beings that nothingness (negation) enters the world.
7. Sartre is trying to bring understanding to the human condition and to show the differences that separate the conscious being from causally determined things.
a. Consciousness of in-itself exist as it is -- without awareness of gaps, without any possibility of questions or doubts.
b. Consciousness of for-itself has the power to separate itself from its objects.
c. It is able to distinguish itself from the realm of things, to question, to doubt, to entertain possibilities.
8. Sartre says to be able to do this is to introduce a "negative element" into the world.
9. In your awareness of possibilities, desires, expectations of the future, you have become conscious of what is not the case, what is not present, what is not actual.
10. Sartre maintains that nothingness, negation is the basis of all questioning and of "all philosophical or scientific inquiry".
a. Only the conscious being has the capacity to withdraw and separate from the causally determined order of things.
b. It is the conscious being who introduces a gap, a void, a nothingness between consciousness and the realm of things.
11. Sartre's Conclusions
a. It is through man that nothingness comes into the world of being.
b. It is the capacity to be aware of the gap or difference between consciousness and its objects.
ie. between in-itself and for-itself.
c. In my capacity to question the world, I detach myself from it and thus negate it.
The Conscious Being Has the Power of Negation
(ie. freedom from objects and the causally determined world.)
1. Sartre now shows that nothingness (negation) is at the same time human freedom.
2. An individual becomes aware that his freedom as being-for-itself is his power.
a. It is the power of negation, the identical power of Hegel's principle of negation.
b. Through my freedom and power, I think of what is absent, of what is not the case, of future possibilities which do not exist at present.
3. Sartre's point is to be a conscious being is to be free -- there is no difference between the being of man and his being free.
Conscious Being Has Total Freedom
1. Sartre says that my freedom as a conscious being enters my own existence.
2. Since I am totally free, my past does not determine what I am now.
a. Between myself as I am now and my past, I have put a gap (negation).
b. I am thus free from my past.
3. Everytime I am confronted with temptation, I am free to make my own choice and yesterday does not determine what I do today.
4. The freedom of choice is the freedom of the conscious being which all human beings painfully discover.
5. Total freedom will result in anguish that comes from my free choice.
a. I feel anguish since my free choice (freedom) destroys the determining force of my past decisions.
b. Sartre opposes any mode of determinism that would relieve this anguish.
c. This is the old philosophic argument (controversy) between determinism and free will.
6. Sartre believes that he has gone beyond the established position taken in the determinism-free will argument in his concept of situation.
a. Against Freud - Sartre argues that I, as a conscious being, cannot logically be regarded as causally determined by unconscious forces -- by antecedent psychological conditions of my life.
b. Against Marx - Sartre argues that I am not determined by the mode of production and class conflict of my society.
c. It has also been maintained that sciences of the 20th century regard the individual as totally determined, not totally free.
7. Sartre denounces any type of determinism (Marxian, Freudian, or Scientific) that views Man as being causally determined and not as a free conscious being.
a. Sartre argues that my "facticity" may be biologically, psychologically, socially, and economically determined.
By Facticity, Sartre means the contingent circumstances or facts of my life.
b. However, as a conscious being, I choose the meaning they have for me.
c. I transform this facticity by my choice of meanings and possibilities, by my projects, into my situation.
d. By Situation, Sartre means an organization of the world into a meaningful totality from the viewpoint of a free individual.
1. I am free as a conscious being, choosing the meaning I will give the facts in my situation.
ie. it is not a causally determined world of facts.
2. Sartre said during the German occupation of France,
"A man is always free to be a traitor or not."
8. Sartre's Solution: Free Will vs. Determinism
a. We are free in the sense that we make ourselves out of what conditions have made of us, out of our past.
b. We cannot change these facts but we are free in giving them meaning in our situations, which we construct and reconstruct as our meanings change.
c. Man is free to choose his own path -- nothing in one's past prevents him - he is not solely determined by his past.
Conscious Being Has Total Responsibility For His Own World
1. Man has now discovered that as a totally free conscious being, he alone is responsible for the meaning of the situation in which he lives.
2. Question: What should be the basis or the source from which I formulate meaning in my world?
3. Sartre maintains than an individual must realize that there is no source of absolute truth.
a. Man has no immutable Platonic Essence to establish truth and virtue for his life.
b. Man determines his own "essence" only by his temporary, transient choices of what he would like to become.
c. God cannot be the foundation for truth and virtue since God is dead (Nietzsche's View).
d. Man must realize that he alone is the source of whatever meaning, truth, or value his world has.
Conscious Being Experiences Anguish
1. Man thus faces the realization that he is totally responsible for his choices without the support of God or any other foundation of truth and values. (ie. Man experiences anguish with the resposibility.)
2. Anguish is the realization that my total freedom is also total responsibility to define my situation, to choose the meaning of my world.
3. Sartre says that Man does not choose to be free, but as a conscious being he is condemned to be free.
" I am condemned to be free. This means that no limits to my freedom can be found except freedom itself or, if you prefer, that we are not free to cease being free."
4. But Man tries to escape this dreadful freedom -- to avoid the anxiety which he experiences when he is face to face with his own freedom.
a. Man would like to be simply a thing, a being-in-itself, like a stone.
b. A thing that does not bring nothingness into the world, that does not feel dissatisfaction, does not pursue possibilities, and choose meaning and accept responsibility.
Conscious Being Escapes Into Bad Faith
1. Sartre calls bad faith man's desire to escape from freedom and responsibility.
2. It is an attempt to escape from one's freedom by pretending that human affairs are unavoidable and necessary.
ie. they are the causal order of things.
3. Bad Faith is self-deception; it is a lie that we tell ourselves - it is a lie in one's soul.
a. Man is not a causally necessitated thing.
b. Yet, he endlessly attempts to escape from the painful truth about himself by many forms of bad faith.
4. Sartre presents the example of the Courtship:
a. A man and woman on their first date -- the woman knows very well the intentions of the man.
b. Sartre says that she also knows that she will sooner or later have to make a decision.
1. When the man takes her hand, she postpones the decision of whether or not to accept him.
2. She pretends that she has not noticed that he has taken her hand.
c. Sartre maintains that at that moment the woman is all intellect -- she speaks of life, her life.
d. She has allowed her hand to become a thing, resting passively in the hands of the man. (separated from her.)
e. Sartre points out that she is pretending her hand is a thing, separated from herself, and that she is not responsible for what she is doing.
f. Sartre says that by letting her hand remain in his -- this is the bad faith of pretension to be a thing.
5. Then Sartre presents the case of the waiter in the cafe.
a. Sartre says his movements are too precise, too rapid, he bends forward too eagerly, he is a little too solicitous for the customer's order.
b. He has escaped from his freedom into acting a part, playing a social role, as if his essence were to be a perfect mechanism.
c. Sartre says that he has escaped from his freedom as a person into becoming a mechanism from which he will gain social approval for the perfection of the performance of his role.
d. This type of bad faith consists in the pretense of being identified with a role.
6. Now Sartre presents the case of the homosexual who says, "I am a homosexual" as if he is so by nature.
a. The belief that such a condition is destined or involuntary on his part, that it is something which he cannot help any more than a table can help being a table.
b. The homosexual is trying to escape from his freedom and responsibility by thinking of himself as a thing determined by nature like a cabbage and thus incapable of change.
7. Another type of bad faith is anti-Semitism.
ie. Reflections on the Jewish Question by Sartre
a. Sartre says that the key to the problem is to understand the Frenchman who is an anti-Semite.
b. Anti-Semitics are usually mediocre persons of low social status, who try to compensate for their insignificance by making a scapegoat of the Jews.
c. They become thinglike, rocklike claiming to have a mystical state of superiority over the Jews.
d. But this is self deception, the pretense of having a rocklike foundation.
ie. to be a stone is not to be human.
Good Faith: this is the area of ethics and moral philosophy.
1. When France was liberated and World War II came to an end in 1945, the intellectual community of Paris was swept up with enthusiasm for Jean-Paul Sartre and the human freedom that he had championed.
2. Sartre's philosophy of existentialism began to spread throughout the continent of Europe to the United States and Latin America.
3. The appeal of Sartre was that he was universalizing the despair of France and a war-weary world.
a. Existentialism expressed the post war need to pick up their lives again and the freedom to renew themselves.
b. It also expressed a denial of the inevitable determinism of circumstance.
c. With its expressed freedom and hope to renew the world, this philosophy seemed to offer a humanism reflecting human life in the middle of the 20th century.
4. The appeal of existentialism became so threatening that it was quickly condemned by both the Roman Catholic Church and the Communist Party.
a. The philosophy of Sartre was condemned for its atheism by the Roman Catholic Church in October 1948.
b. In 1944, before the war was over, the leading intellectuals of the Communist Party of France (PCF) launched a public condemnation of Sartre
c. Existentialism was perceived as seducing young party members away from the Orthodox Communism of Marx, Lenin, and Stalin.
ie. It was endangering the strength and unity of the party.
5. By 1948 a Communist Party Congress officially condemned existentialism as "ideological public enemy Number One".
a. Communist intellectuals attacked Sartre as a an anti-revolutionary idealist; as a bourgeois subjectivist, ignoring the needs of society.
b. Sartre was also attacked as an advocate of a formal, empty freedom while he paid no attention to the actual lack of freedom in the world.
c. He was accused of being a secret fascist, under the influence of Heidegger, and a part of a national effort to destroy the PCF.
1. Sartre gave a lecture on the evening of October 29, 1945, in Paris at the Club Maintenant (The Now Club).
2. The lecture has now become famous under the title of Existentialism Is Humanism.
3. To illustrate and defend the moral philosophy of his existentialism, Sartre told his audience a story about one of his students.
a. A student came for advice during the years of German occupation of France (1940-44).
b. The student asked, "What shall I do?" - his father was inclined toward collaboration; his older brother had been killed in the French Army in 1940 attempting to stop the advance of the German Army.
c. The student wanted to go to England and join the Free French Army to fight the Nazis, but his mother was alone and lived only for him, in total dependence upon him.
d. His Dilema: he wanted to stay and help his mother, but he wanted to also fight the Germans and avenge his brother's death.
4. The student was torn between two fundamentally different kinds of morality.
ie. the morality of personal devotion and the morality of defending the whole society.
5. Speaking to his audience, Sartre said:
"Who could help him choose? Certainly not Christian doctrine, since both choices satisfy the criteria of a Christian choice. Nor again Kantian ethics, for he cannot consistently treat everyone as a end, for someone will have to be treated as a means. I had only one answer to give. You're free, choose .... No general ethic can show you what is to be done."
6. Sartre used this extreme case to exemplify all moral choice, from the existentialist viewpoint.
ie. since we are totally free, we can only choose in anguish, and alone without any help.
7. But this existentialist view of human freedom is so drastic that it raises the question as to whether there can be an existentialist ethics at all.
Bad Faith; Inauthenticity; Alienation: The Spirit of Seriousness
1. The key to Sartre's moral philosophy is found in his concept of bad faith.
2. Bad Faith is self-deception -- is pretending that we are causally determined and therefore have no freedom and are not responsible for our lives.
3. In place of bad faith Sartre sometimes used a closely related concept of inauthenticity.
a. Inauthenticity is the attempt to escape from the truth of what are we, as conscious beings, free to do.
ie. to choose and be responsible for our choice.
b. To be inauthentic is to be untrue to oneself as a conscious being; it is to deny what it means to be a conscious being.
4. Sartre also claims that bad faith and inauthenticity involve us in alienation.
a. To live in bad faith and inauthenticity is to be estranged from one's freedom as a conscious being and to regard oneself as a thing compelled by circumstance.
b. Sartre makes a special point of alienation from freedom that he says characterizes the bourgeosie.
c. The bourgeosie internalizes the moral rules of a dominating social system which benefits them, and acts as if it is determined by them.
5. Another closely related concept which Sartre devised is the "Spirit of Seriousness".
a. He uses it to attack all humans who accept ordinary, conventional morality as if it were an eternal, absolute necessary truth of the universe.
b. Sartre maintains that conventional morality is temporal, relative, and contingent to a particular time and a particular society.
c. It is the contingent outcome (dependent on the chance occurrence of something) rather than the necessary outcome of a variety of social and historical circumstances.
d. Sartre's point is that if these serious men had found themselves in another society (by chance), their "absolute" moral truths would have been different.
The Absence of Moral Law
1. Sartre maintains that an individual is acting morally when he abandons all self-deception and makes his moral choice with the recognition that he is free and responsible for what he chooses.
2. This brings one back to the same question: What is to be the basis, the ideal, the standard for such a moral choice.
a. Sartre's answer is the same one he gave to the anguish student during world War II.
ie. "You're free, choose."
b. No general ethic, no moral ideals, no universal values can show you what is to be done or guide you.
3. Existentialist ethics must then be an attempt to constitute itself as a moral philosophy without offering any principles or ideals or values to guide moral choices or actions.
4. The question which must present itself is why is existentialism unable, incapable of providing a moral standard for conduct.
a. Sartre in attempting to explain this dilema takes the position of Nietzsche.
ie. "God is dead."
b. He maintains that the consequence of the death of God is there is no longer any source of absolute values for man.
c. Sartre says that the real problem is not whether God exists or not, but that man needs to find himself again and to understand that nothing can save him from himself.
5. Sartre made another (second) attempt to deal with the absence of moral principles in existentialism.
a. He says that existentialism is a type of humanism, a philosophy of man which regards human beings to be the foundation of value.
b. Sartre argues that existentialism shares some of the moral values of traditional humanism, specifically humanism's value of freedom for all mankind.
c. He maintains that my choosing my own freedom as a conscious being involves my valuing and choosing freedom for all others.
6. Critics of Sartre maintain that there is nothing in Nausea or Being and Nothingness that was based on the humanistic value of universal freedom.
a. They maintain that Sartre has consistently taken the position that the other person's freedom is a threat to mine, and it is something that I seek to overcome.
b. They maintain that both of Sartre's arguments fail to explain the lack of a moral foundation in existentialism.
7. Sartre closed out a possibility of principles or values for an existentialist ethic by his phenemonology of the kinds of being as they appear to human consciousness.
a. Sartre presented a universe in which there are only two kinds of beings.
ie. being-in-itself and being-for-itself.
b. Being-In-Itself: it exists without consciousness, it is causally determined without freedom thus having neither meaning or value.
c. Being-For-Itself: it is the region of consciousness that is undetermined and free.
1. It is aware of itself and of its objects and aware of its absolute separation from the region of things.
2. It has no substance, no essence, no inner life though it is aware of gaps.
8. In a universe of only two kinds of being, free conscious is the only possible foundation of values.
a. Contradiction: a conscious being can have no essence, no ideals or principles since that would destroy its freedom.
b. If values exist in the conscious being, then they are contingent - temporary, relative, and changing.
ie. they are what I happen to choose in my changing circumstance.
c. The only conclusion is that existentialism cannot provide an ultimate, fixed foundation for human values.
9. Critics thus maintain that it is the existentialist conception of the limitless pure freedom of a conscious being that has brought about the result that an existentialist ethic is impossible.