Category Archives: Existentialism

Freedom and death

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I made the mistake of starting to read a novel on the train on the way home, so of course when I got home I didn’t do any sewing I spent the evening reading. Then I thought about going to bed but couldn’t sleep so here I am, sitting at my computer pondering Sartre, when I really should be getting some sleep so I am nice and perky for work tomorrow.

So freedom and death. Where does that come in. Well if according to Sartre freedom is choosing then death becomes a problem, because we can’t choose the manner and timing of our death. I am sure Sartre will come up with some way out of it, but it did get me thinking about whether we do or don’t choose our own deaths. I’m not talking about suicide, which I don’t recommend, but other types of dying. Okay you can’t choose the exact minute but you can set yourself on the path. When I choose to eat too much junk, knowing as I do that I have a family history of heart disease, stroke and diabetes in a way I choose my future heart attack. When I drive way too fast I choose my death by car accident. Sure I could get hit by a car on my way to work tomorrow but probably only if I choose not to look where I am going. I am prepared to concede that there is the occasional freak accident entirely beyond your control, like a satellite falling on your head, but it is our choices that put us in that place, at that time, in those set of circumstances. I don’t know if that is the kind of choosing that counts. Most of us wouldn’t consciously choose our deaths if we thought that was what we were doing, but then most of us don’t consciously choose our lives either. I’m starting to think that is where Sartre’s freedom falls down. Existentialism is  supposed to be about the evidence of the experience, and I am not sure that the experience of freedom gels with Sartre’s theory of it. I don’t know in the end whether that really matters.

Anyway, enough long-winded ramblings. Now I am going to have to go and try to get some sleep. 

freedom to choose

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Something to thing about – according to Sartre we are free to choose, but we are not guaranteed success. It’s quite depressing actually, and I don’t think it quite covers all possibilities. That is I could choose to move my arm but if you have tied me up it won’t work. Common sense says I’m not free, but according to Sartre so long as I can keep trying to move, even if there is no possibility of succeeding, I am.

Other than that am feeling kind of lethargic, but am so close to Christmas I am trying not to give into it and slow down.

forgetting stuff

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Remember a while back I was complaining about Sartre going on about temporality and it not making a lot of sense. Well of course not seeing the relevance of it my brain confined it to the okay to forget pile. Now of course it is needed. Apparently it all ties in to freedom. You choose yourself and the choice plays out in your life in a kind of flow. There are no instants, no moments, just flow of time, and your freedom is bound up in the flow. To get a moment where you choose to change direction you have to make the moment, and in a kind of circular fashion you make the moment when you choose. Of course it all rests on the previous arguments about time, which I wish I could remember, because if I didn’t agree with them then none of the present stuff stands.

Of course in 20 years time the idea about time will probably pop out of my head at some random moment when I need it least in some vague fashion along the lines of “I  remember reading some thing some where once…”

In sewing news… I have decided I just have to stop thinking about it too much. If I think too much about targets or deadlines or how much I have left to do it all gets a little too overwhelming where if I just keep plugging away at it, doing what I can do right now then I actually get more done. At the very least I enjoy myself more.

All my blocks

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Started reading again this morning. At the moment Sartre is talking about acting and how or if  the way we act demonstrates our freedom. Specifically he is talking about abandon, the act of surrendering completely to sensation. So we abandon ourselves to fatigue, or pain or pleasure. He sees it as a way of trying to get back in touch with our bodies, and through our bodies the physical universe as a whole. It’s quite an interesting idea, I am getting the impression he doesn’t quite approve of the idea of abandon, and of course it doesn’t quite work if you believe that we are purely physical to start off with.

Am taking a bit of a chance and loading up photos of all the blocks I have finished so far. That means I actually have to go and sew some more tonight. Well it won’t kill me, I suppose.

Spam, freedom and positivity

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What’s with all the spam comments? I don’t know why people even bother. They just get blocked by the spam blocker and then deleted by me. Though it does have the effect of adding to my general levels of annoyance.

On a slightly more positive note, I am feeling a great deal more positive about my goals. I have less than two hundred pages left to go and only 230 more blocks to make. While I only have 61 days left to my deadline, it is still only 4 pages and 4 blocks a day. 4 pages of the book I can do no problem, can’t guarantee that I will remember or understand what I have read but I can knock it over on the train on the way to work. 4 blocks a day is slightly more challenging, but still very workable especially if I do extra on the weekend. So overall I am thinking I have not done too badly, and even if I don’t make it on time I have still done more blocks than I would have done if I hadn’t set myself this challenge.

I am trying really hard at the moment to understand the topic of freedom, as presented by Sartre. He seems to think that we have to be free either all the time or not at all, which is fairly straight forward but its the reasoning behind it that is tricky. Not to mention the very challenging implications for our own lives, because if we are free all the time we are free even when we think we are not. So often we make excuses, it was my upbringing, or circumstances out of my control etc. but according to Sartre we choose what we value, and in choosing what we value we dictate our behaviour (and are therefore free) even when we aren’t consciously aware of choosing an act. So no more excuses.

Its kind of interesting because it ties into something I was reading in a magazine by a psychologist, about happiness. His first step on the road to happiness was to define your values. I’ve never thought about it in real depth before but if I was pushed on the matter I think I would have said that people’s values come from the society or family they are raised in. The idea you have a choice about them is actually quite radical. 

Sin, Guilt and Rain

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It has been raining here, lots of rain. At least it always seems like lots of rain when it wakes me up in the middle of the night, but then I have a tin roof and it might be amplifying things a little. The end point is that I am exhausted. I think I have only managed about 4 hours sleep the last two nights. Might have to sneak in a nap some time today, and I was hoping to get so much done this weekend too.

Am making slow but steady progress on the book. Have had a brief sojourn on the topic of sin and guilt. Which was interesting because Sartre thinks that there can only be sin and guilt in the presence of others. I’m not sure about that. Imagine you are the last person alive, some kind of plague has wiped out all the rest of humanity. Theoretically according to Sartre you would have no sin or guilt. I’m inclined to think not. If you went around smashing up art, or torturing cats, or wiping out ecosystems I’d like to think you would still feel guilty about it, that it would still be wrong on some level. But maybe wrong isn’t the same as sin, and maybe something non-human can act as an other. The cat perhaps, or posterity, or even the memory of people.

Not much done on the sewing front. I was at work for far too long yesterday.

Hate

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I had the Climate Smart Service come round this morning. So now I am sitting here with my little power monitor which tells me the time, and the temperature, and how many kilowatts of power I am using, and how much it is costing me. Given that it was on 1c per hour when I wasn’t doing anything (except having the fridge on) and it is now on 4c per hour (running the computer, a light and the fan) this blog is being produced for only 3c per hour. Which isn’t too bad really, when you think about it. Probably best not to think about it though. As soon as I did I went into work budget mode and started thinking about costs of labour and depreciation of assets.

Still plowing my way through concrete relations for others. Am now on the topic of hate. As per usual Sartre has redefined it, to mean wanting to end the others existence. He also says that hate for one person is pretty much hate for everyone. So far I am not convinced. I think hate is a spectrum ranging from mild to extreme. You can hate someone and not want them dead. I also think you can hate things. Mostly I think hate is about the person hating and not about the person being hated. Though this last one may fit with Sartre’s theory.

Correction

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Have been reading further and discovered that Sartre thinks it is possible to use your own body as an instrument when being sadistic, so my objection yesterday was unfounded. I guess that means that there must be different kinds of touching people – touching while being yourself and touching while being an object – is it any wonder I am getting confused?

No blocks to show off today. I did get a bit of sewing done on the train, but the block is a complicated one and I haven’t finished it yet. You will have to make do with a photo of the pile of blocks I have cut out. Am hoping to get a load cut out for hand sewing tonight and then I should be well set up for the weekend.

blocks ready to be sewn

Grace, Sadism and the Obscene

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It’s a rainy, gloomy day today. But I am staring to feel that I am getting into the swing of things. Cutting back on the amount of sugar I’ve been eating over the last couple of days really seems to make a difference to the amount of energy I’ve had and the quality of sleep I seem to get.

I managed to read a little bit this morning and I have to say that it is getting a little weird, and I am having difficulty untangling the argument. I think what Sartre is saying is that there is a way of being that is graceful, where you reveal yourself as a free other without revealing yourself as body, and there is a way of being that is obscene. Not obscene in the rude sense, but when you are all body and no freedom, when your body is there as an inert object, you are obscene.

Now sadism is trying to turn someone from graceful to obscene, to take their freedom from them and make them an object.

A bit of background – according to Sartre when we relate to the other in love, we establish ourselves as self through physical contact with the others body. Their body and freedom allows us to know our body and freedom. The relationship is reciprocal, while we know ourselves through them, because we are touching them they can know themselves through us.

According to Sartre, sadism is different because when we are sadistic we try to know ourselves through the other by touching them with objects. We are removing the reciprocity. Hence we make them merely tools for our use.

The main problem with this is that it is a very narrow definition of the term sadism, which can also be used more generally to mean cruelty or getting pleasure from causing pain. Can you be sadistic with your hands? I’m inclined to think you can be. And if so Sartre’s argument falls apart.

On a cheerier note I did manage to finish a block yesterday, and I have been doing loads of cutting out. I am trying to get a whole load cut out so I can have a mammoth sewing session on the weekend.

428 No name 4 patch

Concrete Relations with Others

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I am starting to think that Sartre is going to completely rule out concrete relations with others. First love collapses in on itself, then desire. All he’s managed to establish in almost 40 pages is fleeting glimpses of the other before the for-itself returns to its usual isolation. And most of those glimpses of the other are almost selfish in turn, we use the presence of the other to establish ourselves as a physical presence also. I suppose that is one step up on the ‘I think therefore I am’ where you cannot establish your physical self at all.

I thought I was doing really well in terms of getting things done, but coming home from work this afternoon I started to feel like I was running out of energy. It is probably too many early mornings. While waking up at the crack of dawn as soon as it gets light has been quite good for getting some machine sewing done I really need to get a good nights sleep. Might have to cut back on the caffeine a little, see if it helps.

Now, just need to decide whether I really need to watch Charlie’s Angels this evening to see whether it is worth watching or not. Probably not, but I probably will anyway. Bad TV is one of my many weaknesses.