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Re: [Sartre] some questions

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  • Shirley Isaac
    ... I can t resist commenting here: I tend to agree with you, Greg, that Christianity is incompatible with existentialism, at least in its pure form, which
    Message 1 of 12 , Aug 31 9:59 PM
      Greg Evans wrote:

      > But in this case the religious or spritual person is, it seems to me,
      > setting out an a-priori, that is, that "love" is the organizing principle
      > of the universe and there is therefore some inherent reason (as opposed to
      > it just being a good idea) why we should believe and act according to the
      > dictates of "love"; i.e. that love is more than just a human choice in
      > which case "love" starts becoming thing-like, a part of human nature and
      > all the other a priori assumptions that Sartre spend his whole life
      > fighting against.
      >
      > And, on more of a gut level, I also have a hard time understanding
      > Christian existentialists; perhaps its just me, but in my opinion if we're
      > going to have a god or gods or goddesses they should be casting down
      > thunderbolts from up high and otherwise making their omnipotence known. If
      > God has to retreat so far into the background as he does with Christian
      > existentialism then I have to start wondering why bother with him/her/it at
      > all.

      I can't resist commenting here: I tend to agree with you, Greg, that
      Christianity is incompatible with existentialism, at least in its "pure"
      form, which in my opinion is atheistic. However, I'd also say that this
      Sartrean form of existentialism is incompatible with any kind of
      spirituality. Of course, the possibility of deluding oneself always
      remains, and so one might speak of a kind of "transcendence" within
      existentialism that is, in actuality, nothing of the sort.

      Regarding your reference to "Christian existentialists," in the first
      place, I can't think of any thorough-going existentialists who were also
      Christian, except Kierkegaard. Gabriel Marcel, for certain, was not.
      In fact, he resisted this label. You might find a little essay
      contrasting his own philosophy with that of Sartre quite helpful. I
      forget the title, but it's found along with "The Ontological Mystery" in
      one of his books, entitled _The Philosophy of Existence_. As far as I
      know, this is the only book by Marcel that's still in print. (I might be
      mistaken about this.)

      As for Kierkegaard, he himself said that the person who does not call
      himself a Christian (e.g. a Buddhist), yet who believes with a
      passionate inwardness is, in fact, the true Christian, whereas the
      person who calls himself a Christian yet does not believe with this
      degree of inwardness is mistaken about his own identity. I have
      difficulties with this statement; however, I also have difficulties with
      Kierkegaard's understanding of Christianity, i.e., as embodying a
      contradiction.

      If Christianity and, more specifically, the incarnation, does imply a
      contradiction, however, then it might be possible to reconcile Christian
      faith with existentialism. More than that, it would seem to me that
      Christianity might then be seen as the only authentic form of
      existentialism, insofar as the abusrdity needed to maintain the
      inwardness that grounds the self within an existentialist philosophy is
      found only in the central dogmas of the Christian faith. But again, I
      have very little use for Kierkegaard.

      Regards,
      Shirley
    • Greg Evans
      ... Greg answers: This, if true, would be such a far reaching and radical situation that I can t pass up commenting on it. I don t think, though, that I would
      Message 2 of 12 , Sep 1, 2000
        Shirley wrote:

        > If Christianity and, more specifically, the incarnation, does imply a
        > contradiction, however, then it might be possible to reconcile Christian
        > faith with existentialism. More than that, it would seem to me that
        > Christianity might then be seen as the only authentic form of
        > existentialism, insofar as the abusrdity needed to maintain the
        > inwardness that grounds the self within an existentialist philosophy is
        > found only in the central dogmas of the Christian faith.

        Greg answers:

        This, if true, would be such a far reaching and radical situation that I
        can't pass up commenting on it. I don't think, though, that I would agree,
        if I understand you correctly, that we need any religious and doctrinal
        contradictions to maintain our absurdity. The absurdity of our existence
        is to be found at every turn of our lives, and deaths. Anybody that
        refuses to deny this absurdity is haunted by its implications and, in
        dealing with these implications, develops a certain inwardness and
        existential outlook.

        ----------
        > From: Shirley Isaac <isaac.shirley@...>
        > To: Sartre@egroups.com
        > Subject: Re: [Sartre] some questions
        > Date: Thursday, August 31, 2000 9:59 PM
        >
        >
        > Greg Evans wrote:
        >
        > > But in this case the religious or spritual person is, it seems to me,
        > > setting out an a-priori, that is, that "love" is the organizing
        principle
        > > of the universe and there is therefore some inherent reason (as opposed
        to
        > > it just being a good idea) why we should believe and act according to
        the
        > > dictates of "love"; i.e. that love is more than just a human choice in
        > > which case "love" starts becoming thing-like, a part of human nature
        and
        > > all the other a priori assumptions that Sartre spend his whole life
        > > fighting against.
        > >
        > > And, on more of a gut level, I also have a hard time understanding
        > > Christian existentialists; perhaps its just me, but in my opinion if
        we're
        > > going to have a god or gods or goddesses they should be casting down
        > > thunderbolts from up high and otherwise making their omnipotence known.
        If
        > > God has to retreat so far into the background as he does with Christian
        > > existentialism then I have to start wondering why bother with
        him/her/it at
        > > all.
        >
        > I can't resist commenting here: I tend to agree with you, Greg, that
        > Christianity is incompatible with existentialism, at least in its "pure"
        > form, which in my opinion is atheistic. However, I'd also say that this
        > Sartrean form of existentialism is incompatible with any kind of
        > spirituality. Of course, the possibility of deluding oneself always
        > remains, and so one might speak of a kind of "transcendence" within
        > existentialism that is, in actuality, nothing of the sort.
        >
        > Regarding your reference to "Christian existentialists," in the first
        > place, I can't think of any thorough-going existentialists who were also
        > Christian, except Kierkegaard. Gabriel Marcel, for certain, was not.
        > In fact, he resisted this label. You might find a little essay
        > contrasting his own philosophy with that of Sartre quite helpful. I
        > forget the title, but it's found along with "The Ontological Mystery" in
        > one of his books, entitled _The Philosophy of Existence_. As far as I
        > know, this is the only book by Marcel that's still in print. (I might be
        > mistaken about this.)
        >
        > As for Kierkegaard, he himself said that the person who does not call
        > himself a Christian (e.g. a Buddhist), yet who believes with a
        > passionate inwardness is, in fact, the true Christian, whereas the
        > person who calls himself a Christian yet does not believe with this
        > degree of inwardness is mistaken about his own identity. I have
        > difficulties with this statement; however, I also have difficulties with
        > Kierkegaard's understanding of Christianity, i.e., as embodying a
        > contradiction.
        >
        > If Christianity and, more specifically, the incarnation, does imply a
        > contradiction, however, then it might be possible to reconcile Christian
        > faith with existentialism. More than that, it would seem to me that
        > Christianity might then be seen as the only authentic form of
        > existentialism, insofar as the abusrdity needed to maintain the
        > inwardness that grounds the self within an existentialist philosophy is
        > found only in the central dogmas of the Christian faith. But again, I
        > have very little use for Kierkegaard.
        >
        > Regards,
        > Shirley
        >
        > Sartre homepage: http://www.Sartre.org.uk/
        >
        > To unsubscribe, e-mail: Sartre-unsubscribe@...
        >
        > <A
        HREF="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/external-search/?keyword=Jean-Paul+S
        artre&tag=donaldrobertson">Click here to purchase books by Jean-Paul Sartre
        -in association with Amazon (US).</A>
      • Tommy Beavitt
        ... I agree with you, Greg, that the religious/spiritual person is setting out that love is the organising principle of the universe as an a priori. I suppose
        Message 3 of 12 , Sep 1, 2000
          At 1:51 pm -0700 31/8/00, Greg Evans wrote:
          >But in this case the religious or spritual person is, it seems to me,
          >setting out an a-priori, that is, that "love" is the organizing principle
          >of the universe and there is therefore some inherent reason (as opposed to
          >it just being a good idea) why we should believe and act according to the
          >dictates of "love"; i.e. that love is more than just a human choice in
          >which case "love" starts becoming thing-like, a part of human nature and
          >all the other a priori assumptions that Sartre spend his whole life
          >fighting against.

          I agree with you, Greg, that the religious/spiritual person is
          setting out that love is the organising principle of the universe as
          an a priori. I suppose Sartre would call this bad faith. I, however,
          would call it simply 'faith' and I believe it has been 'proved' to me
          that interpreting the organising principle of the universe as love
          (as opposed to 'nature red in tooth and claw', what have you) confers
          the benefit on the person who interprets thus of experiencing that
          love.

          Although I admire Sartre very much as a thinker, I don't think even
          he would have claimed to have done away with the need for a priori
          assumptions in formulating a philosophy. Perhaps at times, but not in
          conclusion. But we are left with the freedom - to interpret, to
          experience, to choose not to adopt the position of the herd (which
          after all, I believe, is what Sartre meant by 'bad faith') - that
          existentialism has won for us; and that freedom includes the freedom
          to interpret the organising principle of the universe as love in a
          quasi-religious fashion.

          The only inherent reason in choosing to interpret the organising
          principle as love is because such a choice confers a benefit on the
          chooser. It is equally philosophically valid to interpret the
          organising principle as hatred, conflict,etc. but this may have the
          result of disenhancing, even curtailing, this precious EXISTENCE
          which is, after all, Sartre's a priori.

          Tommy Beavitt
          --
          tel +44 (0)1349 883858
          3 Moultavie Cottages, Boath, Alness, Ross-shire, IV17 0XJ, UK
          business/community site: http://www.scoraig.com
          Download Tommy Beavitt songs at: http://tommybeavitt.iuma.com
          Poetry, writing, music and more: http://www.tommybeavitt.co.uk
        • Greg Evans
          ... Greg writes: I still don t think the concept of an organizing principle has any place, stated in this way, in a Sartrean philosophy; for one thing, the
          Message 4 of 12 , Sep 1, 2000
            Tommy Beavitt wrote:

            > Although I admire Sartre very much as a thinker, I don't think even
            > he would have claimed to have done away with the need for a priori
            > assumptions in formulating a philosophy. Perhaps at times, but not in
            > conclusion. But we are left with the freedom - to interpret, to
            > experience, to choose not to adopt the position of the herd (which
            > after all, I believe, is what Sartre meant by 'bad faith') - that
            > existentialism has won for us; and that freedom includes the freedom
            > to interpret the organising principle of the universe as love in a
            > quasi-religious fashion.

            Greg writes:

            I still don't think the concept of an "organizing principle" has any place,
            stated in this way, in a Sartrean philosophy; for one thing, the acceptance
            of such an a priori can easily lead to idealism, which Sartre (who was very
            concerned which situating the individual as he or she actually existed)
            certainly opposed. The closest I think Sartre came to what you're
            describing was at the end of the Critique of Dialectical Reason, where he
            suggests that we can and must, when all is said and done, choose to make a
            different sort of history then the one we've had so far. That, in
            opposition to Marx's (and, in the deterministic sense, especially Engles)
            assertion that a fair and just society is the inevitable end-product of
            human history and material conditions, Sartre would argue that at the most
            material conditions might give the opportunity for people to make a
            fairer and more just history, but that it's still a choice they (in this
            case collectively) must make. Further, Sartre posited scarcity as the
            underlying value of our history so far (meaning that we can never get
            enough of something, no matter how wealthy we are), and clearly if we're
            going to start making history in a different fashion we would also need to
            change this underlying value. So what Sartre here is suggesting is clearly
            a different form of human relationship, made possible (in a Marxian sense)
            by changing economic conditions, but in no sense is it an a-priori
            "organising principle." It is, like everything else with Sartre, a choice
            that is made. The closest he might come to accepting the sort of
            organising principle would be if some concept or idea became rooted in a
            society's culture where it becomes a kind of inertia, e.g., the children
            learn from their parents and society not to hate or be suspicious of people
            of a different color and thus their first reactions to issues of race and
            color are more open. But this is only, for Sartre, an inertia. The
            individual still must choose to affirm or deny this (and, just as some
            people who are extremely anti-racist are raised in racist surroundings, the
            opposite can also be true), and the idea itself, no matter how good, has no
            fundamental, underlying reality.


            ----------
            > From: Tommy Beavitt <tommy@...>
            > To: Sartre@egroups.com
            > Subject: Re: [Sartre] some questions
            > Date: Friday, September 01, 2000 5:39 AM
            >
            >
            > At 1:51 pm -0700 31/8/00, Greg Evans wrote:
            > >But in this case the religious or spritual person is, it seems to me,
            > >setting out an a-priori, that is, that "love" is the organizing
            principle
            > >of the universe and there is therefore some inherent reason (as opposed
            to
            > >it just being a good idea) why we should believe and act according to
            the
            > >dictates of "love"; i.e. that love is more than just a human choice in
            > >which case "love" starts becoming thing-like, a part of human nature and
            > >all the other a priori assumptions that Sartre spend his whole life
            > >fighting against.
            >
            > I agree with you, Greg, that the religious/spiritual person is
            > setting out that love is the organising principle of the universe as
            > an a priori. I suppose Sartre would call this bad faith. I, however,
            > would call it simply 'faith' and I believe it has been 'proved' to me
            > that interpreting the organising principle of the universe as love
            > (as opposed to 'nature red in tooth and claw', what have you) confers
            > the benefit on the person who interprets thus of experiencing that
            > love.
            >
            > Although I admire Sartre very much as a thinker, I don't think even
            > he would have claimed to have done away with the need for a priori
            > assumptions in formulating a philosophy. Perhaps at times, but not in
            > conclusion. But we are left with the freedom - to interpret, to
            > experience, to choose not to adopt the position of the herd (which
            > after all, I believe, is what Sartre meant by 'bad faith') - that
            > existentialism has won for us; and that freedom includes the freedom
            > to interpret the organising principle of the universe as love in a
            > quasi-religious fashion.
            >
            > The only inherent reason in choosing to interpret the organising
            > principle as love is because such a choice confers a benefit on the
            > chooser. It is equally philosophically valid to interpret the
            > organising principle as hatred, conflict,etc. but this may have the
            > result of disenhancing, even curtailing, this precious EXISTENCE
            > which is, after all, Sartre's a priori.
            >
            > Tommy Beavitt
            > --
            > tel +44 (0)1349 883858
            > 3 Moultavie Cottages, Boath, Alness, Ross-shire, IV17 0XJ, UK
            > business/community site: http://www.scoraig.com
            > Download Tommy Beavitt songs at: http://tommybeavitt.iuma.com
            > Poetry, writing, music and more: http://www.tommybeavitt.co.uk
            >
            > Sartre homepage: http://www.Sartre.org.uk/
            >
            > To unsubscribe, e-mail: Sartre-unsubscribe@...
            >
            > <A
            HREF="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/external-search/?keyword=Jean-Paul+S

            artre&tag=donaldrobertson">Click here to purchase books by Jean-Paul Sartre
            -in association with Amazon (US).</A>
          • Shirley Isaac
            ... I might agree with this. However, I was simply articulating Kierkegaard s brand of existentialism, which does require Christian faith. Whether this
            Message 5 of 12 , Sep 1, 2000
              Greg Evans wrote:
              >
              > The absurdity of our existence
              > is to be found at every turn of our lives, and deaths. Anybody that
              > refuses to deny this absurdity is haunted by its implications and, in
              > dealing with these implications, develops a certain inwardness and
              > existential outlook.

              I might agree with this. However, I was simply articulating
              Kierkegaard's brand of existentialism, which does require Christian
              faith. Whether this existentialism is defensible or not would seem to
              depend more on one's understanding of Christianity than anything else.
              If the central dogmas of the Christian faith embody the contradiction
              that Kierkegaard assumes, then Christianity might be seen as fully
              comptible with a philosophy that presupposes the absurdity of human
              existence.

              Whether this philosophy requires Christian faith is debatable. Not
              everyone recognizes the absurdity that you presuppose, and to simply
              state that anyone who belongs in this category is nevertheless "haunted
              by its implications" is saying too much. I know for certain that there
              are people who would vehemently deny this. They live quite pleasant
              lives, unaware of their so-called predicament.

              On another topic, I'd like to respond to your previous post in which you
              suggested that God might send some thunderbolts to demonstrate his
              omnipotence, if, indeed, God exists. I'm all too familiar with this
              conception of God, and quite frankly I find it lacking. The God you
              presuppose is simply a projection of human desires -- a God made in your
              own image. I don't think it's asking too much to expect that anyone
              intent on repudiating God's existence might first become better
              acquainted with the meaning of the word "God." This word is, first of
              all, a theological term and only secondarily a philosophical one.

              Shirley
            • Greg Evans
              Shirley wrote: On another topic, I d like to respond to your previous post in which you ... Greg answers: Just to clarify, I m not intent on repudiating God s
              Message 6 of 12 , Sep 2, 2000
                Shirley wrote: On another topic, I'd like to respond to your previous post
                in which you
                > suggested that God might send some thunderbolts to demonstrate his
                > omnipotence, if, indeed, God exists. I'm all too familiar with this
                > conception of God, and quite frankly I find it lacking. The God you
                > presuppose is simply a projection of human desires -- a God made in your
                > own image. I don't think it's asking too much to expect that anyone
                > intent on repudiating God's existence might first become better
                > acquainted with the meaning of the word "God." This word is, first of
                > all, a theological term and only secondarily a philosophical one.

                Greg answers:

                Just to clarify, I'm not intent on repudiating God's existence or
                presupposing anything about God -- I was just making a point in a certain
                context. To further clarify: I'm not intent on doing these things
                because, quite frankly, I don't care about God. As far as I'm concerned,
                God doesn't exist and I don't take the issue seriously enough to see any
                reason to bother to repudiate his/her/its/their existence/s. What I do
                take take seriously is Sartre, Beckett, Marx and those people. That's why
                I'm a part of the Sartre discussion group and not a part of more
                religiously or theologically oriented discusion groups.

                And, I must also say in response to your response, that I think it might be
                rather bad form to come into the
                Sartre discussion group, raise God as an issue in a context where He isn't
                exactly the first priority, and then start taking people to task for not
                addressing him seriously
                enough. Sort of like if I went into a Christian discussion group, raised
                Sartre as an issue and then, when the participants scrambled to try and
                address the issue of Sartre, got pissed off at their answers because they
                weren't well enough "acquainted" with his work.

                Anyway, I'll try to be less casual about my remarks regarding God in the
                future.
              • Shirley Isaac
                ... If you don t care about God, why do you even use the word? What kind of atheism is this that requires the concept of God, and a particular one at that, as
                Message 7 of 12 , Sep 2, 2000
                  Greg Evans wrote:

                  > Just to clarify, I'm not intent on repudiating God's existence or
                  > presupposing anything about God -- I was just making a point in a certain
                  > context. To further clarify: I'm not intent on doing these things
                  > because, quite frankly, I don't care about God. As far as I'm concerned,
                  > God doesn't exist and I don't take the issue seriously enough to see any
                  > reason to bother to repudiate his/her/its/their existence/s.

                  If you don't care about God, why do you even use the word? What kind of
                  atheism is this that requires the concept of God, and a particular one
                  at that, as its own presupposition?

                  Shirley
                • Greg Evans
                  Shirley wrote: If you don t care about God, why do you even use the word? What kind of ... Greg anwers: Well, actually I used the word because it had come
                  Message 8 of 12 , Sep 3, 2000
                    Shirley wrote: > If you don't care about God, why do you even use the word?
                    What kind of
                    > atheism is this that requires the concept of God, and a particular one
                    > at that, as its own presupposition?

                    Greg anwers: Well, actually I used the word because it had come up in
                    discussion here in the Sartre discussion group; I used it in the same way I
                    might have a few things to say about (and I'm not likening a belief in god
                    to this) cannibalism without it implying that cannibalism is a
                    presupposition of my views about human society.

                    In fact, I wouldn't have been likely to initiate the use of the word
                    myself. Further, I don't think Sartre himself was ever terribly concerned
                    with God and I don't ever remember him directly addressing the issue and
                    certainly not in any of his basic, theoretical texts. There is, though, I
                    believe a type of atheism which does, in one sense, require a concept of
                    god as its own presupposition (in practice if not in theory) and that would
                    be the atheism of Madelyn O'Hare and the American Atheists. Much of their
                    energy and purpose, it seems to me, is derived from and utilized in their
                    opposition to religion.
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