Sunday, May 2, 2010

Cranbrook Philosophy Students: Existentialism & God
Existentialism & God

I. Sartre
A. “When we conceive God as the Creator, He is generally thought of as a superior sort of artisan… God produces man, just as the artisan…makes [whatever…]”(“Existentialism and Human Emotion”, Marino, p.34)
B. “…the atheistic existentialists, among whom I class Heidigger, and then the French existentialists and myself… have in common …that they think existence precedes essence, or, if you prefer, that subjectivity must be the starting point.” (p. 342)
C. “Atheistic existentialism…states that if God does not exist, there is at least one being in whom existence precedes essence, a being who exists before he can be defined by any concept, and that being is man…” (p.345)
D. “Dostoyevsky said, ‘If God didn’t exist, everything would be possible.’ That is the very starting point of existentialism. Indeed, everything is permissible if God does not exist, and as a result man is forlorn…” (p. 349)
E. Existentialism isn’t so atheistic that it wears itself out showing that God doesn’t exist. Rather, it declares that even if God did exist, that would change nothing. There you’ve got our point of view. Not that we believe that God exists, but we think that the problem of His existence is not the issue.” (p. 367)

II. Camus
A. “Our aim is to shed light upon the step taken by the mind when, starting from a philosophy of the world’s lack of meaning, it ends up by finding a meaning and depth in it.” (Camus, “The Myth of Sisyphus”, Marino, p.471
B. “I can refute everything in this world surrounding me that offends or enraptures me, except this chaos, this sovereign chance, and this divine equivalence which springs from anarchy. I don’t know whether this world has a meaning that transcends it. But I know that I do not know that meaning and that it is impossible for me just now to know it” (p.477)

III. John Macquarrie, Principles of Christian Theology, Chas. Scribner’s Sons, NY, 1966
A. Proposes to speak and think of “God,” not as a being, not even a “supreme” being, but as “Being.”
B. The “Meaning of Being” cannot be approached in a detached, speculative fashion. “For we began by asking about ourselves…with the confrontation with the nothingness in our own existence that opened our eyes to the being which contrasts with nothing.” (Macquarrie, p. 97)
C. Being is NOT…\
1. “itself a being, that is to say, something that is.” (p.98)
2. “a property, i.e. “white, hard, round…etc.”(p. 98)
3. “a class”… (among other “classes” of existing things) (p.99)
4. a “substance” or “substratum…supposed to underlie the phenomenal characteristics of beings.” ( p.99)
5. “the absolute. If there were a …supreme being, we would still have to inquire about the being of this being…[which would be] more ultimate than our supposed absolute…” (p. 100)

D. Distinctions Between “Being” and “Becoming”
1. “we can talk about being and distinguish it from nothing only in so far as it includes becoming.” (p. 101)
2. “becoming is unintelligible apart from some conception of being.”
E. Distinction Between “Being” and “Appearance”
1. “Being gives itself in and through its appearances and nowhere else.” (p. 102)
2. Appearances also conceal being.

F. Conclusions

1. “Being”= “incomparable.” It is the condition that there may be any beings or properties of beings.” P.103
2. “Being” = “Letting be”
3. “We become aware of the presence of being…of what lets the beings be and mediates itself through them.” p. 104
4. “Being, which is transecendent of every particular being and thus ‘wholly other’ and the furthest from us, is also the closest because it is present in every being, including our own…” (p.104)
5. “Strictly speaking, however, once cannot say, that God “exists”…for if God is being and not a being, then one can no more say that God is than that being is. God (or being) is not, but rather lets be. “ (p.108)