Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Crises of Our Great Leader

"Religion to medieval man was not so much a theological system as a solid psychological matrix surrounding the individual's life from birth to death, sanctifying and enclosing all its ordinary and extraordinary occasions in sacrament and ritual. The loss of the Church was the loss of a whole system of symbols, images, dogmas, and rites which had the psychological validity of immediate experience and within which hitherto the whole psychic life of Western man had been safely contained."

-William Barrett
Irrational Man

If this myth is tragic, that is because its hero is conscious. Where would his torture be, indeed, if at every step the hope of succeeding upheld him? The workman of today works everyday in his life at the same tasks, and his fate is no less absurd. But it is tragic only at the rare moments when it becomes conscious. Sisyphus, proletarian of the gods, powerless and rebellious, knows the whole extent of his wretched condition: it is what he thinks of during his descent. The lucidity that was to constitute his torture at the same time crowns his victory. There is no fate that can not be surmounted by scorn.

-Albert Camus on "The Myth of Sisyphus"

All our knowledge begins with sense, proceeds thence to understanding, and ends with reason, beyond which nothing higher can be discovered in the human mind for elaborating the matter of intuition and subjecting it to the highest unity of thought.

-Immanuel Kant "Critique of Pure Reason"

"Life has no meaning a priori . . . and its validity is nothing other than this meaning that you choose"

-Jean-Paul Sartre "Being and Nothingness"


  1. "At the end of Being and Nothingness...[,] Being in-itself and Being for-itself were of Being; and this totality of beings, in which they were effected, itself was linked up to itself, relating and appearing to itself, by means of the essential project of human-reality. What was named in this way, in an allegedly neutral and undetermined way, was nothing other than the metaphysical unity of man and God, the relation of man to God, the project of becoming God as the project constituting human-reality. Atheism changes nothing in this fundamental structure."

    -Jacques Derrida, "The Ends of Man"

  2. Jacques Derrida or our good friend Pseudo-Hermes?

    I don't think you can get much out of Derrida's comment about Sartre other than "...duh?"

    If you think we need a non rational basis for thinking about our own existence and someone comes along saying that that this seems real similar to the basis for religion, you just have to nod and go about your business.

    Derrida is very into history and the way words were used throughout it, I think that is why he compares Sartre's admittedly contingent system of dealing with existence to the traditional way of thinking of existence (in relation to God) and sees the more general arguments made by atheists like Sartre as lacking.

    Everything for Derrida is somehow interesting because it has been deconstructed and shown to be paradoxical, but when you are talking about systems that regard themselves as paradoxical (Existentialism) then no one should really care too much about your analysis of their paradoxes.

    Thoughts Pseudo-Hermes? Thoughts? How do you feel about taking teaching positions in Vichy France left vacant by the expulsion of your Jewish colleagues? Is a heavy heart just the by-product of a bourgeois ethical system?

    What about turning away the Jewish student you brought into your sexual escapades when she asks for help? The simple trappings of contemporary morality!

    Tell us Pseudo-Hermes, how far will you go? Your readers demand to know!

  3. The easiest defense against serious discourse is to descend into cliché and I wonder if I ought to.

    I am inclined to agree with the Sartre quote with which you concluded your post.

    "I believe you can reach the point where there is no longer any difference between developing the habit of pretending to believe and developing the habit of believing."-Foucault's Pendulum

    Hardly a philosopher, to be sure, but nevertheless. That's the best I can offer.