SARTRE Biograpghy Born 1905 in Paris He was ugly Sartre was drafted into the military, but he was given the routine exemption to finish his studies. Sartre?s Theory Sartre?s existentialism is a combination of certain Kierkegaardian and Nietzschean ideas about freedom and human self-creation presented in terms of the phenomenological method of Edmund Hesserl, whose philosophy Sarte studied in Gernmany The work of the german philosopher Martin Heidegger could be similarly described, and some of Sartre?s detractors, knowing that Sartre had read Heidegger?s Being and Time, claim that Sartre?s Being and Nothingness is merely an unoriginal reworking of Heidegger?s and come to conclusions substantially different from his. Sartre was always dramatically to the left politically while Heidegger was distinctly a right winger Sartre is the representation of 20th century existentialism and will concentrate only on only on that period of his work when ?existentialism? ideas and ?phenomenological? methods dominate his thinking, namely from about 1938 to 1948. Phenomenology Husserl, like Desacrtes wanted to posit consciousness as the starting point of all philosophy His phenomenology is a study of the phenomena (appearances) of consciousness. His method was intended to be a presuppositionless or assumption free technique of inspecting consciousness, employing no theoretical machinery at all?no ?unconscious? (as in Freud) and no ?false consciousness? (as in Marx), but merely a description of consciousness and its data as they actually exist. It involved a ?phenomenological reduction? , or an epoche, as Husserl sometimes called it. In this act the philosopher suspends all knowledge, beliefs, and expectations about any particular object of awareness, and replaces the suspended knowledge with a new description of the object in terms only of the characteristics that actually present themselves to consciousness In Sartre?s phenomenological novel Nausea, Sartre?s main character is Roquentin, and he has him stare deeply into his beer glass while languishing in a seedy bar. Sartre believes that applying Husserl?s method to consciousness provides experimental proof of ideas about freedom and the self that were presented by Kierkegaard and Nietzche in aphoIstic and epigrammatic fashion only. Consciousness creates; it generates a bewildering array of possibilities from one moment to the next Existentialism Defined Sartre gave his now-famous definition of existentialism An existentialist is a philosopher who believes that, in the case of human beings,, ?existence precedes essence? Sarte attributes the opposite view, ?essence precedes existence? to the whole Western tradition from the ancient Greeks up to certain maverick thinkers in the 19th century,. An essence is that which a thing is, usually captured in a definition In Platonic language, it is the ?form? of a thing: in Aristolelian language, it is its ?function? It is a thing?s nature In western tradition, a things idea, form, and function, and meaning, has priority over its existence, and its existence is determined by that essence. If essence is conceived as a platonic form, the essence determines the existence of the individual entity by dictating its necessary conditions If the essence is conceived as a genetic program, it determines the existence oif f the individual through reproduction. If the essence is conceived as an idea in the mind of an inventor, it determines individual existence by instantiating (concretely representing) itself. Sartre asks us to imagine the invention of an artifact like a knife. First comes the idea( the essence is conceived) Then comes the production (the thing is brought into existence as a representation of its essence) In this case essence precedes existence The Relationship between Consciousness and Selfhood For sartres, this does not mean that we are born with read-made selves that happen to have free will Sartre?s point is more radical than this rather conventional picture of freedom According to Sartre, we are ?condemned to be free? This is the one thing about which we have no choice Consciousness reveals itself as ?an impersonal spontaneity? constantly over flowing boundaries, ?monstrous? in its tireless creation of itself ?Ex nilhilo? Monstrous Freedom According to Sartre, thoughts present themselves in consciousness as possibilities, and because Sartre defines freedom in terms of possibility, freedom is discovered in consciousness Freedom is construed as something that we desire but that has been denied us and for which we must fight Sartre says that this ?neurasthenic? case is only and exaggeration of something that happens too all of us, all of the time. It is anguish in the face of freedom Human being are always free, there are always alternative possibilities. A determinist (that is someone who denies that freedom exists) may look at the case of our hikers and say that no choices were involved at all. For sarte the past does not cause the present At each moment, we rechoose ourselves. It is true that we usually do this by choosing our past and projecting it into our future, but this is often done in ?bad faith? Typically we blame our past for what we are today, and we believe that we could not help what we did We can always choose differently than what we in fact fo choose Humans are always free in the sense just outlined, even if we are terrified by that freedom and usually respond to it in bad faith Anguish If we are always free, and if freedom manifests itself as anguish, why are we not in a perpetual state of anxiety Sartre acknowledges that, in fact, the conscious experience of anguish is rare ?good faith? and ?authenticity? would simply be acknowledgment of one?s freedom and acceptance of responsibility for one?s actions. The Other The possibility of ?good faith? is further compromised by the fact that we inhabit a world peopled by other free humans who make demands on our freedom. Sartre is making a phenomenological point: The ?other? challenges my freedom every time he looks at me. This is what Sartre calls the ?gaze? You, who as a free being are a subject, have been made into an object--- their object They have robbed you of your space. The gaze is in bad faith Man is a useless passion
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