Sartre and Evil: Guidelines for a Struggle

By Haim Gordon; Rivca Gordon | Go to book overview

is often a lonely questioning, yet it is worthy and often enhances and educates one's society. Sartre lived up to this philosophical tradition, he himself questioned and frequently encouraged others to question reality, and he often shared the results of this questioning with his readers.

Need we add that a major characteristic of the passively active person is his or her refusal to question the reality encountered? Nor does the passively active person share with others his or her doubts, uncertainties, or apprehensions. Nor is he or she willing to consider rebelling against what prevails, even if it is Evil. From this unwillingness to question, to share, or to rebel, it is often but one step to adopting the tricks of consciousness that Flaubert played with himself, tricks that led him to present and to support distorted truths and false knowledge.

Our limited experience shows that it is very difficult to encourage persons to poignantly question the prevailing attitudes and accepted approaches of their society or group. One reason is that distortions of truth and knowledge frequently serve those in power. Such occurs in dictatorships, but our struggles in Israel and Noam Chomsky's and other writers' studies of the United States and other democracies disclose that distortions of truth and knowledge serve the ruling elite in these countries, also. We can only conclude that most contemporary societies encourage the passivity, and with it the distortion of truth and knowledge, that Sartre describes and denounces in his biography of Flaubert.

Hence, the fighter against Evil must persistently and courageously question the reality encompassing him or her, even if it is a lonely endeavor. Such questioning is the only way to ensure that one will not reside placidly in a milieu characterized by passivity and by distorted truths and knowledge. It is also necessary for the lucidity needed to fight Evil, to rebel against its widespread support, and to negate the superficial arguments supporting Evil.


NOTES
1.
Jean-Paul Sartre, The Family Idiot: Gustave Flaubert, vol. 1, trans. Carol Cosman ( Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), pp. 156-57.
2.
Jean-Paul Sartre, The Family Idiot: Gustave Flaubert, vol. 4, trans. Carol Cosman ( Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991), p. 49.
4.
Sartre, The Family Idiot, vol. 1, p. 317.
6.
Jean-Paul Sartre, The Family Idiot: Gustave Flaubert, vol. 2, trans. Carol Cosman( Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), p. 394.
7.
See, for instance: Noam Chomsky, Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies ( Boston: South End Press, 1989).

-198-

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Sartre and Evil: Guidelines for a Struggle
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction xi
  • Notes xxiii
  • Part I - Intuitively Responding to Evil 1
  • 1 - Evil and Lucidity 3
  • Notes 16
  • 2 - Unmasking Noble Evil 17
  • Notes 31
  • 3 - Bewitching Evil 33
  • Notes 47
  • 4 - Horror and Evil 49
  • Notes 62
  • Part II - The Ontology of Evil 63
  • 5 - Sartre's Ontology of Evil and the Poverty of the Social Sciences 65
  • Notes 77
  • 6 - Evil for Evil's Sake 79
  • Notes 86
  • 7 - The Consciousness of Genet: A Rejection of Fanaticism 87
  • Notes 103
  • 8 - Genet's Redemption from a Life of Evil 105
  • Notes 113
  • Part III - Evil and Society 115
  • 9 - Fighting Evil Straightforwardly 117
  • Notes 127
  • 10 - Sartre's Tone of Moral Indignation 129
  • Notes 140
  • 11 - Seriality versus Education 143
  • Notes 160
  • 12 - Passivity, Black Pride, and Evil 161
  • Notes 180
  • 13 - Passivity and the Distortion of Truth and Knowledge 183
  • Notes 198
  • 14 - Some Problems 199
  • Notes 206
  • Summary 207
  • Appendix 211
  • Selected Bibliography 227
  • Index 231
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