For Jean Paul Sartre, existence meant to become progressively more individualistic (Sartre, 175). Sartre believed this individualistic existence caused everyone to travel along a path toward self-realization and this process, he noted, had three stages. These stages being, Ethical, Religious and Aesthetic, as “All human beings are currently at one of this stages, depending on the extent to which they have achieved their life-project (Sartre, 175).
” By more individualistic, Kiekega means that through each stage individual gain a higher understanding of self than they had before and it is through the privileged perspective provided by the assessment of and graduation from the previous stage that allows the person to attain this new form of self. Sartre goes on to further note that, “Each stage is a way of seeing life, a way of understanding the world. They are different ways of living out one’s existence, independent spheres of life, situations which embody a certain stability.
Living fully in the aesthetic sphere will never lead to the ethical one, and the upholding of ethics will never open the door to religion. ” He closes by pointing out that no one stage can completely dominate and individual’s life and if one were to allows this to happen they would stay stagnant and not progress through the stages. The first stage of Sartre’s progression of existential stages is aesthetics recognized as the ‘immersion in sensuous experience; valorization of possibility over actuality; egotism; fragmentation of the subject of experience; nihilistic wielding of irony and skepticism; and flight from boredom (Stanford, p1).
” This stage of existence is a very selfish one that involves excessive self-indulgence. Sartre refers to temptation and the appreciation and distraction of beauty a lot in this section. Ethics in Sartre’s work has more than one meaning, “It is used to denote both: (i) a limited existential sphere, or stage, which is superseded by the higher stage of the religious life; and (ii) an aspect of life which is retained even within the religious life (Stanford, p1). ” This is basically the stage where one starts to asses their life and view themselves objectively.
It is recognized as the stage of reasoning this stage is ‘limited’ in that it is the stage that comes before the religious stage, but it is retained within the religious stage in that the traits used in the ethical stage must also be used to make the valuable choices in the religious stage. Ultimately the final obligation to transition from Ethics into the religious stage is to completely relinquish one’s reliance on reason for one’s trust in faith. The final stage of existence that Sartre recognizes is the stage of Religion, and specifically Christianity.
Sartre believed the most important aspect of this stage, and in life in general, was faith and the passion one has for being morally responsible. It is also in this stage that Sartre stresses the value of choice. As noted, “Anxiety is a two-sided emotion: on one side is the dread burden of choosing for eternity; on the other side is the exhilaration of freedom in choosing oneself. Choice occurs in the instant, which is the point at which time and eternity intersect — for the individual creates through temporal choice a self which will be judged for eternity (Stanford, p1).
” Here we see the concept of self changing once again and the self that was once perceived objectively with eyes looking from the Ethical stage onto the aesthetic stage from a more intellectual position, now in the religious stage is much more spiritual. Aesthetics/Ethics It is through the stage of ethics that aesthetics is recognized for its shallow and delusional ways. “This type of aestheticism is criticized from the point of view of ethics. It is seen to be emptily self-serving and escapist. It is a despairing means of avoiding commitment and responsibility (Stanford, p1).
” Despite the selfish nature of the aesthetic stage Keirkegaard does not completely disregard its value, he recognizes that the aesthetic stage of existence is what makes the higher stages of existence necessary. This can specifically been seen with the transitional relationship between the aesthetic stage and the ethical stage. The stages work together by canceling each other out within other stages. For example, it’s noted in Sartre’s pseudo-dialectic that “the aesthetic and the ethical are both annulled and preserved in their synthesis in the religious stage.
” This is how the transition between the ethical and the religious stage comes about in that the religious stage encompasses room for both previous stages within its borders. Descartes like Sartre is a highly respected philosophical thinker. His most famous work Meditationes de Prima Philosophia (Meditations On First Philosophy). Published in 1641, poses the main argument that “Every belief based on the senses (beliefs about the external world) is such that we could conceive it to be false (Descartes, p1).
” By the external world being debatable, then one is forced to contemplate and examine the existence of reality. This closely relates to Sartre’s’s concept that the aesthetic stage can only be assessed from the ethical stage. Descartes adopts the ideal that one can only know they exist for sure through the process of examination one’s life through thought, because the existence of one’s thoughts is undeniable and not debatable. I can relate to Sartre’s ideas in that they are universal and applicable to every individual. The main concept they teach is the value of moderation.
The fact that no one stage can on its own dominate one’s life completely. The religious stage is not at all relevant in one’s life without the conflict drawn from the clash between the aesthetic and the ethical. Without the aesthetic there is no need to stop outside of one’s own pursuit of personal pleasure to become self-aware, and without this reasoning one c an never become aware of the choices available to them to achieve salvation in the religious stage. I do think since Sartre was such a proponent of the Christian faith, there is no reason why his thinking can’t be promoted more in the church.
For the most part many Christian churches avoid this type of in depth assessment as it pertains to individual growth. In sum, Sartre’s philosophies have stood the test of time because they are still applicable. His work pays homage to Descartes, as well as Socrates, who both promote the importance of the examined life. Walking through one’s life blindly only in the pursuit of meager pleasures or even over analyzing one’s every experience without fully embracing the moment, both can be detrimental to the value of one’s existence.
Sartre, like many of the philosophers before him, has setup a model that all individuals can live by, and each stage feeds off the one prior. In addition to teaching that there is a value in our actions, Sartre also proves that there is a path to better understanding of one’s self through the constant self-evalutions of those actions. Work Cited SARTRE, S. , La maladie a la mort, in Oeuvres Completes, Editions de L’Orante, Paris, 1984, vol. 16, p. 175. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy “Jean Paul Sartre” First published Tue Dec 3, 1996; substantive revision Fri May 8, 2009 (Stanford, 2009)
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