Evolved to be free?

In “Evolution Explains It All for You,” Galen Strawson considers Daniel Dennett’s arguments for compatibilism, the idea that “freedom is wholly compatible with determinism, although determinism is the view that everything that happens in the universe is necessitated by what has already happened, so that nothing can ever occur otherwise than it actually does.” Yet, Strawson says, “This compatibilist freedom … seems intensely unsatisfactory. “


Freedom fighter

The complete guide to France’s brainy hero“: a review of Thomas Flynn’s Sartre: A Philosophical Biography. “Most technical philosophers tend to look at the world as armchair scientists. They puzzle about time or knowledge, matter, numbers and chance. They ask how such things really are. Sartre, who also wrote bestselling fiction and plays, thought about the world as an off-duty novelist. He asked what the world was like for people. They were not detached physicists or passive observers. They lived, aided or obstructed by a material world, which included their bodies. For good or ill, they were thrown into contact with others. Sartre’s concern, in a phrase, was what it was like to be human. The topic sounded unmanageable. But its core elements were familiar enough: the mind, human values and human freedom. Sartre linked them together in big loose equations.”

Existentialism and the Nobel Prize

Fifty years ago … on October 22, 2964 … Sartre turned down the Nobel Prize in Literature. He had been selected “for his work which, rich in ideas and filled with the spirit of freedom and the quest for truth, has exerted a far-reaching influence on our age.” But seven years earlier his fellow existentialist Albert Camus accepted the prize. He had been selected “for his important literary production, which with clear-sighted earnestness illuminates the problems of the human conscience in our times.” Which of them violated existentialism? Neither did, according to Stefany Anne Goldberg: “What matters most about Existentialism is not the validity of a decision, but following out the responsibilities and implications of that decision. Both Sartre and Camus did that. They lived out the responsibilities of being the rejector and the acceptor, respectively. In making opposite decisions, both writers affirmed the underlying creed, which is that the choice itself is far less important than the life lived according to that choice.”

Is philosophy France’s greatest export?

Jonathan Ree’s review of Alain Badiou’s survey of French philosophy since Sartre.  “French industry as a whole was in poor shape at the end of the second world war, but one sector was soon reporting an export-led recovery: philosophy. … After the liberation French philosophy went global. Jean-Paul Sartre had been part of the system, working as a provincial prof de philo before reinventing himself as a novelist and playwright. In January 1945, after a dull but productive war, he was flown to New York as a guest of the US State Department, which was keen to show the wonders of America to the top brains of the new France. Sartre annoyed his hosts by comparing American imperialism to Nazi terror, but as far as intellectual trade was concerned, he hit on a winning formula. He was louche, exotic, and relatively young; and even if he hated the word ‘existentialism,’ it provided him with a memorable brand.”

FBI files confirm existentialism’s ideas on the absurd

The FBI files on Jean-Paul Sartre. “From 1945 onwards, J Edgar Hoover’s FBI spied on Camus and Sartre. The investigation soon turned into a philosophical inquiry.” And what did Jean-Paul Sartre have to do with the Kennedy assassination? See also the FBI’s files on Camus and Sartre confirm the utter meaninglessness of it all.