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Re: Sartre, Camus, Descartes, the absurd

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  • tsedayw2002
    I think you are right in comparing Descartes doubting mehtod with the concept of absurdity of Camus and Sartre. But I think there is a clear distinction that
    Message 1 of 31 , May 24, 2007
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      I think you are right in comparing Descartes' doubting mehtod with
      the concept of absurdity of Camus and Sartre. But I think there is a
      clear distinction that Sartre is trying to establish with the
      differences of his absurdity and that of skepticism of Des. He says
      there is difference with the pre-reflective and reflective cogito.
      Sartre argues it only when the later posits the former as an object
      that is possible to arive at "I think, therefore I am." But
      consciousness can percieve absurdity of the world without even
      positing itself as an object. The very moment the consciousness met
      the world it knows authomatically that the later is different from
      it; and doesn't know why it is there as such; what meaning it has;
      etc. The methodical doubt is needed when consciousness needs to
      understand the essence or being of the world and itself. When it
      consciously douts the existance of the world and itself.

      Regarding absurdity of Camus and Sartre what I understand is that
      Camus argues we should face the world with its absurdity and live
      happily, as you stated. To face it we need to tear out of the
      different forms of suicide he suggests such as habit. What Sartre
      on the other hand suggests is to face the absurd we need to invent
      our own values.

      this is it that I can say for today. what do you say:


      --- In Sartre@yahoogroups.com, "Ana Drobot" <anadrobot@...> wrote:
      >
      > There are similar ideas concerning the absurd with Sartre and
      Camus.
      > With Camus, becoming aware of the meaninglessness of life leads to
      the
      > idea that man is free to live his life freely, even if he were to
      pay
      > for the consequences of his errors, and man should go through all
      the
      > joys offered by this world (Le Mythe de Sisyphe, L'Etranger,
      Caligula,
      > Le Malentendu).
      > With Sartre, in La Nausee, this experience of the absurd should be
      > surmounted. Such gaining of awareness engages man to make use of
      his
      > freedom.
      > With Camus, man cannot experience but his own freedom, namely
      freedom
      > of thought and action. Until meeting with the experience of the
      absurd,
      > he held the illusion of being free, but he was a slave of habits
      or
      > prejudices that added nothing to his life except an illusion of
      purpose
      > and value. The discovery of the absurd allows him to see all in a
      > different light: he is totally free starting from the moment when
      he
      > knows with lucidity his hopeless condition with no tomorrow.
      > It has been suggested that the experience of the absurd is
      comparable
      > to Descartes' doute methodique. Do you agree?
      >
    • Eric S
      Ian, I m sorry I m a little late responding to your very interesting email, but I ve been having computer problems lately. Rather than discuss Sartre in
      Message 31 of 31 , Jun 9, 2007
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        Ian,

        I'm sorry I'm a little late responding to your very interesting email, but I've been having computer problems lately. Rather than discuss Sartre in relation to other figures such as Nietzsche, Heidegger or Pascal, it might make sense instead to talk about Sartre in relation to the various three incarnations you mention, which for me aren't as ironclad and impermeable as you make them out to be. I certainly don't see anything ever approaching an epistemological break a la Althusser.

        Hell, even the befuddled Sartre of Hope Now still seems to be rotating in the same phenomenological orbit of Levinas (the first translator of Husserl in France), whose main contribution to philosophy, appears to have been, taking the Sartrean category of our being-for-the-other for a absolute ethical imperative. In other words, a return to the very theme Sartre himself announced at the end of Being and Nothingness!

        Does a trace remain throughout the various writings or does the earlier trace come to be obliterated in the very praxis of writing the new?

        eric

        Ian Buick <buickian@...> wrote:
        Hi Tommy,

        As a prolegomena to my answer to your arguments, I want to state my general
        position to Sartre based on a distinction you draw between the early and
        later Sartre. I know I've already mentioned this in discussions with you
        several years ago but for the sake of new members I'd like to restate the
        position.

        I think it is necessary to draw some borders in Sartre's thinking. I see a
        definite epistemological break in Sartre (to borrow a concept from
        Althusser, used by him to differentiate the works of the young from the
        mature Marx) and this break marks his move from existentialism to
        existential Marxism.

        The key theoretical work of the early period is Being and Nothingness - a
        work of phenomenology, ontology and metaphysics - while the two volumes of
        Critique of Dialectical Reason plus Search for a Method constitute the key
        theoretical work of his second phase - a phase dominated by political
        philosophy.

        (We could also posit a third phase when Sartre was in his dotage and wrote
        'Hope Now' under the influence of his secretary, Benny Levy, where he seems
        to accept the idea of a Judaeic God.)

        I mention this because I don't think it is legitimate to mix ideas from
        his different periods. For example, to assume he is a Being and Nothingness
        Existentialist when he criticises the Vietnam war; or to assert that his
        early opinions are those of the true Sartre.

        Anyway, to return to the argument. I stated that in asserting that language
        constricts thought you were employing a form of linguistic determinism which
        ran contrary to Sartre's concept of freedom. If our thoughts are
        constricted how can we be free.

        There were at least four possible gambits open to you:
        1. You could try to show that Sartre's original concept of freedom was
        compatible with thought being constricted by language.

        2. You could try to show that Sartre changed his concept of freedom to
        assimilate the possibility that thought was constricted by language.

        3. You could abandon the view that thought is constricted by language.

        4. Or accept that Sartre's view of Freedom was undermined by your assertion.

        I must admit I have some problems following your argument. I'm not sure
        where you are going with your examples of Bad Faith. I thought you were
        going to argue for position 2 that the later Sartre changed his concept of
        freedom

        >the later Sartre
        >seems to have rethought this youthful position. His concept of
        >engagement in concrete social reality in the Critique of Dialectical
        >Reason (Search for a Method) really does undo the individualistic
        >conception of freedom stated in Being and Nothingness

        Your statement is of course true and Sartre dis indeed find his earlier
        positions on freedom ridiculous, but this is not going to be your position.

        You then go on to sketch a sort of model of the function of language, which
        I don't wnat to go into here

        Finally, you conclude with what I see as position one: 1. Sartre's original
        concept of freedom is compatible with thought being constricted by language

        >In conclusion, I would argue that the constriction of thought by (any
        >particular) language is by no means equivalent to "linguistic
        >determinism" because thought - to the extent that we can interest
        >ourselves in it as philosophers - can only take place within a
        >context defined by such constrictions.

        I accept that this is a defensible position. I don't know if I'm
        interpreting you correctly but you seem to be saying that language belongs
        to the realm of facticity: that which just is and cannot be changed by the
        individual. Like the effects of gravity which exercises a determining effect
        on our bodies. language exercises a determining effect on our thought and we
        have just got to get on with it.

        The question remains if this position is true. Linguiistic research throws
        doubt upon it. Chomsky's position is that all minds operate in similar ways,
        and beneath the vastly different language structures of the world there is a
        universal grammar that reflects this similarity in thought.

        More empirically, I also think it would be difficult to argue that Hume ,for
        example, suffered greatly from having his thought constrained by his
        language.

        Is it legitimate to draw the conclusion from our discussion that Sartre's
        concept of freedom is not threatened by the possibility that language
        constricts thought because the language one speaks is not subject to free
        choice and therefore cannot be viewed as determining?

        Ian Buick



        >From: Tommy Beavitt
        >Reply-To: Sartre@yahoogroups.com
        >To: Sartre@yahoogroups.com
        >Subject: Re: [Sartre] Re: The power of words
        >Date: Mon, 4 Jun 2007 14:38:02 +0100
        >
        >Hi Ian,
        >
        >Its good to hear from you again.
        >
        >On 4 Jun 2007, at 08:24, ibuick wrote:
        >
        > > There is a thesis running through this debate that I would say runs
        > > counter to one of the basic tenets of Sartrean existentialsm - that
        > > man
        > > is free. What Sava has proposed and what Tommy has formulated into a
        > > particularly strong form is what I would term linguistic determinism.
        >
        >I can see what you are driving at here. However, I am concerned to
        >attempt to refute two of your assertions here: first that my
        >arguments construe an attempt to counter Sartrean freedom with
        >linguistic determinism, and second, that Sartre's notion of
        >existential freedom could exist in a communication vacuum, stemming
        >from the independent thought of individual egos.
        >
        > > For example, Tommy says "English is an analytical language and as such
        > > it tends to constrict the thought of those who write or speak in a
        > > particular way."
        > >
        > > By advocating this position he implies that the thought of English
        > > speakers is less free than speakers of synthetic languages, but it
        > > would seem to insert a significant wedge into Sartre's system because
        > > if our thoughts are constrained by language, how can we said to be
        > > free.
        >
        >I don't know if you willfully edited my piece to try and make your
        >critique stronger, or whether you in fact missed altogether the
        >paragraph following the one you quote. Let me requote myself.
        >
        > > French, on the other hand, is a synthetic language, which also
        > > constricts the thought of those who write or speak in it, but in a
        > > different way...
        >
        >I have already conceded that it was incorrect of me to describe
        >French as a synthetic language. I should have instead referred to it
        >as "more synthetic than English".
        >
        >But to your main point, that "if our thoughts are constrained by
        >language, how can we be said to be free".
        >
        >It seems to me that Sartre's existentialist concept of freedom in
        >Existentialism is a Humanism and Being and Nothingness is less the
        >phenomenological description it purports to be than an idealisation
        >of what it WOULD mean to be free IF the deterministic shackles of bad
        >faith COULD be thrown off.
        >
        >I am quite sure that the early Sartre indeed considered himself to
        >have discovered how not to be in bad faith, but the later Sartre
        >seems to have rethought this youthful position. His concept of
        >engagement in concrete social reality in the Critique of Dialectical
        >Reason (Search for a Method) really does undo the individualistic
        >conception of freedom stated in Being and Nothingness. This is not,
        >of course, a return to living in bad faith for Sartre, but rather an
        >acknowledgment of the very real implications of being-with-others.
        >
        >To employ a couple of the famous images used by Sartre in B&N to
        >illustrate this point: we have first the description of the waiter
        >whose exaggerated behaviour illustrates that he is "playing at being
        >a waiter in a cafe" with "the inflexible stiffness of some kind of
        >automaton" whose essence is to be a waiter. (Routledge ed. p. 59)
        >This is the quintessence of bad faith, of believing oneself to be
        >determined by one's essence.
        >
        >To be fair to the poor waiter who is used in this illustration, the
        >man was simply doing his job (as Sartre himself admits), and as such
        >is required by his bourgeois customers like Sartre to conform to
        >certain prior expectations. You wouldn't tip a waiter who bounded
        >towards you on all fours carrying your sandwich on his back and then
        >proceeds to piss on your table in a demonstration of his existential
        >freedom and refusal to be bound by "bad faith" determinism! Indeed,
        >you might very well complain to the management, resulting in the loss
        >of the waiter's livelihood.
        >
        >The second famous image is used to illustrate being-for-others in the
        >section on the Look that confirms the Existence of Others when a
        >person who "moved by jealousy, curiosity or vice" has "glued [his]
        >ear to the door and looked through the keyhole" and is surprised in
        >this act by "footsteps in the hall" and is consequently "suddenly
        >affected in [his] being and that essential modifications appear in
        >[his] structure–modifications which [he] can apprehend and fix
        >conceptually by means of the reflective cogito". (ibid., pp 259-60)
        >
        >I would say that the function of language, whether or not it is
        >developmentally prior to thinking (in the narrow developmental sense,
        >it seems pretty clear that thought is prior to language), is to
        >facilitate communication with others.
        >
        >It seems probable that a very young child (think back to your
        >earliest memory and then try to conceptualise TO WHOM belong the
        >impressions to which the memory refers) has a sense of self that is
        >quite distinct from the sense of self that is inculcated by
        >education, mental development and living in society, described under
        >the general heading of "ego". We could simplistically, but in
        >conformance with linguistic and societal norms, and for the purposes
        >of distinguishing it from "ego", label this prior entity "soul".
        >
        >The atheistic Sartre would certainly have had no truck with this
        >term, fearing its religious connotations. Maybe there is a parallel
        >here to his "prereflective consciousness"?
        >
        > > This position, however, has had a powerful effect on linguistics under
        > > the name of the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis - the thesis that systems of
        > > language can determine the thought of speakers. When I studied
        > > liguistics the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis was generally held to be false -
        > > the paradigm being Chomsky's view that a Universal Grammar underlay
        > > all
        > > languages.
        > > More recently, Stephen Pinker in the Language Instinct has asserted
        > > that thought is completely independent of language - that we think in
        > > mentalese and translate this mentalese seamlessly into language.
        > >
        > > So are we free or are we determined by our language?
        >
        >In the (more or less) seamless translation of mentalese into
        >language, according to Pinker, different languages will have
        >different effects on the how the translation is effected, no?
        >
        >So my claim, that an analytic language will constrict the thought of
        >those who write or speak in a different way from how synthetic
        >languages constrict thought, isn't necessarily incompatible with
        >Pinker's hypothesis. Unless the term "seamless" is central to his
        >hypothesis rather than a mere adjectival suggestion?
        >
        >In the process of communication, utterances or writings are always
        >interpreted according to a particular perceived context. This is a
        >completely uncontroversial statement, isn't it? So we cannot state
        >that there could be such a thing as original thought independent of
        >context. Whether we prefer to think of thought as prior to language
        >or language as prior to thought: either way, all thought is
        >contextualised by language, and it is only to the extent that thought
        >is contextualised by language that we can make any comments
        >whatsoever regarding its nature.
        >
        >In conclusion, I would argue that the constriction of thought by (any
        >particular) language is by no means equivalent to "linguistic
        >determinism" because thought - to the extent that we can interest
        >ourselves in it as philosophers - can only take place within a
        >context defined by such constrictions.
        >
        > > I would also be interested in seeing some examples of the superio rity
        > > of German or Ancient Greek as a vehicle for philosophical thinking. I
        > > would accept that the Greeks and the Germans have produced a greater
        > > number of top class philosphers than the English speaking countries
        > > and
        > > the former have produced more significant individual works, but it is
        > > by no means certain that this superiority is due to the nature of the
        > > language used.
        >
        >I agree that it is not easily provable that different languages
        >constrict the thought of philosophers in ways that can be described
        >as "better" or "worse".
        >
        >Personally, I find the "analytic" philosophical thought produced by
        >the Anglo-American school shallow and uninteresting relative to the
        >"synthetic" thought tending to be produced by the Continental school.
        >But this may be simply a matter of taste.
        >
        >It is interesting to consider whether these distinct forms of
        >philosophical thinking are in any way constricted or contextualised
        >by the languages in which they are articulated.
        >
        >Best regards
        >
        >Tommy
        >
        >[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        >
        >
        >
        >To unsubscribe, e-mail: Sartre-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com
        >
        >Yahoo! Groups Links
        >
        >
        >

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