Philosophy of Existentialism Term Paper
From time immemorial man has always looked for all possible ways and means of understanding and explaining different concepts concerning existence and purpose of life and the human nature. The philosophy of existentialism dates back to 18th century whereby several philosophers in their thirst to understand human nature formulated thoughts and ideas that we currently study as existentialism.
The philosophy of existentialism though difficult and abstract gives explanation to most of the questions that we ask ourselves as we go through life. Understanding this philosophy is significant as it helps one to make wise decisions on issues touching on life among other things. This paper discusses the different elements behind the philosophy of existentialism and how they relate to lying and deception.
Davis defines existentialism as “a philosophical stance that emerged out of the attempt to find meaning in life without acknowledging the existence of God” (Davis 1). Different philosophers have different interpretations and thoughts on ideologies behind the concept of existentialism though all of them have their thoughts built up on theories of existence of mankind, life and its meaning, personal freedom, and the element of self-awareness.
Existentialism is actually based mainly on two beliefs, everything is subjective and existence precedes essence. It is important to note that existentialism sources its explanations about life and existence from a natural view and thus can be seen as an atheistic theory (Davis 1). The philosophy of existentialism explains some of the basic aspects of natural existence such as element of being, life and death, angst, absurdity, autonomy, freedom, existence before essence, fulfillment, and forlornness among others.
Element of being
According to Davis “The human being’s essence lies in his existence. An individual is free to choose different kinds of “being” for himself” (Davis 1). The element of being is characterized by concern existence and moods.
This implies that human beings have no predetermined course of nature and thus we have the freedom to choose the path of our destiny by configuring our actions in life. In short we have no preprogrammed life. It is also argued that by the element of being human beings have the freedom to act and behave independently without external influences. From this concept we then make up our own values depending on the various choices that we make which eventually determines our human nature (Banach 1).
Perhaps one of the reasons existentialists would give for lying is the fear of the unknown. Man’s knowledge is very limited and absolutely no any external source of value. A report by Banach was quoted claiming that:
We are faced with the lack of any external source of value and determination. We are faced with the responsibility of choosing our own nature and values, and, in doing so, we are faced we must face the awesome responsibility of choosing human nature and values for all men in our free choices. (Banach 1)
It can thus be argued that the presence of anxiety in human nature could be one of the primary causes of lying as we try to alienate ourselves from situations which are likely to trigger anxiety in us.
Existentialism views about lying and deception
It is without doubt that it is difficult to have a clear cut difference between deception and lying especially when talking in philosophical terms. Is lying deception or is the converse true? What is the relationship between the two? Is there any moral connection and how are the two related to our human nature. A report by Solaman has it that
The essence of the lie implies in fact that the liar actually is in complete possession of the truth which he is hiding. A man does not lie about what he is ignorant of; he does not lie when he spreads an error of which he himself is the dupe; he does not lie when he is mistaken (Solaman 1).
The philosophy of Existentialism views lying as deviation from the freedom nature of mankind which is usually seen as bad faith. Existentialists view deception as an element of bad faith. Procrastination is one of the ways of self-deception whereby we alienate ourselves from the absolute truth.
This, according to existentialists arises from the fact that we have the freedom of choice as we take the journey through life and that at times we are bound to be faced with a difficult situation or condition that has the potential of causing us pain and agony and as such try to avoid the responsibility by escaping from our degree of freedom; in doing that, we deceive ourselves.
It is claimed that “Self-deception has many forms including taking on the roles and duties from which we base all our actions, excusing ourselves from choice by saying that we have no other choice” (Pychyl 1). Pychil still goes on to claim that “the existentialist understanding of this self-deception is living in Bad Faith. It is an inauthentic way of living, as we deny responsibility for our own lives, our own choices” (Pychyl 1).
The existentialists believe that man is responsible for his own fulfillment and as such he has the freewill to determine personal fulfillment by doing what he thinks is best for his fulfillment. Lying and deception can then be argued to be caused by the need of personal fulfillment whereby people do actions that either qualifies as a lie or deception in the endeavor of personal fulfillment. Davis claims that “man makes his own fulfillment. He can create whatever he likes, and in so doing will determine for himself what is fulfilling” (Davis 1).
The philosophy of existentialism is one of the most difficult to understand especially given that it is based not on any empirical evidence but in the thoughts of the thinkers who are bound to think in different perspectives. The philosophy is based on the idea that existence precedes essence. Existentialism sources its explanations about life and existence from a natural view and thus can be seen as an atheistic theory. Existentialists view deception as an element of bad faith.
Procrastination is one of the ways of self-deception whereby we alienate ourselves from the absolute truth. It can thus be argued that the presence of anxiety in human nature could be one of the primary causes of lying as we try to alienate ourselves from situations which are likely to trigger anxiety in us. Lying and deception can then be argued to be caused by the need of personal fulfillment whereby people do actions that either qualifies as a lie or deception in the endeavor of personal fulfillment.
Davis, Freddy. Existentialism. Market Faith, 2006. Web.
Pychyl, Timothy. Existentialism and procrastination (Part 2): Bad Faith, 2008. Web.
Solaman, Shauna. What is bad faith? Philosophe, 2006. Web.
The Elephant in the Room: Existentialism and the Denial of Death Term Paper
Existentialism and the Denial of Death
In Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilych, Peter Ivanovich experiences a chilling moment as he contemplates his own mortality in light of the long and painful period of torture and agony that befell his colleague Ivan Ilych before his eventual demise. “Three days of frightful suffering and the death! Why, that might suddenly, at any time, happen to me,” he thought, and for a moment felt terrified.
But – he did not himself know how – the customary reflection at once occurred to him that this had happened to Ivan Ilych and not to him, and that it should not and could not happen to him, and that to think that it could would be yielding to depression which he ought not to do…After which reflection Peter Ivanovich felt reassured, and began to ask with interest about the details of Ivan Ilych’s death, as though death was an accident natural to Ivan Ilych but certainly not to himself” (Tolstoy 24).
In this passage Tolstoy illuminates a dilemma central to the experience of being human – how to live with the understanding that death can happen at any moment. The answer, for many people, is to do as Peter Ivanovich has done here: repress it. The reality of death and the yin yang relationship it holds with life is rarely viewed as such. Rather, the perspective on death is as an unfortunate circumstance that befalls others.
The individual’s experience of death as somehow unexpected, accidental or independent of his or her life affects the quality of life, since the repression requires so much effort to maintain. This essay examines the treatment of death in most Western cultures and highlights some of the means in which it is denied, hidden, sanitized, covered up, and, most importantly, deprived of its existential import.
As evidenced by the reaction of Peter Ivanovich, awareness of mortality comes in flashes which manifest as moments of sheer, unadulterated terror, quickly rationalized and then suppressed again with renewed vigor. Among the Western cultures death remains denied and camouflaged by numerous secular contemporary practices including plastic surgery, euthanasia, homes for seniors, funeral homes and life insurance commercials that tout the advantages of leaving money to loved ones if “the unexpected” happens.
This essay takes as its main thesis the idea put forth by Heidegger in Being and Time that even the person who is dying cannot experience death, because he cannot view it in its proper context – i.e. as part of life. In Heidegger’s words, “when Dasein reaches its wholeness in death, it simultaneously loses the Being of its “there”. By its transition to “no-longer-Dasein”…it gets lifted right out of the possibility of experiencing this transition and of understanding it as something experienced.
Surely this sort of thing is denied to any particular Dasein in relation to itself. But this makes the death of Others more impressive. In this way a termination…of Dasein becomes ‘Objectively’ accessible. Dasein can thus gain an experience of death, all the more so because Dasein is essentially Being with Others. In that case, the fact that death has been thus ‘Objectively’ given must make possible an ontological delimitation of Dasein’s totality” (Heidegger 281).
This opportunity that Heidegger points to however is rarely grasped. Rather, like Peter Ivanovich, the living ignore the elephant in the room, completely repress their fear of death and continue on as though death will somehow affect everyone else except them.
In his Pulitzer Prize winning work The Denial of Death, Ernest Becker details the important function repression serves in the psyche of the Western cultural mind. “Repression takes care of the complex of the complex symbol of death for most people. But its disappearance doesn’t mean that the fear was never there” (Becker 20).
Strategies to keep death unwitnessed and denied include plastic surgery, the persistent erroneous language applied to death as accidental, and, in Becker’s understanding, the “large dimension in which the complex symbol of death is transmuted and transcended…[is] belief in immortality, the extension of one’s being into eternity” (Becker 24). Essentially, death’s removal from everyday life makes it too difficult to reintegrate. If the fear of death were conscious, Becker argues, human beings would be “unable to function normally.
It must be properly repressed to keep us living with any modicum of comfort. We know very well that to repress means more than to put away and forget that which was put away and the place where we put it. It means also to maintain a constant psychological effort to keep the lid on and inwardly never relax our watchfulness” (Becker 17).
What this leads to is a dimmer, numbed experience of life. Every time a person dies unwitnessed, a life affirming opportunity is lost. The opportunity that a mindful and conscious witnessing of the death of another human being, as Heidegger argues, that might honor the existential importance of death, specifically the transition from Being, most people are simply too afraid to accept.
Heidegger asserts that “when someone has died, his Being-no-longer-in-the-world…is still a Being, but in the sense of the Being-just-present-at-hand-and-no-more of a corporeal Thing that we encounter.
In the dying of the Other we can experience that remarkable phenomenon of Being which may be defined as the change-over of an entity from Dasein’s kind of Being…or life…to no-longer-Dasein. The end of the entity qua Dasein is the beginning of the same entity qua something present-at-hand” (Heidegger 281). A true understanding of death’s proper place as the partner of life rather than life’s enemy would naturally lead to richer experience of living.
The elephant in the room of life is death. Like birth, it is a universal human experience, however as the former continues to be celebrated, the latter continues to be shunned in the majority of Western cultures.
As a whole death remains denied, hidden, sanitized, covered up, and, most importantly, deprived of its existential import, because it continues to be kept apart from living, instead of shared as part of the human experience.
In Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilych, Peter Ivanovich represents the common reaction to mortality – terror – quickly repressed, and culturally camouflaged by numerous practices including plastic surgery, euthanasia, homes for seniors, funeral homes and language that consistently labels death as “the unexpected” happens.
As Heidegger aptly points out in Being and Time, in this repression, an opportunity becomes lost, as even the individual who is dying cannot experience death, because he cannot view it in its proper context, namely, a part of life of life to be witnessed, appreciated and accepted.
Becker, Ernest. The Denial of Death. New York: Simon and Shuster, 1997. Print.
Heidegger, Martin. Being and Time. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 1962. Print.
Tolstoy, Leo Nikolayevich. The Death of Ivan Ilyich. Whitefish, Montana: Kessinger Publishing, 2004. Print.
Existentialism from Dostoevsky to Sartre Essay
Sense of Self-identity
People’s sense of self-identity can be described as the characteristic that makes them certain that they are the same individuals, either today or any other time. The sense of self-identity is a common characteristic of individuals. It contributes to the human nature that is universal to all human beings. This characteristic enables people to maintain the same character and personality while allowing them to adapt to their environment. Self-identity is one of the factors that differentiate human beings from other species.
The personal sense of self-identity is a product of many other factors. It ensures that the uniformity of thoughts is maintained throughout the various stages of life. The largest contributor to the personal sense of self-identity is self-consciousness and memory as Descartes and Locke reveal (Myers 43).
The personal self-consciousness allows the maintenance of a uniform personality or character. The sense of self-identity has personally been an important guide in the various spheres of life-based on how it allows the maintenance of relevant personality and performance of people’s daily activities.
As Descartes and Locke confirm, self-consciousness allows personal adaptation to all changes that take place daily, thus paving the way for a positive transformation. Memory is an important part of this sense. It forms the main basis of the self-identity. The development of the personal sense of self-identity takes place through the experience of several events and changes that occur in life.
This memory becomes part of the personal self-identity, which enhances the development of one’s character. Apart from Descartes and Locke’s self-consciousness and memory, another personal way that the sense of self-identity has developed is through choice and commitment as portrayed by Sartre.
A personal belief is that the sense of self-identity develops from choice and commitment that have grown over time. It is only through commitment that some of the basic characteristics of this sense have developed. Dedication contributes to persistence, which ensures that the sense of self-identity is retained originally. Sartre is one of the individuals who propose the creations of self-identity through choice and commitment. According to this individual, self-identity can only be established through the two characters.
Most people believe that authentic selfhood requires breaking away from conformism while other people believe that conformity can supply a ready-made self-satisfactory self-identity (Myers 17). While the two beliefs are justified, the personal belief is that authentic selfhood requires breaking away from conformism. It is only after individuals break away after conformism that they can establish self-identity and influence conformism to work to their advantage.
Most of the great people in the world were able to achieve great things and overcome major challenges through evading conformism and adopting authentic selfhood. Through this kind of self-identity, people were able to influence the world. As a result, they were able to change to the current values and beliefs.
A personal view is that conformism is a barrier to personal achievement. For the set goals to be achieved, there is a need to decline conformism and implement a personal sense of authentic selfhood. This choice will ensure that the challenges that emerge are tackled adequately. The other reason for adopting such a view is that most of the other people who have adopted a different view have ended up not succeeding in their activities.
Body-soul dualism is common in the western cultural tradition. Different authors have produced many articles that analyze the same issue. Most religions have a definition of this concept. However, Judeo-Christian religious tradition has the most outspoken beliefs. A personal belief is that body-soul dualism is a real characteristic of all human beings. Another belief is that all human beings have a soul that is in constant opposition with the body and that the tag between the two determines the eventual fate after death.
The Judeo-Christian religious tradition insists that it is necessary for the soul to be viewed as being in a constant fight with the body in an attempt to transcend the temptations of the flesh (Kaufmann 43).
However, secular belief on body-soul dualism is that one can become more at peace with the material aspect of our being, thus enjoying the bodily pleasures without any shame or guilt (Myers 47). The latter belief that was advocated by the sexual revolution oversaw the increase in the number of cases that could be labeled as immoral by the Judeo-Christian religious tradition.
Based on the two beliefs, it is a personal opinion that the Judeo-Christian religious tradition is the right concerning this argument. This inference not only relies on the personal belief and allegiance to this religion but also on the evidence provided in support of the same. The belief is that there is a future where the soul will survive after death.
This future provides a sanctuary for eternal life. The belief that is propagated by the sexual revolution is meant to fulfill the desires of the responsible individuals. It justifies the actions that they think are unacceptable in their culture.
Mind-body dualism is thought to give rise to mind-body problems (Kaufmann 45). The question of whether this claim is justifiable arises. A personal conviction is that the attempts made to overcome the dualism are not justifiable. Some of the attempts include materialism, idealism, identity theory, and the view of the existence of the mind-body unity before the division between the two (Kaufmann 48).
Different individuals base these theories and beliefs on the desire to develop different practices that can suit them also. Various religious writers have also discredited most of these theories. Researchers have also demonstrated the utility of this dualism.
The attempts to overcome dualism present a chance for the proponents to develop justification for the actions and characters that are often non-human in origin. Different religious doctrines regard these elements as unnecessary. These attempts are also a means of justifying evils in society. The result is a degradation of the initially held morals. Therefore, a personal belief is that body-soul dualism is not only a component of Judeo-Christian religious tradition but also a truth that was meant to protect and preserve humanity.
One reason for holding this view is that the origin is religious. Scientific proof shows an essence for the same view. Mysteries that surround the origin and propagation of life provide evidence that there are natural forces that should be respected. Body-soul dualism is one of the forces. Scientists and secularists are some of the people who have failed to explain some of the mysteries that encircle body-soul dualism. Therefore, they should not be allowed to develop baseless theories to overcome this dualism.
Free will is a concept that different individuals view as being a component of human nature. It is respected in most nations of the world. There are many versions of this concept all over the world, with different societies having perceptions that differ. Unlike other parts of nature that are determined by the causal law, it is a personal belief that human beings have the characteristic of possessing free will.
Free will allows the determination of different aspects of people’s daily life, including the moral values that are held by an individual. Personal reasons for the belief in possession of free will include the ability to determine the direction that life has to follow.
The personal ability to carry out free will allows a change of the conditions within the society and the environment. Personal ability has made man superior to other parts of nature. Therefore, this aspect is a beneficial personal characteristic. Free will can be defined as the ability to make individual decisions that are not based on particular laws, but that is decided personally after evaluation of some factors and interests (Kaufmann 14).
On the other hand, determinism is a concept in philosophy where certain events result from or are determined by other directly related events (Myers 27). From a determinist perspective, human actions are determined by predestined events.
The assumptions made in free will that differentiate it from determinism include the fact that choices and human actions are not determined by any events or factors (Kaufmann 34). However, a central concept in the determinist viewpoint is that events and human actions are determined by some special factors, events, and conditions. Determinism allows the creation of special beliefs in individuals and societies. Scientists and other researchers have debated the possibility of free will to lead to determinism on various circles.
The advances in natural science tend to undermine the belief in free will, which seems to be essential in terms of holding people responsible for their behavior as religion, morality, and criminal law contend. The advances in natural science continue to undermine the belief in free will through several ways.
Natural science creates special laws that are contrary to the basic belief of free will. It requires individuals to conform to these laws, thereby limiting their expression of free will. A cogent middle position between the two extremes allows individuals to hold the contrary beliefs of free will and the laws of natural science.
The middle position described above allows divergent views about freedom and necessity. This middle ground is a characteristic of the different positions that are held by different individuals. It allows room for people to be influenced by the free will and the different laws in existence. The reason for this belief is that throughout history, human beings have continued to be influenced by laws that exist based on science and those that have been passed from one generation to the next.
However, they have not lost the desire and ability to express free will, which is the main reason for the differences from other species. Free will also work best in an environment where there are laws that people can avoid since such laws act as determinants.
Dostoevsky and Sartre’s Radical Views on Freedom
Dostoevsky and Sartre advocate for radical views on freedom, with absolute freedom being the main determinant of the existence of free will (Kaufmann 29). According to these philosophers, absolute freedom of choice is the only true freedom. They advocate for people to observe this freedom (Kaufmann 25). The adoption of this notion of absolute freedom is a rebellion against necessity. However, several other researchers have countered it to retain necessity as the main concept in this philosophy.
Human beings are inclined to the notion that they are free beings. This ideology differentiates them from other natural creations. Most authors assert that human beings desperately hold onto the notion that they are free beings, with several reasons being provided in support of this claim. One of the main reasons as to why human beings proclaim to be free, unlike other creatures and nature is so that they can maintain their supremacy and dominance over all other species.
Man has always had a desire to control the environment around him, including everything that is contained in it. According to Myers, man’s desire to be free has led to the different inventions and developments in his world, most of which are aimed at establishing total control over the other species and over the environment (97).
Human beings are described as willing to go as far as being nasty and self-destructive to prove that they are free beings. This situation is driven by the factors above. The stakes for freedom include the ability to survive in the environment by striking a balance between human desires and the available resources. A personal belief is in line with the global human emphasis on absolute freedom.
Although natural science indicates that the human belief on freedom is absurd, it is also a personal opinion that this belief should be maintained. Human beings should maintain their belief in freedom to dominate over all the other species for a chance of survival.
The belief in personal responsibility goes at par with that of free will. The practice of punishing people for the serious crimes that they commit is a demonstration that the belief in free will is related to that of personal responsibility. Human beings have the opportunity to demonstrate this personal responsibility by practicing what is considered legal, despite the existence of a conviction in free will.
Personal responsibility allows a chance for people to exercise free will while at the same time keeping within the limits that are granted by society (Kaufmann 37). This situation paves the way for the standardization of some of the practices by different individuals in a particular society.
The reasons for the above views include the fact that society cannot exist as a vacuum without laws to govern it. There is a high probability that different people who practice absolute free will influence the free will of others. The results of this influence include the development of harmful activities and cultures. However, the existence of a free will and personal responsibility allows individuals to keep their practices in check while at the same time, limiting their expression of free will.
Some philosophers have stated that free will determines the changes that are present in the environment where people live. The other reason for holding this belief is that throughout history, human beings have demonstrated the ability to influence others, with the result being a change in the local cultures.
Morality is an important part of any culture. Different individuals have different views on the same. Several beliefs have been developed on morality, with most of them being subject to several factors. As a personal opinion, morality can be considered both universal and relative to the place, time, culture, and the situation in which an individual is located. There is an absolute and objective standard of morality from which people can judge other society’s moral values or codes of being right or wrong, or perhaps progressive or backward.
The above view of the universal nature of morality is restricted to certain parts of it, especially the conviction and practices that are thought to be beneficial and harmful to human life. Some of the universally accepted standards on morality include those that deal with things such as murder and human health. These standards are important in the discussion of the beliefs that different societies hold. Although societies may have different beliefs, they tend to have a common notion that some of the practices are immoral.
Despite the above personal belief that some aspects of morality are universal, morality is relative to time, place, culture, and the situation in which an individual is situated. The individual can conform to moral values based on the above variables. Morality can also be judged differently based on the period within which an individual lives. The place within which this individual exists is also a major determinant of morality. Different areas have different moral values that are relevant to this place.
In the case of women and culture, the above personal beliefs on morality are evident. A moral issue that is universally common is that women are inferior to men in a number of ways. Different cultures have different versions of the same.
In the contemporary world, the belief of the second-class position has changed in most civilized societies, with this situation demonstrating the influence of time on morality (Kaufmann 320). Different places such as Africa and the Westernized nations hold diverse beliefs and moral values about women. This observation is equivalent to the variation of morality based on the place and situation of individuals.
The belief that some practices are moral in one society or a given situation and period in time does not mean that these practices are acceptable. The issue of clitoral circumcision is condemned by westerners and other civilized societies. However, the communities that uphold this practice consider it moral.
There is justification for the condemnation of the practices since they not only lead to the lifelong harm of the affected women but also often lead to their death and disability. Morality is also subject to influence from research. Evidence is currently being used to counter some of the issues that relate to morality. A universal agreement between societies and individuals also has the power to influence the moral values of individuals since most of the morals were formed through consensus and experience in the first place.
Therefore, it is important to note that when morals such as clitoral circumcision are considered unacceptable through a universal agreement, other beliefs on the same have to conform to the adopted one (Kaufmann 322). This inference means that through consensus, societies that practice clitoral circumcision should be discouraged from upholding this practice.
Kaufmann, Walter. Existentialism from Dostoevsky to Sartre, revised and Expanded Edition. New York, NY: American Library, 1975. Print.
Myers, David. Psychology. New York, NY: Worth Publishers, 2004. Print.
Existentialism in “Nausea” and “The Stranger” Essay
The 20th-century existentialist philosophy considers man a free agent who strives throughout his lifespan to find the self or one’s essence (Solomon 14). In Nausea, the main character is a well-traveled 30-year-old man afflicted with intense feelings of the meaninglessness of his own being, an experience he dubs ‘nausea.’ The main character and narrator, Roquentin, is portrayed as a person without any enthusiasm for his daily living or interest in his work.
His frequent ‘nausea’ attacks, at one time in a street and in a café, depict him as a person filled with “hatred and disgust for existence” (Sartre 81). He feels that the observable attributes of objects are a veil masking the purposelessness of existence.
Roquentin also comes across as a person trying to justify his own existence. He is a man who has come into a realization that existence has no purpose. His decision to compile a story about a mysterious 18th-century French spy called Marquis de Rollebon could be interpreted as an attempt to rationalize his existence (Sartre 78). Roquentin is nauseated to learn that his intense dislike of existence is the driving force of his own being. Towards the end of the story, the narrator appears to get over his antipathy and embraces his own being on realizing that existence has no purpose. Instead of giving up all hope, he relocates to Paris to complete his book.
In The Stranger, the main character is a completely amoral man called Meursault. He comes across as an emotionally detached figure with a view that morality has no rational basis. Meursault does not grieve the death of his mother. His indifferent attitude towards morality does not augur well with the conventional society’s moral foundations and values. For Meursault, life and death mean the same thing. He anticipates his imminent death, which he considers a gratifying option to an unhappy life. His indifference to Marie’s marriage proposal portrays him as a person who does not care about relationships.
On a sentimental level, Meursault is depicted as an unremorseful and unrepentant character. He does not feel any emotional pain or distress after losing his mother. He subscribes to atheistic beliefs and quite unremorsefully murders an innocent Arab man, an action for which he is condemned to death (Camus 21). Meursault could also be seen as an honest and forthright person. He does not pretend to mourn his mother’s death to conceal his lack of remorse.
Psychologically speaking, Nausea’s main character, Roquentin, could be perceived as a person afflicted with a major depressive disorder or mental illness. The ‘nausea’ attacks he claims to experience could be interpreted as a symptom of clinical depression. As a jobless socially isolated man living in degrading conditions, Roquentin was vulnerable to episodes of major depression, i.e., nausea. Furthermore, the narrator is obsessed with a mysterious 18th-century operative and wants to document his activities in a book.
Therefore, Roquentin’s fantasies push him to search for a precise meaning of existence and elicit feelings of being estranged from the world. He does not seem to find meaning in his life or nature, which could explain his distaste for man’s existential condition. According to Cox, Sartre’s mission in the book is to highlight existential forces that manifest as a common mental problem (49). Therefore, his depressive episodes could account for his feelings of fantasy.
On the other hand, Meursault, in The Stranger, lacks a sense of morality. He cannot distinguish between right or wrong. His strong emotional detachment could be interpreted psychologically as subjective distress or psychoneurotic disorder. He feels no emotions, a condition that drives him to kill a person, not because he threatened him, but due to his lack of emotion. Furthermore, he is indifferent to natural human emotions, as he does not care about Marie’s marriage proposal.
In addition, he rejects his “essence as a loving son” to mourn the death of his mother, instead, he remains unmoved and emotionless (Camus 72). He is labeled a criminal after killing a man, but considers his actions to be ineffectual or without any grand meaning to the world. Therefore, Meursault could be considered as a man suffering from a psychoneurotic disorder characterized by a lack of emotions.
Although Meursault and Roquentin converge on their view that life is meaningless, there are certain significant differences that set the two characters apart. First, while Roquentin’s existential condition could be attributed to depression, Meusault’s indifferent attitude towards life could be the outcome of his psychoneurotic problem. In my view, Roquentin has emotional attachments to the mysterious Marquis de Rollebon, which explains his resolve to write a book about him. In addition, his recurring ‘nausea’ attacks could be construed to be bouts of negative emotions towards existence. On the other hand, Meursault displays neither positive nor negative emotions towards Marie’s proposal, the death of his mother, or his ‘criminal’ tag.
The two characters also diverge on the issue of compliance. Roquentin eventually realizes that he does not know much about Rollebon and rejects his existence as a way of getting over his past (Solomon 23). He subsequently moves to Paris to complete his book. In contrast, Meursault conforms to reality due to social pressure. As Solomon writes, social pressure that includes an element of reward or punishment can force a person to comply (31). Meursault complies due to the magistrate’s pressure. He says, “I noticed that his manner seemed genuinely solicitous”, an observation that forced him to agree with the magistrate, albeit pretentiously (Camus 89).
The central idea of Sartre’s existentialist view is individual freedom. Roquentin considers himself a free being without “the slightest reason for living” (Sartre 75). His lack of enthusiasm stems from his view that the world is random, superfluous, and redundant, attributes that he strongly detests. His worldview is shaped by the belief in complete freedom. The existentialist philosophy centers on man’s inherent free will guiding his choices without outside influence (Solomon 24). However, in actuality, Roquentin is not free because the responsibility occasioned by the freedom becomes a burden to him as manifested in his ‘nausea’.
According to Aronson, Sartre uses Roquentin to unmask the erroneous interpretation of free will (61). Roquentin’s freedom serves him no use because he did not give meaning to his own being. In this view, enjoying total freedom means giving meaning to one’s existence and having the drive to assume the accompanying responsibilities. Complete freedom comes with many opportunities, but one must accept the resultant responsibility. In my view, Satre’s representation of existentialism is not clear or straightforward.
In contrast, existentialism in The Stranger is straightforward as exhibited through Meursault’s murder charges, his decision not to hire a defense attorney, and the way he faced his death. His reason for killing the Arab was not to defend himself from the assailant’s knife, but to free himself from the bothersome sun’s rays reflected by the Arab’s sword (Camus 44). This explanation resonates with the existentialist view of free will. Moreover, he refuses the services of a lawyer because he is ready to repay for his actions. He makes an unconventional choice to go through the trial without any defense.
The way Meursault handles his imminent death clearly depicts him as an existentialist. He says, “I felt that I had been happy and that I was happy again,” for he believed that life and death are indistinguishable (Camus 91). In addition, he sees no essence or value in marriage and looks forward to dying.
Roquentin is inauthentic because his recognition of his limitless freedom sets him on a nihilist path. Authenticity can be described as living in conformity with the “existential truths of the human condition”, which includes a belief in oneself (Solomon 39). Roquentin appears to have lost faith in his own existence, which makes him inauthentic. In contrast, Meursault embodies the existential truths in his choices to kill a stranger and refusal of legal representation.
On the other hand, bad faith, in a philosophical sense, is the habit of self-deception that one has no free will (Burton par. 5). Satre equates bad faith to existence, which is ‘nothingness’ in itself. Roquentin dislikes his own existence, which could be interpreted as the bad faith. In contrast, though Meursault does not believe in being-for-others and is emotionally detached and amoral, he is honest in his actions. Therefore, Camus presents a picture of good faith in existentialism.
Aronson, Ronald. Camus & Sartre. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006. Print.
Burton, Neel. Jean-Paul Sartre on Bad Faith, 2012. Web.
Camus, Albert. The Stranger. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988. Print.
Cox, Gary. The Sartre Dictionary. London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2008. Print.
Sartre, Jean-Paul. Nausea. New York: New Directions Publishing, 1969. Print.
Solomon, Robert. Dark Feelings, Grim Thoughts: Experience and Reflection in Camus and Sartre. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. Print.
Cartesian Dualism Against Existentialist Nihilism Essay
This time, I will reflect on existentialist nihilism and Cartesian dualism. I will not undermine the postulates of nihilism because I respect philosophers’ opinions. Instead, I will speak in favor of Cartesian dualism – argue that it is a more parsimonious explanation of reality than existentialist nihilism.
My argument is based on the conviction that God is power. He is the source of perfection, and perfection entails the existence. From this perspective, existence is about becoming closer to God and perfection by following His rules. In this way, existence and relation between God and human can be compared to a driver and a race car – regardless of outstanding technical features, reaching the destination point is impossible without the involvement of a driver.
A similar approach to explaining reality is expressed by dualists. According to Descartes, “there is a God who is all-powerful, and who created me, such as I am.” From this perspective, it is evident that He should have designed the rules for us to follow because he created me and the environment to live in, and gave me mind to perceive this. Because people are more than just a body and they have the ability to think about the world they live in, as well as question or deny their senses, it points to the existence of something bigger than biology – a soul. Because “thinking is another attribute of the soul,” it proves that there should be a higher being – God.
On the other hand, Sartre does not believe in God. Instead, he claims that “existence precedes essence.” A human has no creator and no blueprint or design. It means that it is the choices people make that determine who they really are, not the higher authority that made them the way they are. Moreover, Sartre denies the concept of perfection of people. He states that ideas or universal truths can be perfect, but persons, including God, cannot. More than that, because God does not exist, He is the impossible that returns us to the idea that people themselves determine who they are. But why there is no God? God does not exist because it would take away human’s freedom. Therefore, if people are free, there is no God.
In my belief, the idea that there is no God because His existence means the absence of freedom is not right. The same is true about Sartre’s claim that people are imperfect. Even though Descartes recognizes imperfection of a self-being, he states that no machine ever created by a human is as perfect as a human body created by God. Moreover, machines’ perfection in completing technical tasks cannot help them outperform people because we act from knowledge, not a code or the disposition of our organs. Still, there is something higher to lead us, even though it might limit our choices. Let us return to the example of a driver and a race car. Machines cannot determine the direction to move in – even the most advanced autopilot technologies require the involvement of a human. In this way, a race car needs a driver to reach the final destination. If people were machines, they would either remain immobile or act in accordance with their inner code or the disposition of their organs. Even though it may be similar to freedom (the freedom of choice as stated as Sartre), the higher authority is still needed – at least, to switch it on. So, just like a race car is brought into action and directed by a driver, human life is given and ruled by God.