This reading continues on from here.
The 13th essay in Ride The Tiger is called ‘Sartre: Prisoner Without Walls’. This essay is very short – only three pages – and concerns itself with the attitude that one ought to take towards inherent freedom. Criticising Sartre’s conception of man as “condemned to be free”, Evola decries the idea that ultimate freedom is any kind of curse, describing this attitude as characteristic of the deep nihilism of the 20th century.
Sartre’s conception of life is, in Evola’s estimation, a fundamentally negative one in that one considers the human experience akin to being a prisoner without walls. For Evola, this maudlin attitude is not appropriate, for it brings with it suffering. Something more is needed.
The 14th essay is called ‘Existence, “Α Project Flung into the World”‘. Here Evola continues to outline his misgivings with existentialism, despite giving it credit for accurately describing the dilemma of the human condition. Existentialism also gets credit for moving beyond primitive solutions like religion and scientific materialism.
As mentioned previously, Evola’s main problem with existentialism is metaphysical. The varieties of existentialism that do not give a satisfactory answer to metaphysical questions are no better than nihilisms. For this reason, the maxim “existence precedes essence” must be rejected. A person is that which transcends the mere physical form; if not, existence is nothing more than morphing randomly into various shapes. Transcendence cannot and will not be found outside the self.
The idea of anxiety over lost choices, opportunities and paths is, for Evola, ridiculous – and materialistic. The transcendent principle ought to exclude such thoughts. The nature of things cannot usefully be said to be sinful in and of itself. Much better to adopt the ancient Greek view of cultivating appreciation of the beauty of limits and form.
The 15th essay is called ‘Heidegger: “Retreating Forwards” and “Being-for-Death” – Collapse οf Existentialism’. The problem with Heidegger, Evola contends, is that his philosophy is motivated principally by a fear of death, in particular the death of the false self, or I. It’s better to disavow identification with the I, and to choose instead to identify with the transcendent, than to march to the drumbeat of death.
Here Evola continues with his criticisms of existentialist philosophy, accusing it of promoting a bleak, sombre and submissive attitude towards the world, one of resignation. Jaspers offers no other solution but faith. In fact, none of the existentialists have offered a satisfactory solution to the problems of nihilism as outlined by Nietzsche. “Existentialism is a projection of modern man in crisis”.
Neither is faith satisfactory, for that is essentially no different from the “Catholic existentialism” that has already been rejected on account of positing the transcendent outside oneself. It must be accepted that God is dead. Transcendence ought not be conceived of as the ‘other’; rather one should begin from the point of transcendence and consider the world from that perspective.
In any case, all of these men, religious and existentialist alike, are written off as petit bourgeoisie, writing about petit bourgeoisie concerns. The real philosophy comes from the men who have survived the “storms of steel and fire” of the early 20th century: those who have been tested. These are the men who understand the true nature of things; they understand “being able to be destroyed, even, without thereby being wounded”.
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