An analysis of freedom in Jean-Paul Sartre's Critique of dialectical reason : Volume 1 : theory of practical ensembles

Brown, Mark R. (1997) An analysis of freedom in Jean-Paul Sartre's Critique of dialectical reason : Volume 1 : theory of practical ensembles. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

Jean-Paul Sartre, in his Critique of Dialectical Reason: Volume I - Theory of Practical Ensembles, sets out to determine the significance of history for human action. Sartre commences his inquiry by investigating an abstract individual satisfying her original need in nature and proceeds to analyse the concrete social formation of which the individual finds herself a pan. The tools which Sartre employs for his analysis include both existentialism and the historical materialism of Marx and Engels. -- Sartre's modified Marxism, as exemplified in the Critique, seems to correct the notion of freedom which he attributed to individuals in his earlier work. Being and Nothingness. According to the later Sartre, historical circumstances do have a direct bearing on what the individual will be, or more specifically, what choices the individual will make. Consequently, the individual's task, according to the Sartre of the Critique, is to look back upon history and determine both when it has been an impediment to freedom and when it has been conducive to freedom. -- As we shall see, one of the keys to understanding Sartre's modified Marxism is his use of the expression, 'practico-inert'. This expression is a modification of the being-in-itself from Being and Nothingness. The being-in-itself is inert in the sense that it is dependent upon the being-for-itself for its meaning -- without the being-for-itself the being-in-itself simply 'is'. In the Critique, the practico-inert is not dependent upon a subject to bestow meaning on it. Rather, because it is the result of the past actions of humans, it is already endowed with meaning. As we will shall see, Sartre maintains that history demonstrates that for the most part we are unfree, as our choices are dictated to us by the forces of the practico-inert. But, according to Sartre, specific historical situations can arise which perpetuate the formation of what he terms fused groups. Fused groups consist of individuals who seek to overturn the forces of the practico-inert and as a result seek to see themselves in a more humane way. Further, a fused group has the possibility of evolving into a pledged group, a group whose members pledge themselves towards freedom. -- As we shall see, Sartre’s analysis of the resurrection of freedom in the Critique hinges on the experience of the fear of death. It is not until death literally threatens the well-being of individuals that freedom can be achieved, as the fear of death compels individuals into a new way of looking both at the forces of the practico-inert and themselves. The conclusion reached in this thesis is that it is the fear of death which distinguishes Sartre's Marxism.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/714
Item ID: 714
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves p. 107-109
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Philosophy
Date: 1997
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Sartre, Jean Paul, 1905-; Free will and determinism; Liberty

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