|Posted by Jean
Tollett on October 22 2007, 10:21 »
Uploaded 22/10/07 12:27
Here's a good idea. The world's greatest philosophers squashed
into bite-size texts, a little like those beginners guides that
you see in bookshops.
THE VERY SQUASHED VERSION (of Sartre's existentialism)
Existentialism is being identified with ugliness; criticised by
Christians for being despairing and non-serious, by Communists
for being too subjective and by both for lack of hope. They think
that man needs firm rules.
What, then, is "existentialism"? Existentialists, be
they Christians or atheists (like myself) believe that existence
comes before essence- that we must begin with the subjective.
A manufactured object, say a paper knife, is made to serve a purpose.
For us, our existence comes first, we have each our own Project;
to choose our own purpose, and in doing so to choose an image
for all to follow. Existentialists state frankly that man is in
anguish unable but to choose. Like Abraham, who obeyed the angel,
but had to first choose if it was really an angel, and if he was
really Abraham. We are abandoned by God, left alone without excuse,
to interpret alone such signs as there are. Even when we seek
advice, it is we who choose who to ask. We must despair of help
from outside our will, or beyond the possibilities of action.
Descartes said "Conquer yourself" and meant the same-
that we should act without hope.
To the Communists who look to help from comrades and those 'quietists'
who let others do the things they can't, I say that reality is
action. We must judge the artist by his works, the man by his
actions; not by mere hopes, dreams and unfulfilled expectations.
We are not pessimists, but sturdy optimists.
We begin with Descartes I think, therefore I am- the basic truth
for everyone. But we discover in it all others as well as ourselves.
We are not anarchists, nor are we immoral. We judge a man by his
commitments and accuse those who deny their freedom of bad faith.
We cannot have liberty unless there is liberty for all. We have
to take things as they are.
Thanks for that, Jean. I always liked the "existence
comes before essence" line. Large numbers of people on
the political right (and left) still see things differently, of
course - they "see" the true essences behind the appearances.
In other words, they're living in the backward metaphysical universe
of Plato and Aristotle.
The scientific viewpoint (like existentialism)
opposes this - we have only appearances to observe and measure.
And the cognitive scientists map our "inner"
worlds based on appearances, observations, measurements.
Only the priests, popes and the emotionally hysterical
know the real truth, the true essence of things. And they're welcome
to it, as long as they leave me alone.
Brian wrote: "And they're welcome to
it, as long as they leave me alone".
As you all, probably, are already aware, those
who know the Ultimate Truth tend to be the ones least likely
to leave other people alone. They're like the Jehovah's Witnesses
of politics. They have the delusion that forever knocking on people's
doors (or on their email inboxes) is the way to salvation for humanity.
I'm sure you know the types I'm talking about.