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59792Re: more nothing

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  • Jim
    May 25, 2013

      You write:

      "If Sartre or Hegel or whomever is going to make a living off writing books that are sold to the general public, then what they say should be sufficiently clear to make sense to the general reader. Otherwise they have failed in their role."

      I disagree with you here. Philosophers like Sartre and Hegel "made their living" primarily by breaking new ground in a subject with a long history. A subject many young people choose to study at University.

      To understand difficult philosophers it is often necessary to start with easier philosophers or commentaries on the difficult philosophers. University students in the UK would start off with "easier" philosophers like Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Hume and work up to the more difficult philosophers like Kant, Hegel and Sartre in their third and final year of study.

      The "general reader" who is interested in philosophy is well advised to follow a similar gradual approach. I mix my reading of philosophers like Hegel and Sartre with introductory commentaries which often unpack the ideas in a more gradual way.

      If the top philosophers were required to make all their books accessible to the non-philosophy-reading general public, then philosophy would never progress.

      I get the impression you are not actually that interested in reading philosophy books. I recall you in the past being disparaging of "dead philosophers". Just reading the odd paragraph of a philosopher is not the ideal way to gain access to difficult philosophical ideas.

      Going back a few posts you said the following passage Mary posted did not make sense to you.

      "For him [Sartre], freedom is the dislocation of consciousness from its object, the fundamental "nihilation" or negation by means of which consciousness can grasp its object without losing itself in it: to be conscious of something is to be conscious of not being it, a "not" that arises in the very structure of consciousness as being for-itself. Because "nothingness" (or nihilation) is just what consciousness is, there can be no objects in consciousness, but only objects for consciousness."

      You write about this section:

      "If "nihilation" is the means by which consciousness can grasp its object, then how can consciousness itself be "nihilation"?? In Brief he is saying .... freedom is the dislocation of nihilation from its object, the fundamental "nihilation" or negation by means of which nihilation can grasp its object without losing itself in it:

      Surely there must be a way of saying this in plain English. Why should the "explanation" be even more complicated than the text that it seeks to explain?? English is not devoid of suitable words."

      I think the passage you highlight is difficult, although read in the context of the whole quotation it does make sense to me.

      I think the writer (not Sartre, by the way, but a commentator), is making two distinct points, both involving the word "nihilation".

      First, he/she is saying that when we "step back" from our identification with our roles or tasks, to see ourselves as separate from our roles or tasks, there is a nihilation of this identity. My consciousness is no longer "at one" with the object of my consciousness. I perceive the object as "other" from myself.

      Second, he/she makes a distinct point about consciousness itself. It is a nothing, a mere seeing. It is like an immaterial eye that sees the object directly, but is not another thing like the object it is conscious of. Further this nothingness which is consciousness does not even store images of the objects, rather it sees the objects directly. Because consciousness is not a thing, it is outside the realm of cause and effect, so each of us is free to change direction at any time. Our next actions are not determined by our previous history.

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