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Rick Roderick on Sartre - The Road to Freedom [full length]

Published by Admin in Modern Philosophy

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This video is 3rd in the 8-part video lecture series, The Self Under Siege: Philosophy in the Twentieth Century (1993).Lecture notes:I. Sartre is a paradigmatic 20th Century intellectual: philosopher, artist, critic and political activist. For an American audience, however, he is known first and foremost as an existentialist. His novel "Nausea" and his philosophical treatise "Being and Nothingness" are the best examples of this period in his development.II. Sartre's existentialism was based, in part, on a misreading of Heidegger as a humanist; but this misreading lead to his own interesting existential humanism. The first principle of his position is an absolute atheism. God does not make us, we make ourselves. Sartre's way of expressing this is that our existence precedes our essence.III. Without God, humans are "condemned" to be free. Sartre sees our refusal to recognize our radical freedom as "bad faith"; a condition in which we treat ourselves as determined objects rather than as free subjects.IV. Sartre's existential ethic requires us to ask of our actions; would others act as we act? Our decision must be made in the light of our humanity, but also with full autonomy. Sartre recognizes that without God some limits to our freedom remain such as the brute objectivity of nature and the behavior of other people. These limits are seen as negative. In his play "No Exit", Sartre goes so far as to say that "Hell is other people".V. Sartre comes to modify and, in part abandon his earlier existentialism in favor of his own development of Marxism. In a sense, he tries to fuse his earlier emphasis on the singular individual and his growing concern with the fused collectivity, the group seeking to change its condition. In "Search for a Method" , Sartre uses a discussion of Kierkegaard as a representative of the individual and Hegel as a representative of the collective to express his desire to bring the two interests together in a future philosophy of freedom that, for him, only a revolution can make possible.VI. Sartre experienced both fascism and the liberation of the 60′s; his philosophy always reflected a profound engagement with his own time. Perhaps he is not a great philosopher, but he is exemplary in his attempt to become a human being in the 20th Century under the most difficult conditions.VII. Sartre's account of "bad faith" and his basic honesty in the face of the human historical condition will serve to guide us in our account of the self and its predicament in the late 20th Century.For more information, see

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