Sunday, July 10, 2005

North Western Winds on "the nothing that I am"

Curt points to Roger Scruton's complex take-down of Sarte, that pillar of Reason.Get the story here. Curt has some things to get off his chest about Sarte here, where he quotes Cruton quoting Sarte, and then comments after:
Scruton pulls a particularly choice quote from Being and Nothingness, one Scruton describes as "announcing a new morality that has negation as its sole premise":

"I emerge alone and in dread in the face of the unique and first project that constitutes my being: All the barriers, all the railings, collapse, annihilated by the consciousness of my liberty; I have not, nor can I have, recourse to any value against the fact that it is I who maintain values in being; nothing can assure me against myself; cut off from the world and my essence by the nothing that I am, I have to realize the meaning of the world and my essence: I decide it, alone, unjustifiable, and without excuse."

The problem, of course, is that negation is necessarily parasitic. It cannot exist without something else. To exist only in opposition is, truly, to be nothing. Hyperbolic nonsense like this can appeal only to teenagers and the mentally ill.
He's right, of course. Negation is absence. It requires something to be missing. Thus, to define one's existence on negation is to live in complete absence of presence. However, nature abhors a vaccume. Thus, one's existence in perpetual opposition to presence results in an unsustainable contradiction. One either changes the definition of one's existence to something, pursue some illusory end while believing one still exists for nothing, or have a complete mental breakdown. Either way, one no longer sustains Sarte's ideal. His existentialism is an intellectual's oasis in the desert of post-modernism.

Unfortunately, much of Europe's elite, particularly our friends, the French, can't let Sarte go:
On Sartre's influence on the Gauls, Scruton suggests that:

"The French have not recovered from Sartre and perhaps never will. For they have had to live with an intellectual establishment that has consistently repudiated the two things that hold the country together: Christianity and the idea of France. The anti-bourgeois posture of the left-bank intellectual has entered the political process, and given rise to an elite for whom nothing is certain save the repudiation of the national idea. It is thanks to this elite that the mad project of European Union has become indelibly inscribed in the French political process, even though the people of France reject it. It is thanks to this elite that the mass immigration into France of unassimilable Muslim communities has been both encouraged and subsidised. It is thanks to this elite that socialism has been so firmly embedded in the French state that no one now can reform it. And it is thanks to this elite that, even today, when the ordinary French citizen has had the anti-bourgeois message up to the eyeballs — ras-le-bol — the intellectual agenda remains unchanged, with transgression as its dominating purpose..."
"just as Robespierre used Rousseau’s philosophy to justify the greatest attack on the people that the modern world had witnessed, so did Sartre use his philosophy to justify the totalitarian regimes that had done most to ruin the hopes of the working class."
Curt sums up his principle problem with Sarte's legacy:
The sooner we grasp the 'let them eat cake' nature of Sartre the better. The carrot of 'authentic choice' is phantom; it is just another stick with which to rain contempt on good people who work and who's work awakens in them the knowledge that their fate is bound up with coming to understand the natural bonds that unite people and communities together. In this way they know that they must look out and not in if they are to ever gain anything at all.
He rightly observes that Sarte's "authentic choice" becomes a ruse that covers totalitarianism. If everyone has a right to this fundamental kinkd of choice, then only that which arises from all people by way of social contract has the authority to order the making of those choices. "Authentic choice" leads to a State that decides which choices can be made, and in what way they are made. The People's "rights" ultimately derive from the Courts of Law that chose to recognize them. Or not. Thus, so many elites place such high hopes in State apparatus such as the ICC or other bodies of the UN, in spite of that organization's blatent corruption and inefficiency. Only the State, by way of regulating the practice of rights, can ensure the accomodation of people's absolute rights. This undermining of subsidiarity and people's right to participate in their civic right erodes whatever democratic traditions a nation enjoys. Soon, they will live in a society in which all their major decisions are made for them.

A person who lives only for himself and his own "authentic choice" defies the reality that he is a part of others' lives in an irrevocable way. We are all part of a family, whether we know/like them or not. We are all, as ourselves, complemented and completed by those around us. If we choose to act only as ourselves, we will never find this completion. Thus, we dis-integrate.

We can't ignore this fundamental reality and expect our society to experience no major crises. Thus, Sarte has been the intellectual cyanide of the European elites for far too long. It's time for Europe to apply the antidote. Otherwise their civilization will soon join the empires of the ancestors.