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On Pythiatism

On Pythiatism

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Published by davidwalters
Flaubert was not the "family idiot" Sarte thought him to be. Pythiatism defined.
Flaubert was not the "family idiot" Sarte thought him to be. Pythiatism defined.

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Published by: davidwalters on Aug 18, 2011
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06/04/2013

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THE HYSTERICAL TIMES 
1
ON PYTHIATISM AND THE FAMILY IDIOT 
 
by David Arthur WaltersFlaubert was not the "family idiot" Sartre thought him to be. Pythiatism defined.
 
To be stupid, and selfish, and to have good health are the three requirements  for happiness; though if stupidity is lacking, the others are useless.
GustaveFlaubert
 
 
THE HYSTERICAL TIMES 
2Jean Paul Sartre was so obsessed with the famed author of 
 Madame Bovary
that he waspossessed to psychoanalyze him over the last ten years of his writing career in anuncompleted, five-volume treatise,
The Family Idiot 
A
. Yet Gustave Flaubert was not theidiot or hysterical neurotic Sartre supposed him to be. Sartre’s criticism has all the faultsof psychoanalysis at a great distance; that is, of analyzing an analysand whom one is notpersonally acquainted with, and basing that analysis on the diagnoses of less than ahandful of patients by other analysts, neither the analysts nor their patients beingpersonally known.
B
 Sartre was of course intimate with the works of Sigmund Freud and appreciated hisinsights although he felt the master’s logic of the psyche was inadequate to the analysisof human existence. He alleges Flaubert’s ‘neurosis’ in
The Family Idiot 
and alludes tothe Oedipus Complex in respect to Flaubert’s father, Achille-Cleophas Flaubert, whomGustave naturally adored, and who loved him in return until he became a “silly” littleplay-actor at eight years of age, when his dad’s affection was allegedly replaced byridicule. Sartre naturally cast Flaubert’s mother, who loved him always as far as her sonwas concerned, in her mythical role in the oedipal love triangle. We note that Flaubert’sfather died in 1846, when Flaubert was twenty-four, the same year his beloved sisterCaroline died while giving birth to his niece, whom he raised while living with hismother, who, in turn, died in Flaubert’s fiftieth year.Sartre thought the frustrated little playwright was fated by familial circumstances to livean imaginary life in bad faith, as a passive writer who painstakingly tries to obliteratehimself from the world drama in order to be objectively realistic, instead of a playertaking a subjectively active part on the world stage. Flaubert had withdrawn from life topaint himself out of the pictures he drew; he would be less than a fly on the wall, merelya camera obscura or pure, transparent consciousness if not nothing transcendent. It is as if he had so much faith in nothing that he believed in nothingness instead of being. Thatwould certainly be bad faith in Sartre’s book,
 Being and Nothingness
. Belief or false faithin non-existence would constitute Existentialism’s cardinal sin: blasphemy! Blasphemywould be to take the name of the Not that produces existential self-consciousness in vain.The faith would be bad because it was not blind; it was not really faith because it requiredbelief: The mere effort of believing is evidence not of faith but of its lack. Knowledge isthe perfection of belief, and one can know nothing of nothing. Having bad faith is worsethan lying because liars know the truth, but here the truth simply cannot be known.Bad faith is not simply assuming the role of a waiter, where both actor and audienceknow that a role is being played. There is indeed present a sort of deception intended forthe imaginative benefit of the audience, but there is no lie because the deception isunderstood and can be disposed of instantaneously. When the waiter is perhaps a bit tooeager to please, the insincerity is not appreciated because the illusion fails. If the waiter’sMethod had self-deceived him via auto-suggestion that he was actually a waiter to theexclusion of his other roles, we might say he was living in bad faith, that he was even amadman if not neurotic.
 
THE HYSTERICAL TIMES 
3A notice is posted that a rabbi is giving a course, “How to be a Jew in the modern world.”We understand the predicament and sympathize with the man who wants to maintain hisold-time religion while somehow fitting into modern society, yet we detect someinsincerity and duplicity in the effort inasmuch as he want to put on an act, to pretend tobe something he is not and somehow become that through acting. We suppose he mightbe living in bad faith, according to our interpretation of Sartre, if he believes he is whathe believes, that he is a microcosm of the Supreme Being, a Jew to the exclusion of beinga human being, of being just a man. But what is a man or a woman? Beings as defined byroles, not existents-in-themselves. What is a human being but a being or concept? Beingis not something existing concretely in a situation; that can only be said of the existent.And what is this existence of Sartre’s before being but a concept that boils down tonothing? What a man really is: that is beyond the grasp of duplicitous Freudianpsychoanalysis, as Sartre noted. We must return to philosophy, the queen of the sciences,in hopes that she may reveal the most beautiful of all figures. Shall we find one of ourfigures reflected in her mirror, or shall we discover that not only our masks but even ourI’s are fictions, and that Nothing, and only Nothing, is perfect? Blasphemy!However that may be, Sartre’s Flaubert, a victim of circumstantial suggestion and auto-suggestion, was purportedly living in the clutches of a figurative sort of conversionhysteria; namely, pithiatism. In the first paragraph of Chapter Eight, ‘The ImaginaryChild,’ Sartre alludes to the characteristic of pithiatism, a sort of hysteria determined bysuggestion, in respect to his favorite family idiot:“This is Gustave as he has been constituted. Of course, any determinationimprinted in an existing being is surpassed by the way he lives. In thechild Flaubert, passive activity and gliding are his way living thisconstituted passivity; resentment is his way of living the situation assignedto him in the Flaubert family. In other words, the structures of this familyare internalized as attitudes and re-externalized as actions by which thechild makes himself into what others made him. Conversely, we shall findin him no behavior, as complex and elaborate as it might seem, that is notoriginally the surpassing of an internalized determination.”In other words, according to Sartre, Gustave’s being was not wholly defined bycircumstances; he would have no self of his own as a victim of circumstances, devoid of existential independence and freedom; he would be in effect a zombie or a machineunconscious of his own existence; if someone were to act like a machine we wouldnaturally deem him psychotic not neurotic.Of course every human being by necessity introjects his social identity from others andprojects what he has learned; still, the individual, by virtue of its independent will to existforever without impedance if it could, is bound to put up some resistance to theimposition of conformity, as we can see in every squalling child, and will invariably getaway with what he can get away with while accepting influences that serves his purpose;thus he becomes his own person; a person being, to some extent, a unique composite of individual existence and social being. Indeed, every particular is a coincidence of 

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UPDATE Important footnote on Sartre's volutarist progenitor Maine de Biran completed.
davidwalters added this note
In re the footnote on Biran, I shall soon elaborate on John Locke's statements about The Will so the reader will know the reason why he said there is no such thing, and how his notion of voluntary is not so voluntary.
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davidwalters added this note
UPDATE: Footnote on Maine de Biran expanded due to global failure in willpower.
davidwalters added this note
UPDATE: Maine de Biran’s contribution to existential psychology. Search “Biran” for footnote
davidwalters added this note
UPDATE: Perspective of Flaubert's niece. Search article for = Commanville"

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