• anonymous66
    626
    I kinda like the Stoic idea that Virtue is Necessary and Sufficient for Eudaimonia, but lately, I've been reading the Christian Existentialists Gabriel Marcel and Lev Shestov.

    It seems to me that if Existence precedes Essence, then one would lose the basis for Virtue ethics.

    It seems to me that I could take one of two paths. I could pursue the possibility that Essence truly does precede essence, and pursue the idea that we're radically free in that each of us creates his/her own meaning or purpose. Or, I could pursue the idea that humanity does have an essential nature, that some system does a pretty good job of describing reality, and that Existentialism and Existentialists are just warning us that systems can lead to blind spots. Like: Treating people like objects. Treating life like a series of problems to be solved instead of mysteries to be enjoyed. Egosim vs humility and openness.

    It seems to me that systems have rational logical consistent arguments to back them up, while Existentialism basically comes down to: I think we should... (be open and humble, for example), because we're free do whatever we want.
  • Wayfarer
    16.3k
    I think the original intent of Sartre's 'existence precedes essence' was to foreclose any possible idea of soul or spirit. From the readings you provided recently about Marcel, he rejects Sartre's atheism and would likely reject this notion on similar grounds. But, beware of saying that 'essence exists', as that would be a tautology!

    //ps// just found a pdf essay on Marcel and the Existence of God which, so far, makes perfect sense to me.//
  • anonymous66
    626
    I'm assuming that Marcel agrees with Sartre in regards to Existence preceding Essence. I'll have to look over Marcel's essay called Existence and Human Freedom, where he critiques Sartre's views. Marcel did have some good things to say about Sartre's views. He definitely saw issues with Sartre's pessimism, and the sense I get is that he thought that Sartre was being inconsistent by implying that humanity is free, but not free to believe in God.

    What I get from "Existence precedes Essence" is the idea that we (individually and as a species) don't start by analyzing our situation, we start by experiencing life. I've been led to believe that even for Christian Existentialists, there is the idea that man is searching for meaning in a seemingly meaningless universe. (I'm not sure that Marcel did believe that we create our own meaning or purpose- I may have been wrong about that).

    p.s. I see your paper about Marcel and his views, and I'll raise you another... Atheistic and Christian Existentialism: A Comparison of Sartre and Marcel.
  • Cavacava
    2.4k


    if Existence precedes Essence

    I think the word "precedes" is one issue.

    If Descartes was right " I think. I am". If the essence of what it is to be a man is thinking, then to think is to exist and that is an immediate intuition, not a mediated conclusion...but there is no good reason for the "I" , the ego in Descartes formulation (somewhat like saying god is a person) it is assumed.

    It is only by staring into a mirror that the child comes to understand that it is not the mirror. The recognition of one's separation from the world is the result of one's experience of the world.

    The original sense of immediacy and intimacy with the world is lost, and when this is understood (some never understand) for what it is, the result is kind of nausea.
  • anonymous66
    626
    From what I know about Marcel, he understood Descartes to be saying, "when we get to the very basics of being a human, we see the world, then we start to analyze/reflect on it..." Marcel is of the opinion that before we analyze anything, we experience it.
    From the Stanford Enyclopedia:
    Marcel therefore develops the view that human beings are fundamentally beings-in-situations first, and then thinking or reflective beings second. Yet, in developing a critique of the obsession with primary reflection (with the world of “having”), he is not advocating any kind of relativism, or even suggesting that conceptual knowledge is not important; his aim is to illustrate where it fits into the analysis of the human subject, and to point out that it is important not to overstate its range or its value. In presenting these themes, Marcel wishes to do justice to, and to maintain the priority of, human subjectivity and individuality while at the same time avoiding the relativism and skepticism that has tended to accompany such notions. In this way, many of his admirers believe that he avoids the relativistic and skeptical excesses that have plagued recent European thought since Heidegger and Sartre.

    Contra nausea, Marcel concentrates on openness (as opposed to egoism), hope, and love. His is an optimistic (as opposed to Sartre's pessimism) philosophy.

    Edit: Marcel also criticized Descartes' notion that we are a being (or even a mind) w/ a body.
    this body also is me, it is what I am. On the other hand, it cannot be said that I simply am my body either. I can dispose of my body in certain circumstances by treating it instrumentally. A person who loses a limb in an accident is not less of a person and, therefore, there is a sense in which our bodies are objects that we have.
  • anonymous66
    626
    I'm reminded that although Marcel coined the term "Existentialism", he also later rejected the label, because of the way Sartre used it. He preferred the term "Neo-Socratic".
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