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Existentialism- a public lecture by prof. David E.

Cooper Notes by Marthese Formosa The existential conception of morality (recap of the day before) 2 themes in existentialism – radical individual freedom -idea of the human world/ from a human perspective No true world is independent from humans→ Nietzsche

Saturday 26th April 2012

Freedom is the power the individuals have to stand back and reflect and commit to values/interpretations. This is not often exercised. Do we have freedom to this degree?- and why do we act as if we don’t? The concept of Angst→ Kierkegaard/Sartre → this is a direct experience of our thought on freedom Sartre→ nothing foreign determines Choice. ‘bad faith’ → is a disguise from ourselves, our degree of freedom. (end recap) Implications of Conceptions for moral life. In the late 1940s- existentialism was a popular cult. It was thought to be a success to scandal (nihilism, non-moral) We are entirely free without constraint, irrespective of moral norms. This view is probably exaggerated. In Existentialism, you feel that there is a sense that it doesn’t matter what you do, but how you do it. Shown in, for example: Ain’t what you do but how you do it- 1930s song. What is what you choose, what you commit. Anything is ok, provided it was done in the right way. Kant→ morality → set of rules/principles on how you should act. Kierkegaard onwards → were skeptic → say that most people hide behind rules to relieve themselves of thinking on how one should act. A person recognizes the particular situation they are in→ and act according to this. Rules are too general→ not relieved to act in a particular situation by general principles as they may not fit. Simone de Beauvoir in one of her novels→ can’t tell you how to act, I have to be in your position for an informed decision/suggestion

There is hostility too to the idea of moral values. Moral objectification/realism is rejected by existentialists. Sartre→ moral values are not like diamonds found in the Earth which you need to pick up, they are human attitudes and the result of perspectives. He is not saying that they are morally nihilistic. Sartre→ Existentialism and Humanism. Gives the example in WW2, a young man comes for him to get advice. Fight against Nazi occupation in France or take care of his dependent, sickly mother. Sartre replies that he cannot help him “You’re free, therefore choose…” Some would interpret this to mean that all that matters is that you use your freedom and choose. That it is denying objective ways. However, the example contained a Genuine moral dilemma. There are good moral reasons for both. If there weren’t good reasons for both, such as the second option being to go and sell Heroin to children in Marseille (Cooper’s example), there would be no dilemma. There are two kinds of moral reasons – morality of personal devotion (the mother) -and morality of a wider scope (eg. Global justice, political liberty, human rights etc) Those 2 reasons conflict. And when that happens, reason has to be silent. There is no super-reason over the others, there is no one better than the other. So therefore, Sartre’s example presupposes there are moral reasons. They sometimes conflict and one can’t find further reason to choose between them. What makes good moral reasons? Is there a ground for our moral values? Why is something a good moral reason? Sartre→ Freedom alone is the foundation of all values. What is good ahs a ground in freedom, which is not understood in a political or civil way. A prisoner alone in a cell still has freedom. Many Existentialists took upon this model: Hegel→ Phenomenology of Spirit→ Master/Slave relationships. How is it that humans come to a recognition of their freedom? He gives a detailed account of how human beings emerged to recognize their freedom. An important stage in this history account was the enslavement stage where people enslaved other people to feel more free.

Hegel→ This wouldn’t work. In order for me to have a sense of my own autonomy/dignity/freedom, it is important that you recognize it. But for you to recognize it, I must respect you as an autonomous person. The master is therefore no more freer than the slave. The master would have to respect the slave in which case he wouldn’t be a slave anymore. Mutual recognition of Humans on their own freedom→ Existentialists of the 20th century take up this model. Karl Jaspers→ Man becomes free only in so far as others become free. Sartre→ My freedom implies my recognition of other’s freedom. 1920s→ Marin Buber I, thou → I, it or I, thou I, it= other person seen as a tool/thing I, thou= extend the respect and recognition you would like back To be Authentic/ existentially free → you must recognize it, otherwise it is ‘bad faith’/ inauthentic. How can you cultivate it? You cannot do that unless in an appropriate relationship with others. Must be recognized and recognize (otherwise their recognition will be useless) Gabriel Marcel→ the crucial dimension of moral life is collaboration with other’s freedom (they are free as you are) Sartre’s example is one way to recognize other’s freedom and free individuals. (in both cases 1. Free others 2. Respect dignity of free human beings) Accepting collaborating view→ does not go against an open view. Considerations don’t go together as there is a broad division. Analyzed through:- personal relationships- Marcel ( friendships, fully recognizing)- “disponibilite”/ available. Open to the needs of others. -broader- Sartre – emphasis is on reflecting freedom of others through political/civil action. 1940s- “What is literature?” the obligation of the author. Committed/Encouraging freedom eg. AntiColonialism/fascism. Existentialism does allow honest, reasonable differences among people, there is room left for debate on how to live. Life should not be simple to determine. There is no existentialist ethic, if it is taken to be as a set of rules. There is a fundamental maxim to collaborate with freedom.

Sartre did not finish his book on Ethics, but Notes towards Morality, his notes on ethics, were published posthumously He had a lot of notes. In Being and Nothing, Sartre gave a blacker picture of humans → cannot live with mutual recognition/ bleak view of mutual recognition. Simone de Beauvoir could have changes his idea to a more optimistic idea of human co-existence. Being and Nothing → for you to have a sense of freedom, you need to objectify others. Their freedom is a threat to yours. He gives the keyhole example, where you are free when spying on someone but when you realize that you are being spied upon too, you lose your freedom. When someone is looking at you→ you are objectified. It is embarrassing to lose your freedom. Relationships are sadistic in nature, but are ultra-sadistic when they try to take freedom away from you. Post 1945- more optimistic- there is possibility of human collaboration. Temptations are still there leading towards ‘bad faith’ Yearning for solidity/fixed character/ fixed rules and conventions in a community. “Man is a useless passion” → the passion in question is to be like a mere thing. Useless because we want 2 things at once when you cannot have both –fixed like a mere thins (which then wins) -and a sense of your self of freedom Fixed → with no open possibilities. Collaborate with others in a community which mutually recognizes other’s freedom. Freedom vs. fixity God, in Sartre is self contradictory because it has a fixed essence and is a free independent being. Friġġieri→ Could it be interpreted that if there is something free and fixed, it is god? Sartre→ said that you cannot combine these two so there can’t be a god. G. Marcel→ did not agree with Sartre on this as he was religious. Did Sartre have Marxist influences? De Beauvoir → Those theories are a pile in the sky unless they relate to practical issues. Elevated freedom needs basic human needs satisfied first. Sartre went from Existentialism to Marxism *\(poverty, starvation)

1960s Critique of Dialectical Reasoning which is very unread. Marxist-Communist commitment writer. Existentialists→ by 1960s Sartre wasn’t considered one anymore so did not read this book Marxists→ said that this book was too pre-Marxist