Friday, April 28, 2017

Existentialism And Relgion: The Idea Of A Religious Existentialism


Something I wrote to a friend today on a small thread here prompted by an Introduction by Philip Maitre to famous essay by Sartre, the title of which I've seen translated as either Existentialism & Humanism or Existentialism Is A Humanism:

.... Religion and existentialism as I understand the latter may or may not go together. 

For Kierkegaard they go together in his famous "leap of faith" after beholding a terrifying nothingness-- "fear and trembling." Thus, faith becomes his "purposes and projects," using Maitre's phrase from his Introduction. Why faith may be seen as existential is because insofar as existentialism is a philosophy of subjectivism, the leap of faith is from the terrifying apprehension of nothingness to the fullest realization of subjective fulfillment in something absolutely larger than oneself, (enough for Kierkegaard for Abraham to have slain Isaac.) 

But would Sartre consider a leap of faith bad faith and what would distinguish bad faith from good faith, the latter comprised by purposes and projects that confer meaning and value on self, others, their relation and the world of objects? 

For Sartre, as I understand him, purposes and projects must have a concreteness in the world and must involve in some way engagement with the world, which means necessarily with others. I can't make the intellectual move from that idea to a leap of faith into faith, which, however intensely and authentically felt and held, constitutes a reification, which is an engagement with "nothing" and by definition not the world, unless perhaps, maybe, (probably not) that faith translates into "good works."  

As I say, my knowledge and understanding of Buber are skimpy to say the least, though I'm of familiar with his "I and thou," but only as a kind of catch phrase. I've always taken it to mean turning the "other" into a human being whom one, so to say, takes into one's soul and can therefore feel for them love, empathy, compassion and kinship. 

Is that construction of "I and thou" right, and if it is what makes Buber's religiosity existential? And, finally, what resolves the gap or tension I see between Kierkegaard  and Sartre? Or am I asking misconceived questions?...

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