An ontological point of view: LIFE, DEATH AND INTEGRITY

Monday, August 05 2013 @ 04:43 PM JST

Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto

This is a re-post of my reply to an online comment from Mr. Diogenes, combined with a series of mails I exchanged with Mr. Samwidge over some semantic issues. The sentences in square brackets were added for clarity reasons when editing the material.

Jean-Paul Sartre
[To D from me, 11:35, Aug. 5 CDT]

Before getting started with the issue at hand, self-deception, let me clarify something. I’ve talked a lot about Sartre recently. But actually the French philosopher has never been my guru. By the same token, Being and Nothingness has never been my bible. I read the ontological essay for the first time some 58 years ago. I may have reread it a couple of times in subsequent years but I’ve never read it again in the last half century. It’s just that one day when I was in my late-30s or early-40s, I suddenly realized that my own thoughts I had “lived out” by then were very close to Sartrean way of thinking, and thus, his logic and terminology would best describe my life after graduating from his school.

Then, again I have to explain my view of professionalism. So many people underestimate the significance of professional expertise in life presumably because in their lifetime they haven’t engaged themselves in the value-creating process in the real world. People tend to mix up different things, only to cherry-pick one of them at a later point in time. [They know that is the only way to remain uncommitted to anything Sartre called "project."] This can be said of professionalism. They first mix it up with amateurism. And when they want to stress the beauty of amateurism, they cherry-pick it. Only when they think referring to professionalism serves their purposes, they start talking about it.

They treat professionalism like this primarily because if they admit they have to pursue professional skills or knowledge first and foremost, that means they have always to subject themselves to “the pain of study.” The lazy guys simply can’t tolerate this idea. But the fact of the matter remains that while you can SAY whatever you want to say without professionalism, you can’t DO anything you claim to be doing or others want you to do without it. All that we can expect from a nonprofessional or unprofessional person is an empty lip service. These are why I value professional expertise more than anything else.

After 9 years of my futile effort to get my message through to my predominantly American audience, I thought philosophy would be my last bastion. At that time, I realized anew that a retired businessman can't be anything more than a lay philosopher because he lacks the training on the particular discipline. So I decided to borrow these words from Sartre. I keep referring to his name and quoting his words. But actually Sartre is nothing more than my alias. Therefore, when I say in my writing, “Sartre thought this way,” it actually means I think this way. All along I remain ME. And that is the single most important lesson I've learned from Sartre. [I have never talked about someone else's problem in my blog.]

You brought up a variety of subjects, such as the Russian Revolution, the biblical feud between Cain and Abel, Jews’ dominance over Hollywood, etc. These subjects may have some distant relevance to our issue at hand, but after all, these are the same old “Truth-vs.-Fallacy” issues, which have absolutely nothing to do with our own habits of self-deception.

My question: "What is truth?" Your answer: "Truth is something that is not false." Another question: "What is fallacy, then?" Answer: “Fallacy is something that is not true.” [Or, you say: "This is believed to be true." My question: "So what?" You say: "That proved to be untrue." The same question: "So what?" But we already know it gets us nowhere to talk about oversimplified theses.]

For that reason, let me single out the “Life-vs.-Death" issue here.

Actually Sartre never juxtaposed life and death in the way Ernest Becker may have. Like the Buddha, he neither feared death nor denied it. Maybe it’s hard to understand for those who have blindly swallowed everything they were taught to believe, but Sartre had a good reason for his unique way to deal with the life-and-death issue. He saw death within life, and perhaps, life within death. I’m not very sure that he expressed his thought exactly this way. But he famously wrote: “Hell is other people.” This should be interpreted as an unequivocal statement that death is at the very core of life.

Sartre wouldn't have come up with this idea if he had taken it for granted that any death is yet another death, any life is yet another life, which actually means my death is the same thing as your death, and I live essentially the same life as the life you live. It's really frightening to know these days people are taught only to think of death in general and life in general. Their total inability to dialectically interchange with one another all stems from their proximity to the ape in that respect. [If each of them does not have his own idea to share with others, I think chimp's super high-context screech will serve their purposes.]

As we all should know, there are 60 trillion cells in our body. And 1 trillion of these 60 trillion die everyday. Which means what? In a matter of 60 days, you are a 100% different person than you were before - at least in theory. If you still remain the same person, you may have wasted the 2-months time presumably because of your fear or denial of death, i.e. mauvaise foi.

So many people talk so lightly about a man of integrity. But my definition of him goes like this: “A man of integrity is one who has the courage to face his real self in all his bad faith, in the mirror, or wherever it is, so he can effectively use what I call the double-edged sword inherently given in the human BEING.” [Sartre called those without integrity in that sense salauds (scums or swine) and never softened his ontological profanity until the end of his life.]

[S to/from me, 22:42, Aug. 5 to 08:37, Aug. 6 JST]

(From me)

Since English is not my mother tongue, I don’t know the exact meanings of many English words. Will you please tell me your own definition of the word “Integrity”? I ask you this question because you used it in your August 1 post.

American Heritage says the word means:

“Steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code.”

This makes no sense because it leaves me wondering if a steadfast adherence to the terrorists’ cause can also be described as integrity.

The J-E dictionary says it means Seijitsu which can be reverse-translated into English as faithfulness. But as Sartre repeatedly pointed out, there is something to be called “Faith of Bad Faith.” So I wonder if integrity could also mean steadfast faithlessness.

I will appreciate it if you give me your definition when time permits.

(From S)

Good questions all.

Integrity means honesty at all levels. For instance; imagine that you are blind and about to cross the street. Someone tells you that there is no train coming. That would be honest. But if there is no train coming but a big freight truck is coming, then that person spoke without integrity.

There are many times in advertising and promotion that the remarks on a bottle are honest but misleading. In these cases, integrity has failed. A bottle of hand lotion might have a note saying, "contains no alcohol." Perhaps the presence or absence of alcohol means nothing. In this case the seller was trying to fool you and to keep your mind off other, more important decisions to make in your purchase.

Sartre has it right.

(From me)

I’ll leave it there but actually your answer would lead to another question: “What is honesty?” If this someone can’t tell the blind man the train is not coming because he is also blind, would you call him a dishonest man? [And what if he has no voice to warn the blind man a big freight truck is coming because he is a mute? What if he is too preoccupied with something else to notice there is a blind man? What if the blind man doesn't look like a blind man because his eyes are wide open?]

If I am to use your definition, there are millions of men of integrity. [Maybe it's billions.] Thanks anyhow.

(From S)

You have found a delightful polemic.

For me, a person can give an honest answer or not. Honesty is a yes or no kind of a thing. Nobody does something slightly honest or somewhat honest. There is no single thing that is sort of dishonest or a small bit dishonest.

Integrity is a far wider thing. Nobody has perfect integrity. None of us is really qualified to measure the integrity of another.

In finance, your own business, the world seems to like financial institutions of high integrity. Such firms even advertise that they have integrity. Frequently their integrity is insufficient.

Best of luck with this difficult question.

[Thanks to his kind lesson, now I've realized American English is not a language for me. For instance, the idea of perfect (or imperfect) integrity is far beyond the comprehension of this old blogger suffering dementia. I give up.]

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