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Jean-Paul Sartre


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Gustav Flaubert
Gustav Flaubert, frustrated romantic proponent of French realism, did not exist therefore behave
in the way that his biographer Jean Paul Sartre wanted him to exist; that is, according to Sartres
universal definition of existence, which is, although Sartre put existence before being, really a
mode of being, i.e. being responsible for oneself according to a Marxist psychologists desire.
Flaubert, according to Sartres psychoanalysis, could not help the way he was not himself, which
unbeknown to him was a radical self; he was a phony, a victim of capitalist society. He was
subject to a pithiatic form of neurosis. He was neurotic, not figuratively speaking, but in the
sense of mental illness; he was mentally sickened by a sick i.e. bourgeois society.
Now a neurotic person is an unduly nervous one, a person who is anxious and emotional as the
result of some invisible injury. He suffers from a psychic conflict between alternates, neither of
which he wants to choose; say, between his ideal self, which others have propped up for him, and
his real self, which he consequently despises when he falls short of the ideal. He is trapped
between two hard rocks, and, in self-defense, works out an impractical compromise, an absurdity
that condemns him to drag his cross around for the rest of his life.

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Sartres obsessive, multivolume biography of Flaubert, The Family Idiot, appears to be a classic
case of the pot calling the kettle black ad infinitum. Flaubert was not the social-utopia activist
Sartre would have liked him to be, but he was a realistic activist indeed, in the sense that thinking
and writing is symbolic activity; and his cynical depiction of bourgeois society in Madame
Bovary, cynical because his depiction happened to be true, was just as liberating as Sartres selfinvolved or romantic existentialism, which was essentially a furthering of French Spiritualism or
Voluntarism, not to mention Sartres own tendency to exhibit moral degeneracy for sake of
drawing attention to scandals that everyone is born in sin, that is, as an individual necessarily
varying from the Good of the Whole, naturally finds fascinating.
Indeed, Sartre, the foremost existentialist of the day, seems to have been suffering from
existential pythiatism or neurotic existentialism. What is existentialism? The word was coined
after the war by a jazz singer in a smoky Paris cellar club when an American reporter asked her
what people were doing there. Existentialism, was her flippant response to the idiotic question.
She said was just existing, something that people who hang out in bars are wont to do,
especially if shell shocked by world war and downright sick and tired of the ideological neuroses
and induced hysteria that led to that war. At least that is the legendary account.

Sartre would deny that he was an ideologue as he endeavored never to repeat himself and in
doing so could not help saying the same thing in different ways to avoid platitudes and
hackneyed phrases. A man grieving at Sartres massive funeral said he did not understand what
Sartre had said, but he was obviously a great French philosopher so he was sad at his passing.
Sartres work, however, is not incomprehensible, and is indeed ideological.
Ideology, incidentally, was a French term, coined by the Ideologues, who defined it as the
science of ideas, meaning modern scientific thinking, which is as skeptical of being or
ontological concepts as any so-called existentialist thought can be. But the term ideology would
eventually be misidentified with so-called doctrinaire or rigid thinking. Doctrinaire is another
French term perverted from its original meaning; the Doctrinaires were more or less pragmatic
political moderates. Thomas Jefferson was captivated by the original Ideologues: he supplanted
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Theology at his university with Ideologie; his friend John Adams was not so enthusiastic about
the godless way of thinking, and dubbed the scientific methodology fad idiotology.
Intellectuals including Sartre disavowed so-called Existentialism at first, but eventually it
behooved them to embrace the term after the press popularized it. The Personalism that was
much enjoyed by religiously inclined French philosophers was overrun by the existentialist fad;
Personalism emphasized the social person over individual existence, and was associated with the
social notion of a Supreme Person; i.e. the Word made flesh in Jesus the Christ. A person or
human being is an existential incarnation of being.
So what is an existentialist? An existentialist, first of all, thinks he can find his freedom in
subjectivity. As a particular individual, he thinks he is solely responsible individual for his own
actions including the symbolic action of thinking instead of relying on habitual culture or the
rationalized systems of being such as religions with projected gods. There is no Subject of
subject, no divine being beyond man to subject him to definition. Only self-consciousness
transcends and thus defines self; I claim that I intuit myself, a self that is necessarily prior to
thought. I think that I am therefore I am I. You see, I think for myself and therefore I negate
everything else, what is not me, by way of distinguishing it from me, and nothing can pin me
down because I am not a thing but am an immaterial negating force positing myself. Sartre
posited reading and writing as the mode of establishing external evidence of subjective freedom
from the bonds of time and space.
Existentialists seek the impossible, for language itself is not at all individual; it is a social tool
dependent on and responsive to the will and suggestions of others. And there is no such thing as
a singular absent at least one other, and another for comparisons sake. Naturally the existence of
an individual absent a transcendental Supreme Being is contingent on random configuration of
circumstances. That is, the existent is accidentally defined instead of intentionally self-defined.
An existentialist may attempt to describe the network of existents, necessarily in systematic or
logical fashion if we are to understand his exposition, but existentialism is not in itself a
systematic way of thinking at all, but rather consists of a collection of anxious and absurd
reflections on the human predicament, particularly the predicament of a man's individuality made
most obvious to him by the disturbing fact of death.
Indeed, any sort of systematic existentialist thought put forward by a so-called existentialist
would contradict the very premise of existentialism thus did Sartre strive, at least in theory,
never to repeat himself.
Not that Sartre was unaware of the contradictions of philosophical thinking including the
fundamental antinomies that cause philosophy to be an unending circular enterprise, a case of the
cat chasing its tail until it drops dead. He would readily admit that our attempts to set
existentialism or any other ism for that matter in stone are absurd; in fact he was not an
existentialist as some fool would try to define the term but was simply a philosopher tagged by
the term. Whosoever solves the riddle gets to eat the guru and sit on the mat under the tree for
the time being.
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