Tag Archives: Existentialism

Are we free to be not free?

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Are we free to be not free? Sartre thinks not. He thinks that freedom is inherent to existence. I’m not sure that I know what to think about that one. Surely you should be able to choose not to be free? However, if all our decisions have to be made over and over again in every instant, as Sartre suggests they do, then we have to be perpetually choosing our non-freedom and are therefore at every moment free to choose. It’s kind of like compulsory voting I guess. You can choose to make donkey votes if you want, but you still have to choose that every time.

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.

Sorting out attitudes

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No blocks tonight I am afraid. I have two half-finished ones but none ready to be photographed and displayed. I am worried I am starting to mentally write off this week in terms of sewing because I know I have house guests coming Friday night, and I’m probably not going to get much done over the weekend. I think I’m falling into the trap of all or nothing thinking mentality, if I can’t do twenty blocks this week I might as well do none and start again on Monday. What I really need to start thinking is that if I only do five, it’s better than nothing.

While sewing is dismal I have however accomplished many other things, a trip to bunnings, cleaned my house, and put a batch of brownies in the oven. I am also getting my head around attitudes. I was getting slightly confused with the idea of love, indifference etc being attitudes, because I was thinking of attitudes as psychological positions. Sartre seems to be talking about attitudes as a more fundamental expression of the self. He uses the term modes of being. 

Now off to get my brownies before they burn.

Second Attitude towards others

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According to Sartre the first attitude towards others is love. The second is indifference, desire, hate, sadism. On reading the chapter title I thought it was a little strange to throw all that in together, but thankfully he is actually breaking it down into separate parts and not making desire and hate the same thing. First up is indifference which he sees as ignoring the power of the other, seeing others as just functional objects in the world, pretending they can’t affect me (where affect means to alter the structure of being). He says this is bad faith, which I suppose it is if you are adopting an attitude of indifference in order to hide from the truth, but I can’t help wondering whether it is possible that some people are indifferent by nature, they aren’t hiding from anything, or fleeing from themselves, that’s just the way they are. 

I think there is a problem with taking ones own world view and assuming that everyone thinks exactly the same, or that there are a specific limited number of attitudes we can take. Though it is probably equally problematic to assume that everyone is different.

At least sewing was kind of easy tonight. Though there was a small amount of unpicking. And… I think I have fixed my lawnmower. Well not fixed it, but I know what is wrong with it. It just needs new blades. They have gone kind of wonky, and aren’t throwing the grass clear, so everything is getting clogged with grass. Should hopefully be able to get some new blades at the weekend. Probably should stop mowing over big branches from now on.

24 September 2011 – Saturday

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I am starting to feel like a student with a big assignment. One you know you should really get started on because the deadline is getting ever closer, but you just can’t seem to find the motivation. The weird thing is I was never like that when I was younger, I was always the student with the project plan and millions and millions of lists.  

Not that I am not doing stuff – I am. I have been steadily reading the book. Now Sartre is discussing relationships with others, which I am finding a bit dreary. The idea of love being just the attempt to found our own being is a bit depressing. I’d like to think that you can actually know another person and like them for who they are.

Blocks are also being sewn at a very slow and steady pace. I am almost up to 600. Lots to show off today, because I haven’t posted in so long. The most time-consuming thing at the moment seems to be the redrafting of blocks to make them into 4 or 8 inch blocks. In the interests of speed I might just have to start cutting them at the size they are in the book. I would end up using so much more fabric and end up with loads of different sized blocks, but I suppose I could just make loads of sampler quilts when I am done.

Monday, 12 September 2011

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I’m still not concentrating great. I think I am hormonal. Probably didn’t need to share that, but there you go.

I am persevering with the section on the body, at the moment Sartre is talking about illness and pain and disease, all of which are slightly different in definition. Essentially what I think he is saying is that all I can know is pain, or individual symptoms. When we pile all the symptoms together, and also recurrences spread across time, and start to see it as a disease we are seeing through the eyes of the other. So for example, there is the experience of difficulty concentrating and tiredness but when I call it PMT I step away from the experience. I am still trying to figure out whether Sartre thinks that is a good thing or a bad thing, or whether I think that is a good or a bad thing.