“Dialectical” stands in parentheses because I wish to discuss both authors in terms of a critique of reason as such in addition to specifying the issue in terms of their respective assessments of the dialectic. But I shall first consider how each employs the term “critique.” So my remarks will focus on Critique, Reason and Dialectic in that order. Of course, each topic understandably bleeds into the others. In view of the occasion, I shall conclude with a brief sketch of (...) four milestones along Sartre's way from Being and Nothingness to the Critique. (shrink)
Philosophy as a way of life -- Becoming an individual -- Humanism : for and against -- Authenticity -- A chastened individualism? Existentialism and social thought -- Existentialism in the twenty-first century.
One of the leading philosophical movements of the twentieth century, existentialism has had more impact on literature and the arts than any other school of thought. Focusing on the leading figures of existentialism, including Sartre, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Kierkegaard, de Beauvoir, Merleau-Ponty, and Camus, Thomas Flynn offers a concise account of existentialism, explaining the key themes of individuality, free will, and personal responsibility, which marked the movement as a way of life, not just a way of thinking. Flynn sets the philosophy (...) of existentialism in context, from the early phenomenologists, to its rise in the 40's and 50's, and the connections with National Socialism, Communism, and Feminism. He identifies the original definition of "existentialism," which tends to be obscured by misappropriation, and highlights how the philosophy is still relevant in our world today. (shrink)
Despite Sartre's almost proverbial rejection of Freudian psychoanalysis, Jean-Pierre Boulé places the philosopher himself on the couch in a wonderfully detailed and suggestive work. He notes that the fruit of his study may well be "to help us gain a better understanding of Sartre as an embodied sexual being and possibly demonstrate a new way of connecting biography with oeuvre." After analyzing Boulé's argument and considering the psychoanalytic method itself, I address this last claim about relating Sartre's biography and oeuvre, (...) especially in view of the integral role assigned biography in any existentialist theory of history. (shrink)
After reviewing how Jean Wahl interprets the early Marcel, specifically his Metaphysical Journal, in a seminal work whose title captured the philosophical spiritof the 1930s, Vers le concret (“Toward the Concrete”), I discuss the existentialist style of philosophizing, offer five criteria for judging a philosopher to be an existentialist and submit Marcel’s work to each. I turn to the appropriateness of calling him a neo-Socratic philosopher, an appellation he seemed to prefer, and conclude with some observations of how this mixture (...) of the Socratic and the existentialist places Marcel in the lineage of those like Michel Foucault and Pierre Hadot who speak of philosophy less as a doctrine and more as a way of life. (shrink)
We are celebrating the centennial year of the birth of Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980). His death and the huge funeral cortege that spontaneously gathered on that occasion marked the passing of the last of the philosophical "personalities" of our era. Contrast, for example, his departure, which I did not witness, with that of Michel Foucault, which I did. The latter was acknowledged in a modest ceremony at the door of the Salpêtrière Hospital; his private funeral in the province was even more (...) stark. The two passings exhibit the distinction graphically. Foucault, the most likely candidate to become Sartre's successor as reigning intellectual on the Left Bank, exited the institution that had figured in several of his books attended by a small crowd of a couple hundred, admittedly assembled without public notification, on a damp morning to hear Gilles Deleuze read a brief passage from the preface to The Uses of Pleasure. Describing philosophy as "the critical work that thought brings to bear on itself," the message had an ironically haunting Sartrean ring. (shrink)
Sartre and Foucault were two of the most prominent and at times mutually antagonistic philosophical figures of the twentieth century. And nowhere are the antithetical natures of their existentialist and poststructuralist philosophies more apparent than in their disparate approaches to historical understanding. A history, thought Foucault, should be a kind of map, a comparative charting of structural transformations and displacements. But for Sartre, authentic historical understanding demanded a much more personal and committed narrative, a kind of interpretive diary of moral (...) choices and risks compelled by critical necessity and an exacting reality. Sartre's history, a rational history of individual lives and their intrinsic social worlds, was in essence immersed in biography. In Volume One of this authoritative two-volume work, Thomas R. Flynn conducts a pivotal and comprehensive reconstruction of Sartrean historical theory, and provocatively anticipates the Foucauldian counterpoint to come in Volume Two. (shrink)