Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Adventures in the Old Atheism, Part II: Sartre


Having surveyed the wreckage of modern Western civilization from the lofty vantage point of Nietzsche’s Superman, let’s now descend to the lowest depths of existential angst with Jean-Paul Sartre.  So pour some whiskey, put on a jazz LP, and light the cigarette of the hipster girl dressed in black reading Camus at the barstool next to you.  Let’s get Absurd.

Our theme in this series is how starkly the gravitas of many “Old Atheist” writers contrasts with the glib banality of the New Atheism.  Consider the ritual appeal to Hume in critiquing First Cause arguments for the existence of God.  There are insuperable problems with Humean views about causality, as I have argued in many places (e.g. here).  But put that aside for now.  The New Atheist forgets all about such views almost as soon as he has deployed them.  They amount to little more than a debating tactic or talking point, intended merely to stymie an opponent and block an unwelcome conclusion.  The New Atheist has no interest in thinking through their wider implications or ultimate defensibility.  But suppose someone seriously believed with Hume that causes and effects are all “loose and separate,” so that any effect or none might with equal likelihood follow upon any cause, and so that a thing or event might, as likely as not, pop into existence with no cause or explanation whatsoever?

Sartre imagines just this in his novel Nausea, and nausea is what he thinks such a person would experience, as surely as if he’d been riding an especially violent rollercoaster.  For reality is on the Humean empiricist view something of a rollercoaster, with unpredictable turns and drops awaiting us, in principle, at every moment.  Sartre has his protagonist say:

I went to the window and glanced out… I murmured: Anything can happen, anything

Frightened, I looked at these unstable beings which, in an hour, in a minute, were perhaps going to crumble: yes, I was there, living in the midst of these books full of knowledge describing the immutable forms of the animal species, explaining that the right quantity of energy is kept integral in the universe; I was there, standing in front of a window whose panes had a definite refraction index.  But what feeble barriers!   I suppose it is out of laziness that the world is the same day after day.  Today it seemed to want to change.   And then, anything, anything could happen

Sometimes, my heart pounding, I made a sudden right-about-turn: what was happening behind my back?   Maybe it would start behind me and when I would turn around, suddenly, it would be too lateI looked at them as much as I could, pavements, houses, gaslights; my eyes went rapidly from one to the other, to catch them unawares, stop them in the midst of their metamorphosis… Doors of houses frightened me especially.  I was afraid they would open of themselves. (pp. 77-78)

(Bas van Fraassen quotes some of these lines in his essay “The world of empiricism,” to give a sense of the flavor the world must have on a consistent empiricism.) 

But it is not in the external, material world that Sartre locates the most disorienting aspect of atheism.  That is to be found instead in the inner world of the conscious, acting subject.  In Being and Nothingness, Sartre famously draws a distinction between being-in-itself and being-for-itself.  By being-in-itself Sartre has in mind a mere thing or object, a physical phenomenon as it exists objectively or independently of human consciousness.  Being-in-itself exhibits “facticity” insofar as it is simply given or fixed.  As opposed to what?  As opposed to being-for-itself, which is the human agent, conceived of as consciousness projecting forward toward an unrealized possibility.  Being-for-itself exhibits “transcendence” insofar as it is not fixed or given in the way that a mere thing or object is, but is rather dynamic and constantly making itself.  It might therefore be said to amount, in a sense, to a kind of “nothingness” rather than a being.

Well, what does all that mean?  And what does it have to do with atheism?  Let’s slow down a bit and work through Sartre’s position carefully.  The first thing to note is that action is for Sartre always intentional or directed towards an end, and seeks to remedy some objective lack, something missing, some non-being.  For example, you order French fries because you want them but don’t have them.  Your action aims or is directed at the state of affairs of eating French fries, a state of affairs which, before the action takes place, does not exist.  Now, for this reason, Sartre thinks that no factual state can suffice to generate an action, since an action is always projected toward something non-existent.  Again, before you carry out the action of ordering the fries, the state of affairs of your eating French fries does not exist, is not among the facts that make up the world.  And yet that non-existent state of affairs is in some sense the cause of your action.

Defenders of free will are in Sartre’s view therefore mistaken in trying to uphold their position by looking for examples of actions without a cause, since acts are intentional or directed toward an end, and this non-existent end is itself a kind of cause.  But by the same token, Sartre thinks that critics of the idea of free will are wrong to deny its existence on the grounds that our actions are caused, because these critics have too narrow a conception of cause.  They look for all causes in the realm of factual states, and ignore the crucial role of non-existent states of affairs like that of your eating the French fries.  In effect, they fallaciously try to reduce being-for-itself (which cannot be understood except in terms of directedness toward what is as yet non-existent) to being-in-itself (which is entirely intelligible in terms of existent facts).  Yet even the attempt at such a reduction itself undermines the reduction, since before one undertakes the action of interpreting being-for-itself as a kind of being-in-itself, that interpretation does not itself yet exist and thus is not within the realm of the factual or the in-itself.

What Sartre is doing here, I would suggest, is noting (in a somewhat idiosyncratic, obscure, and potentially misleading jargon) that action is irreducibly teleological or intelligible only in terms of the notion of final cause -- of which the intentionality or directedness of thought is a specific instance -- whereas those who deny free will typically want to analyze human action in exclusively efficient-causal, non-teleological, and non-intentional terms.  And the very attempt to eliminate teleology or intentionality from the story is self-defeating, since such an attempt qua action will itself aim at a certain outcome (and thus exhibit teleology) and will involve representing the world in a certain way (and thus involve intentionality).  Sartre, I would suggest, is essentially calling attention to the incoherence problem that is fatal to eliminative materialism and related doctrines.

But Sartre’s preferred mode of expression is much more melodramatic (and unfortunately, much less precise).  For example, he famously speaks of the “nothingness [which] lies coiled at the heart of being -- like a worm,” and which is the source of our freedom (Being and Nothingness, p. 56).  The idea is that we cannot avoid acting, but in acting are always projecting ourselves toward some end or outcome that does not yet exist and precisely for that reason cannot fix or determine what we do.  Even the attempt to interpret ourselves as cogs in a deterministic machine is itself an opting for but one possible interpretation among others, and thus is not forced upon us.  No sooner has one entertained that interpretation than it dawns upon him that he could in the very next moment instead reject it and adopt another.  It is as if we are, in acting, always trying vainly to plug a black hole which simply sucks up anything we throw into it and perpetually remains as open as it ever was.  This is precisely what our freedom consists in: the absence of anything in the realm of facticity, of being-in-itself, of the objective world beyond consciousness, which can possibly fix, determine, or settle how one shall act. 

As the harrowing talk of “nothingness” being “coiled… like a worm” implies, this freedom is not for Sartre a cause for relief or celebration.  Nor is his insistence on the reality of free will (contra Sam Harris and other New Atheists) a wish-fulfilling attempt to salvage some shred of human specialness in the face of atheism and the advance of science.  On the contrary, Sartre regards the denial of free will as itself an instance of “bad faith” or intellectual dishonesty.  For the denial of free will is simply incoherent, while the exercise of free will is -- when one truly understands what it entails -- frightening, and something we have an obvious motive for wanting to avoid.  There is absolutely nothing for which one is not ultimately in some sense responsible, in Sartre’s view.  If I say that my actions are all the result of heredity, bad upbringing, stress, or what have you, then it is nevertheless the case that I have opted for this interpretation, could have chosen another instead, and might yet choose another in the next moment.  It is in this sense that Sartre famously holds that one even chooses one’s own birth and the events that took place before one’s birth.  For one always opts for some interpretation of exactly how one’s birth and those other events led to one’s current circumstances, and could choose some alternative interpretation instead.  That is to say, what significance to give one’s birth and the other events that were outside one’s control is always up to one.  One is never able finally to say: “This is just the way these things have affected who I am and what I do, and that’s out of my hands.”

Given how deep our responsibility goes, and how vertiginous it is relentlessly to be faced with the need to choose, there is constant temptation to try to find some escape by locating something beyond consciousness that is the “true” source of one’s actions -- deterministic laws of physics, genes, familial and other social influences, the movement of history, or what have you.  But there is no escape, and the free-will-denying atheist is for Sartre no less engaged in self-deception than the religious fundamentalist.  Moreover, unlike the religious believer or the traditional metaphysician, the modern atheist has nothing to look to for guidance in how to choose -- no God, no Platonic realm of Forms, no Aristotelian natures of things. 

This is the force of Sartre’s famous slogan “existence precedes essence.”  For the theist and the traditional metaphysician, what a human being is is metaphysically prior to the fact that any particular human being exists.  There is a fact of the matter about what it is to be human, a nature or essence -- being a rational animal, say, or being made in God’s image -- that is independent of any actual human being’s existence and choices, and what is good or bad for a human being is to be defined in terms of these pre-existing facts about his nature.  But if one rejects all such theistic and metaphysical assumptions, and also follows out the implications of Sartre’s analysis of free will, then there is a sense in which this order of things is reversed.  That is to say, a human being’s existence is prior to his essence -- he must choose what he is to be, and this choice is never fixed once and for all but must be revisited constantly.  Nor, given the lack of any metaphysical grounding for such choices, do any of them have any ultimate rationale or justification.  An air of absurdity inevitably surrounds the human condition.  To look at the world this way just is to be a Sartrean existentialist. 

So, no Richard Dawkins-style happy talk for Sartre about enjoying one’s life in the absence of God.  “I am condemned to be free,” Sartre famously writes (p. 567, emphasis added), indeed “abandoned” to a harsh reality in which responsibility cannot be evaded (p. 569) -- cannot be passed on either to God or to the naturalistic forces the atheist would put in place of God.  “I am without excuse,” Sartre says, “for from the instant of my upsurge into being, I carry the weight of the world by myself alone without anything or any person being able to lighten it” (p. 710).  For Sartre, it is not the delusional optimism of the Atheist Bus Campaign but the ennui of the existentialist hero that is the mark of true authenticity. 

Though, famously, this ennui had for him its compensations.  Sartre’s Old Atheism is world-weariness, whiskey, a smoky bar, and a beautiful French woman lighting your cigarette while Miles Davis plays in the background.  The New Atheism, meanwhile, is goofy bus advertisements, pimply combox trolls live-blogging a Reason Rally, and Richard Carrier making a crude pass at you.  Why the hell would anyone ever want to be a New Atheist?

63 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hello Dr. Feser,

Thank you for your philosophical contributions. Regarding the Adventures in the Old Atheism series, do you plan to talk about J.L. Mackie?

Elizabeth Gormley said...

"That is to say, a human being’s existence is prior to his essence -- he must choose what he is to be, and this choice is never fixed once and for all but must be revisited constantly."

Does this mean Sartre believed we actually create ourselves or was it a metaphor about how seriously we should take responsibility for our own actions?

Fred said...

Elizabeth, As a very young man, I was a big fan of existentialism. It's been a long time since I read Sartre, so take this with a grain of salt, but if I remember correctly, in a real sense Sartre does believe we create ourselves. We decide what kind of self we will be and then become it. I can't claim to be a "natural coward." If I commit cowardly acts, it is because I have chosen to do so and created myself as a coward. If I want, instead, to be a hero, I am absolutely responsible for becoming the kind of person who performs heroic acts. I don't know if that's what you meant by create ourselves, but I believe that's what Sartre meant by it.

Gene Callahan said...

Sartre's "Being-in-itself" and "being-for-itself" come from Heidegger, correct?

Georgios Scholarios said...

"For the theist and the traditional metaphysician, what a human being is is metaphysically prior to the fact that any particular human being exists."

Just to clarify, I thought (from reading Gilson) that esse is prior to (i.e., actualizes) essence. Are you simply saying that essence is prior to any particular ens, or am I mistaken about Gilson and Aquinas?

Elizabeth Gormley said...

@Fred

Thanks. I know so little about Sartre. I was not sure what was meant by "existence prior to essence." I think, as you've explained it, it means the point where we are capable of making decisions, not at some moment before conception. It seems to me that if you exist you have essence - you don't have to go looking for it. Maybe Sartre didn't like his and wanted something different.

I am trying to understand Existentialism. The "worm" of "nothingness" = "source of freedom" sounds to me like a justification for actions (moral or immoral) for an individual to take in order to alleviate boredom. It seems more about novel activities, I think, then deciding to eat French Fries because I like them (unless its the first time you've eaten French Fries - then it would be something new). I wonder if it's not more about frisson than it is about freedom.

But I am not well read enough on the subject to know for sure. I appreciate you replying to my question.

moduspownens said...

I must say Professor Feser, the "Adventures in the Old Atheism" posts have been some of my favorites of yours lately. It's always nice seeing how vapid and facile the Gnus are with their bumper sticker "atheism."

Jersey McJones said...

I don't think you understand Hume. That's not what he meant when he talked about luck. You seem to ignore modern physics as well.

JMJ

Glenn said...

Georgios Scholarios,

Very briefly:

- - - - -

1. "All existence is from form." (1)

2. "The essence of a simple substance is form alone." (2)

3. Ergo, the existence of a simple substance is from its essence.

- - - - -

4. "All existence is from form." (1)

5. "The essence of a composed substance includes form and matter." (2)

6. Ergo, the existence of a composed substance is from that which is included in its essence.

- - - - -

7. "'To be' can mean either of two things[, the first of which is] the act of essence[.] (3)

= = = = =

In light of 1-3, 4-6 and 7, it seems less than clear that Aquinas is to be held as having existence antecedent to essense.

= = = = =

(1) SENT 12.1.4.

(2) DEE 73.

(3) ST 1.3.4.2.

Glenn said...

(s/b "...it seems less than clear that Aquinas is to be held as having existence metaphysically or logically antecedent to essence.")

Fred said...

Hi Elizabeth. As an aspiring Thomist, naturally I agree with you about essence. But I think Sartell would say that a) there are no grounds for belief in such an essence since there is no God and no metaphysical soul and b) that belief was always just an attempt to evade the responsibility of creating yourself and to escape absolute freedom. Your point about moral and immoral choices is a good one. As a middle aged adult, I see that as a major flaw in existentialism. Making choices that create the self is inescapable, but there is nothing outside the self to determine what those choices should be or whether they are good or bad choices to make. What legitimates them is "authenticity." From what I understand, authenticity entails rejecting anything outside the self, e.g., religion, tradition, what you've been taught, etc as determination of what choices to make (hence existentialism's popularity with adolescents of all ages). Traditionally immoral choices are no less legitimate than traditionally moral ones provided they are authentic. Part of authenticity, though, is recognition that choices have consequences for which we are absolutely responsible and willingness to accept those consequences, whatever they may be.

One thing I have retained from my existentialist period is an appreciation of absurdist humor. Nausea is not the only possible response to the contingency and absurdity of existence. Laughter is another. If you haven't read/seen them, I highly recommend Tom Stoppard's play Rosecrantz and Guildenstern are Dead and the film of it with Gary Oldman and Tim Roth in the title roles. Another classic examale is the early issues of Howard the Duck comic book. Steve Gerber, it'seems creator and writer of the first dozen or so issues, specifically cited Camus as an influence. Many of Frank Zappa's lyrics also contain absurdist humor, as do Woody Allen's early films (1967 to 1977).

Fred said...

In my second sentence, that should be Sartre, not Sartell. Damn you autocorrect.

Jason said...

Perhaps unrelated: I just purchased 'Scholastic Metaphysics' and 'Philosophy of mind'! Very excited to say the least.

Elizabeth Gormley said...

@Fred

I was born in the late 50s so I grew up surrounded by talk of "authenticity" and "absurdity". It was the movie "Reds" - about John Reed - where I finally think I understood the "authenticity" concept. All the talk about taking responsibility requires others to forgive you for your bone-headed actions. If they remain in your life it's because of what you mean to them, not what they mean to you. You are on a quest for "authenticity" - it seems to justify not having to say you're sorry.

The view that "life is absurd" is all bound up with trying to find "authenticity." It can justify lack of commitment to any person, cause, or organization. It's also a way to ward off the pain of engaging with other humans. People fail us. We fail them. Blame it on the absurdity of the situation or on life itself. It's an easy out for why people leave us. It doesn't actually require change on our part.

So, I think these two concepts are not freeing at all. We can't study ourselves - we can't be both the observer and the object observed. That would invalidate the study. Paradoxically, it seems to me that the more you try to drive out external influences, the more a prisoner you become of your own thoughts and decisions.

That's not to say I don't value the thought experiments of turning things upside down and inside out - as best we can on our own - to find some insight in the process.

I do love Frank Zappa. And I'm a New Yorker originally, so I'm familiar with Woody Allen's movies - at least up to Hannah and her Sisters - he lost me after that. Not a big comic book fan like my husband, so I know the movie, Howard the Duck (which I'm told is a big disappointment), but not the comic. I've not seen Tom Stoppard's play, but I will look into it. I'm not sure why I've never seen the movie as Gary Oldman is in it. Thanks for the recommendations and further insight. :)

Elizabeth Gormley said...

@Fred

When I say I finally understood "authenticity" I meant as our culture interprets it, not a philosophical understanding. I should have clarified that.

The physics of Relativity and the cultural understanding of Relativity are two entirely different things. It might be so with Existentialism - I don't know.

TheIllusionist said...

"What Sartre is doing here, I would suggest, is noting (in a somewhat idiosyncratic, obscure, and potentially misleading jargon) that action is irreducibly teleological or intelligible only in terms of the notion of final cause -- of which the intentionality or directedness of thought is a specific instance -- whereas those who deny free will typically want to analyze human action in exclusively efficient-causal, non-teleological, and non-intentional terms."

I think it is quite obvious that Sartre is categorically denying that action is teleological. Action for Sartre is the process of acting into a void where your intentions are often misconstrued and lead to absurd unintentional outcomes. Thus it is anything but teleological - but rather it always misses its object.

The unfortunate fact being that action is actually typically like this. This is what we actually experience if we are honest with ourselves. Our only saving grace is to stitch the whole thing together and lend it some coherence. That is not hard to do for the average, unsophisticated New Atheist because they are stupid and self-deceived. But for those of us who can actually reflect it is not so easy... and requires an omnipotent God; an Other in whose mind's eye our actions take place and have genuine meaning.

Why did the door open by itself? Because... God. Why was your mother cruel to you as a child? Because... God. Why is that child sitting with his face bloodied, confused and covered in powdered plaster in an Aleppo ambulance? Because... God.

Elizabeth Gormley said...

@TheIllusionist

But doesn't the fact that you are trying to become "authentic" or become "authentic" imply a teleology?

Elizabeth Gormley said...

@TheIllusionist

Sorry that should read:

But doesn't the fact that you are trying to be "authentic" or become "authentic" imply a teleology?

Elizabeth Gormley said...

@TheIllusionist

"I think it is quite obvious that Sartre is categorically denying that action is teleological. Action for Sartre is the process of acting into a void where your intentions are often misconstrued and lead to absurd unintentional outcomes. Thus it is anything but teleological - but rather it always misses its object."

Perhaps I should rephrase my question:

Sartre always takes the position that denying action has a teleology.

Wouldn't that imply a purpose? At the very least it suggests a desire to be coherent. Why not take the opposite position in the very next paragraph or sentence and be truly absurd (as well as incoherent).

I feel like I'm missing something here. How do you "act in the void" without purpose and then try to communicate that? How would that be possible?



Elizabeth Gormley said...

Sorry - should read: "Sartre always takes the position that action does not have a teleology."

Fred said...

Elizabeth, I agree with your assessment of "authenticity," so it's a little difficult to say just how an existentialist would respond. Playing devil's advocate, here's a response one could make: If I treat others with a simulacrum of respect and love even though I actually have contempt for them or do so to adhere to social standards of "respectability" or out of fear of eternal punishment, or some other external motivation, that seems obviously inauthentic. And a Christian could agree with that. The Sermon on the Mount has a lot to say about authenticity of motivation. Those emotions and the treatment arising from them are only authentic if I choose them for myself, knowing that there is nothing to condition that choice. If I treat others badly because I choose to use the tenet of authenticity as nothing more than a justification of choices I would not have otherwise made or authentically feel I should not make, I am still being inauthentic.

The fly in the ointment, and you put your finger on it in your comment, is that there is no way to argue against the mistreatment of others and absolute selfishness if it is an authentic choice. It is entirely conceivable that some people would be absolutely fine with using others and accept any consequences that may arise. I might choose to be a womanizer because I authentically love the pleasure of sex and genuinely don't care if I hurt women emotionally and psychologically or if I ever end up in a truly loving relationship. That's why I pretty much outgrew existentialism by the time I was 25. That said, though, I think the existentialists had some profound insights into the meaninglessness of existence in the absence of God. And surely you occasionally get the feeling that nothing makes sense and the universe is a ridiculous place. Also, I must admit, melancholy being my default mode, the tragic elements of existentialism still hold a certain appeal for me. Finally, anything that resulted in Howard the Duck can't be all bad:)

PS. Nice to meet a fellow Zappa fan.

Tai said...

Curious to see how commenting here works out for Jersey McJones. This isn't Briggs' blog... will JMJ be ignored or will he be engaged with and revealed to be a dunce beyond measure and out of his depths?

This is going to be fun.

Tai said...

Take a look at the nonsense comment from Jersey McJones:

"I don't think you understand Hume. That's not what he meant when he talked about luck. You seem to ignore modern physics as well."

This is a braindead comment that almost reads like those automated posts that run some program to spew out things that kind of sound inline with what's being discussed.

You're making the critique, Jersey, so spell it out (if your intellect affords you that kind of extra mileage). What exactly do YOU mean when you say that he doesn't understand Hume?
Also, "that's not what he meant when he talked about luck".... where are you even getting this from in Feser's post? Where does Feser mention luck? Nothing in what Feser said about Hume's "loose and separate" is at odds with what Hume has wrote.

Clarify your point or it's just a dummies objection.

And then this whopper: "You seem to ignore modern physics as well"... again, it's mindless blather by someone who with a knuckle scratch to his head has the intimation something is being said that might contradict his worldview. He either lacks the willingness or ability to read the article so he launches template objections hoping something fits.
You do this same crap at Briggs' blog.

Tai said...

The Illusionist said:

"I think it is quite obvious that Sartre is categorically denying that action is teleological. Action for Sartre is the process of acting into a void where your intentions are often misconstrued and lead to absurd unintentional outcomes. Thus it is anything but teleological - but rather it always misses its object."


Not quite, genius. If you have intentions but they're "off the mark" of the target.... you still have intentionality, you just missed the target.

What do you even mean when you say "where your intentions are often misconstrued"? That sounds like nonsense. Misconstrued from whose perspective? The person who was acting?? "I'm going to go purchase a hotdog" 5 minutes later "Perfect, just as I intended... I sold my record collection".
If a person can misconstrue their own intention, they're still attempting to act intentionally (there's something out there, not reducible) that is the justification for their failed attempt. But, even worse for your comment: if a person can misconstrue their own intention.... how would they even conclude that? They would have had to have known that they intended on doing X but they did Y, then remembered that they were supposed to do X.

I try reading your comment over a few times and it just doesn't make sense. And it doesn't make sense because you're desperately trying to remove teleological explanations.

Elizabeth Gormley said...

@Fred

That's a very good explanation. I just can't get my head around this statement: "Those emotions and the treatment arising from them are only authentic if I choose them for myself, knowing that there is nothing to condition that choice."

1) You could ever know there are no external conditions affecting your choice and 2) How are you acting on the "void" by writing about it (communication)?

Aren't you conditioned by your relationships with other people? You wouldn't try to impart knowledge to a rock because you have experience with rocks and know that they can be fairly relied upon not to respond - at all.

I can't quite get his "formula" about the "void" here. And yes, the world has been quite absurd to me at times and having been an agnostic for a good portion of my life I am familiar with the "void" - I'm just not getting it here. We all have a fear of indifference, that moment at which the world will stop noticing us at death, and we fear facing reality without distractions, but those are different kind of voids. When you are taking an action towards other people you are not acting on a "void." You have prior experience with people. The memories of these experiences must have an affect on your "choices" so I don't see how this constitutes a "void." I don't see how you can create a void in yourself, either.

It might that I'm just being too thick about it - maybe it's about some IDEAL state of being we'll never achieve or maybe its because I've forgotten what its like to be viewing the world without God in it.

I suppose you're right that one has to be an Existentialist to explain it. Thanks again for giving it a try, though.

(And actually don't know enough of Zappa's discography to really be considered a fan - he always made me smile though. Big Bowie fan, though.)

Timocrates said...

"That is to say, a human being’s existence is prior to his essence -- he must choose what he is to be, and this choice is never fixed once and for all but must be revisited constantly."

This is Satanism. The whole American world and social order is being overturned simply by the application of this perfectly psychotic and radically anti-social principle. This is why Hillary Clinton can fancy herself not insane for imagining that, e.g., the Constitution doesn't afford Americans either their right to life or their right to bear arms. To be sure, she can draw upon historical precedence to the contrary, but this would be like arguing slavery in the South proved the Constitution didn't grant men a right to liberty. It's perfectly absurd. This is why you can overturn positive and democratic law and social law, custom and tradition by appealing to an alleged right to "self-identify" as being the core logic of the constitution in the court. It is base, ridiculous and absurd Nietzschean logic of willfulness, which likewise animated the philosophy of the Nazis. This I believe is part of the reason why the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI took up the philosophy of Nietzsche and rebutted it in his contemporary work, Jesus of Nazareth. It is at the end of the day still the great, modern and contemporary error or delusion, even though academically it is imagined to be a kind of anachronism or historical artifact, just as we are made to imagine Nazism is something so strange and bizarre it could never effectively resurface.

I have to insist that what is quoted above is simply Satanism. It is the pseudo-scientific and philosophical application of that ancient lie being whispered in our ear, "You shall be as God." All law and order ceases to exist when this principle is applied, the law and logic of the jungle replaces it, which expression is at it were itself already an attempt to give or lend rationality or conceive-ability to something radically ridiculous, absurd and untrue. Dogs do not eat dogs. The animals are not vicious murderers and never kill for sport: in fact, every so-called "man-killer" animal is rightly presumed to be suffering from some sort of disease or dysfunction. Only man is really capable of this kind of thing.

When someone hates me without just cause or reason, they produce excuses or "reasons." If I am at my whits, I can point out problems with them. Eventually the farce or masquerade comes to an end, and the man or woman must simply express and admit their - as it were - naked and admittedly irrational hatred. Man can do this, of course, but he struggles with it because he has an innate sense and need for justice or fairness. We have this funny need to be consistent and dislike aligning ourselves with things that would obviously be contrary to our own perceived good. That is what a court of law becomes if this principle is accepted and applied: merely a farce of reason masquerading ultimately only animated by prejudice. Egomania is social toxin.

TheIllusionist said...

@Elizabth Gormley

Exactly, it is an absurd and horrible existence. The true Sartrean simply accepts that their actions cannot have any coherent meaning. That is what true Sartrean freedom looks like. Accepting the fact that everything you do is absurd and irrelevant and carrying on anyway. That is why the existentialists love Beckett, for example. "You must go on, I can't go on, I'll go on".

@Tia

Your actions are always misconstrued by the Other. And since in Sartre we exist only in and through the Other then this misconstrual retroactively renders our actions absurd.

Yes, of course a person can act with intentionality. Most people do. But the Sartrean says that they are lying to themselves - acting in Bad Faith - because the objective reality is that action is without meaning. It is only in embracing this rather nihilistic position that one becomes authentic.

Genius...

Elizabeth Gormley said...

@Illusionist

Thanks for the response. I can see from your responses that I have a lot more to learn about this - especially about "the other." I've read that the "other" doesn't have to be another person, but a moment of reflection on the possibility of the other watching you. So that's quite confusing as well.

There is something to be said that our actions are not completely knowable by another person, but it sounds like Zeno's paradox is the root of this argument. All action is absurd because each action is never interpreted completely (each attempt fails, so no matter how many actions we take we can never reach true understanding).

But, communication, like motion does happen. Bridges get built because specifications are followed, planes continue to fly because mechanics know how to fix them - the passing of information happens. Most types of communication take time to happen. I've read that this is why some forms of communication like love are described by verbs that incorporate time: patience, enduring, persevering (Corinthians). It's the sum of many actions over time.

I'm sure the Existentialist has an answer for that, too. :) I'll keep reading about it. Thanks.

TheIllusionist said...

@Elizabeth

Yes, the Other is our representation of other people's perception of us to ourselves. So, if you're thinking: "Is the Illusionist understanding my posts properly?" you're asking a question about the Other. The Other could, of course, also be God, as you can well imagine.

I think Sartre's classic example about misunderstanding and Bad Faith is illustrative. He asks us to think of a girl in a restaurant with a man. He reaches out and holds her hand. She allows him to and encourages him. When he tries to 'make a move' she pulls away and acts shocked.

Sartre says that the girl is acting in Bad Faith because she has an unrealistic conception of the Other. She is pretending to herself that the man's intention has no sexual overtones and he is fully only interested in her mind. But she is acting in Bad Faith by misinterpreting the Other.

Sartre's point is that most people, most of the time are like the girl in one way or another. They create a fantasy world in which the Other's perceptions are in line with their self-perceptions and they undertake actions in order to enforce and reinforce this fantasy. Sartre says that this is acting in Bad Faith. The existentialist recognises that the Other is a chasm. With God dead there is no Other per se. And any Other that we construct is just a sort of 'hallway of mirrors' of our own fantasies and desires. When we see through this hall of mirrors and realise that we simply face a void we are 'authentic' and have recognised our own freedom.

In my opinion, Sartre is the best of the atheist thinkers. Probably the best that has ever lived. He must be taken very seriously and his Being and Nothingness should be read on its own terms by anyone interested in philosophy.

Elizabeth Gormley said...

@Theillusionist

Thanks. That was a very good explanation and so very sad, too. And he's right about how we project our desires on other people (and ideologies and institutions I might add). And when they fail to live up to those desires it can turn our world upside down and everything appears absurd and all our efforts meaningless.

I think I understand what you mean that the Other = Chasm. Without God there would be no way to communicate with each other (of course I don't think we could exist in the first place - but that is another argument). I do believe there is no way to cross the chasm that exists between us except through God. So, if you do not believe in God then the other would actually be perceived as a "chasm". I lived enough years unsure of God's existence to understand that thought.

I really appreciate the time you've taken to explain this. There is so much to read on the subject of philosophy that it helps to have someone explains parts of it. I will definiately add "Being and Nothingness" to my kindle. Thanks again.

TheIllusionist said...

No problem. I'd also add that you can find very similar discussions in Kierkegaard in his work on anxiety ('The Concept of Anxiety'). Although Kierkegaard's discussions are not set out in a system as comprehensive and well-articulated as Sartre's they are very similar. He also uses personal examples - many of which involve love relations - to illustrate how human relationships are very difficult without some sort of belief of some sort.

I think many of the New Atheists suffer from these uncertainties - but probably never admit them in public and save them for the therapist. Those who don't are probably clinging to some self-constructed myth or other - I see a lot springing out of evolutionary psychology these days ("Women act this way because...", "Men act this way because..." etc). But these are all just poor substitutes.

The only way to secure the existence of a stable, trustworthy Other is by assuming a God. Without this all Others seem fleeting and unstable - and when this instability breaks through the surface and our expectations are not met, our lives and self-perception falls into chaos. But with this stable Other in place that is not contingent on all temporal Others we can approach the world with much more confidence.

I often wonder what would happen if we approached the New Atheists on this terrain. My feeling is that they'd just get embarrassed.

One more thing, I note that Feser has linked to the complaints against Richard Carrier. Is it just me or does poor Mr. Carrier not sound identical to the man in Sartre's famous example. Just a thought.

Elizabeth Gormley said...

@TheIllusionist

"The only way to secure the existence of a stable, trustworthy Other is by assuming a God. Without this all Others seem fleeting and unstable - and when this instability breaks through the surface and our expectations are not met, our lives and self-perception falls into chaos. But with this stable Other in place that is not contingent on all temporal Others we can approach the world with much more confidence.

I often wonder what would happen if we approached the New Atheists on this terrain. My feeling is that they'd just get embarrassed."

I think rather that the answer is in the word "trust." One falls into Chaos through betrayal (either betrayal you feel when your own expectations fail or the betrayal of another). One can only climb out of Chaos through trust (something or someone you still trust to be real enough that you can begin to restore order in your mind). I don't think that they would feel embarrassment, but wariness. They are protecting their construct of reality from a disrupting element. We all do this - atheists as well as believers.

I am just starting an anthology on Kierkegaard. I am quite sure I am in love. If I had half his facility with language I would be sorely tempted to give up everything and write 24/7. What a gift!

I agree with you that Carrier situation does sound like Sartre's example, but I would suspect that it is more likely that Mr. Carrier is well aware of his effect on women and doesn't care one bit about "the rules for speakers." It is also likely he views all this talk about his lecherous behavior as helpful in "closing the deal" for future encounters with young women. There are dynamics between men and women that all the progress in the world cannot change.

TheIllusionist said...

Carrier's own explanation:

"At an afterparty at a pub after a sponsored event that had an event policy against making sexual advances, after having engaged in fascinating and intense conversation with a woman for hours, I badly misread her fascination with the subject as flirtatious interest in me, and I told her that I’d like to make a pass at her. She was confused and taken aback by that, was definitely not interested, and I immediately realized I’d crossed a line with her."

In his own mind he IS Sartre's famous example. (The original is here on p55: http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/docs/icb.topic1134192.files/March%2011%20Readings/Sartre%20-%20Bad%20Faith.pdf).

This is in keeping with my view of these people. They tend to be naive and lost - often immature and come off as overgrown, insulated children. Sartre and the existentialists actually 'got' fairly profound things about life, love and so on. The New Atheists are arrested at a prior level of development where they schlep around banging their heads into windows. I would imagine that they are deeply unhappy people - and that is probably why they come across as so angry.

Elizabeth Gormley said...

@TheIllusionist

I read that, but it could also be that, being aware of this famous example, offers it as another proof of innocence. In any event, it is not original - not even for Sartre. "Oh - I'm so sorry - I mistook your brain for your heart. If I had only known...yadda yadda yadda" Spare me, please. Been on the receiving end of that little game more than once in my youth. :)

Elizabeth Gormley said...

@TheIllusionist

PS. Carrier, being a repeat offender, is unlikely the innocent party of any "misunderstanding". He'd have to be truly clueless and unable to understand the "rules" he has agreed to in accepting to be a speaker. If, however, it turns out he is a victim of vicious rumors, then I would retract my skepticism of his intentions.

Thursday said...

I have trouble condemning Carrier morally for expressing interest in dating someone,* especially in comparison to Sartre, who was rather nasty with women. But what does stand out is his sheer ineptitude.

*Even if he was in violation of what seem to me excessively intrusive rules.

Elizabeth Gormley said...

@Thursday

I would agree with you if the accusations were limited to "asking for a date." According to the link provided, they aren't.

Thursday said...

That link uses weaselly language to suggest Carrier is behaving worse than he actually is. All the substance that I can get out of it is that he asked a bunch of people out at various events even though he knew the rules, and at some point he touched someone on the arm and leg, which, incidentally, is a perfectly normal way to gauge interest. All he seems guilty of is doing all of the above in a particularly awkward and clueless way.

No doubt though that Carrier, in contrast to Sartre, is an offputting and sexually unattractive man.

Elizabeth Gormley said...

@Thursday

1. I wouldn't know how he "actually is."
2. I know what "persistence" and "blunt language" are (No means yes, Get lost means take me I'm yours)
3. Explain Woody Allen.

:)

Thursday said...

There are very few specific descriptions of what Carrier did and I don't trust the interpretations of the kind of PC people who run these Skeptic things. I wouldn't trust a PC person to interpret the word "persistence," for example. About all anybody seems to agree on are that his advances, whatever they involved, were not well received. Knowing a bit about Carrier, that's not hard to believe. But I'd be wary of going further.

Thursday said...

Not that I don't enjoy seeing people hoisted on their own PC petard.

Elizabeth Gormley said...

@Thursday

Searching around brought up a pretty explicit charge from one Amy Frank here:
https://www.gofundme.com/AmyFrankFund?rcid=09a01418573611e69b8ebc764e04c5a7
And more about it here:
http://www.thecollegefix.com/post/28383/

You'd be surprised by things a young woman student hears behind closed doors from a "mentor" who wouldn't dare express the same thoughts to another male acquaintance and it's not unusual for a predator to place his hand on a student's knee to take a quick assessment of how he will be received (not "enough" of an advance that he'll be called out on it).

All I am saying is that it fits a pattern that is all too familiar. And, further, if a man is going to party after hours with a student he/she should probably bring a witness. At 40+ you're really asking to be misinterpreted when you start talking about your sex life. Carrier is either a complete dunce or has gotten away with this kind of behavior for so long that he thinks he's invincible.

In any event, this all seems to be moving into a legal battle of he said/she said. I suspect this is a long way from being over.

I do agree with you - after skimming his biography, that there does seem to be a lot of karma going down.

Elizabeth Gormley said...

That should read:

*man or woman is going to party after hours with a student

Anonymous said...

What shouldn't be overlooked is that despite all the talk about "absurdity," "nausea," "worms," etc., Sartre seems to have been a fairly cheerful guy, unlike his perpetually dour companion.

On another topic, from BN: the once-famous Sartrean "God project," that futile attempt of the For Itself to somehow fuse with the In Itself, maintaining thereby its anxious freedom while simultaneously obtaining what it takes to be the peace and quiet of matter (being in-itself). It formed an important part of so-called "existential psychoanalysis," which Sartre sketched out in his biographies (or whatever they may be called) of Genet and Flaubert.

The Genet in particular, along with the account of the God Project in BN make clear how intensely God figured in the work of this famous atheist.

Step2 said...

Timocrates,
Egomania is social toxin.

Try to explain that to the supporters of the presidential nominee full of steak and ego. Otherwise, your political rant was fun to read but woefully misguided.

Anonymous said...

Step 2, good to see you at your usual level of deep and detailed analysis. Where is the irrelevant link though?

Also, if you hadn't mentioned steak (the other, I'm sure, is full of caviar), it would hard to see which of the two egomaniac candidates you had in mind.

George LeSauvage said...

I am old enough to have caught the tail end of its real popularity and I confess existentialism never made the slightest sense to me. All action is pointless and absurd. Any actual criterion one uses to make a choice is a betrayal of "authenticity". Freedom involves rejecting all this, and apparently consists in following some mystical inward impulse, not influenced by that which is "other" - seemingly a word which means "anything and everything". (I can see no other way to understand it.) So, what does it mean to say we, in following Sartre, are in some sense achieving "freedom"? It would make more sense to call this being a slave to one's passions, but only if those passions were sufficiently inchoate to be called "authentic".

I had a professor, long ago, who when someone cited Sartre in class, shook his head and said "Every profession has its frauds." He then defied anyone to come up with a single rationally developed argument from JPS. (I will grant that girls in black were often a strong lure into pretending to take this seriously.)

Anonymous said...

Mr. Le Sauvage: perhaps your professor was the fraud? Have you looked into the scholarly literature on Sartre? Try, sometime, looking into it even if only from the English analytical viewpoint. You might be surprised.

Where, by the way, in Being and Nothingness, does Sartre say or insinuate that "all action is pointless and absurd?

Step2 said...

Step 2, good to see you at your usual level of deep and detailed analysis. Where is the irrelevant link though?

I suppose you learned your rhetorical skills from Trump University. Sad!

George LeSauvage said...

@Anon, 12:21 8/21:

1. Does Sartre ever actually develop an argument, rather than assertion?

2. If any definable criterion of choice is, per se, inauthentic, then yes, that is what I take away from it. That is independent of what JPS may have acknowledged.

3. Given his reluctance to put his cards on the table, no, I am not willing to put in the time on Sartre. And that goes also for all the explications I have looked at. This goes far beyond mere obscurity, as with Kant, for instance. The guy is clearly not doing what Aristotle and Aquinas did; not even trying. So I am left with the fundamental point that his demand for "authenticity" is one that cannot be met. And his notion of "freedom" is absurd.

If someone can state, in clear and honest English some meaningful defense of JPS, I am willing to give it a hearing. (Though I am more likely to be preoccupied with other matters, as that probably will be sign that Christ is returning in glory.)

Thursday said...

All I am saying is that it fits a pattern that is all too familiar.

There are patterns and there are other patterns. I still wouldn't take everything that Carrier's accusers have said at face value. Up in Canada, we just went through a criminal trial where the douchey uber-feminist radio host Jian Ghomeshi was accused of physically abusing some of the women he dated. Under cross examination, his accusers turned out to range from extremely unreliable to blatantly lying.

These are all crazy people, so judging who did what from our vantage point is irresponsible.

Anonymous said...

Thursday, so is it a common view in Canada that Ghomeshi was largely innocent. I don't know a lot about the incident but I have seen pieces that treat him as obviously guilty and thathe got off through a technicality or the machinations of a sexist legal system. Are those pieces not representative?

Anonymous said...

The irony of Step2 complaining about rhetoric...

Timocrates said...

@ Step2,

What is wrong with steak? And Noam Chomsky actually predicted the rise of Trump not too long ago - during the Obama years - exactly because hard working people were radically neglected and financially exploited. He foresaw it with the bail outs under Bush, in which he radically betrayed his conservative ideological base. This is why Trump can and likely will steal the blue collar democrat vote, which is a serious threat to the Democrat establishment.

Trump isn't an egomaniac. He's littered with vices, including pride, but his personality and ideology isn't such that would rob anyone of their freedom or dignity. He's at worse arrogant and annoying: he isn't an existential threat, however, to your way of life or your family or your Church. Gays don't have to worry about being treated like crap in his America; in Hillary's, Christians will be increasingly so. He's willful on the international stage. He wants to arbitrarily renegotiate trade deals - which, when I recall in my days in Canada was a serious concern from Canadians about signing NAFTA with America in the first place - to backpedal on the original benefits of the deal to the partners and keep it unilaterally beneficial to America. That's what he's talking about; and yeah, he isn't joking when he says such a policy will benefit America.

But that's being screwed at the pump (for America's allies/trade partners). America is the gas station and in Trump's America, America's allies and trade partners will be hosed. But my pocket being fleeced is one kind of insult and injury; my dignity being robed from me is a far more serious one. Trump doesn't threaten anyone's rights: the Democrats are emos who will degrade us without end. I mean Obama's palpable hatred of the U.S armed forces is without precedent; to be sure, the increased reliance on effectively mercenary groups under the Bush ages made such disregard of the official, standing forces much more plausible.

Look at modern China's culture. It's not even Chinese anymore. In fact, modern China doesn't even have a culture. That's the path the Democrats are offering to America... but don't worry, your abortions will be free. And maybe your check-ups at the doctor's office. It's not a coincidence that China is now pro-Hillary. Because China only cares about the pump and not human dignity. China's endorsement of Hillary says everything about the modern LGBTQ/Democrat ideology.

Timocrates said...

This is an "at my last breathe I take" moment. We need a radically new Hollywood here in North America. We were and are the victors of WWII: those alive today should give us thanks. Those who do not, heap more coals on their worthless skulls.

I have yet in my life met a contemporary liberal who can debate the issues. They are angry, emotional and frankly super dysfunctional. They know there is no rational excuse for being sexually stupid. Modern "liberals" prey on the young because they know they are ignorant and vulnerable. They want money and comfort: naturally enough. But who, then, will play the horse in Orwell's Animal Farm? Certainly not our opponents.

A Pyramid scheme always plays out the same. The Pyramid collapses and those who built it are the shame of history.

I know the founding fathers of my country were freemasons - i.e. sellouts - who were terrified of a Christian social order. I also know that they never dreamed of the horrors their children would be subjugated to for neglecting their duty to God. They were allowed the privilege of free and independent thought; their progeny, however, is denied it.

Dear Liberals: Sex is great; however, love and truth are far better. They never cheat on you. Others will; however, those things will never abandon you. Or else how do you think people in the past survived torture and cruelty? Certainly not because of sexual favours. This is why we conservatives tell you not to practice whore-like behaviour or homosexuality. Because we want you to be happy.

Thursday said...

Thursday, so is it a common view in Canada that Ghomeshi was largely innocent.

The mainstream view is that he wasn't positively exonerated, but the testimony of the witnesses was so obviously unreliable that there is no way he should have been convicted. The cross examination was devastating.

I don't know a lot about the incident but I have seen pieces that treat him as obviously guilty and that he got off through a technicality or the machinations of a sexist legal system. Are those pieces not representative?

No. There are certainly lots of loud and crazy feminists who say things like that, but they are not the mainstream even in left leaning Canada.

Anyway, why would anyone take the opinion of such deranged people seriously?

Step2 said...

@Timocrates
He foresaw it with the bail outs under Bush, in which he radically betrayed his conservative ideological base.

Bush betrayed the conservative base by preventing a catastrophic collapse of the economy? I guess that seems right if your ideology is nihilism. Which isn’t to imply there wasn’t any pain involved in the lengthy recession that followed; and that pain was disgustingly shifted almost entirely upon Main Street rather than Wall Street. But letting the shadow banking system grind to a complete halt and pulling the regular banking system down with it would have had the same effect as setting off a nuke in NYC, it was that dangerous to national security. The recession was, for nearly all intents and purposes, nothing but a collapsing debt bubble. Even with government interventions here and abroad, the scope of the losses for the recession were officially estimated by the US Treasury at $19 trillion in 2011 dollars and unofficially estimated by world stock prices at $34 trillion globally in 2009 dollars. If people can’t figure out why losses in excess of US GDP are worthy of government intervention to stabilize the banking system then they are hopelessly ignorant about economics. Again, it is perfectly legitimate to be infuriated by the way Wall Street took advantage of the chaos they created, but from a government policy standpoint it would have been suicidal to let the financial system burn to the ground.

Trump isn't an egomaniac.

Trump is a clinically acute example of egomania. Completely narcissistic, pinning tacky gold lettering of his name onto everything, working on his third trophy wife. It is difficult to think of any way he doesn’t clearly satisfy the qualities of egomania unless you are living in denial.

He's littered with vices, including pride, but his personality and ideology isn't such that would rob anyone of their freedom or dignity.

Have you been awake at any point during this election cycle? Seriously, he seems to relish insulting entire demographic groups and tries, with limited success, to intimidate his critics and the media on a nearly constant basis. On blind faith alone I should trust that he will behave in office completely the opposite of the way he has been on the campaign trail? No, the volatile charlatan doesn’t deserve a single bit of faith. I tried to save the Republicans from themselves. I switched over to the Republican primary simply to vote for an authentic conservative (see how I connected the dots to existentialism there), but they instead chose the least qualified, most divisive, most obviously fake “conservative” imaginable as a way to give the middle finger to the establishment. Regarding liberty, Trump's convention speech made such grandiose promises for an immediate and dramatic reduction in crime it could only be realistically achieved by imposing martial law. Ironic considering how many of his supporters are the same conspiratorial dingbats who were convinced Jade Helm was going to impose martial law in Texas.

I mean Obama's palpable hatred of the U.S armed forces is without precedent…

You only read that slander in the right wing media. Obama may be opposed to saber-rattling but that doesn’t mean he hates the armed forces, quite the contrary. Trump had to be shamed by the press into giving away the charity money he had raised specifically for the purpose of helping veterans.

This is why we conservatives tell you not to practice whore-like behaviour or homosexuality. Because we want you to be happy.

Perhaps nominating a playboy who has bragged repeatedly about his fornication and adultery, and who previously admitted a creepy interest in his own daughter, isn’t the best messenger for family values advice.

DNW said...



By the way, that was a very good sketch of some of the central ideas of what we have come to call existentialism.

It's apparent that either Feser has somehow found the time to read up on it, or that he remembers the content of his old introductory and intermediate philosophy classes with remarkable clarity.

Any quibbles would be just that ... quibbles for the sake of quibbling.

DNW said...



George LeSauvage said...

@Anon, 12:21 8/21:

1. Does Sartre ever actually develop an argument, rather than assertion?"



Of course not. If he did, it would not be French Philosophy. Call it critical description, and pretend to find it adequate.

Craig Payne said...

Let me disagree just a bit; I think Sartre has an argument. I think Ed Feser did bring out the essentials of Sartre's argument in the OP, but here's a summary:

Being in itself does not change, does not choose; it simply is what it is.
Being for itself is free to choose its own path; it defines itself.
God, for Sartre, is both at once: God is absolutely free in His choices, but He also is unchanging. Being perfect, He cannot deviate from His own perfection, no matter what He chooses.
However, both of those cannot be true of the same being at once. Therefore, God does not exist.
What humans want to be, at their deepest core, is the being that is both for itself and in itself. This is the "desire to be God." However, since this desire is inevitably frustrated, human life is essentially frustrating and meaningless.

I don't agree with this argument, but at least it is an argument.

By the way, I thought this was funny in the OP: "So pour some whiskey, put on a jazz LP, and light the cigarette of the hipster girl dressed in black reading Camus at the barstool next to you." Not to drag in D.B. Hart, but isn't this rather close to his description of the hipster Thomist?

Edward Feser said...

Not to drag in D.B. Hart, but isn't this rather close to his description of the hipster Thomist?

Hi Craig, yes, that's exactly what went through my mind as I wrote that... ;-)

Timocrates said...

@ Step2,

America was not built on Wall Street. In fact, Wall Street was British occupied territory for most of the war.

Bush did betray not only his base but his father's own new deal with the world. Ask the SE Asian economic powers where their bailout was when their financial sectors collapsed? They were commanded on no subtle terms to suck it up. We made an exception for ourselves, of course. Because we are too big too fail, which is a psychotic lie. Rome is built on muscle, perseverance and the willingness and desire to see a better future for tomorrow.

And frankly, Obama's homosexualization of the U.S armed forces is a total disgrace. Again it was George Bush's reliance on mercenary forces that made this possible; and also the fact so many other countries similarly sold out their armies to political correctness.

North Americans were too proud and too free. We enjoyed the spoils of war and were spoiled by it. Now we face a crisis and all the factors are against us. Demographically we are doomed, like we already doomed Europe. Economically the impossible is made possible watching North American son and daughters working far more productively than their forebearers could ever imagine yet becoming poorer and poorer regardless. Smells like a scheme. Smells like theft.

laubadetriste said...

@Thursday: "No doubt though that Carrier, in contrast to Sartre, is an offputting and sexually unattractive man."

I know I'm late to this party, but that sentence brought me up short. I presume it's ironical:

"Sartre was about five feet tall, and he had lost almost all the sight in his right eye when he was three; he dressed in oversized clothes, with no sense of fashion; his skin and teeth suggested an indifference to hygiene. He had the kind of aggressive male ugliness that can be charismatic, and he wisely refrained from disguising it. He simply ignored his body. He was also smart, generous, agreeable, ambitious, ardent, and very funny. [..] Words constituted his principal means of seduction: his physical approaches were on the order of groping in restaurants and grabbing kisses in taxis. With the publication of 'Letters to Sartre,' it was clear that, privately, he and Beauvoir held most of the people in their lives in varying degrees of contempt. They enjoyed, especially, recounting to each other the lies they were telling. [...] Sartre and Beauvoir liked to refer to their entourage as 'the Family,' and the recurring feature of their affairs is a kind of play incest. Their customary method was to adopt a very young woman as a protégée—to take her to movies and cafés, travel with her, help her with her education and career, support her financially. (Sartre wrote most of his plays in part to give women he was sleeping with something to do: they could be actresses.) For Sartre and Beauvoir, the feeling that they were, in effect, sleeping with their own children must, as with most taboos, have juiced up the erotic fun.[...] Sartre became infatuated with Olga and spent two years attempting to seduce her. He failed, but in 1937 he met her sister, Wanda, also beautiful, and even more at sea, and he managed, after two more years, to sleep with her. [...] Sartre eventually persuaded Bienenfeld, who had never slept with a man, to accompany him to a hotel, where, he suavely confided to her, he had taken another girl’s virginity the day before. The first encounter was unpleasant: Sartre had a mildly sadistic attitude toward sex. [...] Nathalie Sorokine, another student of Beauvoir’s...and Beauvoir became sexually involved while Beauvoir was still having her affair with Bienenfeld. ('I’ve a very keen taste for her body,' Beauvoir wrote to Sartre.) Sorokine, too, slept with Sartre and, with Beauvoir’s encouragement, with another lover of Beauvoir’s, Jacques-Laurent Bost. [...] He set his women up in apartments within ten minutes of his own and, every week, made what he called his 'medical rounds.' Each woman had specified hours allotted to spend with him. The women almost never saw each other; in many cases, they never knew about each other. But they all knew about Beauvoir, and Beauvoir was Sartre’s standing excuse: the Beaver wouldn’t like it; he had to spend more time with the Beaver"--Louis Menand, Stand By Your Man