The agonistic implication of Jean-Paul Sartre's philosophy
Onyango, Carey Francis
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The methodological and epistemological features of Sartre's philosophy are not consistent with his atheism. Heidegger (1978) alluded to this when rejecting Sartre's reference to him as an atheist . As Heidegger says, the existential analysis of human beings neither affirms nor denies the existence of God. Existentialism defends a position which is "closed", leading to some form of agnosticism (Dondeyne, 1962). The roots of existentialist atheism can be traced to the Cartesian "principle of immanentism" (Fabro, 1964). The principle is defective and any atheism arrived at via it must be refuted (ibid). There are two agnostic implications from gnoseological-immanentism" in Sartre's philosophy and one from phenomenology. A historical explication of gnoseological--immanentism from Descartes to Sartre reveals the agnostic implications inherent in rationalism, British empiricism, Kantian thought, and in phenomenology due to the epistemological deficiencies of that principle. The first agnostic implication is the gnoseological- immanentism manifestin Sartre's ontology especially in being and nothingness. The "reduction of the existent to the series of appearances which manifest it" CBN;xxi) and an implicit phenomenological reduction of meanings, make Sartre' s phenomenol ogi cal ontology inadequate when dealing with the transphenomenal CLafarge, 1970;32). Snoseological-immanentism in taking concrete and immediate experience 1\. s,-'preme, coupled with a shunning of inference, lead Sartre's philosophy into metaphysical naivete. Hence, the position is a closed one and should lead to agnosticism and not atheism. Even though Sartre followed Heidegger out of purely descriptive phenomenology to the deciphering of concealed meanings, he had no intention to abandon the most basic tenet of phenomenology; that the source and final test of knowledge is the intuition of phenomena. This is the case at least until the critique of dialectical Reason .However, search for a method which was originally written as a preface to the former is a primer in xistential/phenomenological methodology. Metaphysical questions are "system strange" (Farber, 1943;566) because phenomenology contains a naivete in relation to methods that function indirectly, i.e. inference. The existence of God, therefore, can neither be affirmed nor denied within a phenomenological scope. It was erroneous in procedure for Sartre to have taken an atheist stand within his "phenomenological ontology" and us.d it as a premise for a similar stand in his existential/phenomenological hermeneutics. Gnoseological-immanentism commits the cartesian error of trying to proceed from a sole principle and fact, i.e., subjective c:onsciousness. It falls into the "illusion of immanence" (Dondeyne, 1962;103) by conceiving the immediate objects of knowledge as immanent in the mind. Percepts and concepts are not taken as medium guo or "instruments" within and at the service of which cognitive intention bears out towards reality (Ibid). In relation to phenomenology, a philosophical problem should be tackled appropriately, and every method has its appropriate or "proper questions" and there are "system strange" questions with respect to it. The co-operation of various philosophical methods is therefore vital in the quest for knowledge.