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Episode #086 ... Sartre and Camus pt. 1 - Freedom

2016-06-29 | 🔗

Today's episode is the first installment of a series on the great Cold War era thinkers Sartre and Camus. Today we lay the foundations for the line of thinking known as existentialism and focus on Sartre's view of freedom. 

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Hello, everyone, I'm Stephen West. This is philosophize. This no sponsor this week. Follow me on Twitter. It I am Stephen West, followed the show on Facebook philosophize this show for patron of the Amazon banner go to the front page of philosophize. This org today is the first episode in a a series on Sartre Camus. I I hope, love love it looking at what you guys are saying, not Pronunciation Sartre. It's John Paul suck. Look, I'm not gonna spend the next thirty minutes of my life or the rest of the sea. For that matter, thing John pulls out every time I reference a guy. We have a problem with it demanded Obama or whoever it was created this access that I am right like any other. That video of german people trying to say the word squirrel, but they can't do it. They say squirrel squeal are somewhat because that some people, but from what I understand they are there
I've no frame of reference for that coral sound in their language. What I'm saying is: don't judge me enjoy the episode, let's get onto the programme, so just like most episodes of the show. I want to start today by thinking about something but quick disclaimer for any you out there. That might be here the beginning of this line of thinking and think that I'm wasting your time purposefully or that there's no. Possible way. This could ever be related to the episode. Trust me by the middle of the episode. You'll understand why I did it this way. So the question I want to ask you is this: have you ever been sitting in your room by yourself talking to yourself and just said the word cookie for yourself twenty five times in a row like cookie cookie cookie for that matter. Have you ever said any word to yourself: twenty five I'm a real really the question underneath this question is: have you ever a word and paid close attention to it and analyzed it and had the thought man that's a real
strain sounding word. Why does the word sound that way? Why do we even call them cookies? To begin with, you look at the word cookie hard enough, and in that moment it almost starts to feel like it's the first time, you've ever heard the word cookie in your lifetime. You ever have that happen to you how about when look it's up to you? Ve been staring at a plant for ten minutes straight. Maybe your mom as a decorative fern hanging in her kitchen and your staring at it in the future. You state that she's telling you about how they still haven't fix that light done by the radio Shack yet and your look, the plant and you just start to notice in that moment, how incredible alien. This thing looks when you pay close attention to it. You walk past this exact plant four hundred times before? I never thought twice about it, but for some reason right now. It looks really strange to you. Your rather feel will, if you ve ever had this feeling before, even if it was just for a minute, John Paul Sartre would say the approach
beyond to something there. But maybe the more important thing you would point out is that this fee extends way beyond just the word cookie or your mom's decorative fern. Everything is the strange, potentially everything in the hole. Could evoke the the same feeling in you if you paid close enough attention. This is a really interesting concept that SARA refers to all the time. He calls it the. Certainty of the world and brilliant example. That illustrates what time up my friend told me one time that he apparently heard from somebody else But the general ideas, imagine you get home from work at six o clock time for you to sit down and eat dinner with your significant other. Now for most of us, we don't see anything strange about this. We we do this every day is just a normal Thursday afternoon in my household, but Sara would say, consider how utterly ridiculous what you're doing actually is you're, essentially waiting for this rock. You live on that's hurdling, through the vacuum of space, to get to a particular spot in relation
to the giant ball of ass burning in the middle of the solar system, so that you can then sit down on a bunch of chopped up, trees and but little pieces of plants and animals in your that are going to become infused into your cells,. And you're doing all of this purposefully like see, nice swimmers alongside this other member of your species that you one day hope to procreate with and start a family, But before I do that you gotta figure out what aspects of their inner thoughts had been lying you about, since the first day they met you. This is the true ups thirty of the world and we live our lives immersed in it every day to start route. To fully understand where he's coming from with this and how it alternate Lee relates back to the rest of the possibly we're gonna need a little historical context. Member back at the beginning of the enlightenment number that famous divide that's been around since almost at dawn, a fuller, to be between rationalists empiricists rationalist, believe that we arrive at knowledge best through reason, empiricist, believing that it ultimately comes to the senses right so
at the beginning of the enlightenment. If you were a story, I'd aspiring philosopher trying to make an aim for yourself in the big city a really cool place to focus your efforts on what have been bridging this. divide, floss, restarted. Ask the questions. Why is knowledge an either or proposition there. Why can't both of them be true? Why can't neither of them be true? Why can't we all just get along already lions try to do it. Hume tried to do it, contrary to do it all lot of people tried to do it is what I'm saying and in the early years of stark his life, he traveled many many miles of studying under somebody else. Who was trying to do it? His name was Edmund Husserl, see who Cheryl thought you know what's funny all these disagreements that rationalists empiricist have been having with each other for so many centuries. They always seem to happen after we have a plan I had all sorts of very human meanings to what were experiencing human biases to what were experiencing. What would the world look
if it were somehow able to remove those human biases now roquat. I just want to be clear who sells not just talking about biases, like you know what the Alene Republican or Democrat he's talking about removing everywhere. that you categorize phenomena that enter your senses and brain with, actually talk about something like this before on David Hume on causation, you know, pool ball a hits, pool ball B and causes it to move David Hume would say that we're making a mistake by saying that pool ball, a caused, the movement of Pool Ball B, there's no. Terry connection between pool ball as movement and Pool Ball B's movement, that's a very flawed human inference that you're making, and although it seems obvious and probably is true that poor by a cause, the movement to pull Bobby now, because the events are so close to each other and one balls movement directly preceded the other balls Movement, we can't apply that same standard to the rest of the universe and just assume that we know what causes what I mean
We can imagine how that might go wrong. So you can. I then someone saying something like oh well: data in the night and then back into day again, it intuitively makes sense to me. As a human being that day cause night to come into existence, we of course know that isn't true, but this is a good example of a mistake that we might make when we in fancy philosophical lingo in were necessary, causation She probably remember David. Him said that there is no necessary connection between these two phenomena, but for the sake of practical life, we confer this framework of cause and effect onto these phenomena because he would say imagine what the world to be like without cause and effect or any other meaning. We tack on to these phenomena, you'd be it would be, ass. It would be a seemingly random flurry of phenomena happening all around you Grime or reason to them at all. It certainly would be a little off putting right well, who Searl thought if we want
get to the bottom of this existence thing. Maybe the task shouldn't be about interpreting our human experience of these things. Maybe it should be about understanding our human experience at such a deep, comprehensive level that we can sort of sub cracked it from what were experiencing and study the raw phenomena as they actually are. This is what is called phenomenology, no, ultimately, who sorrels make A point that, if we're ever going to arrive at certainty about Stuf the current scientific method that we use is probably going to have to go We're events are to need a new scientific method that takes all of that stuff into account, but that's for another episode. What Sartre takes from this is that in our experience of the world, it's not like we're only make sense of it through the lens of cause and effect, no we're tacking on all sorts of stuff, all sorts of connections between things that have been conditioned into us that help us make sense of everything. Go back the dinner example: when looked at three
the lines of phenomenology, it starts to seem like a pretty crazy and completely arbitrary scene and no question somebody do a much better job at breaking down than I did there, but if you're so reason. You had a giant claw the complexity random person out of a Walmart somewhere, and you ask them what does this particular once a phenomena mean to you to them to the average person, it would just be dinner. Sarka gives tons of examples of this absurdity of the world in his book. Called nausea, there's a scene where the main character is traveling on a tram, and he looks over to his side and he sees a chair sitting in the corner, and in that moment he is just puzzled. He looks at the chair and, as he's looking at it, he experiences what it feel like for there to be no obvious usage for that object, conditioned and was brain over the years. Think about that there's no DEC aids of sitting in chairs or sing people and chairs, or seeing men and thong bikinis hitting it
with chairs at Wrestlemania, none of that mean is there for him? It's like he's baby. Seeing a chair for the first time in his life. Here's another example from his book: nausea were the main character is describing a chestnut tree quote, If any one had asked me what existence was. I would have answered in good faith that it was nothing simply an empty form which was added external things without changing anything in their nature and they all of a sudden there. It was clear as day existence had suddenly unveiled itself it had lost the harmless look of an abstract category. It was the very paste of things this route was needed into existence, or rather the route the park gates, the bench, the sparse grassed. All that had vanished the diversity of things Their individuality were only in appearance of a near
This veneer had melted, leaving soft monstrous masses all in disorder naked in a frightful obscene nakedness. I kept myself. For making the slightest movement, but I didn't need to move in order to see behind the trees, the blue columns and the lamp also the bandstand in the lead. In the midst of a of Laurel! All these objects. How can I explain they inconvenienced me. I would have liked them to exist less strongly more dryly in a more abstract way, with more reserve. End quote not just a matter. Imagine if this was how the entire world look to you, everything in it. The story goes that I'm sorry. I was on a heavy dose of masculine one. Fine summers even had this very experience mescaline for you more adventurous folk out. There has better known as piety and for the rest,
stay in school and look both ways before you across the street. Sarge would say that if you don't believe in a god that has assigned some sort of preordained meaning to that chair and everything in the world. For that matter, a position progressively growing in popularity during this time, if you don't believe, that preordained meaning. Then you something when you look at the world in that state, you realize that human beings, are just sort of making it up as they go along All of this meaning that even applying to these objects like chairs or the word cookie for your entire life, there's no, since preordained into these things by a higher power. No, if you go back far enough, all that meaning turns out. It was just some person that came up with a deterrent. This process of understanding these phenomena more simple. This is a key point that maybe needs a little bit more historical context, member Plato and Aristotle. They believe that every object had within it. In essence, the essence of a
it is a specific thing or a collection of things within an object that need to be there for that. To be considered whatever. It is. If the things Some reason no longer had these specific properties, it would lose its identity and would therefore become something else. For example, a toothbrush right, There are certain properties about any toothbrush that are called non, essential properties, all kinds of things your toothbrush could be red, yellow, short long bamboo, whatever you want but one thing is for sure: if the tooth brush doesn't have that little brushy thing at the top is no longer a toothbrush. It's just kind of a colorful stick at that point. Remove the bristles the tooth brush and you remove what is called an essential property or the essence of that toothbrush. A quality, that's necessary to make it what it is.
Now Plato on Aristotle, believe that there is essence essence to every object, including you guessed it human, even you you, this essence is whatever makes you you. It was taken away from you, you'd be someone or something else now. This essence is typically considered to be something that was you before you were even born in this theory, was pretty much conventional wisdom up until the late eighteen hundreds and what John Paul SARA represents is one of several people during this time, that are starting to say: hey, wait a minute! What, if were born without in essence, and once were born, it's our job, to determine what our essence will be. What, if to be truly aware of existence, means that you're aware of the chair, as it is before you've tacked on all this meaning to it. What, if, as a famous line, goes existence precedes essence, see because
the significance of realising that the way that things are in the world isn't some cosmic. We determine state of affairs is that once you realize that you're free all these people around here, and stuff like that. Just the way the things are sorry, they could be wrong. In fact, look back in history. They probably are wrong. Sorry would say that whenever you hear somebody say something like you, marriage. It is a sacred bond under the eyes of God, between a man and a woman, and that's that you can realise that that conclusion was arrived at just as arbitrarily as yours was. It may not even be true, and this goes with everything the way relationships work. The way you make your money, the diet you consume. You are free freedom. This is probably the big
point of emphasis and all of Sarri's philosophy. He probably didn't say it about his later political work to understand how free you actually are and never take that for granted. He has a famous quote: man is condemned to be free and what he means by that is. You didn't bring yourself into existing you don't have a choice yet here you are born into a world with so much freedom to choose, while simultaneous be held responsible for everything that you choose to do in this existence that you didn't choose to have. You are condemned to be free now. The question people typically ask here is: okay, okay, so I'm free to determine. Meaning of concepts and ideas that I interact with in the world. But if I don't believe in God, then I dont believe in something that has prescribed a preordained meaning to my life. Doesn't it make life sort of meaningless? What's the purpose of my life or anything that I do
That matter does not just send me spiralling down a deep dark hole of feeling, nothing. I do ever. Matters will start would say just like you look at the world of phenomena and you apply meaning to all the things to be able to make sense of it, meaning that are not cosmical determined but ones that are useful to you. Not only can you apply meaning to your own life, It is your obligation to choose what the meaning of your life is going to be it's a those people who believe that a God prescribed a meaning to their life. They really
chosen that meaning just as arbitrarily as you chose yours again. Existence precedes essence to Sartre once we exist. It's our job to discover are essence now, if you dont Arduino. These concepts we ve been talking about here are all hallmarks of a line of thinking known as existential ISM when Plato says that essence precedes existence that is known as essential ism when sarcasm existence, existence. Essence. Essence, that's known, as, as I have already talked about and existentialist on this podcast before. The name's Kirke Guard. If you remember Kirke, Ard, famously says that anxiety is the dizziness of freedom. He says that when he realized how free you truly are in this world, when you look down under the yawning abyss. You become dizzy. Quick recap just to give some contacts, so freedom is a really interesting thing for human beings. I mean
on one hand we all say that we want it more than anything else out there. We don't want somebody telling us how to live our lives. Don't tell me what to do. I don't want to live under the rule of some king, but on the other hand we say, while on free, I'm free I can do anything. I want that's a pretty scary thing when you think about it. Kirk Gard would say that most people find themselves either lost in the infinite or lost in the finite loss. In the infinite looks like this, I'm free, I can do anything I want. Where am I going to go with my life? Oh, you know what you know, what better just set up camp here and just think about what I'm going to do for a while. If it don't make any rash decisions, I'll talk to some people figure out what I'm going to do I hope, with all sorts of ideas, and never really take action on any one of them- were lost in the final hours outlook. Oh, oh you guys.
A camp. Oh, oh your camps over there, okay, I'm gonna, set up my camp right next to you guys. Okay, oh, is that how you hold your spoon? Okay, I'll start doing? That, too, is that pumpkin, spice cream cheese, both of these to Kirke Guard, are attempts to avoid the dizziness of being truly free. A state of dread, as Kirk AGARD calls it well SARA talks about something very similar to this? He says that once you realize that you're in the driver's seat, once you realize that it's you that has to sighed, the meaning of your life, and that you're not limited to this tiny manage we'll story about the way that things are that most people tell themselves when you feel that nausea the comes along after realizing how many options you truly have it's a very uncomfortable place to be, and by the way, there's no Peppino Bismarck for the nausea
of existence, so getting rid of that feeling of nausea by any means necessary starts to real friendly to you and a common trap that people fall into a state that most people spend their entire lives and even if they don't realize how free they are, is what Sartre calls bad faith. Bad faith is when we accept something as true that really isn't all that convincing to us, not because we think it's the truest thing in the world, but because it's convenient and easy for us to believe in it. People do this with all sorts of things like tanning right people that go tanning at some level. They know that sitting in an oven for thirty minutes is not good for you at some level, They realize that they're, probably gonna grow, grow up and like like a lizard but hey this. This one clinical trial, six out of seven rats, didn't die of cancer. That's another thing it's so easy in this day and age, much easier than any other generation to decide.
What it is you want to believe in and then do a reconnaissance, Google search after the fact for a study that you can point to a reason why you're doing it it's got pretty crazy. We try going to Google and typing in you know anything reasons. Kale is bad for you and then, after that type and reasons, Kale is good for you guarantee you're gonna get a ton of results on either side of it, point. Is it so easy to have this bad faith that Sartre talks about where you don't believe in what the is compelling position is, but one that's convenient for you to believe we tell ourselves a story that we want to hear so that we don't have to do the work of having difficult conversations with ourselves sort of that one of the most common types of bad faith. When that first hand all around him during his lifetime is when people tell themselves they have zero options about what they can do so to talks about a hypothetical waiter who hates his job. He goes to the same restaurant day after day hating his job not feeling
the field, but when everything about applying for a different job or asking himself, the difficult questions would come along with that sort of life choice. He just tells himself the same thing. Look, I'm a waiter always been a Always going to be a waiter, my father was a waiter just like his father before him. I'm never going to be able to try to do anything else, because this is my job and I need the money to survive. I might as well just accept it. I'm trapped on this unfulfilling hamster wheel for the rest of my life. Now SARA would say that this is absolute nonsense. Your essence isn't determined by what you're other your grandfather. Did it's not determined by a few overdue rent notices in your mail box? You are free individual, they can choose the meaning of your life. You can do anything! You want the money and the right. Family heritage of being a waiter aren't prevent, you ve been doing anything you up
venting yourself. People do this for any number reasons, probably most commonly to avoid some difficult conversation that would be looming. But consider what it is someone's actually doing when they find themselves in one of these bad faith scenarios that sort of talks about when the waiter wants to job job, and he tells himself that he has options options and that he's essentially to to angrily get people baskets of chips for the rest of his life, the mexican restaurant he works at. What does he do Well, he's cutting the legs from underneath his ability to choose he's, putting up this barrier try to convince himself that he actually doesn't have a choice in the matter and the being unhappy at this job is a life sentence. Just imagine what a world we live in an imagine if he was living under a tyrannical dictate the told him you're going to wait tables for the rest of your life or I'm going to chop your head off. That is
basically the world that this waiter lives in and SARA would say that it's entirely self imposed SARA talks about how people do this a lot with relationships too. You know someone will stay with someone for a couple years. They'll ignore all the telltale signs signs of the two of them being, until the incompatible and when they wake up one morning in they realize how unhappy they are in the relationship. Oh, I can never leave them women the other for ten years now. Also you should waste another ten years, your life. I could never leave them. I just can't reinvent myself at the age of thirty. Yes, you can, and many people do Sartor would say something people do all the time is they avoid making these kinds of difficult lifeless. Visions desperately trying to avoid that temporary short term discomfort of contending with the freedom that they have at their disposal. So they tell themselves these stories of bad faith in what they end up. Doing is put
themselves through long term agony in an attempt to avoid short term discomfort? Think of the message that what you're telling yourself, when you accept this bad faith, what you're saying is that the person you are right now in this very moment is the only person you can ever be for the rest of your life. Not that sounds needlessly reduction is too you Sartor would say. You're right, you shouldn't be ashamed of using this bad faith. You shouldn't get down on yourself if you re fifty years old and you realize that bad faith has controlled you for most of your life and you feel like it was all your fault all along and you've wasted your entire life, no just be free. Thank you for listening I'll talk to you next time.
Transcript generated on 2020-09-30.