Philosophy Modern & Contempry
Philosophy Modern & Contempry PHIL 212
Lansing Community College
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This 10 page Class Notes was uploaded by Ransom Schimmel on Tuesday October 13, 2015. The Class Notes belongs to PHIL 212 at Lansing Community College taught by Betina Henig in Fall. Since its upload, it has received 47 views. For similar materials see /class/222391/phil-212-lansing-community-college in PHIL-Philosophy at Lansing Community College.
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Date Created: 10/13/15
PRINT THIS EXISTENTIALISM KIEFlKEGAAFlD AND SARTRE LESSON EIGHT STUDY GUIDE Soccio correctly points out that Existentialism is not a school of thought However a general focus and specific questions are characteristic of Existentialism One emphasis in this lesson is the manner in which Existentialism constitutes a departure from other kinds of philosophy There two Existentialists upon which we focus in this lesson Soren Kierkegaard and JeanPaul Sartre So we will be thinking about several features of their respective philosophical views and their possible application to problems in contemporary life GOALS OF THE LESSON One goal of the lesson is for students to demonstrate the ability to recall and describe the defining characteristics of key concepts and arguments in the text readings A second goal is for students to demonstrate the ability to analyze and evaluate philosophical concepts or arguments presented in the texts The third goal is for students to demonstrate the ability to analyze and evaluate the manner in philosophical concepts or arguments can be compared contrasted or resurface in new forms among philosophers and between historical eras The final goal is the central goal of each lesson It is for students to achieve the learning outcomes relevant to the lesson The following is a list of some of the names and concepts with which you should be familiar Existential Existentialism Soren Kierkegaard JeanPaul Sartre Kierkegaard s Universal Formula authenticity inauthenticily leap of faith subjective truth objectivity the massing of society leveling living individuals condemned to be free anguish bad faith despair In most respects our textbook accounts of the relevant features of Existentialism are clear so I will comment on a few of the issues with which students should be familiar Learning Outcome Two The successful student will be able to Discuss how differing foundations of knowledge from various cultures lead to different understandings of science natural order religion the Self and the use of technological power AND Learning Outcome Three The successful student will be able to Evaluate the relationship of philosophical ideas to the art literature political and economic structure social hierarchy and the values of their respective societies EXISTENTIALISM AS A RESPONSE While as Soccio points out there is no school of Existentialism Existentialists responded to specific social conditions and pursued certain themes Archetypes of Wisdom pages 391 392 Soren Kierkegaard 1813 1855 also responded to traditional philosophical approaches and issues Archetypes of Wisdom page 392 Soccio remarks that Kierkegaard s work represented a radical shift in philosophers orientation from objectivity to subjectivity from efforts to impose rational consistency to a search for authentic existence Kierkegaard said The question is not what am I to believe think understand but what am I to do Archetypes of Wisdom page 392 emphasis in the original Kierkegaard specifically responded to the work of Hegel where he rejected Hegel s exclusive emphasis upon universalizing Author Frederick Copleston writes that according to Kierkegaard Hegel sought to capture all reality in the conceptual net of his dialectic while existence slipped through the meshes L Jean Paul Sartre 1905 1980 also responded to massive social and political forces of his era More specifically he responded to what could be accurately and classically identified as man s inhumanity to man during World War II Archetypes of Wisdom page 494 495 and Readings from the Roots of Wisdom page 64 KIERKEGAARD Soccio remarks that Kierkegaard rebelled against systems and against objectivity Archetypes of Wisdom page 401 402 One of Kierkegaard s most central themes is the manner in which institutions and societal demands for conformity threaten to undermine or prevent authentic living According to Kierkegaard while all institutions suffer from inauthenticity systems and the goal of objectivity threaten to undermine and often to prevent authentic living The centerpiece of Kierkegaard s philosophy is his analysis of the authentic and inauthentic Christianity Kierkegaard s position that truth is subjectivity is another crucial feature of his philosophy and one that we will eXplore in this lesson INAUTHENTIC AND AUTHENTIC CHRISTIANS The Universal Formula Soccio remarks that Kierkegaard saw a universal formula in the Biblical account of Abraham and Isaac Archetype of Wisdom page 394 395 Students should be very familiar with the issues in this section of the teXt It is necessary to clarify one issue in Soccio s remarks Soccio comments that Kierkegaard concluded that universal principles must give way to individual predicaments Archetypes of Wisdom page 395 It is possible to interpret this comment as an indication of a relativist view However this interpretation of Kierkegaard s position on this issue would be incorrect Kierkegaard perceived his choice as one in which he must choose either to marry Regina or to serve God but that he could not do both2 Soccio comments on this on pages 408 and 409 In Kierkegaard s view marriage is a universal value Stated differently the universal principle is that people ought to marry Similarly Abraham was willing to violate the universal prohibition against murdering another Kierkegaard s individual predicament was dictated by that which he believed was a command from God he must choose to serve God and not to marry Regina So in one sense Kierkegaard violated a universal or principle and adhered to one that re ected his individual predicament Similarly while Abraham was willing to murder his son he did so at the command of God and in order to demonstrate his faith in God So again Abraham s individual predicament and specifically that which was required by God in this particular case ruled out his adherence to a universal principle It is important to note however that Kierkegaard more generally rejects universal principles or formulas in favor of that which the individual ought to do in view of his or her particular circumstances Again this is not a relativistic claim According to Kierkegaard the universal formula or principle that he saw in the Biblical account of Abraham and Isaac was the following If you give something up for God then you will get it back in addition to other good things from God Archetypes of Wisdom page 394 395 Kierkegaard gave up Regina in order to serve God however Regina married another So it seemed to Kierkegaard that perhaps he had reasoned incorrectly about this issue In the face of the awesome finality of any choice what am I to do Archetypes of Wisdom page 394 395 The issue for Kierkegaard again is the following What am I to do So it is an issue of action And this is exactly what we see in the authentic Christian s leap of faith In the face of a lack of any guarantees alone and each and every moment we take a leap of faith and make a commitment to God Faith or belief for Kierkegaard does not re ect any reliance upon church dogma or doctrine It does not rely upon any form of group salvation in virtue of ones membership in a church or as an adherent to a particular religion For Kierkegaard being a Christian was not based upon what others might construe as the typical or acceptable Christian THE TRUE SELF THE EXISTING INDIVIDUAL According to Kierkegaard the goal for the Christian and for others is to increasingly become a true self or to be an actually existing individual Stated differently the goal is to become a subject For example Kierkegaard wrote the following about himself Yet it is true that he found also here on earth what he sought He himself was that individual if no one else was and he became that more and more Excerpt from The Point of View for My Work as an Author reprinted in Archetypes of Wisdom page 398 Consequently becoming a true self or an existing individual is a process What is an existing individual or a true self According to Kierkegaard the term existence refers to a free individual So to exist means realizing oneself through free 3 Therefore when Kierkegaard refers to choice between alternatives through self commitment the true self or the existing individual his meaning is similar to that which Soccio defines as the authentic individual Soccio points out that according to Kierkegaard the crucial task is to live in truth by becoming a subject Archetypes of Wisdom page 408 409 Becoming a subject means to become a proper authentic self or person Archetypes of Wisdom page 408 TRUTH AS SUBJ ECTIVITY As Soccio indicates the major existential problem is What am I to do The issue for Existentialists is the dilemma of lived choices Archetypes of Wisdom page 400 Any choice that I make rules out other possibilities Further those choices and my actions that follow them shape who I am So in order to decide what I should choose I must have the truth Soccio provides a discussion of Kierkegaard s view that objectivity constitutes untruth However it is important to note that according to Kierkegaard objective knowledge does reveal facts or truths Archetypes of Wisdom page 401 One of the difficulties however is that objective knowledge cannot reveal truth Stated differently objective knowledge cannot reveal truth for the individual or that which he can passionately appropriate in order to guide his life choices Instead truth is subjectivity C Stephen Evans provides a helpful clarification of Soccio s comments about Kierkegaard s view that truth is subjectivity Evans writes The thesis that truth is subjectivity is explicitly said to apply only to a particular kind of truth the truth that is essential to human existence and it is clear enough that for Kierkegaard this means moral and religious truth about how human life should be lived The point is not to deny that there are objective moral and religious truths but to raise the question as to how a person can learn to live truly What is it that makes a person s life true4 Truth as subjectivity then means that I do not deny that there are objective moral or religious truths Instead truth as subjectivity is a reference to that truth by which I can live and die the moral and religious truth about Which I am passionate and that I can appropriate or take up into my life in order to guide by choices It is the truth that helps me to become more and more of an individual or an authentic true self PRESSURES TO CONFORM IN THE WIDER SOCIETY The discussion of Kierkegaard s theory of the massing of society and leveling in the Age of Virtual Equality are very important Students should be very familiar with these remarks Kierkegaard s theories of the true or authentic self and truth as subjectivity are applicable to those problems that he identifies in the wider society STAGES ON LIFE S WAY Students should be very familiar with Soccio s discussion of the three stages The Aesthetic Stage the Ethical Stage and the Religious Stage Below are some questions to consider 1 What are the characteristics of each stage 2 What is the role of despair in the Aesthetic and Ethical Stages What is the role of despair in the transition to the subsequent stage 3 What is the Godrelation and why is it important according to Kierkegaard 4 What is the teleological suspension of the ethical and how is it involved in the Religious Stage KIERKEGAARD AND SARTRE While Kierkegaard was a Christian and Sartre was an atheist they share some common themes questions and approaches Students should think about the similarities and differences between the theories of these two philosophers JEANPAUL SARTRE Jean Paul Sartre was also a proli c writer In this lesson we are surveying a few of the important themes in his work On the first page of this study guide several key concepts or terms are listed Students should be very familiar with them One is particularly worth commenting on at this juncture Sartre argued that we are condemned to be free Readings from the Roots of Wisdom page 63 One focus in this lesson is what he meant by that claim and his reasons for making it According to Sartre what is the significance of a choice and how are we to make choices Another significant issue is Sartre s view that his form of Existentialism constituted humanism CHOICES AND FREEDOM FREEDOM AND CHOICES According to Sartre we are condemned to be free Readings from the Roots of Wisdom page 63 One of the most central reasons is that for Sartre God does not eXist According to Sartre this view has very significant implications Another pivotal issue is Sartre s view of the self and his related claim that existence precedes essence Readings from the Roots of Wisdom pages 59 61 According to Sartre there is no permanent entity known as the selfArchelypes of Wisdom page 494 So according to Sartre human beings do not have a self in the sense of a permanent entity that underlies a human being Sartre argues that God does not exist Both positions rule out a theory in which human beings could be held to have souls You will recall that Descartes argues that the soul not the body constitutes what a human being essentially is Stated differently according to Descartes the soul is his essence Further Descartes argued that the soul is separable from the body The most obvious implication of this kind of view is that the soul can exist after its separation from the body at the death of the body Plato argued that the soul exists before it is coupled with the body and that it continues to exist after the death of the body For both Descartes and Plato the soul is the essence of the human being or that which the human being essentially is So the soul or the essence of the human being could be said to precede the body in terms of priority or value Stated differently that which one is essentially or the soul in the case of Descartes and Plato shapes or determines some or all aspects of the human being s existence In the case of Plato the soul or the essence of the person precedes the body in a second sense In this case the soul it temporally prior or exists prior to the body In other words Plato argues that a soul exists prior to the birth of the human being Consequently for Plato essence precedes existence in the sense that essence soul has the greatest value and in the sense that soul is temporally prior to existence Sartre s view differs of course from that of Descartes and Plato According to Sartre again there is no enduring self or soul in the sense of a permanent essence that underlies and shapes or determines before hand those features of a human being s life According to Sartre God does not exist So upon the atheistic existentialist view no deity has a role in the world and no deity could save us We are radically free Human beings are utterly free Sartre argues we are not free to not be free Our freedom according to Sartre is tragic and burdensome We are forlorn But our radical freedom also provides us with a tremendous opportunity Sartre s view is that we exist then we can create or form a self our essence as and through the choices we make Existence precedes essence Existence has temporal priority over essence Since existence makes any essence possible it seems as though existence has the greatest value However this view is incomplete According to Sartre s theory we always have a choice The freedom extends to social problems and how we respond to the The pivotal choice is according to Sartre the decision between living authentically in full recognition of our choices or acting in bad faith and denying our freedom In the case of a human being that creates an authentic self as and through the choices she or he makes the authentic self is creating the value of eXistence So for Sartre it is authentic human beings that make their eXistence great Sartre s claim that eXistence precedes eXistence re ects his humanism much in the same sense that the Classical Greek philosophers those prior to the medieval philosophers and many of the Renaissance philosophers were humanists Humanism as Soccio reports is the name given to any philosophy that emphasizes human welfare and dignity belief that human intelligence and effort are capable of improving conditions in the here and now Archetypes of Wisdom page 564 Sartre believed we are capable of improving conditions in the here and now According to Sartre we always have a choice and therefore determine who we will be and what we will do about social problems Learning Outcome Five The successful student will be able to Analyze and assess contemporary problems of global concerns from a philosophical perspective One of Kierkegaard central concerns was the massing of society in which the mass media had a central role How does the mass media in contemporary life in uence conformity on very serious issues of the environment and the selection of political candidates Kierkegaard was very concerned with the problem of leveling Social equality is one presumptive American ideal Is leveling always necessary in order to achieve social equality In what sense if any could leveling be helpful in American life Sartre argues that when we choose we should always be aware of the profound weight of our responsibility My acts create an image of what a human being ought to do and be one that will not only in uence others but have a significant impact upon them How might Sartre s view on this matter shape how we respond to those who live and die in deep poverty How might the theories developed by either Kierkegaard or Sartre help us respond to the current war in Afghanistan
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