Posts Tagged ‘Sartre’

Sartre: Freedom and Morality – A rough sketch

Saturday, April 5th, 2014

One convinces himself, in some sense, that he is bound to act by external circumstance, in order to escape the anguish of freedom. Sartre says that man is condemned to be free: whether he adopts an ‘objective’ moral system to do this choosing for him, or follows only his pragmatic concerns, he cannot help but be aware that they are not – fundamentally – part of him. Moreover, as possible intentional objects of one’s consciousness, one is fundamentally not part of oneself, but rather exactly what one, as consciousness, defines oneself in opposition to; along with everything else one could be conscious of.

Fundamentally, Sartre believes mankind cannot escape responsibility by adopting an external moral system, as the adoption of such is in itself a choice that we endorse, implicitly or explicitly, for which we must take full responsibility. Sartre argues that one cannot escape this responsibility, as each attempt to part one’s self from the freedom of choice is in itself a demonstration of choice, and choice is dependent on a person’s wills and desires.

As a human, one cannot claim his actions are determined by external forces; this is the core statement of existentialism. One is ‘condemned’ to this eternal freedom; human beings exist before the definition of human identity exists. One cannot define oneself as a thing in the world, as one has the freedom to be otherwise. One is not “a philosopher”, as at some point one must/will cease the activities that define the self as “a philosopher”. Any role that one might adopt does not define one as there is an eventual end to one’s adoption of the role; i.e. other roles will be assigned to us, “a chef”, “a mother”. The self is not constant, it cannot be a thing in the world. Though one cannot assign a positive value to definitions that may apply to oneself, one remains able to say what one is not. For example, an adult human male may not be a man, but he is certainly not a woman. Therefore, one is defined by what one is not.

This inner anguish over moral uncertainty is a central underlying theme in existentialism, as the anguish demonstrates a personal feeling of responsibility over the choices one makes throughout life. Without an emphasis on personal choice, one may make use of an external moral system as a tool to moralize otherwise immoral acts, leading to negation of the self. According to existentialism, dedicated professionals of their respective moral codes – priests interpreting sacred scriptures, lawyers interpreting the Constitution, doctors interpreting the Hippocratic oath – should, instead of divesting the self of responsibility in the discharge of one’s duties, be aware of one’s own significance in the process. This recognition involves the questioning of the morality of all choices, taking responsibility for the consequences of one’s own choice and therefore; a constant reappraisal of one’s own and others’ ever-changing humanity. One must not exercise bad faith by denying the self’s freedom of choice and accountability. Taking on the burden of personal accountability in all situations is an intimidating proposition – by pointing out the freedom of the individual, Sartre seeks to demonstrate that the social roles and moral systems we adopt protect us from being morally accountable for our actions.

From: unreferenced source

Dialectics and the subject over a coffee

Saturday, January 11th, 2014


Adorno and Sartre on subjectivity and social history

Sunday, January 5th, 2014

Contrary to Sartre, Adorno refuses to consider the subject in abstraction from its concrete sociohistorical situation, for him consciousness and social history are irreducible elements of subjectivity.

Sartre claims:
‘I believe that a man can always make something out of what is made of him. This is the limit I would today accord to freedom: the small movement which makes of a totally conditioned social being someone who doesn’t render back completely what his conditioning has given him.’

Adorno claims:
‘The antinomy between the determination of the individual and the social responsibility that contradicts this determination is not due to a misuse of concepts. It is a reality, the moral indication that the universal and particular are unreconciled….there is no available model of freedom saved one: That consciousness , as it intervenes in the social constitution, will through that constitution intervene in the complexion of the individual’.

D. Sherman – Sartre and Adorno. The Dialectics of Subjectivity (2007) pp. 8,9.

Sartre: The Kingdom of an Idea

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

The idea of a kingdom of man becomes the kingdom of an idea (Genet, p.188)

If we could all be, simultaneously and reciprocally, both objects and subjects for each other and by each other, or if we could all sink together into an objective totality, or if, as in the Kantian City of Ends we were never anything but subjects recognising themselves as subjects….

But we can not carry matters to an extreme in either direction: we can not all be objects unless it be for a transcendental subject, nor can we all be subjects unless we first undertake the impossible liquidation of all objectivity. As for absolute reciprocity, it is concealed by the historical conditions of class and race, by nationalities, by the social hierarchy. (Genet p.590)

in Golomb J, In Search Of Authenticity, p.161

Sartre on Hegel and Social Consciousness

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

There is in Hegel a fundamental form of optimism. It may be called an ontological optimism. For Hegel indeed truth is truth of the Whole. And he places himself at the vantage point of truth – i.e. of the Whole – to consider the problem of the Other….individual consciousnesses are moments in the whole, moments which by themselves are unselbständig (dependent), and the whole is a mediator between consciousnesses. Hence is derived an ontological optimism parallel to the epistemological optimism: plurality can and must be surpassed towards the totality (BN p.243).

[But] no logical or epistemological optimism can cover the scandal of the plurality of consciousnesses. If Hegel believed that it could, this is because he never grasped the nature of that particular dimension of being which is self-consciousness….so long as consciousnesses exist, the separation and conflict of consciousnesses will remain;…(BN p.244)

István Mészáros, The Work of Sratre – Search For Freedom and The Challenge of History (1979)

Kant, Schiller and Sartre – Search and Ideals of Freedom

Monday, December 2nd, 2013


Consciousness as Desire

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

Being is choosing a manner of being against the background of an absolute contingency of being-there. So desire does not arrive in the consciousness as heat arrives to a piece of iron that I put near a flame.

Consciousness chooses itself as a desire.

Of course to do this it must have a motive: I do not desire anyone whomever at any time whatever.
A motive is something that is created out of the past and that consciousness confers weight and value on it by returning to it.

JP Sartre, ‘What is Desire?’ in ‘Being and Nothingness’ (1943) pp.382-407

JP Sartre – What is Desire?

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

Broadly speaking, desire is not the desire to do something.

‘Doing’ only comes later, attaches itself to desire from outside and requires training: there is a practice of lovemaking that possesses it’s own ends and means. So, since desire can not choose a particular act as its final goal, it is purely and simply the desire for a transcendental object.

But, what is the object desired? Can one say that desire is the desire for a body? In one sense this can not be denied. Certainly it is the body that disturbs us: a glimpse of an arm or a breast, perhaps a foot.

Attitude does much to arouse desire, but implied in attitude are the surroundings, and ultimately the world. And here suddenly we are at the furthest extreme from a simple physiological itch: desire posits the world, it desires the body in terms of the world and the beautiful hand in terms of the body. We apprehend the Other’s body in terms of its situation in the world.

A living body, as an organic whole in a situation, with consciousness at the horizon: this is the object to which desire addresses itself . Ad what does desire want from this object?

The man who desires exists his body in a particular way and hence situates himself on a particular level of being. The desiring consciousness is stirred up, because it bears an analogy with troubled waters. Our first perception of troubled waters suggests that they have been altered by the presence of something invisible, which can not be distinguished in itself and is manifested as pure actual resistance.

One doesn’t desire a woman while remaining oneself entirely outside the desire: the desire compromises me. I am the accomplice of my desire, or rather, the desire is a total lapse into complicity with the body, we allow ourselves to be invaded by facticity, we cease to flee it and slip into a passive acceptance of desire.

I feel my skin and my muscles and my breath, and I feel them not in order to transcend them towards something, as in the case of emotions or appetite, but as a living and inert datum; not simply as the supple and discreet instrument of my action on the world, but as a passion through which I am engaged in the world and in danger in the world. The For-itself experiences the dizziness of its own body; or if one prefers, this dizziness is precisely its manner of existing its body.

Why does consciousness become, or try in vane to become body, and what does it expect from the object of its desire? In desiring, I make myself body in the presence of another in order to appropriate the flesh of that other. When I grasp these shoulders or hips, one might say not only that my body is a means to touch them, but that the other’s shoulders are a means for me to discover my body as a fascinating revelation of my facticity, that is to say, as flesh.

So desire is the desire to appropriate a body to the extent that this appropriation reveals my own body to me, as flesh.

Extracts from:
JP Sartre, ‘What is Desire?’ in ‘Being and Nothingness’ (1943) pp.382-407

JP Sartre: Naples, Food and Sex

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

All these people seemed turned in to themselves, not even dreaming: they too were surrounded by their foodstuff , living scraps, stems, obscene meats, and tainted open fruit; they revelled in their organic life, in sensual indolence.
‘That’s it!’ I thought. ‘That’s it!’ I felt as though I had been plunged into a vast, carnivorous existence, a dirt-stained, pink existence, that was coagulating around me: ‘That’s it, I am in Naples!’


En-Soi, Pour-Soi

Thursday, November 14th, 2013