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Re: Sartre and Religion

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  • theoryphil2004
    Hello Brad. The questions you ask are not so straightforward or simple as you suggest. ... Some people find certain choices more difficult than others to make.
    Message 1 of 37 , Dec 18, 2005
      Hello Brad. The questions you ask are not so straightforward or simple
      as you suggest.

      In Sartre@yahoogroups.com, "brad_c_mccall" <brad_c_mccall@y...> wrote:
      > Phil -
      > This is simple...
      > 1st - You mention that there are degrees of freedom. What are they?

      Some people find certain choices more difficult than others to make.
      For instance the choice of a hardened smoker to give up smoking is
      more difficult than that of a recent smoker. The choice to give up
      smoking may even be too much for us and we may end up rationalising
      our decision to keep smoking in a way that does not pick out a genuine
      cause of our continuing the activity (in other words we engage in
      self-deception) i.e. we say something like I wanted to keep smoking
      because this activity has more meaning for me and so forth. Sartre's
      account of his attempt to stop smoking in B&N p.596 looks unconvincing
      to me.

      Further those that know our character may be able to predict the
      choices that we make or at least the behaviour that seem to arise from
      our choices. For instance if someone knows that we really admire
      Sartre they may predict that we will respond in a certain way to
      criticisms of his work or if someone knows that we are religious they
      will predice that we will respond in a certain way to critiques of God
      and so forth. We do this all the time in our attempt to understand
      the world and those around us. This suggests that our choices are
      influenced by who we are and the situation we are in.

      > 2nd - You wrote...
      > "The problem with this analogy is that it is more of a
      > literarydescription than an argument... In the case of the paper
      > knife thepaper knife cannot makes any choice as to what to be. It is
      > simply apaper-knife with no inner life or freedom (the for itself).
      > Withregards to a person that ex hypothesis has been created by God
      > theyare always free to choose to follow God's plan or not and to
      > define themselves through their actions."
      > Is this really true?

      Yes - there is no inconcistency between being created and being free.

      Q: Would you agree that a person of faith would claim that God is all

      Yes - But before you continue reading you should realise that you are
      attempting to draw an inconsistency between the notions of omniscience
      and freedom and thus deviating from what I said above concerning the
      relation between the notions of being created and being free. So the
      below is really a separate topic concerning divine foreknowledge and

      Q:Doesn't God have an idea of what it is to be Phil, before Phil is
      even born?

      Not sure.

      Would a theist really claim that God can be wrong about weather a
      person will or will not follow his plan?

      Not sure depends what their take is on divine foreknowledge.
      They might say that the person has a choice weather to follow God's
      plan or tell him to get lost and then want us to produce a reason why
      this is incompatible with divine foreknowledge.

      > 3rd - Sarte would say that you can have a God and be free if the
      > following are true... 1)God is not all knowing 2)God does not have
      > any idea of what it is to be Phil before Phil is born.

      Perhaps he would say this and perhaps he would choose not to say this
      depending on how good an argument he thought it was. It is an
      interesting line of thought though I think it needs some more work.
      A form of this argument troubled St Augustine. I think that what you
      are saying can be put more formally as follows:

      1: If God knows in advance that S will do A, then it must be the case
      that S will do A.

      2: If it must be the case that S will do A, then it is not within the
      power of S to refrain from doing A.

      3: So, S is not free with respect to A

      However, it might be worth suggesting whilst the idea of divine
      foreknowledge and human freedom can *seem* to be incompatible people's
      intuitions about incompatibility in the sense of logical inconsistency
      can often be misleading especially where the issues become complex.
      The problem with the above is that neither 2 or 3 follow from 1.

      More formally we could say that from

      1: If God knows in advance that S will do A, then it must be the case
      that S will do A

      it does not follow that

      2a: If God knows in advance that S will do A, then it is NECESSARY
      that S will do A.

      But this is what is needed if we are to say that it is not within S's
      power to refrain from doing A. All that follows is that it must be the
      case that S will do A. But S can do A as a matter of contingent fact
      or a matter of necessity.

      We could make the same point in a much looser way by saying that
      the notion of a sucessful prediction is not inconsistent with the
      notion of having a choice over what action to perform (and we predict
      how people will behave all the time). Once we grasp this then we have
      some reason to doubt whether divine foreknowledge is really
      inconsistent with the ability to choose.

      > 4th - Of course Sartre would deny any human nature! That's essence
      > presceding existence. I thought you knew that already. I cann't
      > jump to the moon or grow 10' overnite. That is a condition. Not
      > nature. You wouldn't say that it is human nature to NOT be able to
      > jump to the moon. Right?

      That's right the above are not what Sartre calls "human nature".
      In my prior post you will see that I was interested in whether he was
      *WARRANTED* in saying or believing this. Oddly enough I think Sartre
      claimed that it was part of the human condition that we must work.
      (Does someone know the reference for this as I have lost it?). It
      sounds like an odd thing to say for Sartre since it suggests we are
      not free to not work and thereby have a limitation imposed on our
      freedom (that others may not have). Hence there is another sense to
      "degrees of freedom".

      Interesting questions. Certainly not simple questions.

    • Lou Eugene
      That s an interesting point you made. Sorry I haven t able to respond, I ve been really busy lately. Menal life is pretty accurate, considering that
      Message 37 of 37 , Jan 24, 2006
        That's an interesting point you made. Sorry I haven't able to respond, I've been really busy lately. "Menal life" is pretty accurate, considering that "consciousness" is very vague when you hear about it. As far as Man being "naturally violent" I think this is inherently true. It's like most of us have to rely on the rules and laws of society keep us from "giving in", while others can draw that control within themselves. I don't know if that particular topic can inspire an interesting discussion, but I would like somebody who's well-versed in Sartre to respond to this while referencing some of his texts.

        scarey1917 <scarey1917@...> wrote: "theoryphil2004" wrote:<<<<<<<So there is no inconsistency in being
        created and being free. There is only an inconsistency between being
        an inanimate object such as a paper-knife and being free...The other
        criticism that might be levied at Sartre is to question whether his
        rejection of human nature is warranted or not.>>>>>>>>>

        And it gets even more complicated, Theoryphil. In the last paragraph
        of E&HE Sartre states that "Existentialism is nothing else than an
        attempt to draw all the consequences of a coherent atheistic
        position." But then a few lines later he says: "Existentialism isn't
        so atheistic that it wears itself out showing that God doesn't exist.
        Rather, it declares that even if God did exist, that would change
        nothing." So evidently even if the supreme artificer created us, we
        are still stuck down here with our unsupportable total freedom,
        including the freedom to tell God to go jump in the lake! We decide
        the significane of God, just as we decide the ultimate significance
        of things, situations, and ourselves.

        And don't think that a view of human nature as a "given" or even the
        acceptance of the "unconscious" mind would be a problem for Sartre's
        theory of freedom, as long as such nature or mind were relegated to
        the side of the Situation which the for-itself freely takes up, or
        not. So for example one could argue from Sartre's point of view that
        man is "naturally violent", but then go on to say that this "given"
        receives existential significance within the project of the for-
        itself (I decide to give in, or not, to these given tendencies).

        In "Being and Nothingness" the ultimate problem is Sartre's total
        identification of man with consciousness, which of course is the
        influence of Descartes and modern philosophy. But consciousness is
        only one aspect (a very interesting aspect!) of man's total being. As
        Marx said, consciousness is the consciousness OF an objective being.
        Lately I have prefered the term "mental life" rather
        than "consciousness", since the former would take into account all
        the various unconciousness functions that make up about 99% of brain
        activity and which belong to the being of man.

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