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 Sartre and Freedom

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PostSubject: Sartre and Freedom Sat Sep 07, 2013 2:39 pm

This is an often misunderstood issue which I will clarify. Sartre's sole achievement in life, which trumps any failures he may have had, is encompassed in his work; Being and Nothingness. When I refer to Sartre himself, his work, text or philosophy that is all I'm referring to. I'll summarize Sartre's concept of freedom without using any of his terminology - I don't wish that reading this essay should be redundant to actually reading his text.

Firstly, it is necessary to understand the perspective that Sartre is using. To put it overly-simplistically Sartre is speaking from the perspective that he is the center of the world. Sartre understands that that each person can, within reason, claim to have that same perspective. Sartre explains this with great subtlety, as subtlety was a necessity in the context of his work. I can explain it very clearly; when reading the book the reader shouldn't think in terms of an author to reader(s) relationship. While reading, the reader should simply let Sartre's words be his own (this isn't necessary all the time, but it should be obvious that when it is not necessary this issue is altogether irrelevant). Now suddenly Sartre isn't speaking about himself specifically, the world, the universe, the human condition; Sartre is no longer a separate perspective from the reader. (I will note that Sartre's character is impossible to ignore; the point is that the reader must let that character be his own if he wishes to understand Sartre from the right perspective.) The same approach absolutely must be used when reading the majority of this essay, if one wishes to understand it.

There is no reality except what we know, we chose that knowledge and we will continue to choose what knowledge we have, and our choices will change - we are temporal after all.

That's it. But, I'm well aware of the objections that may come. One may ask a series of questions that basically come down to the idea that we aren't happy and we, supposedly, can't seem to choose happiness. But, if we haven't yet chosen happiness then there must be a reason why, a reason for we which we may choose. Looking forward, we can choose happiness so long as we don't choose any obstacles in the way of it. Why might we choose such obstacles? Once again we may choose the reason for that. If we choose on our death bed that we have never been happy, that is our choice, but, alternatively, we may choose that our life was a happy one. If we don’t then we may decide to choose to blame this on ourselves, the world or perhaps specifically Sartre, for whom we may choose to believe was defective. Sartre's text on freedom is hardly about giving advice; just presenting one facet of reality as he chooses it and we may choose it as well.

Sartre says the only choice we can't make is to choose not to choose. Why? because, if we were not to choose, then someone else would be choosing for us. Try letting someone else choose for us, and see how that fails - we still will have made the choice to follow. There is no purpose in paying any mind to Sartre's philosophy of freedom if we wish to follow others whenever possible. But, if we wish to discriminate when and who we follow then we must know that is what we are doing - we must choose to know that. We may believe that one who understands Sartre's freedom may be more likely to do be so discriminating; hence we may choose to perceive it as Sartre's value.

One may object by saying that reality is what it is; whether we choose to see it as it is or not. One may further object that there is value is choosing to see reality as it is, for example to know one self as one is. That objection is simply due to a failure to understand Sartre's freedom or it is due to a wish to fool others into attempting to let themselves have their choses made for them. But, it is worth mentioning that there is a consensus that we may choose to have with others about what is reality and there are several reasons we might choose that consensus - those reasons may be the same reasons that may be given as to why that explanation of reality is correct.

Let me speak for myself, I choose to know reality in a way that many others on this forum choose to know it, in fact I often choose to refer to it simply as reality (with no reference to my choice in the matter), and why do I choose to do so? Because, to know reality, is one and the same for me as to continue to live, that is the chose I made - a choice in itself that I include as a part of reality.

I chose to read Sartre and I chose to understand him and therefore I chose to be more discerning before I choose to attempt to let others choose for me. I believe that is a value, it is my choice. If one wishes to degrade Sartre and claim he is too optimistic about freedom, then live pessimistically about freedom.
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PostSubject: Re: Sartre and Freedom Mon Sep 09, 2013 12:21 pm

Sartre has a Nietzschean flavour insofar he says in Being and nothingness,

Quote :

"I am responsible for everything ... except for my very responsibility, for I am not the foundation of my being. Therefore everything takes place as if I were compelled to be responsible. I am abandoned in the world ... in the sense that I find myself suddenly alone and without help, engaged in a world for which I bear the whole responsibility without being able, whatever I do, to tear myself away from this responsibility for an instant." [4.1.3]
Nietzsche;
Quote :

"The error of free will. Today we no longer have any tolerance for the idea of "free will": we see it only too clearly for what it really is — the foulest of all theological fictions, intended to make mankind "responsible" in a religious sense — that is, dependent upon priests. Here I simply analyze the psychological assumptions behind any attempt at "making responsible."

Whenever responsibility is assigned, it is usually so that judgment and punishment may follow. Becoming has been deprived of its innocence when any acting-the-way-you-did is traced back to will, to motives, to responsible choices: the doctrine of the will has been invented essentially to justify punishment through the pretext of assigning guilt. All primitive psychology, the psychology of will, arises from the fact that its interpreters, the priests at the head of ancient communities, wanted to create for themselves the right to punish — or wanted to create this right for their God. Men were considered "free" only so that they might be considered guilty — could be judged and punished: consequently, every act had to be considered as willed, and the origin of every act had to be considered as lying within the consciousness (and thus the most fundamental psychological deception was made the principle of psychology itself).

Today, we immoralists have embarked on a counter movement and are trying with all our strength to take the concepts of guilt and punishment out of the world — to cleanse psychology, history, nature, and social institutions and sanctions of these ideas. And there is in our eyes no more radical opposition than that of the theologians, who continue to infect the innocence of becoming by means of the concepts of a "moral world-order," "guilt," and "punishment." Christianity is religion for the executioner.

What alone can be our doctrine? That no one gives a man his qualities — neither God, nor society, nor his parents and ancestors, nor he himself. (The nonsense of the last idea was taught as "intelligible freedom" by Kant — and perhaps by Plato.) No one is responsible for a man's being here at all, for his being such-and-such, or for his being in these circumstances or in this environment. The fatality of his existence is not to be disentangled from the fatality of all that has been and will be. Human beings are not the effect of some special purpose, or will, or end; nor are they a medium through which society can realize an "ideal of humanity" or an "ideal of happiness" or an "ideal of morality." It is absurd to wish to devolve one's essence on some end or other. We have invented the concept of "end": in reality there is no end.

A man is necessary, a man is a piece of fatefulness, a man belongs to the whole, a man is in the whole; there is nothing that could judge, measure, compare, or sentence his being, for that would mean judging, measuring, comparing, or sentencing the whole. But there is nothing besides the whole. That nobody is held responsible any longer, that the mode of being may not be traced back to a primary cause, that the world does not form a unity either as a sensorium or as "spirit" — that alone is the great liberation. With that idea alone we absolve our becoming of any guilt. The concept of "God" was until now the greatest objection to existence. We deny God, we deny the responsibility that originates from God: and thereby we redeem the world." [Twilight]
Quote :

"The causa sui is the best self-contradiction that has been conceived so far, it is a sort of rape and perversion of logic; but the extravagant pride of man has managed to entangle itself profoundly and frightfully with just this nonsense. The desire for "freedom of the will" in the superlative metaphysical sense, which still holds sway, unfortunately, in the minds of the half-educated; the desire to bear the entire and ultimate responsibility for one's actions oneself, and to absolve God, the world, ancestors, chance, and society involves nothing less than to be precisely this causa sui and, with more than Münchhausen's audacity, to pull oneself up into existence by the hair, out of the swamps of nothingness. Suppose someone were thus to see through the boorish simplicity of this celebrated concept of "free will" and put it out of his head altogether, l beg of him to carry his "enlightenment" a step further, and so put out of his head the contrary of this monstrous conception of "free will": I mean "unfree will," which amounts to a misuse of cause and effect. One should not wrongly reify "cause" and "effect" as the natural scientists do (and whoever, like them, now "naturalizes" in his thinking), according to the prevailing mechanical doltishness which makes the cause press and push until it "effects" its end; one should use "cause" and "effect" only as pure concepts, that is to say, as conventional fictions for the purpose of designation and communication - not for explanation. In the "in itself" there is nothing of "causal connections," of "necessity," or of "psychological non-freedom"; there the effect does not follow the cause, there is no rule of "law." It is we alone who have devised cause, sequence, for-each-other, relativity, constraint, number, law, freedom, motive, and purpose; and when we project and mix this symbol world into things as if it existed "in itself," we act once more as we have always acted - mythologically. The "unfree will" is mythology; in real life it is only a matter of strong and weak wills.

lt is almost always a symptom of what is lacking in himself when a thinker senses in every "causal connection" and "psychological necessity" something of constraint, need, compulsion to obey, pressure, and unfreedom; it is suspicious to have such feelings - that person betrays himself. And in general, if I have observed correctly, the "unfreedom of the will" is regarded as a problem from two entirely opposite standpoints, but always in a profoundly personal manner: some will not give up their "responsibility," their belief in themselves, the personal right to their merits at any price (the vain races belong to this class). Others, on the contrary, do not wish to be answerable for anything, or blamed for anything, and owing to an inward self-contempt, seek to lay the blame for them selves somewhere else. The latter, when they write books, are in the habit today of taking the side of criminals; a sort of socialist pity is their most attractive disguise. And as a matter of fact, the fatalism of the weak-willed embellishes itself surprisingly when it can pose as "la religion de la souffrance humaine"; that is its "good taste."" [Beyond Good and Evil, 21]

But Sartre also says,

Quote :

"In order to make myself recognized by the Other, I must risk my own life. To risk one's life, in fact, is to reveal oneself as not-bound to the objective form or to any determined existence — as not-bound to life." [p.237]
If freedom for freedom's sake is the implicit object of choice and choice is the implicit object of authentic being, then this really says nothing when you consider a modern hedonist free to choose how we lives and what he wants even risking his life for it.
Is the average American authentically free because he risks his life fighting in 'wars against terror' and bearing responsibility for the choice he makes?
Is the common homosexual authentically free because he risks his life, fighting the State and civil laws tooth and nail, in unfolding his 'original choice' and bearing the responsibility for the way he chooses to live?

Choice alone cannot define an authentic individual; to Sartre, the 'authentic Nazi' was non sense.

Which is why he states his position more clearly as,

Quote :

"We will freedom for freedom’s sake, in and through particular circumstances. And in thus willing freedom, we discover that it depends entirely upon the freedom of others and that the freedom of others depends upon our own. Obviously, freedom as the definition of a man does not depend upon others, but as soon as there is a commitment, I am obliged to will the liberty of others at the same time as my own. I cannot make liberty my aim unless I make that of others equally my aim." [Existentialism is a Humanism]

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PostSubject: Re: Sartre and Freedom Wed Sep 18, 2013 10:15 am

Lyssa wrote:
Quote :
In order to make myself recognized by the Other, I must risk my own life. To risk one's life, in fact, is to reveal oneself as not-bound to the objective form or to any determined existence — as not-bound to life." [p.237]
I forgot the context of that quote, my copy is numbered differently, but I don't believe Sartre meant "risking life" to equate to literally risking death.

The other initially sees one as bound to a determined existence. Sartre describes one way of making the other's freedom come to light being "the look"; to look into one's eyes. When two people recognize each other in such a way, they both no longer see each other as beings bound to the objective form, but as being free just as they are. Two free beings cannot coincide, and with that in mind each person will struggle with the idea of himself as a free being while also being subject to the other's freedom. That actually can put either person in a situation where they seemingly have no freedom and therefore are seemingly thrown into being-in-itself, which is exactly what Sartre says happens when one dies. When one dies one's essence is left to others to determine, if one believes that an other determines his essence then he will fall into bad faith and will lose his sense of self, or lose himself, hence the analogy of risking his life. But, it is only bad faith, because one is always free when they are alive. Let me address the quote directly to clarify.

Quote :
In order to make myself recognized by the Other, I must risk my own life.
Perhaps he doesn't mean that one must first risk death to be recognized by the other, but that by being recognized by the other (such as through "the look") one is risking his life.

Quote :
To risk one's life, in fact, is to reveal oneself as not-bound to the objective form or to any determined existence — as not-bound to life."
In one perspective of his writing he would say we already know we aren't bound to life, but above Sartre uses the word "reveal", which means he is switching perspectives. The other initially sees us as a determined being, after "the look" we are revealed as a free being, which puts the other's life in danger, but simultaneously puts our life in danger. The issue is that to be recognized means to risk recognizing.

Lyssa wrote:
If freedom for freedom's sake is the implicit object of choice and choice is the implicit object of authentic being, then this really says nothing when you consider a modern hedonist free to choose how we lives and what he wants even risking his life for it.
I don't see why freedom must be the object of choice and one doesn't have to be authentic to have choice, one is forced to choose.

The average modern person is certainly not authentic.

Quote :
Choice alone cannot define an authentic individual; to Sartre, the 'authentic Nazi' was non sense.
"To Sartre" when, before or he wrote the atrocious essay, Existentialism is a Humanism? A nazi could have been conceivably authentic according to Sartre's being and nothingness, what can I say about his later ravings?

Sartre wrote:
"We will freedom for freedom’s sake, in and through particular circumstances.
No, we don't.

Sartre wrote:
And in thus willing freedom, we discover that it depends entirely upon the freedom of others and that the freedom of others depends upon our own.
Nonsense.

Sartre wrote:
Obviously, freedom as the definition of a man does not depend upon others, but as soon as there is a commitment, I am obliged to will the liberty of others at the same time as my own.
We are already obliged to make choices for others.

Sartre wrote:
I cannot make liberty my aim unless I make that of others equally my aim." [Existentialism is a Humanism]
Obviously he could, he just didn't want to.

I read the quotes from Nietzsche you provided a couple times. It seems his goals were different than Sartre, which is understandable. From what little I know of him I believe Nietzsche was concerned with influencing those in the elite, the most intelligent and noble. Sartre was concerned with influencing whomever would take the time to read his work. In being and nothingness, before apparently became a raving lunatic, he shows how the everyday person, mired in bad faith, can become authentic. Nietzsche accurately speaks of the problems the average person has with bad faith in the early portion of the quotes you provided, problems which the average person still very much has, then in the latter portion he speaks about how an elite would no longer be concerned with the issue of his personal free-will at all.

Sartre's philosophy of freedom in being and nothingness is very useful for the average person or the intelligent but misguided person to overcome bad faith. It was very useful for me at one time for that reason. I no longer need to consider his work to be more authentic, but I still find it relevant for two reasons; firstly I may one day want to help someone become more authentic and so it is useful to learn how to best explain it, secondly it is widely misunderstood even among the most intelligent and authentic of people.
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PostSubject: Re: Sartre and Freedom Wed Sep 18, 2013 8:38 pm

Pardon me, I'll have to get back to you leisurely, later.


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"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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