PHIL 2170 Lecture Notes - Existentialism

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Published on 15 Nov 2011
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Friday, February 11, 2011
De Beauvoir: authentic intimacy is between two autonomous, free individuals
Scruton: authentic intimacy is between two gendered individuals. Two individuals who
exist in a culture; within the context of a culture. Situated. A tie between conventions and
physical being. That tie keeps gender in the fundamental activities of human nature.
Merleau-Ponty: sexuality makes our world meaningful. Phenomenology. We project
ourselves into the world and make it meaningful, we make it erotic and sexual.
“The introduction of sex into desire is not without the most far-reaching consequences. In
particular it introduces an element of universality into the object of desire. He or she is
desired as a man or as a woman and it is from this thought that much of the
phenomenology of desires arises… (Scruton, 76)
Embody external things. Embodies – use casually (ex. Embodies the French
artist).
Gender is something I take in, but something I also represent
For Scruton, these values are external values out in the world that we bring in the
body
Merleau-Ponty reverses this
Merleau-Ponty
Let us try to see how a thing or a being begins to exist for us through desire of love…
(154)
Desire/love - a particular way of feeling. When I feel desire, this is what that is
Things begin to exist for me as certain kinds of objects
It is the very structure of perception or erotic experience which has undergone change in
Schneider. In the case of the normal subject, a body is not perceived merely as any
object… But for Schneider a woman’s body has no particular essence… (156)
Using Schneider for what the general human experience is
One way to find this out is by looking at people with pathologies and disorders;
seeing what’s different from their experience and what we experience
Schneider has no interest in sex; not something that he cares about
If sex were a bodily thing, nothing would change for Schneider. It’s not a purely
mental thing either; something in between body and mind
Scruton says features of genders are something we look for in the world; MP says
because of our personalities we make them in to objects of desire. Schneider
misses the part of the brain that produces eroticism
Perception has lost its erotic structure, both spatially and temporally. What has
disappeared from the patient is his power of projecting before himself a sexual world, of
putting himself in an erotic situation (156)
Schneider can’t put himself in a situation where he feels eroticized
Erotic perception is not a cogitatio (action) which aims at a cogitatum (an idea) through
one body it aims at another body, and takes place in the world, not in a consciousness
(157)
Aims at another physical body so I get a reaction to that thing in the world I see
Takes place in the world, not the consciousness; not an ideal that we think up and
put into action
As we step in the world, we experience certain aspects
There is an erotic ‘comprehension’ not of the order of understanding, since understanding
subsumes an experience, once perceived, under some idea, while desire comprehends
blindly by linking body to body (157)
Wants to distinguish between understanding and erotic comprehension
When I understand something (ex. A hot stove – I understand it’s hot because I
can associate it with other hot things); erotic comprehension – a way of being (not
taking things in and categorizing. Experiencing them every time I take them in)
Blindly – don’t know what category, just know the experience
…The world is emotionally neutral (157)
Different from Scruton (who thinks gender is something we take part in)
MP stays more individualistic – none of the meaning that sexuality gives us
comes from the world itself
Meaning is human – the way we perceive something. But it’s not in itself
…Like all significances, this one exists only for someone (158)
Signs only exist for humans; things which have meaning only exist for humans
(ex. For a mouse a piece of cheese is only food; no other meaning. For humans it
might mean culture, a memory from childhood, etc.)
Only when someone perceives it
In so far as a man’s sexual history provides a key to his life, it is because in his sexuality
is projected his manner of being towards the world, that is, towards time and other men
(158)
Sexuality is a way of life – this is why knowing about someone’s sexuality tells us
about who they are
Our memories and our body, instead of presenting themselves to us in singular and
determinate conscious acts, are enveloped in generality (162)
Experience sexuality as it pervades; influences the way we see everything
Enveloped generality:Memories are like this (don’t just remember one thing;
remember a bunch of things. Come as full packages)
oWhen we discard memories, we don’t just discard one thing, we discard
everything (ex. Cutting someone out of your life – end up cutting the
entire year out, every year, places you went, etc.)
oDon’t perceive general little things, but rather things in general
Our freedom rests on our being in a situation, and is itself a situation (164)
Can’t choose that you’re in the world – can’t change the fact you exist in a body
Trying to get to abstract human beings is to ignore the uniqueness of being
human; any denial would not be phenomenology
But precisely because my body can shut itself ff from the world, it is also what opens me
out upon the world and places me in a situation there (165)
No matter how long you try to cut yourself out of the world, you can open your
eyes and be back in the world
The ability to close the eyes makes opening your eyes more important
Human experience – the inability to completely withdraw
My body places me in that context, in the physical world with other bodies
Arguing from a conscious withdrawal; arguing against the existentialist
Arguing against a mind-body dualism? Mind dualism requires another place for
your mind to be located in.
MP: Whatever body we have makes us who we are. Embodied as individuals.
Mind becomes embodied which all humans share in the same capacity.
Neither body not existence can be regarded as the original of the human being, since they
presupposed each other, and because the body is solidified or generalized existence, and
existence a perpetual incarnation (166)
Each of us is a particular embodiment of that incarnation
MP: Embodied doesn’t make us all the same (as opposed to Kant)
MP - Back & forth; not getting out of our situation; constantly getting stuck in the
other perspective. Dialectic – find yourself constantly on the other side.
ode Beauvoir we impose ourselves upon the world
oScruton – world imposes itself upon us; curtailed to our desires
Sexuality is at all time present there like an atmosphere
Permeates everything like the atmosphere
Ambiguity is of the essence of human existence, and everything we live or think has
always several meanings. A way of life… is perhaps a generalized expression of a certain
state of sexuality (169)
Sex is life, life is sex; ambiguity
Separate things; we can’t pull apart sexual from non-sexual
Doesn’t mean it’s not an important part of our lives because we can imagine life
without it