“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Industrial Strength Philosophical Differences Amongst Friends

11/06/2013 05:58 PM
Philosophical Differences
The Falling-Out of Camus and Sartre
By Volker Hage
Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre, two of the most important minds of the 20th century, were closely entwined throughout their careers. On the centenary of Camus' birth, SPIEGEL looks back at their famous friendship and the ideological feud that ultimately unraveled it.
What is a famous man? Albert Camus wrote in his diary in 1946 that it was "someone whose first name doesn't matter." That certainly applies to Camus, who would have celebrated his 100th birthday on Nov. 7, and it can also be said of his great adversary Jean-Paul Sartre, who was eight years older than him, yet outlived him by 20 years.
Camus and Sartre were the intellectual stars of Paris during the postwar years: the existentialists, the Mandarins and the literary vanguard. They became iconic figures of the ideological conflicts of the second half of the 20th century. Their rivalry shaped intellectual debates in France and around the world.
Camus and Sartre's falling out in the summer of 1952, which was played out in full view of the public, was a signal, a political watershed. The rupture, in the midst of the Cold War, split the camps. For decades, people would say: Sartre or Camus? Should we hope for a better world in the distant future at the price of accepting state terror? The revolutionary mass politics espoused by Sartre in the name of Marxism would seem to contain this tradeoff. Or should we refuse to sacrifice people for an ideal, as Camus' humanist principles required?
Camus and Sartre basically stood in each other's way right from the beginning. They were both storytellers, playwrights and essayists, literature and theater critics, philosophers and editors in chief. They had the same publisher. They both were awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. Camus felt overwhelming gratitude when he accepted his award in 1957. Sartre loftily declined the designation in 1964 - making sure to underscore that he was not insulted "because Camus had received it before me," as he said at the time.
The Company of Women
And there was another -- at first glance unremarkable -- commonality. Both preferred the company of women to that of men. "Why women?" Camus wondered in his diary in 1951. His answer: "I cannot stand the company of men. They flatter or they judge. I can stand neither of the two." Back in 1940, Sartre used nearly the same choice of words in his diary when noting that he "gets horribly bored in the company of men," yet "it's very rare for the company of women not to entertain me."
They were long seen as friends and allies. But Camus could not hide that he felt a growing sense of distance from the clique of Parisian intellectuals surrounding Sartre and his companion, Simone de Beauvoir. No matter how much he debated with the others, and spent long nights drinking, dancing and seducing, he remained the wistful loner.
Sartre was envious of the idolized and good-looking French Algerian, the "street urchin from Algiers," as he later called him. Sartre saw himself as a child of the French bourgeoisie -- and he strove to break its bonds as demonstratively as possible. By contrast, Camus was proud of his humble origins and never denied his roots.
The two ambitious men met personally for the first time in the midst of the war, in occupied Paris during the summer of 1943. Camus introduced himself on the occasion of the premiere of Sartre's play "The Flies." At the time, a small group of artists and philosophers met regularly in private homes and in the cafés of Saint-Germain-des-Prés in the heart of Paris. But rivalries soon surfaced, long before the public was privy to any intellectual competition. The conflict, no surprise, often had to do with women.
Sartre once asked himself if he didn't seek out women's company "to free myself from the burden of my ugliness." In early 1944, he wrote a letter to his lifelong companion de Beauvoir, informing her of his victory over ladies' man Camus. It had to do with a certain Tania, whose sister put in a good word for him: "What are you thinking, running after Camus? What do you want from him?" he'd had the sister tell her. He, Sartre, was so much better, she'd said, and such a nice man.
Brewing Ideological Discord
Such childish games paved the way for the "epochal theoretical debate" -- as French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy calls it -- that erupted only a few years later. To make matters even more complicated, de Beauvoir apparently showed an erotic interest in Camus, but he spurned her advances.
The tone was still friendly, at least for the time being. When Sartre traveled to the United States in 1945 and spoke about "new literature in France," he presented it as the "result of the resistance movement and the war," adding that "its best representative is 30-year-old Albert Camus."
In the spring of 1944, Camus became the head of the clandestinely printed newspaper Combat, and even after France was liberated by the Allies and the publication was legalized, he remained its editor-in-chief for many years. His lead articles were the talk of the town in Paris, and his reputation as a journalist in the French resistance helped him gain fame and recognition.
Sartre, who founded the periodical Les Temps Modernes (Modern Times) in 1945, sought to win over Camus to further his notion of socially responsible writing, or littérature engagée. In the underground, the resistance had learned that the freedom of the word had to be defended, Sartre noted, and now it was time for writers to become "completely committed" to political issues in their works.
Camus initially reacted in his diary: "I prefer socially responsible people to socially responsible literature." He refused to brand someone who had written a poem about the beauty of spring as a "servant of capitalism."
And Camus was outraged in 1946 when Sartre rejected his moral concerns about the Soviet Union by arguing that while the deportation of several million people in the USSR was more serious than the lynching of "a single Negro," the lynching resulted from a historical situation that had lasted much longer than the Soviet Union.
A quarrel erupted, but it was initially limited to a relatively small group of intellectuals. Attempts to justify sacrificing people for a higher ideal were anathema to Camus. On one occasion, he slammed the door behind him when he left a private meeting.
Bitter Opposition
Camus used literature as a means of defending his own position. In his novel "The Plague," published in 1947, he wrote: "But I was told that these few deaths were inevitable for the building up of a new world in which murder would cease to be. That was true up to a point, and maybe I'm not capable of standing fast where that order of truths is concerned." This is bitter irony and reveals a growing sense of acrimony between Camus and Sartre.
By now, Camus had reached the height of his fame. "The Plague" sold hundreds of thousands of copies and was a worldwide success. What's more, his essay "The Myth of Sisyphus," published in 1942, remained a widely read and internationally debated work during the postwar years.
As a writer, Camus, the boy from Algeria who studied philosophy at the University of Algiers, had outdone his rival Sartre, the elite student from the Ecole Normale Supérieure.
With Camus' philosophical masterpiece "The Rebel," a book-length essay published in the fall of 1951 that maps out a humane future for mankind, the writer once again presented himself as a theorist. But he didn't anticipate the bitter opposition of the Parisian intellectual scene surrounding Sartre.
There was still enough mutual respect for an advanced printing of a chapter ("Nietzsche and Nihilism") in Les Temps Modernes, but what followed was utter silence. Camus was waiting for a follow-up, and the editorial team was well aware of that. After a while, Sartre assigned a late critique of the work. A young staff member, 29 years old, was given the job. This was no friendly gesture, particularly since the reviewer was out to score points. He tore Camus to pieces.

Tragic Dissolution
The thin-skinned Camus, who was certainly no stranger to polemics, was deeply offended -- and he made the mistake of sending a long rejoinder. What followed was a tragic dissolution of what had once been a friendship. Camus, who was a member of the Communist Party for a period in his younger days, vehemently rejected the insinuation that he had become a right-winger, just because he was applauded from that side of the political spectrum and refused to call himself a Marxist.
His rebuttal was to ask what position his adversaries intended to take on Soviet Communism and Stalin's crimes. What good did it do "to theoretically liberate the individual" when one allows "man to be subjugated under certain conditions"?
Sartre felt challenged. His response, which was printed in the same issue, was merciless. It is insidious and malicious, yet also a magnificent masterpiece of personal polemics. This repudiation from the hallowed halls of politics and philosophy aimed to injure: Sartre wanted to squash Camus.
Already in the first sentence, Sartre severs all ties: "Dear Camus, our friendship was not an easy one, but I shall miss it." This is a mockery in view of the allegations and viciousness that follow, culminating in the ironic questioning of Camus the theorist: "What if your book simply shows your philosophical incompetence?" Then he jabbed: "And if your reasoning is inaccurate? And if your thoughts are vague and banal?"
Sartre gives himself away. "Yes, Camus, like you, I find these camps inadmissible, but equally inadmissible is the use that the 'so-called bourgeois press' makes of them every day." Just as inadmissible? The gulags and coverage of them in the press? This demanded a response. Camus wrote a rejoinder, but he left it in a drawer.
'Long-Repressed Hatred'
Camus no longer wanted to play along. He was paralyzed by "this sudden eruption of long repressed hatred," as he later wrote to his wife. He retreated from the battlefield. "Upstarts of the revolutionary spirit, nouveau riche and Pharisees of justice," he wrote in his diary of the intellectual scene, adding: "There is deception, denigration and the denunciation by one's brother."
When Camus received the Nobel Prize years later, he appeared relaxed in his response to a question about his relationship to Sartre at the press conference in Stockholm: "The relationship is outstanding, monsieur, because the best relationships are those in which we do not see one other." In interviews and speeches he underscored once again that he always believed a writer could not evade "the tragedies of his time."
"We, the writers of the 20th century, will never be alone again," he said in Sweden. "On the contrary, we must know that we cannot escape the common misery, and that our only justification, if there is one, is that we -- to the extent that we are capable of doing so -- speak for those who cannot."
Viewed from today's perspective, it's easy to see that history has proved Camus right. But until the day of his death, he felt that he was a beaten man who was despised by the main leftist currents in Europe. Sartre, who was not particularly bothered by the new wave of show trials in the Eastern bloc, emerged from the battle the champion -- and, years after Camus' death, became the icon of the student protests of 1968.
Sartre's Hollow Triumph
Sartre basked in his popularity, marched at demonstrations, spoke to striking workers and allowed himself to be arrested. He defended the Chinese Cultural Revolution, showed sympathy for dictators, like Castro and Kim Il Sung, and for the acts of terrorism committed by the German Red Army Faction (RAF).
In an interview with SPIEGEL in 1973, Sartre said: There are revolutionary forces that he finds "interesting, such as the Baader-Meinhof group." But he said that they probably appeared "too early." In December 1974, he visited Andreas Baader at the prison in Stammheim.
It's possible that Sartre might have spared himself certain aberrations if his beloved adversary had still been present as a critically admonishing counterpart.
When Camus, 46, died in a car crash in January 1960, Sartre wrote a stunning tribute. "For all those who loved him, there is an unbearable absurdity in that death," he said. Now, Camus was suddenly indispensable: "Whatever he did or decided subsequently, Camus never would have ceased to be one of the chief forces of our cultural activity or to represent in his way the history of France and of this century."
Fifteen years later, and five years before his death, Sartre, 70, was asked again in an interview for Les Temps Modernes about his relationship to Camus. His answer: Camus was "probably my last good friend."
Translated from the German by Paul Cohen



  1. Nietzche is pietzche, but Sartre is smartre.

  2. Albert Camus once said that those who write clearly have readers, while those who write obscurely have commentators.


    It was that independent spirit combined with an ability to express his ideas through compelling story-telling that explains why Camus remains widely read to this day, according to Frederic Worms, a professor of philosophy at top Paris graduate school ENS.


    Although his own spell as a goalkeeper for the junior team of Racing Universitaire d’Alger (RUA) was cut short by tuberculosis, Camus’s belief in football’s intrinsic values of bravery, fair play and solidarity remained intact.

  3. Camus was much the better fellow. Sartre was nuts and Camus wasn't. Both nincompoops had it all wrong. Sartre should have spent in jail.

    "A man goes far to find out what he isn't."

    Modified from Roethke.

    1. Sartre should have spent decades in jail. He was the phoniest son of a bitch Quirk and I knew in Paris in those years, our young years in Paris between the wars, and Sartre used young women for pleasure. Hamdoon once said he was considering offing the bastard, but he had been drinking heavily in disgust about some Sartre article in the Paris papers and it was the liquor doing the talking and of course he didn't do it but he considered it for awhile in an inebriated sort of way. We were in the Cafe Fuc de Do in those day and slept in the rooms above the working class neighborhood off of the Champs were the whores are really magnificent.

    2. Quirk later wrote short book about our experiences in those heady days called "In Our Time Out" and while not bad it didn't sell at all well and Quirk ended up fleeing to back to America on a tramp steamer to avoid the publishing fees. Hamdoon and I stayed in France and later went down to Spain.

    3. That was in early April of '37 and the Spanish Civil War was going good. We sent Quirk some money so he could join us again for the Fiesta in Pamplona. It was there at Pamplona that I took the photos I once posted here of Quirk and Brett in the alley by the bullring. After the first days people were so drunk they would pay any amount for anything and the restraint was gone and the sky rockets went off at the beginning of the day and it was a fiesta.

    4. Where abouts in Spain? Did you get down the southern coast and Gibraltar?

    5. Madrid, Pamplona, Barcelona - we got in a firefight with some of Franco's men there, Quirk was magnificent, taking out several - and Seville. Hiked into the Pyrenees and did some fishing. Put the wine in the cold stream. Very lovely. Quirk was still sleeping with Brett at this time. She is a good hiker, great legs.

    6. At that time, in our youth, Quirk had jet black hair, combed straight back in Spanish style. The Spanish loved him, especially the Spanish women, of all ages, and called him "our beautiful American Christ". Quirk did not let these compliments pass without showing something of his appreciation. And they loved his sense of humor, and his ability to hold his drink, which he could still do then, before becoming hooked on the Russian vodka, and called him El Quirko Mucho Hombre - Quirk The Great Man.

    7. And now they are making a movie about El Quirko starring William Shatner, who emotes such immortal lines as, "I....AM....QUIROK!''

  4. In prison, while awaiting the execution of his death sentence by the guillotine, Meursault meets with a chaplain, but rejects his proffered opportunity of turning to God, explaining that God is a waste of his time. Although the chaplain persists in attempting to lead Meursault from his atheism, Meursault finally accosts him in a rage, with a climactic outburst on his frustrations and the absurdity of the human condition and his personal anguish at the meaninglessness of his existence without respite. At the beginning of his outrage he mentions other people in anger, that they have no right to judge him for his actions or for who he is, and no one has the right to judge someone else. Meursault ultimately grasps the universe's indifference towards humankind which allows him to come to terms with his execution: "As if that blind rage had washed me clean, rid me of hope; for the first time, in that night alive with signs and stars, I opened myself to the benign indifference of the world. Finding it so much like myself—so like a brother, really—I felt that I had been happy and that I was happy again.

    For everything to be consummated, for me to feel less alone, I had only to wish that there be a large crowd of spectators the day of my execution and that they greet me with howls of execration."[3]

    The Stranger

    We can conclude that if the French had developed airbags prior to 1946, Camus likely would have died an unhappy old man

    Sartre still would have died as the Pig he was.

    1. Govinda, on the other hand, needed only to give Siddhartha a peck on the forehead to achieve enlightenment:

      "Siddhartha the novel ends with Govinda returning to the river to seek enlightenment by meeting with a wise man who lives there. When Govinda arrives, he does not recognize that the wise man is Siddhartha himself.

      Govinda is still a follower of Gotama but has yet to attain the kind of enlightenment that Siddhartha now radiates, and he asks Siddhartha to teach him what he knows. Siddhartha explains that neither he nor anyone can teach the wisdom to Govinda, because verbal explanations are limited and can never communicate the entirety of enlightenment. Instead, he asks Govinda to kiss him on the forehead, and when Govinda does, the vision of unity that Siddhartha has experienced is communicated instantly to Govinda.

      Govinda and Siddhartha have both finally achieved the enlightenment they set out to find in the days of their youth.

    2. Once when Xena the Warrior Princess passed through Amphipolis in Thesselonia her student Gabrielle stopped in a market place and purchased a set of pan pipes, which she then played incessantly on all of their subsequent travels, without much improvement in her technique. At length, Xena said to Gabrielle, "Gabhopper, did you know the pan pipes have a mystical mode by which they neither occupy the musician nor are they occupied by her." And Gabrielle said, "Please, Xena, show me this mode." So Xena snatched the pipes from Gabrielle and smashed them under her boot. And instantly Gabrielle was enlightened!

  5. 4 November 2013
    Measuring consciousness
    By Elizabeth Finkel

    Scientists have come up with a tool that could help treat coma patients
    A diagram from the seventeenth century attempts to explain consciousness.

    The French philosopher René Descartes believed consciousness was something that lay outside the material world in a separate realm of its own. Now an international team has shown that, material or not, it is measurable. For the first time, Marcello Massimini at the University of Milan in Italy and his colleagues have come up with an index of consciousness. Not only could that help trauma surgeons assess a patient’s level of consciousness, it offers researchers a tool for developing ways to rouse people from coma.

    “It’s a great study; for the first time you can reliably distinguish consciousness and unconsciousness resulting from many different causes,” says Nao Tsuchiya, who researches consciousness at Monash University in Melbourne. The study was published in the August issue of Science Translational Medicine.

    The problem of consciousness is not a philosophical one for Massimini. A doctor as well as a neurophysiologist, he knows the anguish of caring for an unresponsive patient. Is the patient truly brain dead or merely unable to respond? A salutary reminder of the difficulties in determining this is the recent case of a comatose patient who showed a response on a brain scan when asked to play tennis. But a test like that only works if the patient can hear and understand words, which is not always the case with brain-injured patients.

    As a possible alternative, researchers have tried to identify a direct signature of consciousness using EEGs and fMRIs, which respectively measure brain activity via its electrical signals or its oxygen uptake. But the problem is that the brain of someone who has just passed out in an epileptic fit has a similar synchronised signature to a fully conscious brain.

    “We took a step back,” says Massimini. “We tried to come up with a theoretical description of consciousness.” This was based on the Integrated Information Theory put forward by Giulio Tononi, a psychiatrist and neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin. “It’s the only really promising fundamental theory of consciousness,” says Christof Koch, a neuroscientist who studies consciousness at the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, US.

    In stripped-down form, the theory says that a conscious experience is incredibly rich: colours, shapes, faces, sounds, smells, emotions, all experienced at the one time. It is information-rich, yet overall there is a single experience. So a conscious brain is typified by both richness and unity. By contrast, an unconscious brain may show unity but not richness – for instance the rapid synchronous firing across the epileptic’s brain or the relatively simple pulse emitted by the entire brain of someone in a deep sleep. The difference would be like that between a natural forest and pine plantation. The natural forest is bursting with biodiversity; the pine forest is a repeating motif.


    1. That contrast of rich versus poor information reminded the Italian team of something. Computer algorithms routinely compress information into files small enough to email by “zipping”. Repeating motifs like a pine forest are easy to “zip”. But the information-rich natural forest is much tougher. The team came up with a similar idea to try and measure consciousness: how “zippable” was the brain’s activity?

      The idea was to ping the brain of a subject using a magnetic impulse (known as transcranial magnetic stimulation) and then record the electrical echoes using 60 electrodes placed across the scalp. The signals were transformed into a digital value of zeroes and ones. This digital information was zipped and used to give a value called the Perturbation Complexity Index or PCI. The prediction was that a conscious brain would respond with many diverse echoes and score a high PCI. The unconscious brain would either have few echoes or lots of identical echoes. Both would be easy to zip and score a low

      The prediction was tested first in single individuals during their wake-sleep cycle. In deep sleep, they scored a low PCI. In REM sleep or when fully awake they scored a high PCI. Next, working in hospitals, the team tested their instrument on three sets of patients: those undergoing anaesthesia; those in a vegetative state; and those with “locked-in syndrome” who are alert but completely paralysed. The PCI validated the team’s expectation. While patients under anaesthesia or in a vegetative state scored low, those with locked-in syndrome scored as high as alert people.

      If the results hold up in bigger studies, the PCI will be a tremendous tool for measuring consciousness in the clinic. But Massimini acknowledges his arguments with philosophers are not going to stop any time soon. “We’re not saying we’re reducing consciousness to a number; our index is actually telling us that consciousness is unzippable.”

    2. I think they have not come even to unzipping the mystery of consciousness, therefore I am.

    3. Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI)

      To open the blockage in your artery, your cardiologist performed a percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), which may have included a stent procedure.
      That means a balloon with a stent wrapped around it was inflated to push the plaque back against your artery wall. When the stent around the balloon was expanded, it locked in place to hold the artery open.

      This improved blood flow to your heart.

      Conventional PCI

      (PCI is an initialism formed from Peripheral Component Interconnect,[1] part of the PCI Local Bus standard), often shortened to just PCI, is a local computer bus for attaching hardware devices in a computer. The PCI bus supports the functions found on a processor bus, but in a standardized format that is independent of any particular processor. Devices connected to the bus appear to the processor to be connected directly to the processor bus, and are assigned addresses in the processor's address space.[2]
      Attached devices can take either the form of an integrated circuit fitted onto the motherboard itself, called a planar device in the PCI specification, or an expansion card that fits into a slot.

      The PCI Local Bus was first implemented in IBM PC compatibles, where it displaced the combination of ISA plus one VESA Local Bus as the bus configuration. It has subsequently been adopted for other computer types.

    4. WinZip®18

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    5. Bobby Fudd so fat he gotta to lie down to zip up.

    6. He need only to cut a fart to unzip.

    7. T can explain the mysteries of Tar Zip Files.

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      Weiner is the Cumback to haunt you Kid.

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    3. "If you live in New York, even if you're Catholic, you're Jewish." -- Lenny Bruce

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    At 1:56, Taylor Swift demonstrates her negative IQ with a huh? what's up, made up, "smile."