Existentialism Philosophy






Existential Political Therapy
 

In a world gone mad, the politics of disturbed behaviour has no parallel. But treatment for individual disorders is a robust field that affords troubled individuals a remedy to overcome their personal plight in the world. Maybe such an approach has an application as a destructive political illness that so often is the basis of public policy. Examine the patient and ask can the professional ‘pols’ be cured?

Tim LeBon defines the topic thusly: “Existential Psychotherapy is a form of psychotherapy which aims at enhancing self-knowledge in the client and allowing them to be the author of their own lives. Its philosophical roots are to be found in the works of Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Sartre and other existential thinkers as well as Husserl and phenomenologists. Historically, existential therapy began when Binswanger attempted to use Heidegger's theory therapeutically, an approach that was adapted by Victor Frankl, Rollo May and others in the United States.”

Most normal individuals seek medical treatment when they are ill. Heal thyself is certainly preferable to major surgery, but on occasions the patient needs external assistance to recover their health. Techniques and treatments vary, drugs and herbs may invigorate and extraordinary measures may prolong life, but what about achieving a state of clear mental health within the consciousness of political decision makers? Doesn’t common sense dictate that public affairs warrant that sound minded and stable emotions are a prerequisite for anyone involved in making and administrating government regulations?

Emmy van Deurzen ( in Handbook of Individual Therapy, ed Dryden) outlines the goals of existential therapy:

1) to enable people to become more truthful with themselves.

2) to widen their perspective on themselves and the world around them.

3) to find clarity on how to proceed in the future while taking lessons from the past and creating something valuable to live for in the present.

For those politicians that believe they are personally sincere, many are often misguided about their own lack of honesty with themselves. This affliction can be seen in generations of liberal proponents that seek to better the world through government programs and solutions. How can an experienced and cosmopolitan player on the world stage dream up the notion that society if not the entire planet would be a better place if only their public policy became universally applied and enforced? How wide is their personal perspective when so many officials deem they are doing the noble work of the man made god of the State? Just look around the world, can any rational and honest person conclude that public policies have actually improved the human condition?

Since this question is repugnant to the minions of governmental operations, their collective clarion call is not to ask and avoid at all cost the existential question of the real purpose of public policy. Their embedded and institutional response is to forge ahead and proceed with their official policies and evade any semblance of constraints that are consistent with all of history and human nature. To these troubled ‘public servants’ the valuable aspect of present day achievement is conformity to unnatural governmental dictates.

Is this pattern of behaviour inherently disturbed and desperately in need of professional help? It would seem so, still the perplexing dilemma is that the rules are created and the mechanisms for social compliance are under the direct control of a band of asylum inmates. The culture of sickness that accepts this systemic default surrenders it own authenticity to damaging public programs. Unhinged bureaucrats never dispense social equity for their contributions and performance. They are rewarded for their destructive social conduct in service to the state.

The anguish that is unavoidable from this social conflict demands a remedy. In existential therapies, denial is considered the framework by which clients understand their world. Not directly confronting denial, therapists assist clients in exploring their worldview and considering alternative ways of being. Now that application seems sensible for subjects that actually are seeking help. But as we all know power hungry egomaniacs are the last people standing in line for psychoanalysis. Their prime objective is to advance their standing in ever increasing seats of dominance. Their denial is not curable, but for the masses of the exploited, there is no valid excuse to refuse your own denial therapy.

Dr. C. George Boeree offers up this account and insight on Ludwig Binswanger:

Authenticity

Unlike most other personality theorists, the existentialists make no effort to avoid value judgments. Phenomenologically, good and bad are as "real" as solid waste and burnt toast. So they are quite clear that there are better and worse ways of living life. The better ways they call authentic.

To live authentically means to be aware of yourself, of your circumstances (thrownness), of your social world (fallenness), of your duty to create yourself (understanding), of the inevitability of anxiety, of guilt, and of death. It means further to accept these things in an act of self-affirmation. It means involvement, compassion, and commitment.

Notice that the ideal of mental health is not pleasure or even happiness, although existentialists have nothing particularly against those things. The goal is to do your best.

For the ordinary citizen a populist civilization based upon a healthy culture and a sound political organization is the standard for a sane society. What reasonable and thoughtful person would attest that such a model actually exists today? An Existential approach to confront the delusional disease of accepting political oppression is necessary therapy to rest our civic health as a nation. Defending a failed political structure of self-destructive policies is the very definition of insanity.

In the recesses of the brain is a rudder for moral conduct. It is called a conscience. Right and wrong is known and ethical actions are real and can and should be observed. Any linkage that equates a duty to accept destructive public policies as necessary and legitimate is habitually deranged. Community denial of reality is a prime objective of the State. The psychology of individual adherence of dehumanising rule is based upon illusion and the threat of pain. Defence of decadent government is immoral. Denial is not a lasting defence mechanism. And defending the indefensible is pure lunacy. Take the Existential therapy and cure yourself of your government addiction.

SARTRE – February 13, 2006


posted by SARTRE at 2/12/2006 | (11) comments


The Henry David Thoreau of Philosophy
 

Civil disobedience would never be the same after Henry David Thoreau it became a mission. Although for Thoreau a sense of duty is not in a crusade to change the world, but to achieve authenticity for oneself. The injustice of the world is a consistent fact of the human condition. Yet wrongs and righting them seems to be the calling for a culture of altruism. How much obnoxious revulsion has been planted from the seeds of philanthropy? The disconnect from the essence of Thoreau has produced more branches of evil from social intrusion than substance for striking at the root. Was this man a philosopher of worldly fundamental nature or was he merely an icon for non-conformity living? Who is the Thoreau of Walden and what does his philosophy mean for our age?

His biography is well known: “Thoreau was born in 1817 and died in 1862. Like the existentialists, he believed that life should be lived intentionally and with deliberation, that is, by thinking about the meaning of life and existence. Thoreau personally accomplished this by removing himself from society and going to live at Walden Pond, near Concord, Massachusetts, for a little over two years. There he lived simply and close to nature. His extraordinarily beautiful reflections on life were written while there and found in his book, Walden. He is not remembered as an existentialist, but rather as a transcendentalist, who puts emotion and intuition above reason in relating to nature and the world around us.”

A priori knowledge exists and is found in nature. But today orthodox relativism has become the social environment for any well-behaved meliorist. The notion that a cosmology of certainty is natural is so foreign to the culture for an obedient social order, that the prospects of a dissident philosophy cannot be tolerated. Alfred Tauber in the Bostonia concludes: “Thoreau dismissed the goal of an objective account of the world, holding that we must make choices and thereby assign particular importance to one kind of information over another. Facts were significant only in a personal context. Indeed, he used natural facts as a painter uses oils, to compose a vision of nature and his place in it. So facts revealed both the beauty of nature, and perhaps more profound, the moral lessons that might be gleaned from its study.” But does this assessment exclude the reality of a cosmic order or is it so because it is and that the relevance of facts becomes important when they are utilized to the way we live our lives?

When Thoreau says: "To be a philosopher, is not merely to have subtle thought, or even to found a school but so to love wisdom as to live, according to its dictates, a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity and trust", the practical application in living the way of life is more important than the speculation of the meaning of the point of view. This coming from an individual known as a most unpractical man, typifies the sensible method of affecting a philosophy into a society.

In Life without Principle Thoreau illustrates his scorn for worthless business endeavors in this passage: “The rush to California (1849), for instance, and the attitude, not merely of merchants, but of philosophers and prophets, so called, in relation to it, reflect the greatest disgrace on mankind. That so many are ready to live by luck, and so get the means of commanding the labor of others less lucky, without contributing any value to society! And that is called enterprise! I know of no more startling development of the immorality of trade, and all the common modes of getting a living. The philosophy and poetry and religion of such a mankind are not worth the dust of a puffball.” What he is saying hits to the core of what men do with their lives and how they conform to a crazed notion of prosperity.

Marianne Knuth argues in a review of this lecture: “Thoreau challenges - fundamentally - the values and aims underpinning our civilisation's eagerness to commerce and globalisation. "We are warped and narrowed" he says, "by an exclusive devotion to trade and commerce, and manufacture and agriculture, which are but means, and not the end." He asks us, whether we should not instead be placing as much emphasis and dedication to the mining of our inner being, of the spiritual man, as we do to the land, and our material welfare. "Cold and hunger" he says "seem more friendly to my nature than those methods which men have adopted and advise to ward them off."

In order to understand the transcendentalism that is inherent within Thoreau requires comprehending his self-reliance that enabled him to appreciate the resisting independence and integrity of nature. Like the natural world, Thoreau sought to behave by the same rules that exercise autonomy and achieve trueness to its nature. Ann Woodlief in a paper presented to Virginia Humanities Conference states: “The major premise of transcendental eco-wisdom is that connection with nature is essential for a person's intellectual, aesthetic, and moral health and growth. One must see and experience nature intimately, whether defined as the "not-me" or as landscape, to participate in the unity of Spirit underlying its visible processes. This connectedness is the basis of the self-reliance which determines how a person lives with integrity in nature and society.” While such an assertion seems consistent with the human need for spiritual unity, which allows for prudent social interaction, one needs to correctly distinguish the real meaning and relationship of the individual with nature.

If Thoreau became the prophet of wilderness for modern environmentalists, maybe the “Green Environmental” movement needs to reflect more upon the necessity for individual independence than about their social intrusion to save the planet. Nature can and does heal itself. Man’s contamination is much more than ecological pollution it is fundamentally a defilement of spiritual union because of human hubris.

The prominence of Thoreau as a dissenter often overrides his submission to the natural order. Alfred Tauber concludes: “Thoreau had no philosophy of "the whole," nothing to account for the individual together with his interpersonal relations. Indeed, the strength of his message is also its abiding weakness. He cherished solitude. Acutely self-conscious - of his social position and claims to professional recognition as a writer, of himself as an observer of nature, employing original and even idiosyncratic methods, and most important, of his spiritual relationship to the cosmos, which he at various times referred to as pantheistic, savage, and sublime - he made existential isolation a requirement for his pursuits.”

Well, the idea that an epistemology must encompass “the whole” to stand the test of scrutiny may well be superfluous. The quality that created the insightful awareness of the morality within civil disobedience was found in that existential solitude of Walden isolation. Henry David is a philosopher of social conscience. His importance is quintessentially American by nature. Thoreau proved that the eccentric is frequently the balanced voice of sanity. Reason alone is lost without the unification that often comes from the fusion of intellect with mysticism. Being the outsider often means – “All this worldly wisdom was once the unamiable heresy of some wise man”, so said HDT.

SARTRE – November 28, 2005


posted by SARTRE at 11/25/2005 | (5) comments


American Existentialism Real or Fiction?
 

Were the French Existentialists correct in concluding that the "American character swaggered with confidence and naive optimism?" Sartre observed, "evil is not an American concept. There is no pessimism in America regarding human nature and social organization." Beauvoir chimed in that Americans had no "feeling for sin and for remorse." And Camus, thought Americans "lacked a sense of anguish about the problems of existence, authenticity and alienation." In Carlin Romano's book review of Existential America by George Cotkin, Mr. Romano argues "On the contrary, Cotkin shows in the bulk of his study, "the French missed certain darker and deeper elements in the history of the American mind and spirit." For Cotkin, the "very notion of America as bereft of anguish is absurd. Death and despair appear as much in the American collective consciousness as does the luck-and-pluck optimism of Horatio Alger's heroes".

The post war period was a time when the United States was the victor, savior of the world. The new global empire would be idealistic, benevolent and magnanimous. Naïve optimism might be over generous in describing that innocence. Sartre, de Beauvoir and Camus may not have been the chroniclers of a de Tocqueville, but de Tocqueville certainly would have understood the angst experienced in the creation of the great American experiment. The 1950's was an era of benign tranquility. The threat of a nuclear holocaust loomed, but the society refused to forego its self-assurance. The "good old days" truly were nostalgic bliss.

From the Village Voice, Richard Polt asserts that: "intellectual historian George Cotkin proves existentialism's relevance by showing that it was never just a fad; existential sensibilities run deep in our history. Sartre, de Beauvoir, and Camus, who all toured the United States after the war, saw only the country's exterior, its consumerist boosterism. But would it be so surprising if the land of the free were also the land of the searching, the anxious, the alienated? This is, after all, the country of Herman Melville and Edward Hopper."

Conversely, the overwhelming enthusiasm that supports the regimented 'PC' culture, economy and political system; often is immune to the underlying conflicts, intended exploitation and managed future. Over the last half century the accelerated demise of the land of the free has been transformed into the reservation of the oblivious. The awakening that took place during the 1960's suffered a relapse. The buoyancy of the civilization is not maintained with mere material progress. The test of true advancement lies in the consciousness of collective community. What was naïve before has become delusional today.

Christopher Luna's insightful comments on Existential America illustrates the sublime influence of distress in our search for authenticity. "The willingness of Kierkegaardian thinkers to wrestle with "paradox, irony, and tragedy" in the aftermath of World War II made the Danish philosopher's ideas very attractive to writers including Thornton Wilder and W.H. Auden, as well as the painters Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman, for whom art was "a mythological and heroic 'act of defiance,' which opened the path to transcendence through engagement with the canvas and the unconscious." Kierkegaard's "mode of argument, positing two opposites," was also posthumously appropriated by Cold War proponents who demanded that Americans make a choice between "faith in God and faith in communism."

How ironic that the trust in country demonstrated in the 50's has digressed into a psychosis of support in a political matrix that has virtually adopted the traits of Communism, while crucifying the teaching of God. The clash of RealPolitick has the consequences of national demise under the banner of jingoistic tolerance. The formula for 'good citizenship' has been written by a crazed pharisee pharmacists operating under a government grant and filled with drugs that neutralize individual self-interest.

Luna asserts: "Existentialists argue for personal responsibility in the face of what Walter Kaufmann identified as the four elements of this philosophy: "dread, despair, death, and dauntlessness." He goes on to say that Cotkin shows there was an existential strain in American culture that preceded the afore mentioned French philosophers, "in the work of Herman Melville, Emily Dickinson, and Edward Hopper, among others. Unlike their French counterparts, American intellectuals "refused to make a fetish out of nihilism"; instead, "anguish and despair" functioned as "goads to action and commitment."

The pragmatic character of American convention has a "can do" assurance that problems can be resolved. European annals have a long heritage of distrust for government, limits on upward mobility in society and brutality from continental hostilities. The anguish internalized from that history has not impacted the American culture to the same severity. Yet, who can deny that despair is enveloping our own post-millennia chaotic milieu? The emptiness of material excess, has not fully reached the pedestrians on Main Street. Nonetheless, the arrogance of unlimited hubris in the track for a global empire has hit deeply the practices of a demented Wall Street.

American Existentialism is a healthy tradition that needs to go mainstream. The fiction in the public psyche spins a yarn of communal unity when the reality of competing factions has no substantial commonality. The verity of control from the top down pervades every aspect of institutional behavior. Government maintains a monopoly on coercion as the means to herd the unruly into pens of docility. Where is the optimism when the fabulous fifties are but a blast from the past? It is not absurd to resist the juggernaut of servitude. Rational nihilism doesn't destroy fundamental values, morality or time honored principles. Positive nihilism acknowledges that eradication of existing failed political practices, the destruction of criminal government agencies and the elimination of fallacious imperialistic aspirations are necessary for real improvement.

Cotkin views the American experience as having an undercurrent of compelling anguish, which serves as a spur to commitment and onto action. If justice is a primary objective, the agony of enduring under an interdependent model of human conformity and material servitude necessitates the vision of existential rebellion. It is in the good and proper tradition of our heritage to correct a wrong, especially one that has gone so far a field of original intentions. There is nothing more noble than confronting despotism. Once you feel the pain of domestic anguish, the naïve will start to grow up.

The practical is an integral component in the legacy of our founding. The existential is also an essential element in knowing and understanding what is worthy of preserving and what must be purged. George Cotkin argues that an existential approach to life, marked by vexing despair and dauntless commitment in the face of uncertainty, has deep American roots and helps to define twentieth-century America in ways that we have not realized or appreciated. If you are unable to recognize national misery, your founding in historic independence is most lacking. Grasping that existentialism is a proud part of American tradition is a first step. Use this philosophy as a constructive means to change behavior and instill motivation towards action.

SARTRE - August 29, 2005


posted by SARTRE at 8/28/2005 | (5) comments


The Choice For Political Freedom
 

The existential conflict in all societies stems from the natural urge of individuals to be free, as the ruling factions seek to limit citizen choices and their inborn drive. The rationale that governments have a legitimate function and role to regulate and enforce civic conduct, so that public order can be maintained, is the universal axiom used for justifying the State. If there is an organic purpose to maintain a civil order, does it automatically follow that the desired formula for compliance rests within the mechanisms established by government? The posing of this question and familiar popular reaction reflects the intense discomfort most individuals have dealing with innate essentials.

The mere fact that people ignore and resist answering this question is a choice. It is impossible to avoid the consequences of denial, since the forces of order are all based upon the goal of curtailing freedom. Peace and security are desirable instinctive aspirations; however, they are not normal. When government leaders promise peace they base their pledge upon the need for the population to surrender and acquiesce to official policy. The security these officials propose is the safety of their regime. The absence of benefit for the individual is the result of the faulty supposition that the government and the citizen share in the same security.

Is it possible for both the ruling powers and ordinary citizens to attain simultaneous peace and security? In theory maybe, but in concrete transactions almost never. Recently George W. Bush paraphrased Camus. The president stated: "Albert Camus said that 'Freedom is a long-distance race, we're in that race for the duration and there is reason for optimism."

The idea that freedom is generated by government action denies that free will is an exclusive attribute of individual humans. All governments are in the business of curtailing the degree and the range of areas where people are allowed to exert choice. If the pretense that public policy can create political freedom, why is the entire world enslaved in a culture of elitism that prescribes a global sequence of acceptable conduct? Peace in this environment is indistinguishable with obedience. How can effective political freedom coexist when the presumption requires that expected conflict must be purged.

The entire Camus thought was: "I didn't know that freedom is not a reward or a decoration that is celebrated with Champagne. Nor yet a gift, a box of dainties designed to make you lick your chops. Oh, no! It's a choice, on the contrary and a long-distance race, quite solitary and very exhausting. No Champagne. No friends raising their glasses as they look at you affectionately. Alone in a forbidding room, alone in the prisoner's box before the judges, and alone to decide in face of oneself or in the face of others' judgment. At the end of all freedom is a court sentence; that's why freedom is too heavy to bear, especially when you're down with a fever, or are distressed, or love nobody."

A careful reading of Camus certainly illustrates that the two men could not be Champagne further apart. Bush wants you to believe that the mission for democratization of the world is a quest for freedom. Bush's preventive society has all the bipartisan judges resolve to subdue each threat to the order, while sentencing every rebel as a terrorist. The quiet solitary of the opposition is rewarded with a term of incarceration. This and every other administration fervently defines "FREEDOM" as an entitlement of the State. Note that little is ever said about preserving domestic civil liberties. Orwellian newspeak is the rhetoric of choice because suppressing personal freedom is the only long distance race that government sponsors.

The existential dilemma is evident. Yet, the apologists for supporting despotic government policies rush to pledge their allegiance as a duty. Those enablers committed to acceptance, compensation and subsidy wear the symbolic badge on their dress. They want and reckon they will be secure by abiding by the rules. Furthermore, they envision their self-esteem as an obedient servant and fear the smallest notion of internal dissent. Allowing such thinking to cross their minds would be unpatriotic. The meaning of such jingoism escapes the consciousness of the dependent crowd, all in the pursuit of marching in the Bush marathon for his favorite freedom charity.

Camus understood the absurdity of such artificial operations. Extending faux pas global commitments while destroying the substance of our national heritage is the end result of running in this race into oblivion. Peace for the global community means the freedom to manage the villains within a humanity of serfs. Conferring the legal status of freeman upon the villain is akin to recruiting a naïve youth into the mercenary military of empire. At what cost does our own land need to pay to export freeing the rest of the world?

Only the disillusioned would deduce that our society has achieved political freedom when the ranks of discontent swell as the plight of our country sinks into the pit of despair. The facts demonstrate that the national condition deteriorates year after year. But Bush and company, their loyal opposition and all the rest of the masters of political propaganda, moralize on their rightful position to decree freedom upon their staunch servants. Loyalty to the government earns crumbs. This must be the meaning of - reason for optimism - that Bush cites as Camus lite!

Exercising your intuitive self-determination to establish your own political freedom is a curse indeed, in the era of benevolent altruism. Bearing the responsibility to defy the freedom pretenders would surely be an offense against the state. But would it be a crime against humanity? As it was written so will you be punished, that's the promise of state security for a world at peace.

That final analysis, which was so popular over forty years ago, taught that errors in political policies have momentous consequences. Today the public has even less acumen but far greater absolution for their government. Skepticism is in short supply and constructive cynicism virtually absent. The freedom to resist the dishonesty is essential, while the freedom to accept the treachery is the popular viewpoint. All freedom is not equal, especially when false loyalties leads to and requires the destruction of civic wisdom. Peace is too high a price to pay for the absence of responsible individual freedom. And security of the state is a blight against all civilization. Camus stood for quiet solitary of the individual, while the clones for world democracy demand controlled compliance of the masses.

Tolerance does not include submission to despotic government. Since you have the freedom, use it or lose it! Your rights are not defined by the whims of a living civil law. The race for the duration means continuous conflict between the ruled and the rulers. Your personal security requires no peace, your freedom necessitates your opposition to the State. Read and study the entire record before you choose, then you can pop the cork and drink the Champagne.

SARTRE - May 24, 2005


posted by SARTRE at 5/23/2005 | (10) comments


The Political Philosophy of Jacques Maritain
 

No other modern day Christian philosopher is more traditional and consistent with time-honored values than Jacques Maritain. The embodiment of the philosophical convention of Thomas Aquinas, this twentieth century Catholic revitalizes the intellectual foundations upon which all Western Civilization is based and fosters as a culture. His relevancy has grown with every passing year. The absurdity in the political insanity of our age is a direct result of an abandonment in the primacy of the meaning in life. The diktat that stems from the secular society is meant to eradicate Christianity from public existence.

E. J. Borich sums up Maritain in this way: “To Maritain, the cardinal sin of modern man was that he did not realise that in the order of good, God had the first initiative and man the second initiative. In Maritain's own words, "The Divine Plentitude in us is primary in relation to our movement of ascent." The tragedy is, as he says in Science and Wisdom, "An age of anthropocentric humanism cut off from the Incarnation, an age in which science finally carried the day against wisdom, and the effort of progress turned to the destruction of human values."

In a perceptive summary Conquest of Freedom, Walter LaCentra PhD clearly illustrates the core crisis. “The tragic mistake of modern times has been to interpret the temporal order in terms of man only. The results have been manifest in the divinization of man or the divinization of the state.” Citing from True Humanism, Dr LaCentra deduces that a reform of civilization must be made with means different from those used to achieve a purely political revolution. Maritain in Man and the State asserts: “It should be made rather in the name of ethical and spiritual values and of the primary social value of human personality holding fast to the principle that the rational life of man is ordered to the accomplishment of true freedom of autonomy.”

But what does this freedom mean in terms of the politics within the social order? Also from Man and the State, political emancipation founded on the authentic notion of the common good, has for Maritain a communal and personalist component. It would be nonsense to talk of the common good of the temporal order that you separate it from the people who contribute thereto. Political emancipation founded on the authentic notion of authority has the role of the State as being one “especially concerned with the maintenance of law, the promotion of the common welfare and public order, and the administration of public affairs. Far from using its power and authority to absorb the body politic, it stands at the service of the whole political society.” If it is true that the purpose of public authority is to use its power to promote the essentially human purposes of the common good, who’s law is supreme?

The next aspect examines the political emancipation founded on the recognition of a religious principle. The basic truth of Christian faith is that man is made for God and eternal life. Maritain maintains that: “The Kingdom of God constitutes the ultimate end prepared for by the movement of all history and in which it concludes, toward which converge, on the other hand, the history of the Church and the spiritual world.”

Dr LaCentra continues:

“The need today, accordingly, is to seek for a new synthesis that allows the things of God, while remaining distinct from the things of Caesar, to permeate social and political life in such a way that man will be able to pursue his perfection in freedom. This synthesis is what Maritain called an integral humanism, one that is free of all taint of the rationalism and naturalism that characterized the dialectic of the anthropocentric humanism of the 18th and 19th century. The new synthesis of the temporal and supernatural must recognize the secular aims of a civilization by attending to the development of man’s natural activities and by procuring his earthly good fortune. It must recognize also man’s eternal quest for a transcendent Reality. The dynamism of this new order can no longer be rooted in the unity of a culture founded on religio-political body, as was the case in the Middle Ages, for the obvious fact of our times is the heterogeneity of contemporary religions. Gone with the Reformation is the unity of a culture founded on religion where doctrinal principles achieved a close communion of minds under the light of one Faith. Now with the proliferation of diverse religious beliefs the task of unifying the socio-temporal order on the foundation of one theological faith seems remote indeed. But neither is such necessary or expedient. If religion unity cannot be had as it was in Medieval times, a spiritual unity can and must exist within a pluralist body politic.”

Certainly this assessment reflects a ‘PC’ surrender to the whims of cultural relativity, but it begs the essential subject. Can or should a society remain intact for the sake of diverse assemblage? Who can argue with the intense assault against all things Christian from a secular society bent on imposing their will over the civil affairs of believing relics? Well a religionist relic is another man’s remnant. Since the basis of the current civic politik is the elimination of adherence to God’s law, the replacement encoding regulation can hardly be consistent with Maritain’s view of Thomistic Metaphysics.

Thaddeus J. Kozinski in Jacques Maritain’s "Democratic Faith": Heretical or Orthodox? – offers this opposite perspective.

“Maritain also insisted, however, that even though scholastic thought was the only philosophical tradition that could coherently ground the democratic charter in theory—because both the charter and scholasticism were worldly branches of the same spiritual tree, as it were, the tree of the Gospel—it was not necessary for modern men to be grafted onto that tree, that is, to be scholastic or even to profess Christian belief, in order to give a full and intelligible assent to it. Why? Because the fundamental insight upon which the charter would be built, the dignity of the human person, was an insight now commonly held by even a scholastic-and-Gospel-eschewing modern man. As long as this insight about the dignity of persons remained firmly in the communal consciousness, as he believed it would because of the evident evolution of moral consciousness, the democratic charter would work, regardless of the truth or falsity of the philosophical or religious theories that served to ground it in the minds of individual men.”

Is it really accurate to acknowledge that the present public attitude respects the universality of human dignity? What version of current events reflects this conclusion? Certainly not the one that plays itself out daily for all the world to see. The notion of a Democratic Pluralism based upon a Maritainian proclamation of a coexistent solution with greater autonomy, defies the march toward cultural assimilation, that is the contemporary condition. Kozinski makes the point: “The enforced divorce of one’s deep, comprehensive worldview from political life, inasmuch as one is "told" in countless ways (education, media, law, church sermons!) that such a divorce is morally obligatory by the exigencies of pluralism, would tend to make a rigorous, politically relevant Catholic doctrine like the social reign of Christ the King seem obsolete—or even heretical!” The secular society is a culture of death, based upon the lie of spiritually devoid neutrality.

He adds a keen insight: “The irony is that the proposal of the so-called religiously-neutral state as the only way to deal with deep pluralism itself establishes a religion and a set of values. This is the religion of liberalism."

Before you are dismissive of Maritain’s naiveté, his humanity is well worth your respect. Mr. Kozinski explains in this manner: “Maritain’s "blind spot" to the imminent dangers of pluralism was shared by many Catholic intellectuals in the immediate post-war period, and no doubt this writer would have shared in the blindness also. However, such a blind spot can not be excused today, in the clear light of those evils that now beset our country, evils whose existence Maritain had no way to predict. Insofar as America was, for Maritain, a veritable incarnation of the democratic faith in the modern day, and insofar as we have determined that that faith is flawed, I think it can now be admitted that Maritain made a grave error in his discernment of the American spirit of his day.”

Individuality has its first ontological roots in matter in the Thomistic doctrine. Dr. LaCentra sees “Maritain’s political significance to modern day Thomism stemming from guiding intuitions he had into modern problems. He made himself heard and respected as a prophet for a moral regeneration of the person and society in an age when depersonalization of man and the disintegration of a stable social order were taking place simultaneously.”

All forms of centralization were denounced. Friendship is a characteristic so essential to his notion of society that he speaks of it as its very soul. Therefore, he advocated the need for workable agreements in practical matters. Thus, political freedom while enviable was subordinate to terminal freedom. The last LaCentra summary illustrates the insight: “He warned of two diametrically opposed errors regarding political freedoms: one, the individual could become a law unto himself, threatening thereby the order and structure of society and its common good, and, secondly, the state, in suppressing such license inevitably following from such individualism, could force an obedience to itself so all-pervading that the inviolable rights of the human person be lost.”

Jacques Maritain was a moral man living in a very immoral world. Human nature never advances, only awareness in our mutual collective flaws can be considered as progress. Politics void of our spiritual nature denies our inherent autonomy. The only law that is valid comes from God, and not decided by men. When pluralism destroys that truth, our duty is to obey our Christian Father.

SARTRE – March 22, 2005


posted by SARTRE at 3/21/2005 | (17) comments


That Single Individual by Richard Polt
 

Is there a more difficult subject for a biography than Kierkegaard? It's not just that his life was outwardly uneventful and its secret events are hard to reconstruct, but that he devoted himself to dazzlingly complex explorations of personal identity. In a sense, all his writings are about him: They cannot be divorced from the existence of their author.

But because he wants his readers to confront their own existence, none of his writings are simply about him. They are about the challenge of existing individually, not about the facts of one man's existence in mid-19th-century Copenhagen. Kierkegaard proposed that his epitaph call him "that single individual"—which says everything and nothing.

Johannes Climacus, one of the "pseudonymous authors" to whom Kierkegaard attributed his works, pronounced that "truth is subjectivity," and Kierkegaard was allergic to objective truths about himself. He never had himself photographed, so we have only flattering portraits and mocking caricatures. His journals are not journalism, but "subjunctive" reflections on possibilities. Too intellectual and too Christian to be here now, or to enjoy any unproblematic happiness, Kierkegaard had no pure experiences, only interpretations of experiences. The biographer's task is made still harder by the blunders of early editor H.P. Barfod, who rearranged and cut Kierkegaard's already self-censored journals, often destroying the manuscripts in the process of getting them into print.

Despite all this, Joakim Garff has done a remarkable job of collecting correspondence— legal and medical records, periodicals and photographs—creating the first major Kierkegaard biography since 1940. As co-editor of a new critical edition of Kierkegaard's writings and co-author of a book on his Journals, Notebooks, Booklets, Sheets, Scraps, and Slips of Paper, Garff is steeped in the textual miscellanea with which his subject surrounded himself. Garff's explanations of how these items tie into the well-known books are the most valuable aspect of this volume. He also expertly puts Kierkegaard in the context of the backbiting intelligentsia of his hometown of just over 100,000 inhabitants. Kierkegaard was a master of polemics, but all too thin-skinned when the satire was turned against him: He could scribble dozens of pages of savage rebuttal in response to a mild criticism in a book review. To his credit, he rarely published these salvos, but even his printed works bubble with references to the hothouse world of Copenhagen literati. Garff makes those gestures meaningful.

As for the biographical mysteries, Garff comes up with a credible interpretation of Kierkegaard's allusion to a "great earthquake" in a notorious journal entry of 1838, and he presents plausible though banal Freudian analyses of Søren's relation to his domineering father. Other riddles persist: Did Kierkegaard actually read Hegel, frequent target of his philosophical wrath? Garff also speculates inconclusively about Kierkegaard's possible epilepsy, visits to prostitutes, and masturbatory habits.

The main event in Kierkegaard's life was his non-marriage. In 1840 he became engaged to the charming Regine Olsen, but broke off the engagement in 1841 and even treated Regine cruelly in order to help her get over him—although he stayed in love with her for the rest of his life. Why? Garff suggests that Kierkegaard was too cerebral and literary to make a good husband. He uncovers some notable facts—for instance, Søren was initially more impressed by Regine's older sister—but this central episode remains puzzling.

Garff sighs, "To the dismay of the biographer, Kierkegaard cannot be pursued 'historically.' " But is it possible to explain the key crises in anyone's life? Events such as the origins and ends of love affairs can generate infinite interpretations without ever yielding a definitive answer. At moments of decision there will always be more at stake than a sum of facts, more at work than a rational process of drawing conclusions. Doesn't the very distinction between "Kierkegaard the myth" and "the man of the same name," "the factual story," and "the fictive narrative," violate the principle that truth is subjectivity? In the hands of a genius (to use an old-fashioned word that comes up often in this volume), a life of Kierkegaard might have become a Kierkegaardian tour de force, indirectly communicating the infinite tension between the mass of facts and the singularity of the person. Garff doesn't reach such heights, though he does entertain the thought that the writer "became himself in dialogue with [his] texts" and "was written" by his own writings, so that Kierkegaard's fictions "help reveal the 'real' Kierkegaard."

It would be petty to fault Kierkegaard's biographer for falling short of the dialectical complexity of Kierkegaard; we should be grateful that this book is readable and informative. It's also to Garff's credit that he casts a skeptical eye on Kierkegaard's self-interpretations, although many will debate his claims that Søren left Regine for aesthetic reasons and that his religiosity was infected by aestheticism up to the end.

Bruce H. Kirmmse does an excellent job of rendering this massive work into appealing English (including the prefatory matter and excluding the back matter, it comes out to the length of the first edition of Either/Or). Occasionally one does suspect that Kirmmse has spent too much time in Denmark, as when reading that a bride and groom were solemnly "copulated" in church—an unfortunate conflation of the aesthetic, ethical, and religious. The royal road to Kierkegaard is still the oblique road—his own writings—but Garff's biography makes an excellent traveling companion.


posted by SARTRE at 3/03/2005 | (7) comments


Simone de Beauvoir: feminist vs. revelation
 

Known typically for her association with Jean Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir exerted an enduring influence upon modern day feminism. "One is not born, but rather becomes a woman" is the primal theme in The Second Sex. Some may not deem her a major philosopher, but to humanists, socialists and Marxists, she is an original thinker. Philippe Knab deduces that in the Second Sex, “firstly, she put forward a series of empirical claims about women as the Other, that is, about what the role gender played in her society. Secondly, she puts forward a philosophical argument for why sexism is wrong. Clearly, the validity of the empirical part of the argument depends on one's historical cultural background. Some contemporary readers might feel inclined to discard Beauvoir’s feminism altogether because they do not recognize themselves or their society in her argument.

If a woman is a work in progress, becoming what a feminist envisions might seem consistent with that Sartre prime decree: "Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does."
Although, our nature is universal, the difference between the genders is frequently denied. For Simone de Beauvoir to be correct that "sexism is wrong", the ideal society which she advanced, compels a reputation of the very gender pronouncement that is found in the utmost revelation; namely the Bible. The accepted role for females is clearly stated in King of kings' Bible - Enoch 96:12 I have sworn to you, ye sinners, that neither mountain nor hill has been nor should be a servant to woman (Gen. 3:16-17 - women's liberation CONDEMNED).

She would argue that one’s responsibility for behavior is coherent with the freedom of the choice. "In Ethics of Ambiguity, Madame de Beauvoir penetrates at once to the central ethical problems of modern man: what shall he do, how shall he go about making values, in the face of this awareness of the absurdity of his existence? She forces the reader to face the absurdity of the human condition and then, having done so, proceeds to develop a dialectic of ambiguity which will enable him not to master the chaos, but to create with it." For the secular humanity, Simone de Beauvoir offers a reasoned and obtainable ethics based on an atheistic existentialism.

The crucial query for women in search for their professed emancipation rests upon their acceptance or rejection of divine authority. When Sartre concedes that our own will was not the cause of our being "thrown into this world", why would women deed that they know better? Feminists serve secular humanism when they believe that Marx knew more than God.

Philippe Knab then cites that a key to an understanding of Beauvoir’s analysis of sexism is her account for how women occupy the position of the Other. Beauvoir argues that, in order to define their identity as superior, men declared themselves master of Nature, which includes women. By doing this, men put women in a Hegelian slave position. In Beauvoir own words: "[W]oman has always been, if not the slave of the man, at least his vassal".

No wonder that the feminist view of the world is based upon a refusal to obey the will of the Supreme Being. The true struggle they persist in avoiding is their submission to The Plan for humanity. "The Women's Liberation Movement is the social struggle which aims to eliminate forms of oppression based on gender and to gain for women equal economic and social status and rights to determine their own lives as are enjoyed by men."

Knab sums up that “as such, the 'Other' refers to any marginalized, exploited, subjugated, dominated, or oppressed group . . . When Beauvoir argues that "One is not born, but rather becomes a woman," this simply means there is nothing in the human condition that assigns women to the role as the Other.” Is this conclusion valid or is this perspective simply a bias coming from a feminist?

The common confusion that Existentialism is always based upon atheism, Marxist politics and secular humanism ethics, prevents many from sincerely probing the intuitive insights that deserve an examination.

If rules exist and are valid as guides for meaningful, ethical and just conduct, who’s rules should we observe? The earnest feminist would have you adopt a guilt mindset that only total equality between the genders, can be the accepted standard. The extreme feminazi would strive to subjugate men into a revengeful version of the ‘masculine Other’. Both deny the created role, designed for a purpose and revealed as the proper way to achieve a feminine harmony with masculine union.

Simone de Beauvoir professed that only by accepting the ambiguity imbedded in the human condition, can we find the strength to live and the source of happiness. The ambiguity of the human condition is found in the “privilege … of being a sovereign and unique subject amidst a universe of objects, is what the individual shares with all his fellow-men. In turn an object for others, he is nothing more than an individual in the collectivity on which he depends.”

Why deny the dependability that comes from the Word of God, and substitute that trust with a flawed belief in the perfectability of mankind? Simone de Beauvoir is correct in her equivocalness in an ocean of absurd relativism. Nonetheless, she fails to replace the jubilation that comes from the gift of grace that accepts the order of design and the substance of purpose.

Existentialism that embrasses faith, consents to divine laws of nature and accepts the designed differences in gender, will attain mastery over the ambiguity. If not this way, mother nature would be in a constant ira state and mankind’s utopian equality might scream the universal pain of childbirth.

Gensis - 3:16 Unto the woman He (God) said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire [shall be subject] to thy husband, and HE (thy husband) SHALL RULE OVER THEE.

Who do you follow and where do you place your trust?

SARTRE – January 27, 2005


posted by SARTRE at 1/26/2005 | (7) comments



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