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Re: [existlist] Re: Fixed nature

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  • eduardathome
    Does the waiter really suffer vertigo because he has to choose being a waiter each morning?? I seriously doubt it. McCulloch is trying to dramatize the
    Message 1 of 171 , Jul 23, 2013
      Does the waiter really suffer vertigo because he has to choose being a
      waiter each morning?? I seriously doubt it. McCulloch is trying to
      dramatize the thing. I would suggest that worrying about whether or not he
      is an inkwell [to use McCulloch's terms] is the last thing on the waiter's

      I think McCulloch is right in saying that the word "being" or "etre" is a
      verb. The "being" in the phrase "being-in-itself" or "etre en soi" is not a
      noun. It isn't a thing. It is an act. I don't think it requires two verbs
      to make a distinction between en soi and pour soi.

      But let's say that the waiter does think he is the role he plays. This
      deserves a "so what". What is the adverse impact and does it mean anything
      in the life of the waiter?? The waiter thinks he is his role and goes to
      the cafe to serve Sartre a brioche. Sartre then comments that that this
      presents a "fundamental ambiguity or two-facedness" which plays the crucial
      role in the cases of bad faith. So what. It clearly upsets Sartre, but
      doesn't seem to worry the waiter. It can only affect the waiter if he
      subsequently makes a wrong choice because of mauvais foi. But I would
      suggest that the waiter is unlikely to make a wrong choice specifically
      because of this factor versus any other factor. If the waiter thinks he is
      a waiter [en soi], he is likely to continue in that role until he grows old
      and dies or is run over by some yellow jersey cyclist.


      -----Original Message-----
      From: Jim
      Sent: Monday, July 22, 2013 6:03 PM
      To: existlist@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: [existlist] Re: Fixed nature


      Again you express some of Sartre's ideas very clearly and elegantly. I don't
      think I can match your formulations.

      Thanks for posting the bad faith section from Being and Nothingness. I have
      benefitted from reading it, but it just is very hard!

      Sartre talks of the "double property of the human being, who is at once a
      facticity and a transcendence". He goes on:

      "These two aspects of human reality are and ought to be capable of a valid
      coordination. But bad faith does not wish either to coordinate them nor to
      surmount them in a synthesis. Bad faith seeks to affirm their identity while
      preserving their differences. It must affirm facticity as being
      transcendence and transcendence as being facticity, in. such a way that at
      the instant when a person apprehends the one, he can find himself abruptly
      faced with the other."

      Gregory McCulloch in his commentary on this section makes the point that
      this is all so difficult because we just have one verb "to be", but we
      really need two verbs – to be1 and to be2 – to talk about being in-itself
      (facticity) and being for-itself (transcendence). He writes:

      "To be in the mode or manner In-itself and to be in the mode or manner
      For-itself are utterly different things. Let us write the first as `to be1'
      and the second as `to be2'. [McCulloch actually uses capitals for the first
      and bold for the second, but as I can't get bold into my Existlist text,
      I'll use numbers.] An inkwell is an inkwell in the manner In-itself: so an
      inkwell is1 an inkwell. A waiter is a waiter in the manner For-itself: so a
      waiter is2 a waiter. But it is not true that an inkwell is2 an inkwell (or
      anything else), and it is not true that a waiter is1 a waiter (or anything
      else). Ordinary language is confusing because it only has the one verb – `to
      be' – where in reality it needs two if Sartre's fundamental distinction in
      Being holds: `to be1' and `to be2'. As Sartre puts it, the concept of being
      is `two-faced' (B&N: 67). Not only this, but Sartre's principal idea is that
      this fundamental ambiguity or two-facedness is playing the crucial role in
      the cases of bad faith he discusses." (McCulloch, p. 57)

      So in the famous waiter example, the waiter thinks he is1 a waiter – he
      things that is his essence – whereas in reality he is2 a waiter – he
      continually chooses to be a waiter, he re-invents himself every morning as a

      Further Sartre suggests others pressurize the waiter to live up to the
      role – others want the waiter to be1 a waiter, as that is less threatening
      to them.

      As you say, Mary, this is all very insightful. We do have radical freedom to
      re-invent ourselves out of nothing each day of our lives, but living with
      this knowledge is unsettling to us, it gives us a sense of vertigo, and we
      often find the bad faith path of identifying our essence with our current
      role, or our past characteristics, the path of least resistance.

      My brain is beginning to hurt with the effort to understand and articulate
      these Sartrean ideas, so I'll stop here.



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

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    • daveylee40
      It seems to me that we are limited to the qualities and capacities of humanness as supplied by the natural state of being human. Other than that, I personally
      Message 171 of 171 , Aug 25, 2013
        It seems to me that we are limited to the qualities and capacities of humanness as supplied by the natural state of being human. Other than that, I personally cannot conceive of a fixed nature or essence.

        --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "Mary" <josephson45r@...> wrote:
        > No congratulations from Sartre unless I understand how I am being in-itself and being for-itself. Since I'm sufficiently satisfied with my grasp of Sartre's Bad Faith, I'm now going to spend some time with how Sartre explains what he considers the 'correct' view of in-itself for being human. What for Sartre is fixed as human essence other than existence, nothing, and freedom?
        > Mary
        > --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, eduardathome <yeoman@> wrote:
        > > Sartre could encounter the waiter whilst serving the table and ask "what are
        > > you??"
        > >
        > > "I'm a waiter"
        > >
        > > "Aha ... and obvious case of mauvais foi". "But, what are you besides a
        > > waiter??"
        > >
        > > "I'm a father of a family"
        > >
        > > "Still mauvais foi ... a sad case". "I mean, underneath, besides these
        > > particular roles??"
        > >
        > > "Of course, I am a human being".
        > >
        > > "Congratulations".
        > >
        > > eduard
        > >
        > > -----Original Message-----
        > > From: Mary
        > > Sent: Saturday, July 20, 2013 10:28 AM
        > > To: existlist@yahoogroups.com
        > > Subject: [existlist] Fixed nature
        > >
        > > We reject labels which identify us as essentially one particular thing. I am
        > > not my job, so whichever occupation I choose or find myself in and
        > > regardless of the education and training it requires, I am still not that
        > > position/role/job in-itself. It is this idea of having a fixed nature, a
        > > something in-itself, which Sartre opposes. We are being for-itself and
        > > either struggle or recoil at the thought of having the freedom of not having
        > > an identity (an in-itself) so we find ourselves in the 'project' or
        > > condition of bad faith. Sartre thinks our nature is to desire a fixed
        > > nature. But this is further complicated by the fact that others tend to
        > > label us as having a fixed nature.
        > >
        > > If I say you, eduard, are essentially a positivist or a reductionist or
        > > whatever, you reject this because you feel you are not that. If I say you
        > > are an electrical engineer, you're more likely to say this is true, but are
        > > you really only or strictly what your job entails? Aren't you first eduard,
        > > a human being who thinks and does many things besides his job? Aren't your
        > > ideas and ways of being constantly changing? To say that you perform your
        > > job/role as an electrical engineer means you are not strictly that block of
        > > identity. Even if you were to change careers, you wouldn't strictly be that
        > > new identity either. You would be free to be more than just that. Sartre
        > > means that all jobs are equal only in the sense that we still would not be
        > > identified strictly with what we do.
        > >
        > > To say I am not *that* means I am not merely a being in-itself. But it's
        > > more complicated, because if there weren't some facticity about being human,
        > > we wouldn't be able to negate it and be a being for-itself. We would merely
        > > be this block of identity. This is really what Sartre uses bad faith to
        > > explainâ€"the relationship between being in-itself and for-itself.
        > >
        > > Mary
        > >
        > > --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, eduardathome <yeoman@> wrote:
        > > >
        > > > Mary,
        > > >
        > > > I think that part of the difficulty may be that we are dealing with
        > > > 1930’s thought. The way I see it, Sartre is describing psychology as to
        > > > mental functioning and associated behaviour. But in the 1930’s there
        > > > was very little in the way of realising that we actually used our brains
        > > > to think, so Sartre and others had to resort to labels and phraseology
        > > > which might suffice.
        > > >
        > > > But since such phraseology is disconnected from reality, it easily leads
        > > > to convoluted statements such as, "If I am a cafe waiter, this can be only
        > > > in the mode of *not being* one." That statement makes no sense, and I
        > > > can well appreciate the need for 800 pages of reading to obtain some kind
        > > > of understanding. I don’t believe that such a statement would be made
        > > > by anyone today in the 21st century.
        > > >
        > > > I read the paragraph at least 4 times now and still cannot make any sense
        > > > of it. For example, â€Å"This is the result of the fact that while I must
        > > > *play at being* a cafe waiter in order to be one, still it would be in
        > > > vain for me to play at being a diplomat or a sailor, for I would not be
        > > > one”. I think that what Sartre is saying is that a â€Å"diplomat” is a
        > > > position that requires substantial training and something to which you are
        > > > assigned. You can’t just walk into the Ministry of State building and
        > > > start acting like a diplomat as one might act as a waiter when walking
        > > > into a restaurant. But if that is the case, then Sartre weakens his
        > > > argument for mauvais foi, since the diplomat could equally confuse himself
        > > > with his role.
        > > >
        > > > I agree with your understanding of bad faith. I asked at the office, what
        > > > was the meaning of â€Å"mauvais foi”. It comes down to misrepresenting
        > > > yourself to others, as for example to have a hidden agenda. Sartre seems
        > > > to be using the term as misrepresenting yourself to yourself. In regard
        > > > to the question of whether it is possible to misrepresent yourself to
        > > > yourself, I should think that it is entirely possible. There is nothing
        > > > in the rule book of brain thinking that one has to be entirely logical and
        > > > transparent.
        > > >
        > > > I think the example of the waiter is put in the wrong sense which
        > > > compounds the difficulty. The waiter is said to be too precise and
        > > > therefore he/she has mauvais foi. But it really should be expressed the
        > > > other way around, as waiters who have mauvais foi tend to act in too
        > > > precise a manner. Not all waiters who act precisely have mauvais foi.
        > > > Neither do all beau parleurs.
        > > >
        > > > eduard
        > >
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