Existentialist Reformtation

James Farmelant farmelantj at SPAMjuno.com
Sat Dec 25 12:45:52 MST 1999

On Sat, 25 Dec 1999 13:19:46 -0500 Yoshie Furuhashi <furuhashi.1 at osu.edu>
>George Pennefather wrote:
><<<James: That was certainly Max Weber's thesis in his *Protestant
>and the Spirit of Capitalism*. For Weber it was precisely this anxiety
>he believed drove Calvinists and other Protestants into becoming
>accumulators of capital. Although Calvin had taught that there were no
>signs available to us in this life that could assure us whether we are
>of the Elect or not, believers would nevertheless still strive to find
>signs and in Weber's view the ones they hit upon were those of
>success achieved through hard work and ascetic self-denial. Thus
>was seen by Weber as a means for coping with this anxiety.
>George: Some of your comments in this posting of yours were quite
>interesting. If there is an intellectual connection between the
>Reformation and post-war existentialism perhaps we can sus out the
>conditions that led to such a convergence of conceptions in two very
>different periods.>>>
>Sartre turned against the Hegelian conception of history (for
>reason, he thought, leaves little room for human agency and individual
>morality).  As with most modern Western moralists, Sartre, too, used
>-- whose philosophy was developed within the Protestant tradition --
>against Hegel.
>While Sartre was attracted to an account of the Master-Slave relation
>_The Phenomenology of Spirit_ (which exerted the strongest influence
>French intellectuals among all the texts by Hegel), he held that
>self-consciousness confronting another consciousness is not to lead
>dialectically to the social being of man.  Instead, Sartre insisted
>the isolation and freedom of the abstract individual:

Sartre in other words returned to one of the most basic premises
of bourgeois ideology, abastract individualism.

>"In fact, if...the being of my consciousness is strictly irreducible
>knowledge, then I can not transcend my being toward a reciprocal and
>universal relation in which I could see my being and that of others as
>equivalent.  On the contrary, I must establish myself in my being and
>the problem of the Other in terms of my being.  In a word the sole
>point of
>departure is the interiority of the _cogito_" (Sartre, _Being and
>Sartre's work is a good example of how and why starting with the
>consciousness of the abstract individual leads to a dead end (for
>Marxists), for the abstract individual as a point of departure already
>implies the negation of history.  The same goes for postmodern
>reasonings about "the subject."

I have never quite understood how Sartre could think it possible
to reconcile his existentialism with its premise of the isolated abstract
individual with Marxism for whom this abstract individual is a bourgeois
fiction and where real, concrete individuals are seen as products of
the ensembles of social relations in which they find themselves to be



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