Archive for the ‘Jean-Paul Sartre’ Category

The eternal problem of the basis of morality

September 10, 2009

The universe is not absurd in itself, any more than it is yellow or sugary: it simply is. Life and the world have a meaning for the believer who has a code of conduct in the Gospels based on the word of Christ. Camus’ anguish came from the fact that no morality was imposed by an atheist or agnostic’s world…For Camus, truth existed in the sciences, but not a single truth…Both (Sartre and Camus) confronted the eternal problem of the basis of morality if one does not believe in God.

Camus’ biographer, Olivier Todd, pp.145, 156

Needless to say, neither found that basis and no one ever will.

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That my whole being cries out for God I cannot forget

September 6, 2009

That God does not exist, I cannot deny, That my whole being cries out for God I cannot forget.

Jean-Paul Sartre

Atheism and the Loss of Morality

July 25, 2009

The existentialist is strongly opposed to a certain type of secular moralism which seeks to suppress God at the least possible expense. Towards 1880, when the French professors endeavoured to formulate a secular morality, they said something like this: God is a useless and costly hypothesis, so we will do without it. However, if we are to have morality, a society and a law-abiding world, it is essential that certain values should be taken seriously; they must have an a priori existence ascribed to them. It must be considered obligatory a priori to be honest, not to lie, not to beat one’s wife, to bring up children and so forth; so we are going to do a little work on this subject, which will enable us to show that these values exist all the same, inscribed in an intelligible heaven although, of course, there is no God. In other words – and this is, I believe, the purport of all that we in France call radicalism – nothing will be changed if God does not exist; we shall rediscover the same norms of honesty, progress and humanity, and we shall have disposed of God as an out-of-date hypothesis which will die away quietly of itself. The existentialist, on the contrary, finds it extremely embarrassing that God does not exist, for there disappears with Him all possibility of finding values in an intelligible heaven. There can no longer be any good a priori, since there is no infinite and perfect consciousness to think it. It is nowhere written that “the good” exists, that one must be honest or must not lie, since we are now upon the plane where there are only men. Dostoevsky once wrote: “If God did not exist, everything would be permitted”; and that, for existentialism, is the starting point. Everything is indeed permitted if God does not exist, and man is in consequence forlorn, for he cannot find anything to depend upon either within or outside himself. He discovers forthwith, that he is without excuse. For if indeed existence precedes essence, one will never be able to explain one’s action by reference to a given and specific human nature; in other words, there is no determinism – man is free, man is freedom. Nor, on the other hand, if God does not exist, are we provided with any values or commands that could legitimise our behaviour. Thus we have neither behind us, nor before us in a luminous realm of values, any means of justification or excuse. – We are left alone, without excuse. That is what I mean when I say that man is condemned to be free. Condemned, because he did not create himself, yet is nevertheless at liberty, and from the moment that he is thrown into this world he is responsible for everything he does.

Jean-Paul Sartre

Existentialism and Humanism, 1946