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Saturday, June 14, 2008

faith, man, god: a comparative analysis of three philosophical treatises

Jean-Paul Sartre’s “Existentialism and Human Emotions” tackles the existentialist notion that one exists first before one generates essence. In other words, this existentialism makes the person exist but only the person can define his character, life’s goals and the like. He emerges into the world until such time he crystallizes his essence. He is born into a vacuous universe as nothing but he constructs his being by the choices he freely creates. Gleaning from this idea, a person has no predetermined fate because he is the one responsible for weaving his won fate. Owing to this realization that a person is responsible for all his actions, one feels the emotions of anger and angst. Since there is no God to account for help in creating one’s destiny, one feels the loneliness called forlornness that is associated with despair and angst. As the choices a person makes build his essence, he affirms his choices’ values (granted that he will never choose evil). His choices are manifestations of his will to be free from false and outside power, which humanizes by virtue of willing this freedom toward others. If a choice is good for him, it can be good for all of mankind.
Meanwhile, Gabriel Marcel’s “From Opinion to Faith” differentiates opinion from faith in that the former is a belief which stakes a claim on something while the latter is a belief in something. In other words, having faith is believing in while having an opinion is believing that. On the one hand, opinion is that which man never knows or is unfamiliar with, and has the tendency to possess false basis. Because of their externality, opinions are just claims that lack reflection. On the other hand, opinion’s opposite has deeper reflection in it because there is an action of a decision to sustain constancy of believing in a certain object no matter what. Hence, faith may be a belief in a mysterious, transcendental reality. It is the placement of one’s faith in that reality so that this change will change him and his sense of being.
Finally, Quentin Lauer’s “The Problem of Unbelief” discusses the idea of faith as something that exists beyond logical certainty so, therefore, must not be something used for a person’s security purposes. Faith is different from belief, for the former can still make a person generate morality unlike the latter which exists only to make God as a means rather than as an end to morality. Also, this commitment to God becomes meaningless it is the same commitment to mankind. Committing oneself to man is not about loving being God’s moral command or a tantamount reason for loving God but about becoming a human when a fellow man is loved. Even if it takes going against the divine law which man’s general belief has engendered, the rights of man should be protected. Likewise, if man is just after his personal redemption, then he interprets a supposedly worthy God inaccurately. Finally, if God cannot be logically ascertained, it is because God is a mystery, bringing to the fore that unbelief need not be a problem even if believers themselves experience this.
What is striking with these three different articles is that they are parallel in terms of the idea of faith as action. In Sartre’s, faith is action because one cannot rely on an immobile belief in God; since this universe is godless, one has to have faith in oneself in order to determine one’s essence. If one so much as have faith in a nonexistent God, he will just exist but he will not fully realize his destiny. His faith in being able to go beyond existence to essence always rides on the exercise of free will so that his acted choices will produce who he is and who he can become. In Marcel’s, faith is action in that it is reflected, constant and directed unto a mysterious entity. It is beyond opinion which may easily crumble because no action supports the claim; faith is action because one’s destiny will unfurl only when the act of placing belief in the object is chosen in an effort to transcend. In Lauer’s, faith is action because one believes even if the object may be invisible. This implies doing an action that may have risks because of the inherent mystery of the object of faith but is believed to bring about change: that it can secure notwithstanding the obvious uncertainty.
While the three have certain parallels, they also have differences. In Sartre’s and Lauer’s, faith must be somewhat directed toward the good of other people. Sartre says that one’s free actions which will define himself is essentially for his own good and, being good for himself, must be good for the rest of mankind. Thus, in creating one’s essence, one will to be free so others may emulate his attempt at freedom. Lauer corroborates by saying that faith in God is at work when one is committed with others. Men are after the salvation of one another because God is beyond their reach, so they look after themselves mutually. Marcel departs because his distinction between opinion to faith does not entail having a person change in order to change the being of others. He changes through his faith for the sole purpose of transcending himself. Also, they differ in the state of the great mystery’s transcendent reality. For Sartre, there is no God so man can only fend for himself regarding the determination of his being’s essence. Meanwhile, Lauer contemplates the possibility of the absence of God, which does not entirely rule out the possibility of God’s presence. God may even exist as a moral reality through man’s imaginary pursuit. Lastly, Marcel believes in a transcendent reality, which is the equivalent of the mysterious God.

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