Existentialism was the theme of the week two’s lecture and seminar. It is a very interesting topic and there are many different views on it. We were asked to read Albert Camus’ ‘The Outsider’ for this weeks reading, which gives us a fascinating insight into the world of existentialism.
The existentialist way of thinking is that the individual is the one who gives meaning to his or her life in spite of any obstacles. They do this through the choices they make, in the face of absurdity, guilt, angst or even boredom. For example if I wanted money because I wanted to eat, then I would need to go out and get a job to get money to pay for food. The existentialist also believes that your ‘facticity’ should not determine your life, and should not have an affect on the future of your existence. They are not interested in the past, what is in the past should stay there – it is all about the future and the decisions you make.
Facticity – is key things about yourself that you cannot choose for yourself, for example, where you come from, who your parents are, if you were born into a wealthy or poor family. To give an example, if you take David Beckham’s children, and then you take the child of somebody born into a slum in South America, an existentialist would believe that both have an equal chance of success within football, of that’s what they both want to do, there is no advantage for David Beckham’s child, as being the son of a famous footballer is merely their facticity.
Good and bad faith – Frantz Fanon believes that if you do not follow your desires and beliefs in life, and you choose to ignore them or are too lazy to follow them up then you are guilty of ‘bad faith’. So to give the example of Fanon himself, he was a doctor in Algeria who came to believe in violent protest. He was constantly treating victims of brutal torture in Algeria from the hands of the French government, and it was this that he couldn’t stand, consequently resulting in him taking a violent stand. He believed that he was doing the right thing with killing the people who were administrating this terror, in an attempt to fight back. Maybe to give a better example, putting it into the context of the present, If you were to watch the news and feel horrified or object to what is happening in Syria, where people are being subject to extreme violence, but decided you didn’t want to do anything about it, then you would be guilty of bad faith.
The outsider is a novel written by Albert Camus, which is set in Algeria, revolving around the main Character Mersault. It begins with him finding out that his mother has died, but he is not really phased by the news, but more concerns himself with the day on which she died, and getting the time of work to go to the funeral. He is never shown to be happy, or unhappy, but he is more indifferent to the news. It goes on to explain that Mersault thinks that his mother’s death is not part of a larger structure of human existence.
The novel then goes on to a neighbour of Mersualt’s, Raymond. He suspects his mistress of infidelity, and asks Mersault to help him in luring her to his apartment where he can have sex with her and then abuse her, Mersualt agrees. He chose what he thought was right, so he is therefore adhering to good faith here.
After his mistress goes to the police, the case goes to trial, to which it is dismissed as Raymond explains the betrayal. Later on in the novel, the brother of the assaulted mistress attacks Raymond with a knife, resulting in Raymond grabbing a gun to get his own back. Mersault stops him though, but ends up shooting the man himself.
Mersault is arrested and trialled, and when on trial, they focus on the fact that he showed no emotion at his mothers funeral. Mersualts thoughts though were that he was a free thinker who did not conform to the pressures of society, that force people to cry or show emotion at such events as family members funeral. The book makes the point that free thought cannot come with the pressures of society, and that Mersualt was found guilty, not of murder, but instead of not conforming to social stereotypes.