Description: This paper discusses Sartre's 'fundamental project' as described in his writing 'No Exit. ' This paper is a critique of 'No Exit' written to identify pre-no tioned themes of Sartre, in Sartre's writing. Addressed also is the ideology of Sophism. Jean Paul Sartre and the Fundamental Project In this paper I am addressing Jean Paul Sartre premise of the fundamental project. In my presentation I will first give a brief over view of Sartre's existentialism. Next Sartre's a notions of the spontaneous and reflective phases of consciousness will be my focus Upon discussing the reflective phase I will go into depth about the fundamental project, and why it is pursued, and I will give examples from No Exit.
I will conclude by making a brief contrast and comparison between Garcin, a character from No Exit, and myself. Of all the philosophers we have studied in our forum, I find I am most intrigued by the opinions of Jean Paul Sartre. Jean Paul Sartre is accredited with articulating the premise that "existence precedes essence". Sartre believes that man one day happened, occurred, or arrived on the scene, or in his words, man was one day "de hissed from the hole" and after this anomalous event his life took meaning. I think Sartre is bold in positing this notion which is in stark contrast of widely accepted belief.
It is well regarded that life has a meaning that far transcends our short and insignificant lives. For many cultures life is and whether we ever come to terms with life is irrelevant because life will continue regardless of our of whether or not we understand it to any extent. Sartre believes quite the opposite. He believes that life could have no meaning unless we gave meaning to it. I think anyone pondering this notion to any depth would agree. How could life possibly have any meaning if we do not give any meaning to it.
For some life has no meaning and they committed horrible atrocities in strict accordance to their belief. For others life has too much meaning and they spend their lives trying to reassure themselves that they have grasped this meaning. I would like to take a moment to inspect this further. There are those in our history who have established a religion. Why?
As I have posited, this could well have been done in an attempt to reassure oneself that that he had come to terms with the meaning of life. I think Sartre would believe as I that this act of reassurance is nothing more than what he calls a fundamental project. Sartre believes that when we become anguished by the affairs of life we pursue a fundamental project in an attempt to flee this anguish. Sartre says that we try to make ourselves Gods in hopes that others would see us as divine, and hold us in high or higher regard. To pursue a fundamental project according to Sartre is to act in bad faith. And to act in bad faith Sartre says is to manifest our freedom inauthentically.
I will address these premises a little later in the text; before I do I first I would like to present some requisite background Sartreian philosophy in an attempt to convey a full understanding of why one sometimes feels compelled to pursue a fundamental project. Sartre believes that, man experiences two primary phases of consciousness in his life, the spontaneous phase and the reflective phase. In the spontaneous phase of his life, man does nothing more that pursue a particular task, and does not acknowledge his status in life or that there are those who would give him a degree of status. In this phase of life man is in a shallow mode of being. He is not concerned with society and acts accordingly (i.e. all statements are rhetoric, all questions are rhetorical). In the reflective phase of consciousness, a significant event occurs.
Man one day realizes that he is not alone in this world. This realization is not without consequences. When man acknowledges that there are others that makeup the society in which he exist, the man in effect discovers that he has identity. People know who he is and what he does. Subsequently man discovers that he is "a being in the world for others" (notes 7/2/92). This realization cannot not be taken lightly, because it has the effect of sending man down one of two very disparate paths.
If man can acknowledge and accept his facticity situation, that is, if he can acknowledge an accept that he is a being (thing) with a biological and social past, and he can transcend beyond that to no thinness, the realm of the ^etre pour soi then he is according to Sartre acting clear headed, and in good faith. That is man is acknowledging his facticity, that he come from athe thing, but he knows that he is more than just a thing. Because he comes to this logical conclusion he is acting in good faith; he is not pursuing a fundamental project in an attempt to circumvent the possibility of angst (anguish). The outcome of the path of good faith is that man manifests his freedom authentically and therefore his freedom is real. Those who do not act clear headed, and fail to make a balance between facticity and transcendence will inevitably fall into angst.
Angst (German for anguish) is what is felt by those who cannot accept that they come from the realm of the ^etre en soi (realm of the being in it self) and make attempts to deny there past. In an attempt to flee their past and the anguish that can accompany it Sartre says some will pursue a fundamental project. This project entails attempting to make ourselves a virtuoso or a God that is constrained by neither the realm of the ^etre en soi nor the realm of the ^etre pour soi (realm of the being for itself). Sartre considers this "forsaking the whole for the sake of the part" because society meaning to the fundamental pursuer is forgone to address the fears of this individual. Sartre says to do this is to act in bad faith.
In the introductory section of this text I spoke of those who compelled others to follow them to the answer of the meaning of life. In my opinion these people were acting in bad faith. It is my belief that the Sophists for example pursued a fundamental project in an attempt to flee the anguish that accompanied the realization that their philosophies of life may in fact be incorrect. A sophistry is defined as being a fallacious argument; this fact in itself is think is evidence that Sophist tenet was not highly regarded. Socrates often urged those in the Calli polis to ignore the Sophists and find the meaning the meaning of life themselves.
The Sophists responded in kind by travelling throughout Athens spreading their "knowledge" and attempting to garner support and gain new followers. This to me is a clear example of a fundamental project. The Sophists, anguished by there situation took to lend credence to the incredulous instead of admitting that there opinions were but one possible interpretation of life. Admittedly I am no expert of Sophism, and therefore those more scholarly than I may well consider all I have said of Sophism a sophistry. This being a likely possibility to I will limit myself to referring to only that which is quite familiar to me, such as Sartre's No Exit.
In No Exit the character Garcin is a clear cut example of an individual acting in bad faith in an attempt to flee anguish. In the play three person, Estelle, Garcin, and Inez are put in a room together to face hell. The hell for these three is to put up with each other. The character Garcin is in hell after being shot for fleeing France after W.W. II broke out in Europe. Prior to war Garcin was the editor of a pacifist newspaper. When he defied war he was shot.
Because of his defiance he chose to think of himself as a hero and a martyr. (It should be noted that all of Garcin's considerations were made posthumously.) As the story plays out the character Inez forces Garcin to admit that he was not a hero and that he in fact acted cowardly. Garcin then pursues a fundamental project to flee the anguish that accompanies being labeled a coward. He tries to convince Estelle that he is not a coward. Garcin feels that if he can convince Estelle that he is not a coward then the words he hears spoken of him down earth will be hushed and he will be the hero he wishes to be.
This is exemplary of Sartre's notion that when faced with angst some will not act clear headed and will pursue a project in an attempt to lift themselves above and beyond the reality they are confronted by. It is important at this time to reaffirm Sartre belief that a fundamental project will inevitably fail. There are two reasons failure is inevitable: 1. Sartre believes that "I am not what I am - I am what I am not".
What is meant by this is that we can never truly be what we wish to be. This is because we are in this world for others and if we act in bad faith and do no try to legitimately come to terms with this fact, then we will never be anything more than what others wish us to be. This leads us to our next assurance of failure: Sartre says, "we will never be regarded how we wish to be regarded". Sartre reasoning behind this is that we are sentient beings who determine our own reality; we determine our own truths because we perceive them in our own unique way.
This being the case the odds are astronomically minute that any two individuals would ever see eye to eye on an issue. Therefore one who wishes to be regarded a certain way could never be he is relying on others for the regard he seeks and the others see him with eyes far different than his. As events in the play would have it, Garcin's fundamental project does fail. He first attempts to get Estelle to believe that he is not a coward, but is disgruntled to find that Estelle could care less; her only concern is to be around a man, any man. He next attempts to convince Inez but is stalemated.
Inez sees Garcin as the coward he is. Garcin feels that if he can convince her then he could cast away the shadow that shades his death. It is at this point that Inez says something quite insightful. "You " re a coward, Garcin, because I wish it". (No Exit, Pg 58, ln.
28). This is representative of Sartre's reflective phase of consciousness. As I presented before, Sartre says "we are a being inthe world for others". Prior to Inez making this statement Garcin had been trying to flee the anguish that surrounded it. After the statement was made I think an important revelation comes to light. In the conclusion of the play when Garcin realizes that his fundamental project has failed he and that he must spend the rest of eternity in hell with his tormentors he simply says. ".. well lets get on with it".
(No Exit, Pg. 61, ln. 31) What this says to me is that Garcin is ready to come to terms with his situation with a clear head. What in effect occured was an elongated pursunace of good fait. This makes perfect since if you agree that man has but two choices in life, anguish or transcendence. It would seem that Sartre would have us believe that there is really only one end, but two paths of disparate length that lead to this end. This I think is quite true, especially if you concur with what appears to be Sartre notion that there is an existence after life.
It seems time is irrelevant to Sartre and that dead or alive you wil eventually have to yield that peace of mind will only come with the acknowledgment that transcendence is the only end. In an attempt to augment the credence of this argument I would like to take a moment to address another facet of Sartre's fundamental project. Sartre says that any freedom achieved via a fundamental project is inauthentically manifested and there for delete. This so called freedom is nothing more than a facade according to Sartre because the constraints were never addressed and transcendence never occurred. Reflection without transcendence has the unfortunate outcome of constraining the individual to the realm of the being.
Confinement to this realm will leave the individual with nothing but angst and angst continue to be the case until the individual makes a legitimate effort to come to terms with facticity and the angst that facticity can bring. I think this adequatley supports my argument that transcendence is the only end. Confinement can not be an end in itself because peace of mind is not achieved. The eyes are never allowed to close as Garcin would wish them to. Sleep can not and will not come until transcendence to the pour soi occurs, and we have acted in good faith and thereby manifested or freedom authentically. With authentic freedom we can have piece of mind and rest.
I find Sartre a great deal appealing because his tenets are down to earth and applicable to life. An in-depth understanding of the universe as a whole is not necessary for Sartre's tenets to be understood, and I think that that is important. I find it quite easy to equate Sartreian thought with contemporary society. I can think of many occasions in which I face a realization I was not prepared for. In many of those occasions I fell into angst, and acted in bad faith in an attempt to try and reconcile the situation. In these events I acted without a clear head, and was worse off for having done so.
Little I did was of any consequence and reconciliation never cam while I was in this mode of thinking. In others my "human reality" as Heidegger would call it lacked legitimacy because I had allowed it to do so. I can equate this with the trials and tribulations Garcin persevered. Garcin was truly anguished by his predicament and made poorly contemplated decisions in an attempt to bring peace of mind.
Garcin was a coward because Inez wished. The situations that I have been in that I perceived as desparate were only so because others perceived them as desparate. If I had initially used a clear head and made a balance between how the situation was perceived by others and what the situation really meant to me, then I would none of my bad experiences would have come the hindrances upon my life they turned. In the end for both Garcin and myself it became clear that peace of mind would not come until clear headless was employed. Once a clear head is put to use then Sartre's belief that reconciliation and peace of mind will inevitably come is vindicated.
In Garcin case we can only assume this. In my instance you can bank on it. Thank you.