The group is now hosted by Shirley Harrison in Hazel Grove.
Topics covered by the group since its formation:-
Philosophy--its origins and objectives,
Jeremy Bentham--the greatest happiness principle,
Rights--where do they come and who is entitled to them?
Freedom--to do what?
Free will--is there such a thing?
Education--what is it, what is its purpose?
Réné Decartes--I am awake or dreaming and the proof of God,
Eugenics--origins, purpose and the morality issue,
The ethics of a child sufering from Diamond Blackfan Anæmia
and the moral issues involved in the subsequent treatment.
Topics to be covered:
Jean-Paul Sartre--Hell is other people,
Simone de Beauvoir--The Second Sex,
Nietzsche--God is dead.
Other topics will be decided by the group.
The group met on 24 Nov
and the subject was Existentialism. Existentialism is a
Philosophical Movement of the 19 and 20 Centuries. Because of the
diversity of positions associated with Existentialism e.g. there are
atheistic and Christian Existentialists, a precise definition is
difficult. However, it suggests one major theme; a stress on
individual existence and consequently, on subjectivity, individuality
and choice. We then addressed one of the oldest distinctions in
philosophy--that of the difference between existence and essence.
To say that something exists is simply to point to the fact that it
is. Man is a self-reflecting animal in that he alone has
the ability to objectify himself, to stand apart from himself, as it
were, and to consider the kind of being he is, and what he is to do and
become. We then looked at Pascal, Kierkegaard and Heidegger
and the positions they adopted on Existentialism. Existentialists
see life in terms of paradoxes: the human self, combining mind
and body, is itself a contradiction. On a much lighter note we
discussed Existential times in one's life e.g. to get married, to have
children, to change jobs, etc. all life changing decisions are
Existentialist decisions. The group agreed that Existentialism
certainly put a different slant to life.
The last meeting before the Christmas break was on 8 Dec.
Continuing on the theme of Existentialism we examined the philosophy of
The group had some knowledge of Sartre--some
flattering and some not so flattering. Sartre gave the term
existentialism general currency by using it for his own
philosophy---that human life requires a rational basis but the attempt
is a 'futile' passion. In common with all Existentialists he
emphasises freedom and responsibility. Sartre states that
Existence precedes Essence. Existence--that it is.
Essence---what it is. Existence is explained by looking at a raw
piece of metal--it exists. However, if the metal is changed
into a pound coin we have given it an Essence. Sartre refers to the
non-human beings as being-in-itself and human beings as
being-for-itself. The difference is that the being-for-itself is
free to choose its essence. The central point is that as we are
free to choose ONE is responsible for the person that ONE
IS. Bad Faith, Sartre explained is where a person acts and
then blames the action on some outside authority. We concluded
with Sartre's explanation of the sex act. Sexual desire is,
'double reciprocal incarnation' a form of mutual awareness which Sartre
takes to be at the heart of sexual experience. He elaborates, 'I
make myself flesh in order to impel the Other to realize for herself
and for me her own flesh. My caress causes my flesh to be born
for me insofar as it is for the Other flesh causing her to be born as
flesh.' The group's reaction was, ' So what? He is
only stating the obvious.'
The next meeting is on 12 Jan. when we will explore A POSITIVE MENTAL ATTITUDE.