November 14, 2004

Return of The Darkness.

With how unhappy many people seem to me to be becoming in post November 2nd America, I hereby predict a return to Sartrian Existentialism in the near future. I was talking to two old friends of mine from my first grad school at our philosophy conference this weekend, and P. says that Sartre is not really in fashion anymore. To be sure, he just might be right. I had a hell of a time finding Sartre's book on Baudelaire, and there's still only one English translation of Being and Nothingness that I know about. But I suspect that some people are going to become so...discouraged with the outcome of the election that they will start to "question" things, as the cliche' goes. "Mr. Bush was elected seemingly fairly. What does that say about our country? The Constitution is meaningless. The soul of our country is dead. It's all meaningless. I need to buy some black turtle-necks and thick glasses, and I need to learn French."* Or something like that. I don't mean to imply that I will be going over to the dark side or that I necessarily espouse a gloomy world view, however. I only own a few black peaces of clothing. I don't speak any French. And the Christian Right scares me a hell of a lot more than Bush does, really. Nonetheless, I predict a spike in the sales of Sartre's books and that the chromatic tide among the philosophically-inclined segment of the population will become darker and more be-spectacled. Personally, I love Sartre. It's not perfect, by any means, but his account of our encounter with "the other" is superior to any other such account with which I am familiar, from Husserl to Levinas to Hobbes. I'll write about that one day on this here bloggy. Wanna read some good stuff? Come to Carbondale, and I'll let you borrow some good books. This is going to be the future, anyway. Don't you want to be prepared? If, on the other hand, my prediction is incorrect, well, then, it's just....uh....a joke that you didn't get. Yeah. That's. It. *[Not my views, honest.] --------------------------------------------------------------------- It seems that I may have implied that I thought Existentialism was itself The Darkness, per a thoughtful comment. To be sure, Sartre categorically denies charges of pessimism in "Existentialism Is a Humanism" also contained in this book, both of which are excellent and very accessible introductions to Sartre's philosophy. Sartre's philosophy is not The Darkness itself but is, rather, a response to or way of dealing with The Darkness. Sartre's philosophy could not have achieved the popularity and attention that it did were it not for the pre-existing Darkness. Sartre seems to me to pick up where the "existence is meaningless" claim leaves of, since he largely pre-supposes such a metaphysical position, in addition to the assumption of the absense of God. Implying that Sartre's philosophy is itself The Darkness was clearly my mistake, and I apologize accordingly.


Anonymous said...

I don't remember the exact quote, but Sartre once said, I believe in commenting on "The Myth of Sisyphus," that existentialism was actually a form of optimism, that those who saw the philosophy as one of sadness didn't understand it. I'll have to check when I find my copy of that book. Agreed, though: the man was a genius (although Camus remains more to my liking; he was more forthright with his sense of right and wrong, etc.).

Maybe more akin to "the darkness" would be Kafka. For those that view this administration as an "evil doer" (not me, to be honest), Kafka's "The Trial" seems perfect.


TPB, Esq.
tpb3jd at att dot net

ahniwa said...

Well, I have turtle-necks and french, so I guess I just need some thick glasses (and maybe a pipe).

Like the previous commentor, I also tend to prefer Camus to Sartre (I'm mildly obsessed with the image of Sisyphus). But regardless from where it comes, I think this country could definately use a good, existential kick in the ass.

Unfortunately, I don't share your optimism that discouragement over the election will usher in a new age of existential enlightenment, nor in fact cause people to become more intellectually curious (I realize you're not truly optimistic that this might happen in any major fashion). For my part, I'll don my black turtle-neck with a sense of philosophic zeal, smoke some Gauloises, and continue to plot my eventual expatriation to Monreal.

As for Bush being elected fairly: Hmmmmm, you think so?

- Bava

Anonymous said...

Gauloises? Ouch. I'm a devoted fan of the smoke-filled parlour, but I could never muster the lung strength for those.

I don't mean to imply that you were wrong in your Sartre reference, John. I was just thinking of how people seem to be responding to the election, and how Kafka would speak well to those, like Bava, who apparently doubt that the election was fair.

That being said, you've forced me to remember to go home and find my old Sartre books from college. It's been too long since I've read him.



p.s. - for those keen on the election results, perhaps a hefty dose of Nietszche should be suggested? A little will to power for the "red" states? ;-)

Pragmatik said...

TPB, I know you didn't mean that. It's all good:) I'm glad you're going to get back to some good Sartre.

Pragmatik said...

Bava, I lied. I do own one black turtleneck:)

I'm not sure that I would hope for a new "existentialist enlightenment" or that something along those lines is even necessarily desireable.

But I think that Aristotle is wrong about one thing. It's not "wonder" that causes people to philosophize. It's pain and suffering. I think such a position may figure, along with William James and Max Scheler, into my own philosophical research in the near future. I should make a longer post about this notion, though. But I need to see if anyone else has ever had such a...bleak notion of the philosophical vocation, else I fall into intellectual plagarism.

Anonymous said...

Hi John,
I just have to say - is that really Jean Paul Satre with a pipe? Or Sam Neill reprising his role in "The Dish"?
Stephen @Redtag

Pragmatik said...

I'm fairly certain that it's really old J-P.

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