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Sartre, Arendt and Pettit on freedom

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  • Jim
    All, Once again I have been away so I have fallen behind with reading the Existlist posts. Perhaps we have now taken the discussion of bad faith as far as we
    Message 1 of 6 , Aug 3, 2013
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      All,

      Once again I have been away so I have fallen behind with reading the Existlist posts. Perhaps we have now taken the discussion of bad faith as far as we can.

      As well as reading the Sartre extract Mary posted the link for, I have been reading up on ideas about freedom for another group I discuss philosophy with. I have been focussing on some of the things Hannah Arendt and Philip Pettit have written.

      This fits in well with what Sartre says about freedom. Sartre is very radical here, he says we are radically free pretty much to completely re-invent ourselves each morning.

      Pettit attempts to give "a theory of freedom" which covers both individual freedom (relating to the traditional philosophical problem of free will) and social or political freedom (traditionally just discussed as part of political philosophy).

      Arendt argues that individual freedom is very different from political freedom and philosophers just cause muddle by trying to give just one theory to cover both ideas.

      Even within just the area of political freedom, Arendt argues that the ancient Greek idea of political freedom was an idea of an active capacity or skill a free person had who was able to debate about political matters in the polis assembly. She argues that the emergence of political liberalism, based on the ideas of Hobbes and Locke brought in a very different idea of political freedom – the idea of freedom as non-interference – I am free to the extent that I can go about my business without been interfered with by criminals, the Church, the Government, etc.

      Arendt prefers the ancient Greek idea – where freedom is an active capacity – I have to do something to actualize my freedom. The liberal idea is very passive – I don't have to do anything to enjoy freedom in a liberal democracy.

      All this takes me back to Sartre. Whilst Sartre wants to say we are all free all of the time, there is a sense in which this is a potential freedom. To actualize our freedom, we have to do something, we have to renew our commitments every morning. I have to choose again to work as an IT Support Analyst. I have to choose again to be a caring and concerned parent.

      Our much discussed waiter seems to fail in this regard, according to Sartre. The waiter just passively allows his adopted role to determine his being. He does not actualize his freedom by once again consciously choosing this role every morning when he wakes up.

      Jim
    • Mary
      Jim, I think what s most radical about Sartre s freedom is not that it ignores situation and differentiation but that it s founded on nothingness and the
      Message 2 of 6 , Aug 3, 2013
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        Jim,

        I think what's most radical about Sartre's freedom is not that it ignores situation and differentiation but that it's founded on nothingness and the emptiness of consciousness. Both personal and political freedom are situated against this same desert of nothing.

        Bad faith is most commonly experienced as identifying with a particular role. Staring into the abyss of freedom, we cling to roles for identity and security. These ego activities are an escape from the anguish of confronting our freedom to create ethics and values, because we're able to examine the situations which enslave us to role and identity through an examination of institutions which give us our original identities and meaning. Refusal to confront these root causes is at least part of what Sartre considers an escapist attitude, because through focusing on our own identity and role, we avoid not only the freedom of personal choice but the creation of political freedom.

        Mary

        --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "Jim" <jjimstuart1@...> wrote:
        >
        > All,
        >
        > Once again I have been away so I have fallen behind with reading the Existlist posts. Perhaps we have now taken the discussion of bad faith as far as we can.
        >
        > As well as reading the Sartre extract Mary posted the link for, I have been reading up on ideas about freedom for another group I discuss philosophy with. I have been focussing on some of the things Hannah Arendt and Philip Pettit have written.
        >
        > This fits in well with what Sartre says about freedom. Sartre is very radical here, he says we are radically free pretty much to completely re-invent ourselves each morning.
        >
        > Pettit attempts to give "a theory of freedom" which covers both individual freedom (relating to the traditional philosophical problem of free will) and social or political freedom (traditionally just discussed as part of political philosophy).
        >
        > Arendt argues that individual freedom is very different from political freedom and philosophers just cause muddle by trying to give just one theory to cover both ideas.
        >
        > Even within just the area of political freedom, Arendt argues that the ancient Greek idea of political freedom was an idea of an active capacity or skill a free person had who was able to debate about political matters in the polis assembly. She argues that the emergence of political liberalism, based on the ideas of Hobbes and Locke brought in a very different idea of political freedom – the idea of freedom as non-interference – I am free to the extent that I can go about my business without been interfered with by criminals, the Church, the Government, etc.
        >
        > Arendt prefers the ancient Greek idea – where freedom is an active capacity – I have to do something to actualize my freedom. The liberal idea is very passive – I don't have to do anything to enjoy freedom in a liberal democracy.
        >
        > All this takes me back to Sartre. Whilst Sartre wants to say we are all free all of the time, there is a sense in which this is a potential freedom. To actualize our freedom, we have to do something, we have to renew our commitments every morning. I have to choose again to work as an IT Support Analyst. I have to choose again to be a caring and concerned parent.
        >
        > Our much discussed waiter seems to fail in this regard, according to Sartre. The waiter just passively allows his adopted role to determine his being. He does not actualize his freedom by once again consciously choosing this role every morning when he wakes up.
        >
        > Jim
        >
      • Jim
        Mary, I can agree with both you and Sartre on this. However û and perhaps you would agree with me û that people do take on particular roles does help society
        Message 3 of 6 , Aug 4, 2013
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          Mary,

          I can agree with both you and Sartre on this. However – and perhaps you would agree with me – that people do take on particular roles does help society to run smoothly. Adults need to take on different tasks and responsibilities to ensure our communal needs are met. We need those who produce food, those who sell it, we needs doctors, school teachers, builders, engineers, nurses, people to give children love and attention, etc., etc.

          I suppose one element in a free society is that adults get a genuine choice as to which roles they take on. And arguably our society is more free in this respect than were Western societies when Sartre was writing. Women in particular have more freedom of choice than they had one hundred years ago.

          Arguably the poor get less room for choice than the rich, so a more equal society (in terms of wealth and power distribution), the more free the society. And education is important too in giving young adults a wider range of choices.

          Choosing and sticking to roles is not bad in itself, as you say the problems for freedom occur when people identify their very being with their role or when people are forced to assume certain roles against their will.

          Jim
        • Mary
          Hello Jim, Thank you for engaging in what seems for me an always timely topic. I prepared this rather lengthy excerpt due to its summarizing aspect and which
          Message 4 of 6 , Aug 5, 2013
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            Hello Jim,

            Thank you for engaging in what seems for me an always timely topic. I prepared this rather lengthy excerpt due to its summarizing aspect and which shows how Sartre connects bad faith and freedom, which always coincides with nothingness.

            ~In our attempt to reach to the heart of freedom we may be helped by the few observations which we have made on the subject in the course of this work and which we must summarize here. In the first chapter we established the fact that if negation comes into the world through human-reality, the latter must be a being who can realize the nihilating rupture with the world and with himself; and we established that the permanent possibility of this rupture is the same as freedom. But on the other hand, we stated that this permanent possibility of nihilating what I am in the form of "having-been" implies for man a particular type of existence. We were able then to determine by means of analyses like that of bad faith that human reality is its own nothingness. For the for-itself, to be is to nihilate the in-iself which it is. Under these conditions freedom can be nothing other than this nihilation. It is through this that the for-itself escapes its being as its essence; it is through this that the for-itself is always something other than what can be said of it. For in the final analysis the For-itself is the one which escapes this very denomination, the one which is already beyond the name which is given to it, beyond the property which is recognized in it. To say that the for-itself has to be what is, to say that it is what it is not while not being what it is, to say that in it existence precedes and conditions essence or inversely according to Hegel, that for it "Wesen ist was gewesen ist"—all this is to say one and the same thing: to be aware that man is free. Indeed by the sole fact that I am conscious of the causes which inspire my action, these causes are already transcendent objects for my consciousness; they are outside. In vain shall I seek to catch hold of them; I escape them by my very existence. I am condemned to exist forever beyond my essence, beyond the causes and motives of my act. I am condemned to be free. This means that no limits to my freedom can be found except freedom itself or, if you prefer, that we are not free to cease being free. To the extent that the for-itself wishes to hide its own nothingness from itself and to incorporate the in-itself as its true mode of being, it is trying to hide its freedom from itself.

            The ultimate meaning of determinism is to establish within us an unbroken continuity of existence in itself. The motive conceived as a psychic fact—i.e., as a full and given reality—is, in the deterministic view, articulated without any break with the decision and the act, both of which are equally conceived as psychic givens. The in-itself has got hold of all these "data"; the motives provokes the act as the physical cause its effect; everything is real, everything is full. Thus the refusal of freedom can be conceived only as an attempt to apprehend oneself as being-in-itself; it amounts to the same thing. Human reality may be defined as a being such that in its being its freedom is at stake because human reality perpetually tries to refuse to recognize its freedom. Psychologically in each one of us this amounts to trying to take the causes and motives as things. We try to confer permanence upon them. We attempt to hide from ourselves that their nature and their weight depend each moment on the meaning which I give to them; we take them for constants. This amounts to considering the meaning which I gave to them just now or yesterday—which is irremediable because it is *past*—and extrapolating from it a character fixed still in the present. I attempt to persuade myself that the cause is as it was. Thus it would pass whole and untouched from my past consciousness to my present consciousness. It would inhabit my consciousness. This amounts to trying to give an essence to the for-itself. In the same way people will posit ends as transcendences, which is not an error. But instead of seeing that the transcendences there posited are maintained in their being by my own transcendence, people will assume that I encounter them upon my surging up in the world; they come from God, from nature, from "my" nature, from society. These ends ready made and pre-human will therefore define the meaning of my act even before I conceive it, just as causes as pure psychic givens will product it without my even being aware of them.

            Cause, act, and end constitute a *continuum, a *plenum.* These abortive attempts to stifle freedom under the weight of being (they collapse with the sudden upsurge of anguish before freedom) show sufficiently that freedom in its foundation coincides with the nothingness which is at the heart of man. Human-reality is free because it is not enough. It is free because it is perpetually wrenched away from itself and because it has been separated by a nothingness from what it is and from what it will be. It is free, finally, because its present being is itself a nothingness in the form of the "reflection-reflecting." Man is free because he is not himself but presence to himself. The being which is what it is can not be free. Freedom is precisely the nothingness which is *made-to-be* at the heart of man which forces human-reality to *make itself* instead of *to be.* As we have seen, for human reality, to be is to *choose oneself*; nothing comes to it either from the outside or from within which it can *receive* or *accept.* Without any help whatsoever, it is entirely abandoned to the intolerable necessity of making itself be—down to the slightest detail. Thus freedom is a not a being, it is *the being* of man—i.e., his nothingness of being. If we start by conceiving of man as plenum, it is absurd to try to find in him afterwards moments or psychic regions in which he would be free. As well look for emptiness in a container which one has filled beforehand up to the brim! Man can not be sometimes slave and sometimes free; he is wholly and forever free or he is not free at all.~ (Chapter Being and Doing: Freedom from Being and Nothingness)

            Mary

            --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "Jim" <jjimstuart1@...> wrote:
            >
            > Mary,
            >
            > I can agree with both you and Sartre on this. However – and perhaps you would agree with me – that people do take on particular roles does help society to run smoothly. Adults need to take on different tasks and responsibilities to ensure our communal needs are met. We need those who produce food, those who sell it, we needs doctors, school teachers, builders, engineers, nurses, people to give children love and attention, etc., etc.
            >
            > I suppose one element in a free society is that adults get a genuine choice as to which roles they take on. And arguably our society is more free in this respect than were Western societies when Sartre was writing. Women in particular have more freedom of choice than they had one hundred years ago.
            >
            > Arguably the poor get less room for choice than the rich, so a more equal society (in terms of wealth and power distribution), the more free the society. And education is important too in giving young adults a wider range of choices.
            >
            > Choosing and sticking to roles is not bad in itself, as you say the problems for freedom occur when people identify their very being with their role or when people are forced to assume certain roles against their will.
            >
            > Jim
            >
          • Herman Triplegood
            That all makes sense to me. I have played the role of technician for about 28 years and all along it was not just for my own good, a paycheck, but also for the
            Message 5 of 6 , Aug 5, 2013
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              That all makes sense to me. I have played the role of technician for about 28 years and all along it was not just for my own good, a paycheck, but also for the good of the customers who got the service and the shareholders who financed, and made money from, the corporations. I have been a member of five different corporations while working in the same physical location over a period of ten years. But I really work, not for the corporation, but for the network, which is why each corporation, as they come along, picks me to continue to take care of what I know best and what they rely upon the most to prop up their fortunes.

              Sooner or later, one gets too old or too tired to work, or, one just knows, deep inside one's heart, that time for working has passed and that it is now time to do something completely different.

              Plans may change.

              hb3g

              --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "Jim" <jjimstuart1@...> wrote:
              >
              > Mary,
              >
              > I can agree with both you and Sartre on this. However – and perhaps you would agree with me – that people do take on particular roles does help society to run smoothly. Adults need to take on different tasks and responsibilities to ensure our communal needs are met. We need those who produce food, those who sell it, we needs doctors, school teachers, builders, engineers, nurses, people to give children love and attention, etc., etc.
              >
              > I suppose one element in a free society is that adults get a genuine choice as to which roles they take on. And arguably our society is more free in this respect than were Western societies when Sartre was writing. Women in particular have more freedom of choice than they had one hundred years ago.
              >
              > Arguably the poor get less room for choice than the rich, so a more equal society (in terms of wealth and power distribution), the more free the society. And education is important too in giving young adults a wider range of choices.
              >
              > Choosing and sticking to roles is not bad in itself, as you say the problems for freedom occur when people identify their very being with their role or when people are forced to assume certain roles against their will.
              >
              > Jim
              >
            • Jim
              Hello Mary, This is a very powerful passage and a good summary of Sartre s view. I shall continue to reflect on what he says here. Jim
              Message 6 of 6 , Aug 6, 2013
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                Hello Mary,

                This is a very powerful passage and a good summary of Sartre's view.

                I shall continue to reflect on what he says here.

                Jim


                --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "Mary" <josephson45r@...> wrote:
                >
                > Hello Jim,
                >
                > Thank you for engaging in what seems for me an always timely topic. I prepared this rather lengthy excerpt due to its summarizing aspect and which shows how Sartre connects bad faith and freedom, which always coincides with nothingness.
                >
                > ~In our attempt to reach to the heart of freedom we may be helped by the few observations which we have made on the subject in the course of this work and which we must summarize here. In the first chapter we established the fact that if negation comes into the world through human-reality, the latter must be a being who can realize the nihilating rupture with the world and with himself; and we established that the permanent possibility of this rupture is the same as freedom. But on the other hand, we stated that this permanent possibility of nihilating what I am in the form of "having-been" implies for man a particular type of existence. We were able then to determine by means of analyses like that of bad faith that human reality is its own nothingness. For the for-itself, to be is to nihilate the in-iself which it is. Under these conditions freedom can be nothing other than this nihilation. It is through this that the for-itself escapes its being as its essence; it is through this that the for-itself is always something other than what can be said of it. For in the final analysis the For-itself is the one which escapes this very denomination, the one which is already beyond the name which is given to it, beyond the property which is recognized in it. To say that the for-itself has to be what is, to say that it is what it is not while not being what it is, to say that in it existence precedes and conditions essence or inversely according to Hegel, that for it "Wesen ist was gewesen ist"—all this is to say one and the same thing: to be aware that man is free. Indeed by the sole fact that I am conscious of the causes which inspire my action, these causes are already transcendent objects for my consciousness; they are outside. In vain shall I seek to catch hold of them; I escape them by my very existence. I am condemned to exist forever beyond my essence, beyond the causes and motives of my act. I am condemned to be free. This means that no limits to my freedom can be found except freedom itself or, if you prefer, that we are not free to cease being free. To the extent that the for-itself wishes to hide its own nothingness from itself and to incorporate the in-itself as its true mode of being, it is trying to hide its freedom from itself.
                >
                > The ultimate meaning of determinism is to establish within us an unbroken continuity of existence in itself. The motive conceived as a psychic fact—i.e., as a full and given reality—is, in the deterministic view, articulated without any break with the decision and the act, both of which are equally conceived as psychic givens. The in-itself has got hold of all these "data"; the motives provokes the act as the physical cause its effect; everything is real, everything is full. Thus the refusal of freedom can be conceived only as an attempt to apprehend oneself as being-in-itself; it amounts to the same thing. Human reality may be defined as a being such that in its being its freedom is at stake because human reality perpetually tries to refuse to recognize its freedom. Psychologically in each one of us this amounts to trying to take the causes and motives as things. We try to confer permanence upon them. We attempt to hide from ourselves that their nature and their weight depend each moment on the meaning which I give to them; we take them for constants. This amounts to considering the meaning which I gave to them just now or yesterday—which is irremediable because it is *past*—and extrapolating from it a character fixed still in the present. I attempt to persuade myself that the cause is as it was. Thus it would pass whole and untouched from my past consciousness to my present consciousness. It would inhabit my consciousness. This amounts to trying to give an essence to the for-itself. In the same way people will posit ends as transcendences, which is not an error. But instead of seeing that the transcendences there posited are maintained in their being by my own transcendence, people will assume that I encounter them upon my surging up in the world; they come from God, from nature, from "my" nature, from society. These ends ready made and pre-human will therefore define the meaning of my act even before I conceive it, just as causes as pure psychic givens will product it without my even being aware of them.
                >
                > Cause, act, and end constitute a *continuum, a *plenum.* These abortive attempts to stifle freedom under the weight of being (they collapse with the sudden upsurge of anguish before freedom) show sufficiently that freedom in its foundation coincides with the nothingness which is at the heart of man. Human-reality is free because it is not enough. It is free because it is perpetually wrenched away from itself and because it has been separated by a nothingness from what it is and from what it will be. It is free, finally, because its present being is itself a nothingness in the form of the "reflection-reflecting." Man is free because he is not himself but presence to himself. The being which is what it is can not be free. Freedom is precisely the nothingness which is *made-to-be* at the heart of man which forces human-reality to *make itself* instead of *to be.* As we have seen, for human reality, to be is to *choose oneself*; nothing comes to it either from the outside or from within which it can *receive* or *accept.* Without any help whatsoever, it is entirely abandoned to the intolerable necessity of making itself be—down to the slightest detail. Thus freedom is a not a being, it is *the being* of man—i.e., his nothingness of being. If we start by conceiving of man as plenum, it is absurd to try to find in him afterwards moments or psychic regions in which he would be free. As well look for emptiness in a container which one has filled beforehand up to the brim! Man can not be sometimes slave and sometimes free; he is wholly and forever free or he is not free at all.~ (Chapter Being and Doing: Freedom from Being and Nothingness)
                >
                > Mary
                >
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