Saturday, January 07, 2017

Sartre And Augustine

I just finished Professor Peter Kreeft's A History of Moral Thought and then the chapter on Sartre in Paul Jonson's Intellectuals. Wow.

Sartre was a complete and utter swine. His life was an extension of his spoiled-brat childhood, filled with intoxicants, exploited women, self-aggrandizement and utter disregard for any notions of morality or self-sacrifice. For example, he spent his years in occupied France putting on plays approved by the Nazis while writing about what a great thing resistance was. Consistency wasn't a big thing for him.

His philosophy, Existentialism, such as it was,simply validated what he wanted to do already. Existentialism is defined as
a philosophical theory or approach that emphasizes the existence of the individual person as a free and responsible agent determining their own development through acts of the will.
Simple translation: I get to do whatever I want. Well that must have been a shock to anyone that knew him.

Compare this to St. Augustine's life and philosophy. Augie started out as a party boy and womanizer. In Confessions he admitted that he used to do evil things simply because they were evil and it was fun. As his philosophy grew and matured, it changed his life. He realized that exploiting others for his own personal pleasure was inherently wrong. St. Augustine took heroic steps to fight the desires that dogged him throughout his life.

Sartre came up with a philosophy that simply reinforced his behavior. St. Augustine came up with one that forced him into the hard work of self-denial. Just on the surface, it seems to me that St. Augustine's is more likely to have value. After all, if you claim to have a dramatic epiphany about life, shouldn't it actually, you know, change your life?

Here, St. Augustine successfully fights the urge to strangle the little rat who broke his favorite sculpture.

1 comment:

ligneus said...

In this book, Fools, Frauds and Firebrands,

Roger Scruton put Sartre and the whole of what he calls the Paris Nonsense Machine as well as some others from elsewhere under withering 'Scrutony'. Worth reading, as are all his books actually.