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Relationships Inauthentic, Will Always Fail (Sartre's "Being and Nothingness", SECOND LECTURE)

Uploaded 2/11/2021, approx. 41 minute read

Here's to Sartre. Jean-Paul Sartre would have appreciated a good glass of red wine, because he was a Frenchman, of course.

This is the second lecture in a series about his seminal book Being and Nothingness, and I strongly urge you to watch the first lecture, or you won't understand a word, of this one, which is, in itself, a state of nothingness. So why not? The French sure know how to live.

Okay, so in the previous lecture, I have discussed the fundamental project, the construction of the self via consciousness.

One of the concepts that Sartre introduced into the debate was desire.

The fundamental project is motivated by desire, the desire to become, the desire for being.

But desire is directed at something that you want to own, someone or something that you want to have. In other words, desires are motivated by a lack, by an absence, by something that's missing.

So are we missing being when we desire to become? Are we lacking existence? Are we missing the state of being? What is it that is outside ourselves that we want to own and to possess or to assimilate?

S surely being is an extensive quality of the individual. We all exist. Why would we want to desire something that we already have?

Desire is the weakest point in Sartre's analysis of consciousness, self-existence and nothingness.

Desire, says Sartre, is never sated, is never satisfied, because it seeks to coincide with itself.

In other words, when we acquire something that we desire, for example, water, we're thirsty, so when we drink, it is not the drink itself, it is not the lack of the drink that is satisfied.

The satisfaction of thirst is not the suppression of thirst, but it's the aim of the plenitude of being in which desire and satisfaction are united.

So Sartre discussed a synthesis.

The desire always goes hand in hand with the object of desire, and both desire and object of desire put together constitute an element of being.

Being is about maintaining desire even as we acquire the object of the desire.

People love their desires, people cling to their desires. Desire makes the world go around, you know, it drives you, motivates you, it gives you energy, get up in the morning.

We pursue desires, we're hunters, we are gatherers, so we gather and pursue and hunt the objects, the people, the physical, inanimate objects, the circumstances, the places that can satisfy our desire.

But if we suppress the desire, if we do reach the state where we've had enough, it's disappointing, it's a feeling of emptiness, it's a feeling of crushing down, you know.

We need to remain in a state of desire in order to be happy and to survive.

If our desires are slaked and sated, we're dead, we're in a schizoid state.

And he gives an example of love. The lover definitely wants to possess the loved one. The lover definitely wants to integrate the loved one into his being and that is the satisfaction of his desire towards the loved one.

But at the same time, if the lover is healthy, mentally healthy, if there's no codependent merger infusion, if there's no borderline extortion of internal regulation, if there are no sick pathological dynamics at play, the lover at the same time wants to remain beyond his being as the other he desires. He wants to remain in a state of desiring.

In other words, when the lover desires a loved one, he wants simultaneously to own her, to possess her and to not own her, to not possess her.

Because this way, when he doesn't own her or possesses her fully, his desire can keep on going. His desire can fuel and motivate him to go to remain alive.

So there is an inherent contradiction in desire.

On one hand, we want to realize our dreams and wishes and fantasies. On the other hand, when we do, we are very disappointed and heartbroken.

So there's a kind of approach, avoidance, repetition, compulsion. We pursue our desires up to a point. We always leave something unfinished. We always leave place for added or continued desire. That is Sartre.

He said that desire has incompatible aspects. The being of desire is incompatible with the satisfaction of desire. And there's a chapter there and later works which he dedicated to being and having. He said there are three types of relations to an object that can be projected in desiring. So being, doing and having.

And the relations of desire aimed at doing are reducible to the other two, being and having. So doing is like an agency. It's like the process at the end of which we have or we exist.

So when Sartre discussed being and we discussed having, you can see that his thinking becomes a bit fuzzy and muddy and convoluted. He is not very convincing when he says that obtaining the object of desire does not eliminate the desire.

Actually, I think what happens much more often is that we have fantasies, we have dreams, we have wishes, and then they come fully realized. For example, we fall in love with someone. We offer them marriage. They agree. Fantasy, mission accomplished. Fantasy realized it is then that the desire goes missing, explains sexlessness in marriages, explains broken marriages. The desire goes missing.

So I think Sartre got it wrong. The desire, if a desire is satisfied, it dies. If it is not satisfied, it persists.

But there is no state where it is both satisfied and existent.

He's wrong about this in my view.

He said that desiring expressed in terms of being is aimed at the self. It's self-directed. It's internalized. And desiring expressed in terms of having is aimed outside, is aimed at possession of an object.

But an object is possessed only when it is related to the desirer, to the person who does the desiring. Only when it is related by some bond, by some ontological internal bond.

And through this bond, the object is represented as a creation.

So, let me try to simplify this.

When you desire something, if this or someone, if that person or object has nothing to do with you, if you don't bond with them, if you didn't develop a narrative which incorporates both of you, somehow a narrative about the future, for example, what you're going to do with this person, what you're going to do with this object, if you don't have this, if you don't in a way create a composite of yourself and the desired person and the desired object, then it's a problem to possess the object.

The possession of an object, the realization of a desire, crucially, are crucially contingent on coming up with an integrative narrative in which both you and the object or person you desire play a role.

The possessed object is represented as a part of you and as your creation.

And with respect to this kind of object, you are both an object and you are endowed with freedom. You have the freedom to choose the object of desire. You have the freedom to decide to acquire it somehow.

But you must realize that from the point of view of the object, for example, a loved one, you are the object.

So there is a reciprocity of objectifying, a reciprocity of objectification. The object is a symbol of the subject's being and which presents it in a way that conforms with the aims of the self.

So when you relate to an outside object, an object of desire, it becomes a symbol. Why? Because it's incorporated in the project of constructing yourself via a common narrative.

And every narrative is symbolic. We convert the entire world around us, even real life in animate objects like this table, let alone people whom we love. We convert everyone around us, objects in object relations and objects in real life. We convert them into symbols.

And when we use these symbols to enhance our selfhood.

So desiring is a part of desiring to be.

What Sartre is saying is nothing short of mind-bogglingly revolutionary. This is no such thing as desiring something.

You desire yourself by desiring your being by desiring to be.

You desire others, you desire objects because they are nothing but instruments. They are tools in your fundamental project of becoming. Everyone around you and everything around you, they are elements, ingredients in the process of becoming a self, in the process of pursuing the act of being, the desire to be.

Now that is a very, very solipsistic, even one could say narcissistic way of viewing the world, of course.

And there is an interface, an unsavory interface between existentialism and existential psychology and narcissism, which I will discuss in the next lecture.

What about relations with others?

So Sartre deals at length with the issue of the self and how the consciousness forms the self and how there are different types of consciousness and different types of sales and so on. And then he moves on to the issue of intersubjectivity.

Intersubjectivity is the unspoken agreement between people regarding their humanity. Intersubjectivity is simply recognition that other people are like you, they are human.

This allows us to build bridges. These bridges are known as empathy. Intersubjectivity incorporates a theory of mind. What does it mean to be human? How do we experience being human? What does it feel like? Incorporates within the theory of mind assumptions about motivation. What makes people tick? Internal psychological processes, relationships between internal and external objects.

Theory of mind mentalization is actually a part of a theory of the world, an internal working model that is established early on in childhood and is intimately connected with attachment style.

But to start with, there is a problem. We have access only to one mind. Ours. You have access to your mind only. This is the only privileged access you have. You cannot access my mind. Hell, you don't even know if I have a mind. You don't even know if I'm a robot. Maybe I'm a robot. Well, bad example. Choose someone else. Maybe that person doesn't have a mind. He's not a robot.

How do you know? If we don't have access to other people's minds, we are isolated within this box known as the skull and our mind is trapped. We can't really reach out. Language is a very poor substitute.

When I use certain words like red or love, how do I know that it means they mean the same thing to you? I don't. How do you know? How do I know how you experience the color red? I don't.

How do you, let alone, how do I know which way you experience love? I don't.

Do you mean, when you say love, do you mean the same thing as when I say love? And what if you're a narcissist or I'm a narcissist? Definitely. We are using the word in two distinct ways with two disparate meanings.

The language is a poor substitute and we have no access to other people and this is known as the problem of other minds.

Sartre recognizes this problem of other minds.

How can you be conscious of another person? How can you communicate meaningfully with another person?

We rely exclusively on self-reporting. If you tell me you're sad, I have to accept it. I have no way of ascertaining that you are sad. Even your brain activity means nothing because it may be induced by your sadness, not the cause of your sadness. Correlation is not causation.

Sartre tries a variety of ways in being in nothingness to somehow settle the issue of other minds. He considers realism. He says, Sartre says, there's no access to other minds. It's never possible.

And the realist approach is that the existence of other people is a hypothesis, mere hypothesis. Yes, I can see you have a body. So what? It doesn't prove you have a mind. And if you do have a mind, it doesn't prove your mind is identical to mine or similar to mine or shares anything with me, with my mind whatsoever.

Maybe our minds are so different that we share nothing in common. Yes, we use the same words, but we give them different meanings.

Idealism is another approach. The other is viewed in terms of sets of appearances. But the trans-phenomenality of the other cannot be deduced from appearance.

We can learn nothing from appearance about the innards, the internal state, and what's going on there.

And Sartre tried to kind of somehow wriggle out of this dilemma because desire, especially desire for other people, relies crucially on the assumption that we are similar, that we have access to other people's minds, or at least that we have similar minds.

When we desire someone as a love object or in any other way as a friend or whatever, when we desire someone, we desire that person because he can make us better, because he can help us to integrate ourselves to maintain an island of inner stability, to feel good, egosyntonic, comfort zone, you name it.

We desire other people as instruments, instrumentally, but they are useless as instruments. If they are dissimilar to us, if they are not like us, if they have nothing in common with us, I mean, would you desire a mouse as a love object or a giraffe as a love object? No. Why? Because they have nothing in common with you. They cannot contribute to your fundamental project of constructing the self using your consciousness.

Loved ones need to contribute to your fundamental project, or they are useless.

So Sartre considered realism, considered idealism, and then he considered phenomenology. Husserl, Heidegger, Husserl, for example, said that the perception of another body teaches us by analogy that you can consider the other is a distinct conscious focus of perspective on the world. He said, if you see someone and his body is separate from you, you can automatically assume that he has consciousness and there is a different view of the world to yours. That's of course highly, highly debatable, highly dubious proposition.

One of Husserl's faux pas, Husserl was a genius, but here his words are nonsense. I'm sorry to say, unmitigated nonsense. The fact that someone has a body proves that they have consciousness.

Are you serious? If in the future there were to be robots who are 100,000% imitation of a human body, do I automatically presume they have consciousness or a view of the world, the Veltanschau? No way.

So Husserl was wrong about this. Absolutely wrong.

But the attempt to derive another person's subjectivity from your own subjectivity is a problem because it assumes a kind of transcendental ego. It fails to come to terms with the other as a distinct transcendental ego.

In other words, it's psychotic.

To assume that you can access, derive, touch, interact with another person's inner world, with another person's mind, is to become psychotic.

Because what do psychotics do? They expand like the big bank and they incorporate the world in themselves so that internal objects become external. We are the world. That's a psychotic song.

Psychotics do this. They incorporate other people. These people become identified with them. So they automatically assume that their ego is transcendental and incorporates all other egos.

And so all other egos are part of their ego. They are not distinct. They are not separate.

The narcissist does something similar. The reverse. He incorporates external objects in himself. He doesn't incorporate himself in the world, like the psychotic. He incorporates the world in himself.

So the psychotic expands and becomes the world. The narcissist contracts the world onto himself. Both of them commit this fallacy of assuming that they are not distinct, separate consciousness. That their ego is the only ego.

It's a solipsistic, totally deranged view of reality.

They have a transcendental ego.

Sartre agrees with Heidegger for Heidegger's observation that the relation to the other is a relation of being, not a relation of thinking, not a relation of feeling.

So it's not an epistemological reaction, interaction, relation. Any relationship with another person is not epistemological, is not even cognitive. It just is. We relate to other people because they exist and we exist.

The layers of analysis, of thoughts, of emotions, they have nothing to do with the other person. They are totally internal.

And that we mistake these internal processes for external processes is psychotic, is unhealthy.

When we assume that our emotions are the emotions of the loved one, or, you know, I love you, so you love me. When we assume that our thoughts emanate or are derived from or resonate with our loved one, all these assumptions are psychotic assumptions.

They have no ground in reality. Heidegger was right about this. We interact as two atoms would interact, as two molecules would interact, as two giraffes would interact maybe.

I've never been a giraffe, so I wouldn't know. We interact because we are. End of story.

Heidegger does not provide in his work the reasoning why he takes the coexistence of the signs as an ontological structure.

In other words, he says there is the sign. The sign is being and being interested in being.

So you not only are, but you ask yourself, why am I? What for am I? That's the sign.

That's the inquiring, the reflection that I mentioned in the previous video, the questioning, the basic question. What am I for?

But instead of considering this as an epistemological process, he gave it somehow an ontological structure. He said it's ontos, it's something that exists.

And Heidegger never explained how. How come a process which clearly is a process of the mind acquires a being of its own?

But still he was right to say that we interact with other people as one existence to another, as one design to another, not by accessing their minds, not by sharing anything. We don't share anything. We're utterly, utterly isolated. We are in isolation cells, each and every one of us. We have no access to any other person ever.

We are born alone, live totally alone and die alone, even if we are surrounded by thousands of people.

What is for Sartre the nature of consciousness of the other, therefore?

And Sartre tries again to somehow use phenomenological analysis of shame and how the other features in this, you know, shame process.

He gave an example. When you peep through the keyhole, you're absorbed. You peep through the keyhole. Imagine that you peep through the keyhole and there's two people having sex.

Yeah, right. Got your attention. So you're totally absorbed in what you're doing and in what you're seeing. So you're totally absorbed in internal processes, in the process of being, in the process of doing, the process of observing.

And the ego does not feature as a part of this pre-reflective state.

But when you hear someone coming behind you, I don't know, the floorboards are creaking, you suddenly become aware of yourself as an object of someone else's look.

When you're all alone, schizoid state and engage in some action, you're not aware of yourself. Your self is out of awareness. Your ego is not part of the pre-reflective state and the reflective state. You are immersed in the act, in doing. You're immersed in observing or whatever it is that you're doing.

Another person's gaze, another person's presence, looming or real, imagined even. This is what brings you immediately into awareness. And you become aware of yourself as the object of someone else's look or gaze.

That's why we have the need to be seen. Because if we are utterly ignored as though we are invisible, we cannot maintain the illusion of being, the illusion of existence.

In narcissism, it is taken to extreme.

The narcissist needs to be seen all the time, every second, 24/7, 365. Healthy people can take breaks between being seen, but everyone needs to be seen. If you are not seen, you are not. End of story.

Ego appears on the scene in this moment of reflective consciousness, but only as the object for another person.

That's again revolutionary insight by Sartre and the foundation of our understanding of personality disorders, such as narcissistic and borderline personality disorders. It's not important that the person who sees you really exists.

You can be seen by an obstruction, an institution, a group, a collective, a period in history, your own conscience, I don't know, nation state. You can be seen by a person who is not there, you think he's there, you're wrong.

So a hallucination, a delusion, an illusion, wrong judgment, wrong interpretation of censor.

So the presence of the other is not critical, the real presence of the other is not critical. You can be in error, but Sartre just requires the potential existence of others. If others potentially exist, your ego exists because it is the gaze of others, the look of others, real, imagined potential that brings your ego into existence, materializes your ego, like ectoplasm in spiritualmedium readings.

And this objectification of the ego is only possible if the other is a subject you are doing to him or to her what she's doing to you. She is helping you with your ego by observing you, by looking at you, by noticing you with her gaze, with her look, with her attention. She revives you, she gives you, she endows you with an ego.

You are doing the same to her as a subject.

And this establishes, says Sartre, that since other minds are required to account for conscious states, such as, for example, shame, they must exist.

He says, the very fact that we are ashamed means that other people exist as identical or similar minds. He said, if there were no other people at all, we would not have any emotions such as shame. We would not have an ego. That we have an ego, that we have shame, emotions like shame or guilt, that proves that other people do exist. And not only that proves it proves they exist, it proves that they exist and have the same mind like us. Otherwise, they would be useless.

Of course, that's not true. That's, it's a fallacy.

Even Sartre, even the great Sartre, sometimes, you know, if you write, if you write long enough, if you speak long enough, you're bound to say some seriously, I don't want to use the word stupid, inaccurate things.

I agree that the gaze and the look of other people is critical in forming the ego and in generating emotions. I disagree that emotions are exclusively generated by the look and gaze of other people. The emotions can be spontaneous and they can arise from internal objects, even internal objects that do not represent people.

So it's wrong. That part is wrong.

I also disagree that these people whose gaze gives rise to the ego and to emotions, they must have a mind identical to ours or similar to ours. I disagree. What is correct is to say that for other people to generate internal processes in us, for other people to cause us shame, for other people to cause us guilt, for other people to crystallize our emerging ego, for other people to see us, to notice us, for other people's gaze and look to have an effect on us, we should assume that they have a mind similar to ours. Whether this assumption is veridical, is true, or whether it's false, that's undecidable.

We can make an assumption that everyone is like us as far as the human mind, but this assumption might damn well be wrong, 100% wrong. Everyone around us may be sophisticated robots from the future. There's no way for us to determine this.

But as long as we assume that everyone around us is basically the same like us, their gaze, their look, has a meaning. They define us, they define the contours and the content of our ego, and they trigger relational emotions such as shame and guilt, to a large extent other emotions like anxiety and fear and so on.

Sartre's, this is Sartre's weakest, weakest point in being in nothingness. He was not very good in human relationships as Simone de Beauvoir would have confirmed.

He fails to refute the skeptic and the a priori condition, the place of the other is an a priori condition for certain forms of consciousness.

They do reveal the relation of being to the other person. He's in this sense Heideggerian. He agrees with Heidegger. Being relates to being, an existing object relates to an existing object via the gaze, via the look, where he fails is to confuse assumption with reality.

We assume other people are like us, it doesn't mean they are. He for some reason is focused on shame, like other scholars, Masterson, Freud to a large extent, Freud focused on guilt, but he mentioned shame. So he's focused on shame, Sartre, and he said that in the experience of shame, the ego is objectified and this objectification denies the existence of a subject.

So when someone objectifies you and causes you shame, it's like they are denying your existence.

Now that's a terrific way to describe narcissistic mortification. Absolutely wonderful. It's precisely what happens.

The shame, the humiliation in narcissistic mortification has to do with the negation of the narcissist as a grandiose separate entity.

So the only way to evade this, to avoid this, is by objectifying the others, devaluation, external mortification.

So the other person can objectify. By objectifying you, he denies your existence as a human being, causes you shame. It's harrowing. It's mortifying.

And your only defense is to say, well, he's not human. He's malicious. He's even external mortification. It's the only active defense.

By reacting against the look of the other, you can turn the other into an object for your look. You can reverse the tables. You are now the one who is doing the gazing. You are the source of the look, and he is the subject.

But it's not stable, of course. It's a battle of wills, a battle of strengths. If the other party is stronger than you, mentally, psychologically, it won't work. If you are weak, broken, damaged, uncertain of yourself, it won't work.

Sartre believes that there is this constant pendulum movement between object and subject, subject and object. And he says this movement is very crucial, very important, because it is through distinguishing oneself from the other that conscious individuation sets in.

Let me try to explain this.

He said, we treat other people as objects. Other people treat us as objects. We treat them as objects. When they treat us as objects, we are subjects. When we treat them as objects, we are subjects.

So we kind of switch between object and subject. We sometimes are subject, sometimes object.

He said it's very critical, because gradually it creates a distinction, a boundary. You become bounded. It distinguishes you from the other.

If you treat the other as a subject and you are the object, if you treat the other as an object and you are the subject, gradually you begin to realize that there is other in you, that you are two distinct, disparate, separate entities in the mental, psychological sense. Their entanglement is a metaphor from quantum mechanics. The entanglement is broken. The two particles fly apart and do not continue to influence each other.

And so at that moment, consciousness can individuate. That is the moment of transition, because the minute you understand that you are separate, that you are not the other person, the minute the spell of merger, the magic of fusion is broken, that minute you become an individual, the objectification of the other corresponds to an affirmation of yourself by distinguishing yourself from the other. And this affirmation is very crucial for individuation and the operation, the ego-oriented operation of consciousness.

But, Sartre suggests, it never works. It never works because to become an individual, to become a constellated self, to some extent, you must deny the other person's selfhood. And you must deny that selfhood with respect to which you want to affirm yourself.

So, it involves denial of the other person's separateness in a way.

Let me explain.

The only way for you to feel individuated is by separation, by separating. The only way for you to separate is to deny that the other person is observing, to deny that the other person is defining you via gaze or look.

So, when you deny that the other person is instrumental in defining you, you are denying the other person's capacity for observing. You're denying the other person's self because this is what selves do. They observe, among other things.

So, if you deny this capacity, you deny that the other person is a self.

But wait a minute. To individuate, you must accept that you have a self and she has a self. If you deny her selfhood by claiming that she has no contribution to her individuation, you cannot individually. It's a self-defeating cycle.

The only way to individuate is to separate. The only way to separate is to deny selfhood of the other.

Once you deny selfhood of the other, you're not separate, so you cannot individuate. The cycle restarts.

Dependence upon the other, which characterizes the individuation of a particular ego, is simultaneously denied, says Sartre. And this resulting instability, back and forth, back and forth. You are facing someone, someone meaningful, someone significant. Her gaze, her look defines you, defines your ego, triggers your emotions.

And then you say, wait a minute, the hell with her. She's nobody. She's nothing. Her gaze means nothing. Her look means nothing. Her input means nothing. I'm my own man. I have my own ego. I have my own emotions. I don't need her.

She's at that point. You're denying that she exists. If you're denying that she exists, then compared to what are you an individual?

Remember, Sartre's approach is that everything is relational. Everything is contextual. Everything is derived from interactions.

So if there's nobody there, how can you be? You exist because you are separate from others. If there are no others, you can't be separate.

That's the psychotic position. Psychotic position is I'm not separate. Hyper-reflexivity.

I expand so much that I become the world. And there are no boundaries, so I disappear. I evaporate. I'm molecular, molecularized all over the world.

So this instability is conflictual state. And he says, this is why relationships never work, relationships with others.

And he has many examples of relationships in his book. And he gives examples of sadism, masochism, typical love. And he argues that these instabilities, the need to deny the other and the need to adopt the other, the need to have the other define you, the need to accept the contributions of the other for your own self-definition, and then the immediate need to deny their existence. I mean, the need to separate, but when you separate, you lose the gaze and so on. You cannot deviate. There is a conflict there. There's an instability there.

And he said, this creates a dyad. This creates what he calls intersubjective bed faith. The bed faith now is in the couple. The couple generates a piece of fiction, a bed faith story or narrative, which is actually adopting some role, a role dictated by society, a role dictated by parents, by peer pressure and expectations. So the couple becomes inauthentic and becomes inauthentic because within their relationship, they fluctuate back and forth. They pendulate. You exist. You don't exist. You exist. You don't exist. You exist so that I can emerge as an ego, but you don't exist so that I can separate myself from you and become an individual.

But wait a minute, you don't exist. I don't have an ego. I cannot be individual. It's a mess.

There is a question of authenticity.

He says, this kind of relationship, human relationships are the definition inauthentic.

So how can we accomplish authenticity?

If our ego, if our existence, if our being crucially depends on relationships and on context and relationships by definition can be only inauthentic, as we've just explained, then how can we ever hope or aspire to be authentic?

And so it's pretty hopeless, actually. I would say that Sartre is not a continuation of Heidegger as much as he is a proponent of Schopenhauer. He's a pessimist. Bad faith is only present. It's inescapable.

And so you could be forgiven for considering Sartre the arch pessimist, the continuation of Schopenhauer 100 years later.

But Sartre himself always had insisted that he is actually an optimist.

Why optimist?

Because he says whatever happens, you have infinite freedom. Freedom is it. Forget ego, forget self-definition, forget individuation, forget consciousness, forget definitely other people. It doesn't work.

All these things lead to inauthenticity.

The only way you can be authentic is by having infinite freedom, infinite freedom to make authentic choices, infinite freedom to escape the shackles and the lures and the seduction of bad faith, infinite freedom to adopt and accept responsibility and the angst, the anxiety that goes with responsibility. Infinite freedom to be, in other words, the Nietzschean superman beyond morality, the strong resilient type, the one who embraces anxiety fearlessly because it allows him to make authentic choices within a realm, within a sphere of infinite freedom.


And so we need to discuss what is this freedom that Sartre keeps mentioning all the time.

He insists, Sartre insists in being in nothingness that everyone is endowed with unlimited freedom. Every agent, every human being has unlimited freedom. And it's a bit of a strange statement because we all know that we are limited. I mean, the IRS, for example, limits your freedom. Just try to defy the IRS and you will see by how much they can limit your freedom.

I mean, if you're drafted into the army, would you seriously claim that you have infinite freedom? If you get married, your child is sick. Do you have infinite freedom? Choices are limited. There's no such thing as infinite freedom, except maybe as an ideal.

Freedom of choice is very limited. Physical constraints, social constraints, circumstances, events, the pandemic, I don't know what. You can't just overlook these things. You can sort of idealize and say, well, in a world where these things don't exist, you have infinite freedom. What good is it? Such a world does not exist by definition.

So Sartre is not an idiot, very far from an idiot, you may have noticed by now.

So he accepts this what he called facticity. This is a fact. And it's a fact of consciousness.

Consciousness is aware of these limitations, aware of these boundaries to our capacity. Consciousness is aware of the finitude of the fact that the number of options and choices we have and our freedom is limited and finite.

And so what Sartre does, he defines freedom differently to what you and I would define freedom.

He said, freedom is not defined by the ability to act. He said, that's not freedom. Freedom is a characteristic of the nature of consciousness.

In other words, spontaneity, not ability to act, but when you are able to act, to do it spontaneously.

So given subject to limitations, subject to the environment, subject to reality in the world out there, subject to other objects, external object, they all dictate how much freedom of action you have, but one should not confuse freedom of action with Sartre's freedom.

Sartre's freedom is the ability to act when you can, the spontaneity.

Okay. Someone can opt to do something and someone can opt to not do something. And these decisions to do something or not to do something, they definitely have meaning. And spontaneity is an element of this meaning, but not the totality of the meaning.

You know, if your child gets sick and you take care of your child, it's a meaningful act. We might even say it's a spontaneous act. I mean, it's a reflex. You can't not take care of your sick child unless you are seriously psychopathic.

So normal people, healthy people, they are compelled to take care of the child. And in this sense, it's a spontaneous decision.

But also it has consequences, other consequences, which have nothing to do with spontaneity.

For example, it changes their consciousness. There is meaning there. There is meaning there.

And so Sartre had to modify his perception or his formulation of freedom. And he said it's about making choices and not being able to avoid making choices.

Freedom is the state where you must make choices. There's no other way but to make choices.

And choice has to do with the original choice. Like the choice has to conform to your fundamental project, has to conform to your consciousness, has to conform to yourself. The choice is another brick in the wall of yourself.

And making choices is not a choice. This is the only limitation on Sartre's infinite freedom, a limitation which he himself failed to realize.

You have a choice, or you have choices subject to circumstances, of course, within circumstances, within a given environment, with given people and so on. You have a set of choices. It's a finite set, but it's still pretty large.

And then you can spontaneously settle upon one or more of these choices. And these choices affect your consciousness. This is one thing.

We are not free. You're not free to not make choices. Think for a second and you will see how right this is.


Can you pass a minute, you know what, an hour without making choices? Some choice. Drink coffee, drink tea, go for a walk, not go for a walk. Not do anything. It's a choice.

The limitation on freedom is the exigency, the necessity of making choices. And that was Sartre's mega failure, major failure in being in nothingness. He failed to realize that our freedom is limited by the inexorable, ineluctable need to make choices.

And all of life is an original project that unfolds through time via choices. It's not a project the individual is aware of sometimes. Sometimes the individual has no knowledge of the project. Sometimes it's interpreted or interpreted away. It's open to revision, but specific choices are always there.

Components in time of this original fundamental project. Our freedom is not unlimited. We are free to do anything as long as we choose.

It reminds me of the famous joke. You're free to choose any color for your car as long as it's black. Freedom is non-existent actually. It's an illusion. And free will is an illusion. This free will is other complete or an illusion. There's no middle ground. This is the gap, the lacuna, the lack in Sartre's philosophy.

This not realizing that we are imposed upon, we are choosing engines, we're choice engines.

And so in his book, literal book, freedom is a spontaneous choice.

But if there is no freedom, if we are compelled to choose, can any choice ever be spontaneous?

We experience spontaneity. We experience free will, but we are compelled to be spontaneous.

You realize immediately how ridiculous this sounds.

Sartre has the elements to define what is an authentic human being, but I venture to say that Sartre failed to define authenticity. He did not complete his project. I hope he knew where he was going because he definitely did not document it.

So he discussed authenticity. He touched upon it in a variety of ways, but he never left us a legacy of understanding how to be authentic.

Choosing a way which reflects the nature of the for itself consciousness. Choosing a way which incorporates transcendence and facticity at the same time. That's very highfalutin. It's very nice. Sounds like a good meme or a banner.

It's not a philosophy. The notion of authenticity seems to be some derivative of Heidegger because it involves a mode of being that exhibits recognition that one is Dasein.

But Heidegger is much more rigorous. You can disagree with Heidegger if you are lucky enough to understand what the heck he's saying. Heidegger is the worst writer to have ever walked the earth in my view.

So if you pierce through Heidegger's veil of words, Heidegger was much more rigorous with his concept of Dasein.

Sartre is much more French. He's much more practical. It's like what's in it for me. It's a how-to book. Being a nothingness is a how-to book. That's why I deal so much with relationships. It's a how-to book, but it's half baked. It's a masterpiece because it introduces amazing thought provoking. But it just provokes thoughts.

There's no resolution there. There are no solutions, no answers. Bad, good, wrong. I mean, something, nothing. He uses a lot of words like authenticity.

And at the end of the day, you scratch your head and say, what the heck is authenticity? What is this guy talking about? What does he mean when he says freedom? And how can freedom be unlimited if we are compelled to choose? And what is required of an authentic choice is that it involves a proper coordination of transcendence and facticity.

So it avoids a pitfalls of uncoordinated expression of the desire for being, according to Sartre.

So Sartre says to be authentic, you need to coordinate transcendence and facticity. And so you need to not desire to be, at least not in an uncoordinated manner, like chaotic manner.

But in any case, you need to not desire to be. So Sartre is actually telling you freedom and facticity is by not apprehending yourself, not self-reflecting, not self-grasping, nothingness.

This is where I move back into Sartre. That's why I agree with Sartre.

Sartre said the only way to experience freedom is by not being.

When you don't engage in introspection or self-referential ideation, or when you don't render yourself the object of your own subject, it is only then that you are free to act, combining transcendence out of yourself, away from yourself and facticity into yourself, the facticity of your consciousness.

It is only by disappearing that you can become. It is only by vanishing that you can appear.

It sounds very contradictory, but it's not.

Think about it for a minute. It's a very profound insight.

As long as you're committed to a specific rendition of your ego, it limits you. It doesn't give you the freedom to consider alternatives, to transcend. It also filters out information, so you're not even factually right.

You need to liberate yourself from all these shackles by embracing for a minute, at least, nothingness.

It is from the point of view of nothingness that you can attain freedom of action, the freedom to choose.

The necessity to choose pushes you towards nothingness.

It is only when you stop choosing, or for a while, only when you don't choose, only when you divorce the environment in which you should choose, because if you're in the world, if you're with other people, you must choose. To not choose, you must divorce the world. You must disconnect from other people.

In other words, you must become schizoid.

It is then, when you're not compelled to choose, that you can fully experience yourself.

The noise is gone, no one is there, and you remain with yourself. You're left with yourself, only then you can experience yourself.

When you're with other people, when you're active, when you're around, when you're in the world, you don't frequently think about your ego or yourself. You're immersed, you're involved with other things. Some people call them distractions, spectacle, you name it, it doesn't matter.

When you're out there, you're not in here. You want to be in here, you need never be out there.

This is the human condition. This is the human condition. Nothingness or nothing.

You have to choose. The lack of proper coordination between transcendence and facticity, that is bad faith. That is bad faith.

As an individual or as a couple, inauthenticity can be individual and can be in human interactions.

The notion of authenticity is very different to what you and I would tend to attribute to it. It's not an absolute prioritization of individual spontaneity. I would say it's exactly the opposite. It's the fact that our freedom is limited by facticity, by facts, by the world. The world limits our freedom and consequently this creates these limitations, creates responsibility. We cannot make just any choice. We need to make proper choices.

And what dictates proper choices? The world. Facticity. Choices which are not bad faith, ironically, involve the suspension of ego, the annihilation of consciousness, nothingness and attuning yourself to the world. The world will tell you where your freedom begins and where your freedom ends. The world is your boundary. That's your boundary.

And when you have good boundaries and when you are fully informed about the world without the filter of your ego or consciousness or fundamental project or whatever, it is then that you attain the apex of efficacy.

Maybe not self-awareness, but efficacy.

Now this raises a very interesting question which I will deal with in another lecture.

Maybe self-awareness is exactly the opposite of self-efficacy.

Maybe when we are self-aware, we are so navel-gazing, so solipsistic that we become highly inefficient, highly inefficacious and highly injurious to other people.

There is an issue of ethics. There's an ethical dimension here. It's not enough to make choices. You need to make proper choices.

Sartre was very concerned with ethics and there is existentialist ethics. He said that random expressions of one's spontaneity is not what authenticity is about. He does discuss spontaneity in Being and Nothingness and in another book Existentialism and Humanism, but spontaneity is the precondition for action, is the let's say the operation, the method of operations, the operational part.

When we finally settle on a proper choice dictated by the world as a boundary and from a position of nothingness, a position of infinite freedom that is embedded in not being, then we need spontaneity to implement our choice.

So this is the sequence. You suspend yourself and you suspend everything you think you know. You suspend socialization. You suspend messaging. You suspend signaling. You suspend all this bullshit. You become you in the purest sense of the word, non-existent, nothing. You is not the is not the self. You is not the ego. These are your projects. These are the things you develop.

You is the ability to interact with the world and absorb it. You are in this sense open totally to the world and you can do this only when you have become, when you had become nothing.

So nothingness is the precondition for being tuned to reality, for reality testing. You become nothing. You have reality testing.

You then realize what choices are proper, what choices would have adverse consequences. You make the proper choices ethically and then you should have the spontaneity to make them, not to be afraid, not to be anxious, not to go forward embracing your personal responsibility and the anxiety that goes with it, with this personal responsibility, angst, but embracing them, not being terrified by them.

And so there is an ethical normativity.

Authenticity implies ethics. An authentic person is always ethical. If you need to act authentically, you also act ethically. You are dependent on the world in one sense only, not in the sense that the other person's gaze dictates your ego. This is bad dependence. This is narcissistic dependence. If you are dependent on other people so that they can help you to crystallize and form your ego, regulate your consciousness, this is pathology.

But you are dependent on the world to tell you what's right and what's wrong, what's proper and what's not, how far you can go and where you should stop. The world is your boundary. Babies know that in the separation and the habituation phase.

And so ethics simply means being grateful to the world, not harming the source of your enlightenment, not damaging the world. On the contrary, this is ethics. It's a good definition of ethics.

And there are many statements in Being and Nothingness which emphasize a kind of universal criteria. And in this sense, Sartre is a Kantian. It's in the footsteps of Immanuel Kant. And both Sartre and Kant, they base themselves on the ultimate value of freedom.

Kant was also addicted to freedom. If you read Kant's work, Kant even expressed his freedom by using words the wrong way. I'm kidding you're not.

For example, he refused to say Erchaingung in German. He used the word Erchaingung. And of course, people told me that I'm wrong in quoting him, but it was his word.

Kant displayed his freedom in a variety of ways, the way he lived as well. Kant was an authentic man. And Sartre continued in the footsteps of Kant. And both of them espoused freedom as the base value.

By choosing an individual commits not only himself, he commits the entirety of humanity. Your actions have effects on your nearest, on your dearest, and your nearest and dearest have effect on their nearest and dearest. And the chain is never broken. Look what one person, one person with a virus, did to humanity. Look how many millions did.

There are no a priori values, says Sartre. The agent's choice creates the values in the same way as the artist creates an artwork. So Sartre was one of the fathers of moral relativism, where again, I strongly disagree with him. I do think they are universal, permanent, stable, transcendent values. In this sense, are much closer to Jordan Peterson, for example, and to some extent to Slavoj Zizek than to Sartre.

But Sartre said that values are auto-generated. So every person create their own values. And how do they do this? Via their choices. Choices reify values. Values created by a proper exercise of freedom have a universal dimension.

Why?

Because anyone in the same situation would create the same values. So any human being put in the same situation, placed in the same situation like me, would understand my values. My values would resonate with them.

Because in the same situation, people would react by generating the same values. So they would understand my values.

And so values are universal. There's a universality that is expressed in particular forms in each authentic project, but cuts across populations.

And this is what Sartre called the singular universal.

That concludes my review of Being in Nothingness. I hope you've seen how Sartre led the way to very postmodern conversations of narcissism, personality, ego death, nothingness, etc.

Sartre was an important bridge between 18th century philosophers, 19th century philosophers, and 21st century philosophers. It was nothing much more than a bridge.

I think in due time, his contributions would be really recognized as derivative, largely. But he was a provocative thinker and an amazing guy.

And above all, he was drop dead gorgeous and Frenchman. Anyone, anyone who can secure Simone de Beauvoir as a lover is worthy of my admiration. Thank you for having me and cheers.

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