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Lecture 6

SOCY 226 Lecture Notes - Lecture 6: Albert Camus, Edmund Husserl, Jean-Paul Sartre

Social Sci, Edu and Soc Work - Sociology
Course Code
SOCY 226
Ryan Martin

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SOCY 226 Existentialism, Phenomenology, and Ethnomethodology
Existentialism: We are Condemned to be Free
o Existentialism and the Absurd
o Camus and Meaning
o Sartre, Freedom and Bad Faith
o Existentialism and Humanist Marxism
Phenomenology: We Individually Make the World
o What is Phenomenology?
o Bracketing
o Being-in-the-World
o The Social World
Ethnomethodology: We Make an Ordered Reality
o Everyday life as achievement
o Ethno-methodology
o Accounting and indexicality
o Scaffolding and breaching
o Produced Over Reality
o Reflexivity
Conclusion: Social Life is what you make it
Existentialism and the Absurd
The dominant philosophical view in France pre and post war was
o Emphasizing the importance of immediate experiences, rather than
complex and abstract thought
o Rooted in the romanticism and subjectivism of Kierkegaard and
Nietzsche, existentialism has a concern for loneliness, anguish, and
o Following Nietzsche, existentialism developed themes concerned with
how humans must create their own meaning in the world and then act
to realize it
Camus and Meaning
Albert Camus’ writing expressed the view that humans are not social by
nature: but solidarity, individualistic and alienated from one another
o Expressed the view that human values appear to have no solid
o Paradoxically, they possess the desire to be sociable, with the artificial
creation called society making life possible
Sartre, Freedom and Bad Faith
An individual exists and is absolutely free, but is defined by their action: one
is never free not to act.
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Humans can never be; freedom forces humans to make itself through
Existentialism and Humanist Marxism
Sartre was anti-capitalist, yet his fundamental existentialist belief was in
individual autonomy and freedom of the individual
Sartre acknowledged that choices are not caused by prior conditions but may
be limited by them.
o Humans have free will but the world in which they act is not entirely
of their own making
Sartre’s existentialism thus examines the practico-inert – the really existing
context within which humans act including the material objects and
social actions of other people, plus the social institutions created by prior
What is phenomenology
o The logos (study or logic) of phenomena
What phenomena are we addressing
o The phenomena of our consciousness
o To understand how we intentionally direct our thoughts toward
particular things
Philosopher Edmund Husserl (following Descartes) argued that philosophy
had to begin with immediate experience:
o The meaning of our experience of objects is created in the mind
o We assume that our ideas have some correspondence with the
external world
o Husserl wants to only think about pure thoughts
o Husserl wants to bracket out science and the life-world to discover
the essential structures of our consciousness
Martin Heidegger wanted to deconstruct this subject / object distinction
through a sense of being-in-the-world:
o We act in a context that has meaning for us, and must be understood
in relation to our actions
o People act constantly in the present, but only in relation to an
anticipated future
The anticipated future gives us order and meaning to the
present: When we act we interrogate our world and
ourselves as we develop intentions and put them into action
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