Tuesday, June 28, 2005

“Norman, you old poop!”

Norman Mailer was recently asked to comment on the legacy of Jean-Paul Sartre (article). He used the opportunity to take a few pot-shots. Mailer mainly objected to Sartre’s atheistic influence on modern society, but could not come straight out and say so. Instead, he accused Sartre of “derailing Existentialism”. Perhaps Norman was disappointed that he was not invited to take Nietzsche on, or perhaps he just chose to ignore the logical outcome that was Sartre’s philosophy. Still, it is in the last paragraph of his article that Norman Mailer proves that, if he does not himself have feet of clay, he does not much mind if his chosen deity has them.

“It was an attitude; it was a proud stance; it was equal to living with one's mind in formless space, but it deprived existentialism of more interesting explorations. For atheism is a cropless undertaking when it comes to philosophy. (We need only think of Logical Positivism!) Atheism can contend with ethics (as Sartre did on occasion most brilliantly), but when it comes to metaphysics, atheism ends in a locked cell. It is, after all, near to impossible for a philosopher to explore how we are here without entertaining some notion of what the prior force might have been. Cosmic speculation is asphyxiated if existence came into being ex nihilo. In Sartre's case--worse. Existence came into being without a clue to suggest whether we are here for good purpose, or there is no reason whatsoever for us. “

“it was equal to living with one's mind in formless space, ... “

No, it isn’t. It is equal to living with one’s mind unfettered by any prejudice concerning the “meaning” or “purpose” of things beyond their own form and function.

“but it deprived existentialism of more interesting explorations”

Oh? I hadn’t noticed any quashing of debate on this account. Read any good Camus, lately?

“For atheism is a cropless undertaking when it comes to philosophy.”

Says you. I’ll be sure to keep my John Deere in the shed, but my lack of need for a creator that has any relevance to my existence certainly won’t stop me from seeking to improve my understanding.

“It is, after all, near to impossible for a philosopher to explore how we are here without entertaining some notion of what the prior force might have been.”

Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. Any other “prior force” necessary to the equation? How? If I can postulate two explanations for a system, one natural and one supernatural, why is the supernatural explanation necessary or logical? This is fun, and I don’t seem to be having a problem here...”after all”.

“Cosmic speculation is asphyxiated if existence came into being ex nihilo. In Sartre's case--worse. Existence came into being without a clue to suggest whether we are here for good purpose, or there is no reason whatsoever for us.”

Right. And it is up to me to write my own story and decide for myself what standards to apply to my life. I have no problem with this. Your problem Norman, comes from the fact that it threatens your delusional (but comfortable and socially acceptable) version of reality.

4 Comments:

At 8:40 PM, Blogger Pixelation said...

*sigh*

Atheism gets such a bad rap.. But I suppose it's hard to imagine life without an invisible friend if you've lived your entire life with one.

As for Mr. Mailer, if he were speaking in hypotheticals, I might understand. It would create interesting philosophical puzzles if there were a Triple-O God, but so would time travel. It seems he's so attached to his fantasy universe that he considers ours to be philosophically bankrupt because its less impossible.

Then again, I feel the same way about my Spiderman comics... :)

 
At 6:03 AM, Blogger breakerslion said...

Nice slant. I think you have something there. Anyway, you brought a smile to my face. Stan rules!

 
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