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limitations on radical freedom caused by the essential realness of character

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  • Tommy Beavitt
    Thanks for your responses, What I think I was trying to allude to is that, although Sartre was right to postulate radical freedom (ie. the freedom to create,
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 25, 2000
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      Thanks for your responses,

      What I think I was trying to allude to is that, although Sartre was right to
      postulate radical freedom (ie. the freedom to create, by actively
      perceiving it, your own universe) there is a limit to that freedom caused by
      the essential 'realness' of character.

      Existentialism means that there are no snug, comforting, universal truths to
      which we can turn in times of stress and say, "Ah, thank goodness I don't
      have to think about that one". Such behaviour would be inauthentic and
      'mauvaise foi'.

      On the other hand, studies of 'character', in the existentialist school,
      have sometimes revealed it to be somehow real: if there is such a thing as
      inauthenticity there is also such a thing as authenticity, which would seem
      to be about as real as it gets. So if a person's character represents their
      'being' as opposed to nothingness, it follows that traits will be a real
      thing that causes the person unbearable anguish or may cause them to seek
      nothingness if they are placed in untenable positions (cf. Laing: Self and
      Others). Others inhabiting the same moral universe are the same - yet
      different - and each affects the others' behaviour.

      The limitations to radical (re)invention of the self that I envisage are
      factual, but they don't relate to external facts as much as the facts of
      that self's character. Those facts have been established as the result of
      previous inventions or inherited traits but it is my assertion that as a
      character 'develops' it becomes increasingly limited in its ability for
      radical reinvention.

      Is this Sartrean heresy or doctrine?

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      > I believe that in any given moment we do possess radical freedom; which is
      > to say, in any
      > given moment I can be a hero or a coward, altruistic or selfish. A person
      > can even, in
      > a moment's time (and in the heat of the moment), redeem, at least
      > partially, a life time of cowardice by doing something brave. What Tommy
      > Beavitt is, I think alluding to, is over a longer time frame. First of
      > all, if I decide that I'm going to do a brave thing tomorrow I may well
      > revert to my usual cowardice by the time tomorrow arrives. And, in a
      > second sense, if I've been a cold,distant and unemotional person for my
      > whole life it's going to be difficult (though in such a matter I don't
      > think we can ever say impossible) for me to become a warm and caring
      > person. And I think there's some truth in this, though it must be
      > remembered that such a person has become so cold and distant because, in
      > part, they've spent a whole lifetime choosing to be that way in the first
      > place and may have, as such, willed away the tools they would need to be
      > warm and caring. Also, just because it might be very difficult for such a
      > person to become warm and caring per se (they may even lack the!
      > !
      > social graces or behavorial repertoire to do so), this isn't to say that
      > they can't become warmer and more caring.
      > Greg
      > ----Original Message-----
      > >From: "Russell, J. Michael" <jmrussell@...>
      > >To: "'Sartre@egroups.com'" <Sartre@egroups.com>
      > >Cc: "Russell, J. Michael" <jmrussell@...>
      > >Subject: RE: [Sartre] introduction
      > >Reply-To: Sartre@egroups.com
      > >Date: Thursday, April 20, 2000 12:08 PM
      > >
      > >Welcome, Tommy Beavitt.
      > >
      > >While I think there is something to what you have asserted here, I would
      > >want to earmark some points, some terms, for extra caution. We don't make
      > >choices in a vacuum, and there are all sorts of factual limitations on
      > >we can do, including facts about our history. For all that, character
      > >a something with a literal shape or momentum, nor a matter of destiny. I
      > >think Sartre retreated unnecessarily from his radical portrait of freedom,
      > >in Being & Nothingness, to his efforts to give more weight to how we are
      > >constituted by our (social) situation, in his later work. The
      > >tools were there all along (in B&N) for providing a balance between
      > >that we are, indeed, in a world, and that at each moment we must take up
      > >circumstances and make something of them.
      > >
      > >
      > >I have edited your original message:
      > >-----Original Message-----
      > >From: Tommy Beavitt [mailto:tommy@...]
      > >Sent: Wednesday, April 19, 2000 4:16 AM .....
      > >
      > >Hi all you existentialists .....
      > >
      > >If anyone would like to comment on the following statement (my thought for
      > >the day) from a Sartrean perspective as a way of welcoming me to this list
      > >would be most honoured!
      > >
      > >"It is wrong to suppose that a person's character is infinitely malleable
      > >and capable of reconstituting itself to face any situation. In fact,
      > >aspects of peoples' characters get locked in as they progress towards
      > >destiny, becoming mutually incompatible with other aspects that may be
      > >necessary in order for the individual to reconstitute him or herself to
      > >a given situation."
      > >
      > >Tommy Beavitt
      > >
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      > >For philosophical resources visit the Sartre homepage at:
      > >http://www.sartre.org.uk
      > >
      > >To leave this list send a blank e-mail to:
      > >Sartre-unsubscribe@onelist.com
      > >
      > >
      > >
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      > For philosophical resources visit the Sartre homepage at:
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