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  • Exist List Moderator
    ... Because the existential label is applied to people ranging from moral relativists to religiously orthodox (unyielding morality, obviously), I can only
    Message 1 of 10 , Mar 23, 2008
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      On Mar 22, 2008, at 16:11, eupraxis@... wrote:
      > notion all of a sudden sounded like a clarion call to start
      > shopping. Or again,
      > we have been told that existentialism is a discourse that preaches
      > solipsism or
      > absolute relativism, so that one can be an existentialist without
      > actually
      > being an existentialist. And so on.

      Because the "existential" label is applied to people ranging from
      moral relativists to religiously orthodox (unyielding morality,
      obviously), I can only surmise that anyone claiming "existentialism
      is..." must be assuming one text of one thinker explains existentialism.

      We know Kierkegaard was no relativist, nor was Merleau-Ponty. Sartre
      certainly tried to shift radical "individualistic" existential thought
      towards humanism and even socialism -- until he declared he was no
      longer anything in particular, which is ironically more liberating in
      my book than being a label.

      The Social Gospel movement included quite a few "existential"
      thinkers, and still might, and they had a clear morality, as well.
      Their notion of social responsibility to the other does remind me of
      Levinas, though, more than Sartre. Hard to know for sure without
      talking to the actual humans.

      I always remind people that I am nothing in particular, but have a
      grudging admiration for a lot of ideas proposed by a lot of different
      philosophers. I can almost (almost) find a handful of good ideas in
      Ayn Rand, if I can forget what a nutcase she was as a person. It's
      oddly easier to find deep thoughts in Heidegger, someone I can barely
      grasp if I have a map in hand to follow his logic... after 20+ years
      of study. The Continental schools simply seem more open to the notions
      of experience, phenomena lived, and our inherent lack of logic as
      humans.

      > Derrida is reputed to have shaken his head and called Sartre "a shame"
      > (source: one of his translators, in a conversation with me some
      > years back).


      I love this quote. I remember watching a long series of interviews
      with Derrida, in which he explained that "relativism" had been
      confused with anarchy by too many. He was speaking on racism, I
      believe, and said that some things are wrong. We are, he said, just
      unable to judge the past based on where we are now -- and where we are
      now will seem incredibly wrong-headed to future generations.

      When asked who he blamed for confusion regarding relativism and
      postmodernism he said, without pause, "Americans who idealize Sartre
      but know nothing of real philosophy." (I don't know if he thought
      Sartre was "real" or if he meant we know the person, not the ideas.)

      - C. S. Wyatt
      I am what I am at this moment, not what I was and certainly not all
      that I shall be.
      http://www.tameri.com - Tameri Guide for Writers
      http://www.tameri.com/csw/exist - The Existential Primer
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