Tuesday, October 24, 2017

On Sartre and Syria

I'm struggling with the concept of "bad faith" right now as it relates to our reaction to tragedies.  Sartre thinks some people use tragedies to feel better about themselves – they may sign petitions, side with the working class, etc.– while still not seriously questioning themselves.  And this is my concern.  I'm a letter-writer and FB "like" clicker, but am I just pretending to act, or are these authentic acts in their own right?  Is it an act in bad faith if I make a feeble attempt to help because I'm merely following my role?  Essentially, what does it look like to question ourselves and our responsibility in the wake of tragedy?

There's something very Groucho about him!

Sartre explains
 that bad faith is illustrated when we divorce ourselves from our actions or when we make any claim to more limited choices than we actually have.  It's what we do when we don't really want to take responsibility for what we're doing - pretending not to notice a hand on our knee, or pretending we had to do x because of the potential for some mild social disapproval.  We're inauthentic when we don't admit our part in the game.  It's a dishonesty with ourselves.  This is what existentialism is chiefly about: challenging the individual to examine their life for intimations of bad faith and to heighten their sensitivity to oppression and exploitation in their world.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Stoicism Compared to Existentialism

This summer, I went on one camping trip with a book on Stoicism, then another camping trip with a book on Existentialism, and I was intrigued by the many similarities. Then I came across this video that has some overlap with what I had noticed. As they say in the video, Massimo Pigliucci (MP) on Stoicism and Skye Cleary (SC) on Existentialism, both are philosophies that offer a way to live instead of just a way to think about the world. I'm putting it all together here with quotes (names linked to sources) to sort it out for myself. I'm just thinking out loud here. This is too long for any normal person to want to read.

These are both philosophies that allow surveyors to pick and choose from variations on a theme as neither has one authoritative dude overriding all others, and, it would appear, few of the big guns cared to adopt either label anyway. For the Stoics, defining yourself as one is avoided because it's pretentious. In The Role Ethics of Epictetus, it's clarified that we are simultaneously different things, and how we play each role is more important than what our roles are. The roles are often not our choice, but how we do them are, i.e. whether or not we're a virtuous son, mother, teacher, or waiter (MP). For Existentialists, we can't be defined by the roles we take on because we're more than the mere facts about ourselves (SC), so labels become meaningless.