BSP Podcast: Matt Barnard – exploring Heidegger and Sartre on Freedom

podcast update

Season two of our podcast continues with another presentation from the British Society for Phenomenology Annual Conference 2017 in Brighton.

Season 2 episode 26: 29 January 2018

This recording is of Matt Barnard’s presentation ‘Two Concepts of Anxiety: Heidegger and Sartre on Freedom’. You can listen to this episode on the BSP’s Podbean site, and you can also find it on iTunes and all good podcasting apps by searching ‘BSP Podcast’.

Abstract: “In this paper, I wish to argue that the difference between Heidegger and Sartre’s interpretation of the concept of anxiety lead to two different concepts of existential freedom. These differences have their basis in their distinct understanding of the nature of existence and the self, leading Sartre into an absolute negative conception freedom and Heidegger into a limited and difficult to obtain positive conception of freedom. For Sartre, in L’Être et le néant, anxiety reveals the nothingness that stands between me and what I can do. Nothing, not even my own being, is an obstacle to freedom. Indeed, every time I adequately perceive my own being, I negate it, and am condemned to be able to overcome it. Anxiety is an experience of our capacity: the fact of negative freedom.

For Heidegger, in Sein und Zeit, anxiety reveals nothingness as the consequence, not manifestation, of freedom. Rather than an absence of an obstacle in front of us, anxiety reveals the wake of lost opportunities behind us, things we could have and should have done. Anxiety therefore reveals the charge from our authentic self: “Guilty!”. For Heidegger, anxiety expresses our existential responsibility, not to overcome our self, but to make “the choice to choose oneself”. For Sartre, anxiety reveals the potency of the will to negate the self. For Heidegger, it calls us back to our self. This disagreement provides a case study in the different phenomenological priorities of two highly influential thinkers. In explaining why they are able to disagree so fundamentally about the same phenomenon, I wish to lend weight to Heidegger’s claim that phenomenology is not a set of theoretical discoveries, but a practice.”

The British Society for Phenomenology’s Annual Conference took place at the University of Brighton, UK during September, 2017. It gathered together philosophers, literary scholars, phenomenologists, and practitioners exploring phenomenological theory and its practical application. It covered a broad range of areas and issues including the arts, ethics, medical humanities, mental health, education, technology, feminism, politics and political governance, with contributions throwing a new light on both traditional phenomenological thinkers and the themes associated with classical phenomenology. More information about the conference can be found here.