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Sartrean nothingness, anxiety & freedom

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  • Mary
    In trying to find some reproducible text to better explain the relationship between nothingness which produces anxiety and its relationship to freedom, here
    Message 1 of 70 , May 16, 2013
      In trying to find some reproducible text to better explain the relationship between nothingness which produces anxiety and its relationship to freedom, here are two excerpts from Steven Crowell's page at the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

      As a predicate of existence, the concept of freedom is not initially established on the basis of arguments against determinism; nor is it, in Kantian fashion, taken simply as a given of practical self-consciousness. Rather, it is located in the breakdown of direct practical activity. The "evidence" of freedom is a matter neither of theoretical nor of practical consciousness but arises from the self-understanding that accompanies a certain mood into which I may fall, namely, anxiety (Angst, angoisse). Both Heidegger and Sartre believe that phenomenological analysis of the kind of intentionality that belongs to moods does not merely register a passing modification of the psyche but reveals fundamental aspects of the self. Fear, for instance, reveals some region of the world as threatening, some element in it as a threat, and myself as vulnerable. In anxiety, as in fear, I grasp myself as threatened or as vulnerable; but unlike fear, anxiety has no direct object, there is nothing in the world that is threatening. This is because anxiety pulls me altogether out of the circuit of those projects thanks to which things are there for me in meaningful ways; I can no longer "gear into" the world. And with this collapse of my practical immersion in roles and projects, I also lose the basic sense of who I am that is provided by these roles. In thus robbing me of the possibility of practical self-identification, anxiety teaches me that I do not coincide with anything that I factically am. Further, since the identity bound up with such roles and practices is always typical and public, the collapse of this identity reveals an ultimately first-personal aspect of myself that is irreducible to das Man. As Heidegger puts it, anxiety testifies to a kind of "existential solipsism." It is this reluctant, because disorienting and dispossessing, retreat into myself in anxiety that yields the existential figure of the outsider, the isolated one who "sees through" the phoniness of those who, unaware of what the breakdown of anxiety portends, live their lives complacently identifying with their roles as though these roles thoroughly defined them. While this sort of stance may be easy to ridicule as adolescent self-absorption, it is also solidly supported by the phenomenology (or moral psychology) of first-person experience.

      Sartre argues that anxiety provides a lucid experience of that freedom which, though often concealed, characterizes human existence as such. For him, 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. This means that consciousness is radically free, since its structure precludes that it either contain or be acted on by things. For instance, because it is not thing-like, consciousness is free with regard to its own prior states. Motives, instincts, psychic forces, and the like cannot be understood as inhabitants of consciousness that might infect freedom from within, inducing one to act in ways for which one is not responsible; rather, they can exist only for consciousness as matters of choice. I must either reject their claims or avow them. For Sartre, the ontological freedom of existence entails that determinism is an excuse before it is a theory: though through its structure of nihilation consciousness escapes that which would define it—including its own past choices and behavior—there are times when I may wish to deny my freedom. Thus I may attempt to constitute these aspects of my being as objective "forces" which hold sway over me in the manner of relations between things. This is to adopt the third-person stance on myself, in which what is originally structured in terms of freedom appears as a causal property of myself. I can try to look upon myself as the Other does, but as an excuse this flight from freedom is shown to fail, according to Sartre, in the experience of anguish.

      Hopefully this begins to better explain Sartre's philosophy of nothingness. He, as I do also, resists reducing the complexities of thought to mere mechanical brain processes or practical exigencies. The power of nothingness is apparent not only in its negating capacity through reason but also in how it forces freedom upon us. Philosophy is not thinking per se; it is thinking about thought. Thought is an object of thought which no flight into the study of biochemical processes can resolve. Sorry, eduard, it's not that simple.

    • eduardathome
      Well we have two things here... mental states and the digital bit. As to mental states I can only go by what is in sources like Wikipedia Look up Being and
      Message 70 of 70 , Jun 13, 2013
        Well we have two things here... mental states and the digital bit.

        As to mental states I can only go by what is in sources like Wikipedia

        Look up Being and Nothingness and you will find such as ....

        (1) The great human stream arises from a singular realization that nothingness is a state of mind in which we can become anything, in reference to our situation, that we desire.

        (2) Sartre's recipe for fulfillment is to escape all quests by completing them. This is accomplished by rigorously forcing order onto nothingness, employing the "spirit (or consciousness of mind) of seriousness" and describing the failure to do so in terms such as "bad faith" and "false consciousness".

        These are references to a state of mind

        But then one does not need to go to side references, all of Sartre bit about bad faith, the look, negation etc. are states of mind. It is the statement of mind that Sartre is speaking about. In the waiter he is speaking against the person acting out a role of waiter versus his existence as human. These are states of mind.

        With respect to photoreceptors they are in effect digital. The protein molecule in the receptor will react to a certain level of visual energy entering the receptor. At some point it will generate a signal to say that it has received the energy. This is the same as a switch. Granted it is not a clean as all that. You might be able to fool a blue receptor with red light if there is a sufficient quantity. The response of the receptor is like a probability curve centre on a particular wavelength. However, it is still digital.

        Digital systems do not have to be literally ones and zeros. They can be twos and threes, as long as there is a difference between one state that is defined as zero and the other which is higher or lower and defined as the one. Or it can be an electrochemical signal of so many microvolts versus a rest state that has a lesser value. Or perhaps more ions versus less ions.

        In any case, my main point is that the retina transmits to the occipital lobe on the basis of pixels. The photoreceptor is the pixel sampler. And because it is pixels, it has a certain resolution. That is, the ability of the human eye to resolve distance objects into two rather than to merge them. If a line is fine enough, what you see is a series of dots. It is the brain itself which concludes that these dots represent a line.

        I do not understand your last sentence. I am not talking about resolving differences, but only pointing out that we see pixels of information.


        -----Original Message-----
        From: Mary
        Sent: Thursday, June 13, 2013 1:13 PM
        To: existlist@yahoogroups.com
        Subject: [existlist] Re: retina

        Please provide a scientific or academic source for this assertion as well as a philosophical citation which supports your contention that existentialism concerns "mental states." You are grossly oversimplifying to fit your schema and preferring to reduce thought and perception to simple formulas. But it's not existentialism. Ones and zeros do not equate with the on-off complex biochemical transactions within photoreceptors. Measuring digitally doesn't mean that what you measure is inherently digital. The eye converts pixels but has no digital receptors. Cells transact biochemically not digitally. Almost without exception existentialist thinkers, were concerned with intersubjectivity not with understanding internal biochemical processes. Even with the ability to observe and comprehend every single biochemical transaction in our brains, we'd still be no closer to resolving differences which are in themselves nearly impossible to decipher causally.


        --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, eduardathome <yeoman@...> wrote:
        > The retina is composed of a matrix of rod and cone photoreceptors which react to the incoming image. The image itself may be continuous after it travels through the lens of the eye and is cast onto the surface of the retina, but only small pixel portions the image are actually “seen” by the retina. Say you have a 10 thousand cones in one square millimeter, that means 10 thousand pixels of information that are gathered from the image. The density is probably less per colour when you consider the individual cones are dedicated to short, medium or long frequencies. The neurons which are the cones have a switching mechanism. If the photon hitting the cone is sufficient, the neuron will switch from a zero to a one. Very digital. And this digital information is then sent to the occipital lobe in the back of your brain. You don’t have the image at the back of your head, only the signal information that has to be processed further from what occurs in the retina itself. Our eyes are limited by the amount of light that is needed by the cones and rods to make them react and the spacing of these elements. We have 3 types of cones. Some birds have 4 types and thus have a large range of colour evaluation. Some crustaceans have 10. But it’s all digital.
        > Basically it is the same process as a digital camera which has a sensor chip composed of thousands/millions of light reacting elements.
        > I am not saying that you need to know how the eye works in order to enjoy art. But if one is talking about how art is “seen” it becomes of some importance. It is the same as speaking about the neural processes in order to explain how we react for certain mental states. Existentialism is about mental states.
        > eduard
        > -----Original Message-----
        > From: Mary
        > Sent: Wednesday, June 12, 2013 4:21 PM
        > To: existlist@yahoogroups.com
        > Subject: [existlist] retina
        > The retina does not require pixels anymore than it required a grid to view art before art which used a grid for composition came into use. I can't remember what century that began. Maybe Peter C. knows. We do not have digital brains, contrary to your robot fantasies. Digital art, whether reproduction or new creation, is for the convenience of compatibility with computers and now of course cameras. Wil's point is right on. We don't need to know how the eye works to enjoy art though it may be of interest.
        > Mary
        > --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, eduardathome <yeoman@> wrote:
        > you are seeing it as a mass of pixels which is the manner in which your retina works.
        > ------------------------------------
        > Please support the Existential Primer... dedicated to explaining nothing!
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        > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]


        Please support the Existential Primer... dedicated to explaining nothing!

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