Up@dawn 2.0

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Evan Lester - Section H1 - Group 4 - Final Report (2/3)

Epic Philosophy Battles of History (2/3)

    Jean-Paul Sartre         vs.        John Cottingham


            Jean-Paul Sartre lived from 1905 to 1980, and he is considered one of the most famous existentialist philosophers. This means that people have to decide on what they make of their lives since we just exist in the world. He also was against the idea that God existed. As a result, he thought that there were no limits on life. However, there is a more modern philosopher who disagrees with Sartre
            The modern philosopher who disagrees with Sartre is John Cottingham. He is a member of Reading University and an expert in the topic of the meaning of life. Cottingham believes that we were created somehow, whether it was by accident or by a religious being. Since we were created, he believed that we were dependent on what created us whether it was spiritual or not. He also believes that we are constantly dependent on others throughout our entire lives. In addition, Cottingham believed that people can have meaning in their lives. What meaning could this be? Do Sartre and Cottingham agree on any aspect of life? You will have to continue to read to find out!

We now transition to an older man named Peeta pacing around in his home where he lives alone. He begins talking to himself and asking why is he on the planet. Then, all of a sudden things begin to happen. What happens? Well, continue to read!

(Begin Scene)

Peeta: Oh is me! I do not know why I am even alive. I have nothing to do besides go to Mule Day every year and help others through a charity. I still do not know why Mule Day is viewed as a holiday, but I enjoy it so much! However, it seems to me that I do not have a meaningful life.

(Sartre jumps in through the window)

Sartre: That is because you are not here for a reason. Also, you chose to live like that. Therefore, if you are unhappy, it is your fault.

Peeta: Well, if you put it that way, I guess you can say that.

(Enter Cottingham through the door)

Cottingham: Don’t say such foolish things! Every person has a meaningful life. As long as you stay away from being selfish, then you are fine. Since you say that you help with a charity and enjoy Mule Day, you are combining the morality of helping others with the fun event, for you at least, of Mule Day, which causes you to have a meaningful life.

Peeta: Hey! You are right! I think…….

Sartre: Oh Cottingham, please! Peeta has no meaning in life. He was not created for a reason. He just showed up one day. Remember, there is no God!

Cottingham: Whether you believe in God or not, everyone has a reason in life. Let us take a step aside from the religious aspect then for your sake, and let us focus on how we achieve a meaningful life. The first and the most important step is to have humility.

Sartre: Humility? What do you mean?

Cottingham: I mean that we are dependent on others throughout our lives. Events that happen are not solely based on what we did because other people are usually involved in those events.

Sartre: No! We are not dependent on anything. We have to rely on only ourselves! If we do something that makes us sad, then that is our fault. If a person does something to make them cry, then they caused themselves to cry. That is how it works. We do not blame others for this emotion.

Cottingham: I tend to disagree! We can never be in control of everything. For example, some people are robbed by others. Can you really blame that robbery on the victims? Also, can you control when you die or when you get sick? Of course not! Life is very dependent on these “road block.” There are plenty more examples to prove my point. I just do not want you to make you pull your hair out of your head from hearing so many events that are influenced by others.

Sartre: No! You are wrong!

Cottingham: I am so right! Also, people are born into good and bad circumstances. We cannot control those aspects that we are born into! That would be impossible!

Sartre: You do not listen to me do you? It is up to the person to choose who they are and what they do. If they are born into a situation, then it is that person’s fault.

Cottingham: I am ignoring you Sartre!

Sartre: Fine! Be that way!

Cottingham: That is fine with me! But Peeta listen to me! You have a meaningful life. You help others and you have things you enjoy. Without one or the other, you would not have a meaningful life. Also, if it was not for the organizers of Mule Day, you would not have achieved your happiness because you were dependent on those people to operate Mule Day! Can you see that you have a meaningful life now?

Peeta: Wow! Cottingham you are right! I can’t believe I have thought about my life as meaningless. Thank you so much!

Sartre: You both make me sick.

(Sartre stomps out of the house mad)

Cottingham: Now, do not waste your time in here. Enjoy your meaningful life!

Peeta: I sure will!

(Cottingham leaves the house)

(End Scene)

            Sartre based his ideas on the fact that people could do whatever they wanted to because God did not exist to put limits on different things. Therefore, Sartre thought life should be composed of what a person really wanted to do. Also, if people did certain things or felt certain ways, then that was the person’s fault. There was no other way to explain it. However, Cottingham believes that people are dependent on each other or on the creator of the human race. Therefore, if a person is hurt by another, then the person causing the harm is at fault and not the victim’s fault like Sartre would say. Instead of Sartre’s belief that people could make their lives whatever they wanted to make it, Cottingham believed that people should not only do things for  themselves, but they must also have other activities in their lives that are “valuable and enriching.” I translate this into helping others through volunteering or even more ways that help people. All in all I have to choose a winner. I do not really like Sartre saying that we can do anything we want to do to make us happy since God is not there to put limits on different aspects of life. If people did what they wanted to do, the world would be a scary place to live. To me, Cottingham made more sense about the meaning of life. Therefore, the winner is……….. Scroll a little more……


John Cottingham

P.S. There are links embedded into the background information if you would like any more information about the two philosophers.
Word Count: 1,157 Words

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