- Existence (Philosophy of) 2
- Philosophy of existence 2 Sartre Thomas R.Flynn Born 21 June 1905, in Thiviers (Dordogne), Jean-Paul Sartre was raised in the Parisian home of his widowed mother’s parents. After his mother’s remarriage, he spent several years with her and his stepfather in La Rochelle but returned to the capital to continue his education, first at the prestigious lycées Henri IV and Louis-le-Grand, and then at the renowned Ecole Normale Supérieure. After several years of teaching in various lycées, interspersed with a year of research at the French Institute in Berlin (1933–4), mobilization during the Phoney War (1939–40), and internment in a prisoner of war camp (1940–1), Sartre abandoned teaching for a career as an author and critic. He founded the review Les Temps modernes with Merleau-Ponty, Simone de Beauvoir and others (1944), refused the Legion of Honour (1945) and the Nobel Prize for Literature (1962), and became increasingly involved in the politics of the left in the second half of his life. Sartre adopted a former student, Arlette Elkaïm (1965), who had become his literary heir. He died in Paris on 15 April 1980. Perhaps no one in the twentieth century better exemplifies the union and creative tension among philosophy, literature and public life than Jean-Paul Sartre. His novel Nausea and play No Exit emerged in the 1940s as paradigmatic ‘existentialist’ pieces, for which his masterwork, Being and Nothingness, served as the theoretical underpinning. This last, like Darwin’s Origin of Species, was more mentioned than read during the halcyon days of café existentialism. But its basic insights and powerful phenomenological descriptions have continued to attract a number of contemporary philosophers as well as the general reading public. Several of these themes and theses continued to direct Sartre’s philosophy throughout the shifts and adjustments of the next thirty-seven years of his career. So we cannot refer to a rejection of, or a ‘turning’ from, his earlier thought in his later work as is often done in the cases of Wittgenstein and Heidegger respectively. The present chapter will survey Sartre’s philosophical development, analyse the fundamental concepts and principles that constitute his contribution to philosophy in eight standard fields of inquiry, and conclude with reflections on Sartre’s relationship to four movements in the recent history of philosophy, namely, existential phenomenology, Marxism, structuralism and postmodernism. PHILOSOPHICAL DEVELOPMENT Sartre once admitted that his inspiration to write philosophy came from reading Bergson’s Time and Free Will. The Bergsonian influence on his thought, both positive and by way of reaction, has yet to be studied in depth. But the presence of this formidable French theorist is obvious from the centrality of time and temporalizing consciousness in Sartre’s published philosophical writings from the very start. These works of the 1930s, culminating in Psychology of Imagination (1940), exhibit both a keen sensitivity to lived experience as distinct from the mechanical or quantified phenomena of positive science (a well-known Bergsonian theme) as well as a profound opposition to the philosophical idealism of his neo-Kantian professors at the Sorbonne. His early writings also tended to take imaging consciousness as paradigmatic of consciousness in general. In fact, if Sartre is known as the philosopher of freedom in our times, he could with equal justification be considered the philosopher of imagination. We shall observe various forms of imaging consciousness emerge in the course of our essay. Sartre’s long-time companion, Simone de Beauvoir, relates the story of their meeting with Raymond Aron after the latter’s return from a year in Berlin. At Aron’s account of the new philosophy of Edmund Husserl that could describe ‘phenomenologically’ an individual object such as the cocktail glass before them, she recounts, Sartre ‘turned pale with emotion’. As they left the café, she recalls, Sartre had to find a bookstore open at night in order to purchase a copy of Levinas’s The Theory of Intuition in Husserl’s Phenomenology. If phenomenology enabled Sartre to philosophize about concrete, individual reality, its central concept of intentionality allowed him to escape the ‘principle of immanence’ that entangled idealist philosophers in a mind-referring world. Philosophical idealism claims that reality is essentially mental or mind-referring. Berkeley’s famous maxim ‘To be is to perceive or be perceived’ illustrates this view. Sartre published an essay in 1939 that countered this idealist claim with the principle of intentionality, namely, that consciousness is essentially other-referring: ‘All consciousness is consciousness of another.’ He applied this Husserlian principle with characteristic rigour, even directing it against Husserl himself, whom he accused of sliding into idealism by appeal to a ‘transcendental’ ego. Sartre’s robust realism continued to shape his epistemological claims over the years. He always insisted that we can know the real world in itself, that historical facts are not the result of our individual or collective creation, and that the harsh facticity of every situation must be dealt with, indeed, that failure to do so is simply ‘bad faith’. It made him an apt, if initially reluctant, convert to philosophical materialism in the 1950s. Of course, mechanistic materialism was never a temptation. He had consistently opposed its claims from the start. But once he could separate the emergent features of dialectical materialism from its quasi-mechanical use by Marxist ‘economism’, he appealed to the ‘material conditions of history’ that Marxists of all shades respected and undertook to incorporate these socio-historical considerations into his philosophy of individual freedom-responsibility. The Second World War was the dividing point between the phenomenological existentialist Sartre and his Marxist existentialist avatar. As he said in one of his many interviews, his ‘experience of society’ during those years forced him to shift from a philosophy of consciousness to one of praxis, understood roughly as human action in its material, socio-historical environment. If it is a mistake to see the early Sartre as an unqualified phenomenologist, witness his rejection of a basic Husserlian concept in The Transcendence of the Ego (1937), it is equally erroneous to read him as a Marxist sans phrase. In fact, in his final decade he explicitly denied he was a Marxist, insisting that ‘existentialist’ would be a more appropriate label if one had to make such designations. In Search for a Method (1958) and the Critique of Dialectical Reason, vol. 1 (1960), he makes ample use of historical materialist categories and arguments. Even in his massive Flaubert study, The Family Idiot (1971–2), where existentialist and Marxist terms are intertwined, he seems to regard physical labour and human need as the touchstones of reality. Still, his association with les maos (ultraleftists) after the student uprising of 1968, and his unpublished collaborative effort with Benny Levy on yet another ethic, confirms the judgment that Sartre was and remained a moralist. For it was the desire to retain a place for moral assessment within social critique that attracted him to these young radicals. As he noted, in obvious disgust, ‘The Communists don’t give a damn about justice. All they want is power’ [3.28], 76. It is his moralist tendencies more than his so-called ‘Cartesianism’ that locate him squarely in the French philosophical tradition. Sartre’s final interviews with Levy are much controverted. Simone de Beauvoir and Raymond Aron claim that the young man took advantage of Sartre’s age and ill health to project a false image, a Sartre without critical bite, a domesticated warrior. Indeed, these conversations do read like Platonic dialogues, with Levy assuming the controlling role of Socrates. Though it would be a mistake to read these pages without reference to the development of Sartre’s thought as a whole, comparison of several disputed passages with claims made in posthumously published material from different stages of Sartre’s career indicates that at least some of Sartre’s so-called revisions of his well-known positions were actually ideas he had defended in these other works quite independent of Lévy’s purported influence. Thus his remarks about love and ‘fraternity’ are anticipated and developed at length in his Notebooks for an Ethics (written 1948–9), as we shall see. Again, this does not mean that Sartre ‘renounced’ his existentialist philosophy in his final years. Nothing could be farther from the truth. But it does reveal Sartre as a living, evolving thinker, responding to the everchanging challenges of his day. For Sartre, to philosophize was his way of being-in-the-world. PHILOSOPHICAL CONTRIBUTIONS Existentialists have been portrayed as non- or even anti-systematic thinkers. No doubt this stems from Kierkegaard’s notorious animus against Hegel’s ‘System’ and Nietzsche’s strictures against academic philosophy in general. But, unless by ‘systematic’ one means ‘axiomatic deductive’, classical existentialist thinkers like Sartre, Merleau- Ponty, Heidegger (who rejected the association) and others were rigorous and consistent theorists, who applied fundamental principles and concepts according to a clear method. Given the interlinking and cumulative nature of Sartre’s thought, it is best to order our exposition according to the standard philosophical sub-disciplines. Not only will this facilitate our consideration of his massive oeuvre, it will also exhibit the unity and coherence of his theoretical work. Methodology and epistemology Sartre had a remarkable talent for psychological description. His novels, plays and short stories were replete with arresting, insightful accounts of both typical and dramatic moments in the human condition. So it is small wonder that he was taken by Husserl’s phenomenological method of ‘eidetic reduction’. By a ‘free, imaginative variation of examples’, Husserl proposed to focus on the essence, eidos, or intelli-gible contour of any ‘object’ whatsoever. Not only physical nature, mathematical abstractions or metaphysical categories but acts of ingratitude and artistic events were likely objects for the phenomenologist’s eye. Like the forensic artist’s composite photograph, these reductive descriptions serve to reveal the form, figure or essence of an object, whether this be an abstract entity, like ‘material object’, an emotion, like ‘resentment’, or a particular phenomenon, like ‘this glass’. At its best, such descriptive analysis reveals the essential features of the object in question, that is, those that withstand the imaginative variations to which they are subject by the describer. Descriptive phenomenology is a ‘science’ of what Aristotle called ‘formal’, not ‘efficient’ causes. As Husserl noted, ‘phenomenology does not try to explain…but simply to get us to see’. When it is unable to generate what Husserl termed the ‘intuition of essences’ (Wesensschau), the phenomenological method must be satisfied with possible or probable opinions about the matter in question. So the first two parts of Sartre’s Psychology of Imagination are entitled the ‘certain’ and the ‘probable’ respectively. What we may call an epistemology of ‘vision’, the Husserlian legacy, remains a constant feature of Sartre’s method. It accounts for some of the most arresting passages in his philosophical writings, and serves to ‘concretize’ some of the most abstract sections of his theoretical works. The presuppositions of Husserl’s method are Cartesian, however, and Sartre’s writings up to and including Being and Nothingness refer to a form of the cogito as essential to any method that would move beyond mere probability to certainty in its basic claims. The insight of individual reflective consciousness in this approach is taken as the final court of appeal in philosophical argument. Although Sartre seemed to modify this view in his later years, he never abandoned it, as is clear from his retention of the language of Being and Nothingness in his final work on Flaubert. A tension between this epistemology of vision and an overlapping epistemology of praxis renders Sartre’s later philosophy problematic. After the war, Sartre adopted a form of the dialectical method, which he had been studying in the works of Hegel and Marx during that period. Central to this approach, as he saw it, were the notions of ‘finality’, ‘negativity’ and ‘time’. It is a feature of dialectical reasoning, he insists, to acknowledge ‘a certain action of the future as such’. Explanation in terms of Aristotle’s ‘final’ causality had been philosophically unpopular since Descartes. But Sartre argues that our comprehension of human activity (praxis) as distinct from mechanical behaviour depends on the purposes that guided the agents themselves. He criticized philosophers since Descartes for ‘failing to conceive negativity as productive’, an oversight that he certainly avoided in Being and Nothingness, where negativity assumes pride of place as an essential feature of consciousness as such. Sartre’s dialectic differs most from Hegel’s by its insistence on the primacy of individual activity in dialectical advance and in its denial of any ‘end’ to the dialectical process so long as consciousness/praxis sustains it. A pivotal claim, and the undoing of any totalitarian theory, is Sartre’s thesis that a ‘totalizing’ consciousness/praxis cannot totalize itself, that is, it cannot be completely absorbed in a social whole of which its totalizing activity is a part. This ‘nihilating’ character of consciousness in the early Sartre remains in the praxis of the later one to preclude any ‘organicist’ or totalitarian tendencies in his social thought. The later, dialectical thinker prefers ‘notions’ to ‘concepts’ as the vehicles for expressing historical intelligibility. Sartre argues that developmental thinking alone can render comprehensible a fluid reality and that notions as dynamic are superior to static concepts in performing this task. Like Aristotle’s and Kant’s categories, concepts as such are atemporal whereas notions include an essential reference to temporality in their very meaning. We should see ‘notion’ as a ‘dialectical concept’ and read Sartre’s writings after Being and Nothingness as abounding in them. Sartre’s discourse on method is the essay Search for a Method, published first as an article and later as a kind of preface to the Critique of Dialectical Reason. It combines the phenomenological and dialectical moments in an approach that develops the ‘method of understanding’ (Verstehen) of German social theory at the turn of the century. The method entails three stages or dimensions. The first is a phenomenological description of the subject matter to be studied. The terminus of eidetic reduction, it now forms the beginning of Sartre’s approach. The second step is a ‘regressive’ move from the object of investigation to the conditions of its possibility. These may be purely ‘formal’, such as the structures of social relations that Sartre uncovers in the Critique of Dialectical Reason, vol. 1, or they may include a specific content, like the intrafamilial relations of the young Flaubert that conditioned his psychosocial development. The third move in what Sartre calls his ‘progressive-regressive’ method is the progressive spiral of interiorization/exteriorization of these material and formal conditions by the agent whose meaning-direction (sens) we are attempting to uncover. If successful, the progressiveregressive method enables us to ‘understand’ (not ‘conceptualize’) an agent as well or even better than he or she understood himself or herself, the ideal of hermeneutical investigation since Kant. Psychology Sartre’s first published philosophical books were in psychology: Imagination (1936), Sketch for a Theory of Emotions (1939), and The Psychology of Imagination (1940). Not coincidentally, they emphasize the role of the imagination in our psychic life and pursue in depth Husserl’s thesis that intentionality is the defining characteristic of the mental. Both these remain influential in Sartre’s subsequent writings. His phenomenological analysis of the imagination reveals three characteristics of its structure: the imagination is a consciousness; like all consciousness, it is intentional; and it differs from perceptual consciousness in the way it ‘intends’ its object, namely, as absent, non-existent or unreal. It is better, he argues, to speak of ‘imaging consciousness’ than of ‘imagination’ with its corresponding ‘images’. The latter form of expression tends to hypostatize consciousness and to turn images into simulacra, ‘inner’ icons of some ‘exterior’ object. Such discourse succumbs to what Sartre calls the ‘illusion of immanence’ shared by realists and idealists alike. Rather, imaging consciousness should be conceived as a manner of being-in-the-world, a Heideggerian term that Sartre adopts. Intentionality avoids the paradoxes of traditional inside-outside epistemology and accounts for the relational character of consciousness. Imaging consciousness ‘derealizes’ the perceptual or recollected object, relating to it in the properly imaginary mode. This derealizing activity employs physical or psychic material (for example, painted surfaces or phosphenes in the case of aesthetic or oneiric objects respectively), to serve as an analogue for the imagined object. Sartre’s concept of ‘representative analogue’ figures in much that is original and interesting in his aesthetic theory. It is integral to his existential ‘biographies’ of such ‘lords of the imaginary’ as Baudelaire, Genet, Flaubert and Mallarmé. For each in his own way will be portrayed as ‘derealizing’ the bourgeois world of his contemporaries and enticing others with his art to do likewise. A conceptual flaw that weakens Sartre’s usage is his failure to explain in detail what he means by these cardinal terms, ‘analogy’ and ‘analogue’. These features of imaging consciousness are summarized in the following definition: ‘The image is an act which intends [literally, “aims at” (vise)] an absent or non-existent object in its corporality by means of a physical or psychical content which is given not for its own sake but only as an “analogical representative” of the intended object’ ([3.30], 25; in the French text, p. 45). It is remarkable that Sartre speaks of imaging consciousness in this first period of his writings as the locus of possibility, negativity and lack, and insists that only in the imagining act is the ‘nihilation’ of objects revealed (see [3.30], 243–5; French, pp. 360–1), because, in Being and Nothingness and thereafter, these emerge as the proper features of consciousness in general. To the extent that Sartre’s early philosophy by his own admission is a ‘philosophy of consciousness’, it is likewise a philosophy of the imagination. Our survey of his thought and works will justify considering him the philosopher of the imagination as much as the philosopher of freedom—the title by which he is commonly designated. His analysis of the emotions is in direct parallel with that of the image. Like images, emotions are not ‘inner states’ that somehow correspond to external stimuli. Neither are they reducible to their physiological expression, as some have argued. Emotional consciousness is another way of being-in-the-world. In this case, it is one that entails a physiological change as a means of relating to the world in a ‘magical’ manner. Emotional consciousness is ‘failure behaviour’ (la conduite d’échec), an expression that will play an important role in Sartre’s biography of Flaubert. The agent, unable to change the world through rational activity, changes himself or herself in order to conjure up a world that is no longer frustrating. Thus, the golfer gets red in the face before his/her failure to escape a sand trap. Sartre reads this as conscious, that is, ‘intentional’, behaviour. Its purpose is to generate another world as if by magic via one’s bodily changes: perspiration, increased blood pressure, agitated motions and the like—these are ‘intended’ to help whisk the ball on to the green. Again, Sartre’s phenomenological descriptions are aimed at escaping the ‘inner life’ and underscoring the correlativity of consciousness and world, psychology and ontology. Ontology If Sartre is a moralist, he is likewise basically an ontologist. The close relation between ethics and ontology in his thought lends it a ‘traditional’ flavour quite foreign to that of recent French intellectuals. His masterwork, Being and Nothingness, subtitled ‘An Essay in Phenomenological Ontology’, develops the basic categories of his theory of being (ontology) and concludes with the promise of an ethics, which never appeared in Sartre’s lifetime. Inspired by the divisions of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit but always relying on the ‘apodictic’ evidence of Husserl’s eidetic reduction, Sartre undertakes a description of the fundamental forms of being. He calls these ‘being-in-itself’ (l’être-en-soi), ‘being-foritself’ (l’être-poursoi) and ‘being-for-others’ (l’être-pour-autrui). Each has distinctive characteristics and is irreducible to the others. Exploiting the proximity of phenomenology to psychology, ontology and literary ‘argument’, Sartre relies on powerful examples and tropes to convey his insights. In fact, his first literary success, Nausea (1938), both anticipates and ‘works through’ imaginatively the themes and theses of Being and Nothingness, published five years later. Being-in-itself or the non-conscious is the inert plenum. It is self-identical and without the features commonly ascribed to being in realist ontologies. For example, it is neither active nor passive, is beyond negation and affirmation (other than the judgment that it is and is self-identical), knows no otherness, is not subject to temporality and is neither derived from the possible nor reduced to the necessary. ‘Uncreated, without reason for being, without any connection with another being, being-in-itself is de trop (superfluous) for eternity’ ([3.2] lxvi). Sartre derives these characteristics from an initial phenomenological investigation of the being of any phenomenon. He confirms them by appeal to certain experiences like nausea and boredom that he believes are revelatory of its ontological nature. Being-for-itself or consciousness is the counter-concept to being-in-itself and is its internal negation. It brings ‘otherness’ into play, is precisely non-self-identical, and is characterized as a ‘pure spontaneous upsurge’, a feature Sartre’s concept shares with the concept of mind in classical German idealism. The for-itself ‘temporalizes’ the ‘world’ that it constitutes by its intentional relations. As we noted above, consciousness is the locus of possibility, negativity and lack. Early in Being and Nothingness, Sartre undertakes an analysis of our act of questioning, a tactic doubtless learned from Heidegger’s Being and Time, with which his book has several affinities. His descriptive analysis concludes that the negativity which permeates our lives from the fragility of objects to the absence of friends is not dependent on the act of judging—the standard view—but conversely. We have ‘a certain prejudicative comprehension of nonbeing’ ([3.2], 7), and it is this that grounds the negative judgments and realities (négativités) that populate our world. Sartre proceeds to argue that this ‘nihilating’ relation of consciousness to the world is possible only because consciousness (the foritself) is of its very nature a no-thingness (néant), an ‘othering’ relation that holds the initself (‘thingness’) at bay even as it conspires with being-in-itself to constitute the existential ‘situation’. The essence of consciousness as the internal negation or no-thingness of being-in-itself accounts for many of the paradoxes that abound in Sartre’s ontology. Chief among these is the claim that ‘human reality’ (his translation of Heidegger’s Dasein), ‘is not what it is…and is what it is not’ ([3.2], 123). Human reality ‘is’ its ego, its past, its ‘facticity’, in the manner of not-being these givens of its situation, that is, as the internal negation of being-in-itself. Metaphorically, the for-itself ‘secretes’ nothingness (le néant) or otherness between itself and whatever predicate one might wish to ascribe to it. These verbal twists are meant to capture the ephemerality of the for-itself, a transitivity which echoes that of temporality, which the for-itself constitutes. Following Heidegger, Sartre distinguishes lived or ekstatic temporality from the ‘universal time’ measured by chronometers. The latter is quantitative and homogeneous; the former, qualitative and heterogeneous. Being-for-itself is not ‘in’ time the way a hand is in a glove, or even the way the glove is ‘in’ time. Rather, it ‘temporalizes’ the world which it constitutes. The for-itself ‘exists’ in three temporal ekstases: the past as facticity or ‘already’, the future as possibility or ‘not yet’, and the present as ‘presence to’ or the ‘othering’ relation that at once unites and distinguishes the for-itself from being. These are three structured moments of an original synthesis. Sartre insists that it is better to accent the present ekstasis rather than the future as Heidegger does, because presence-to best exemplifies the internal negation of being-in-itself, which is the total synthetic form of temporality ([3.2], 142). When one moves from the abstractions of the in-itself and the for-itself to the concrete individual agent, these functional concepts, being-in-itself and being-for-itself, assume the roles of ‘facticity’ and ‘transcendence’ respectively. Every individual is a being-insituation and ‘situation’ is a vague, indeterminate mix of the givens, including one’s physical and cultural environment as well as one’s previous choices, on the one hand, and the project that moves beyond them, on the other. These givens must be reckoned with, but, Sartre insists, they are not determining. ‘One can always make something out of what one has been made into’ is the maxim of Sartrean humanism. The first half of his career was spent explaining the first portion of that remark; the remainder was devoted to articulating how society and history have limited our choices without removing them entirely. Although Sartre insists that being-for-others is as fundamental as the in-itself and the for-itself, it is clearly dependent on them ontologically. In one of the most famous passages of Being and Nothingness, he offers his ‘proof for the existence of other minds in the form of an eidetic reduction of shame-consciousness. After criticizing the adequacy of traditional arguments from analogy to account for the certainty with which we believe in the existence of other minds, he performs an ‘imaginative reconstruction’ of an example to reveal how such certainty figures essentially in our experience of shame. He imagines someone looking through a keyhole at a couple. Like all Sartrean consciousness, the couple’s consciousnesses are objectifying one another in a reciprocal gaze. The voyeur is a ‘pure’ consciousness, seeing but unseen, objectifying but unobjectified, whereas they are in a mutual relation of looking/looked at, unaware of the third party. Suddenly, the interloper hears a noise from behind. In one and the same reaction of shame, one experiences the other as subject and oneself objectified. In other words, one’s experience of shame is analysable into the condition of its possibility, namely, one’s embodiedness-as-perceived by another consciousness. One cannot be objectified except by another subject, nor is it possible to feel shame except as an embodied being. Even if the noise turns out to have been a false alarm, the mere rustling of the curtains, for example, the agent has had an immediate experience of another as subject; it is written in the blush on his/her face. This ‘proof of other minds is experiential. Rather than the probability of some weak analogy, it yields the certainty of the Wesensschau. After establishing the existence of other minds, albeit in a general, ‘pre-numerical’ manner that renders my being for-others the precondition of my being objectified by any subject in particular (see [3.2], 280–1), Sartre directs his ontological investigation to each of the conditions for that experience, namely, the body and the other subject. There are three dimensions to bodily being-in-the-world, namely, the body as for-itself, as for-others, and as what Sartre calls the way I ‘exist for myself as a body known by the Other’ ([3.2], 351). The absurdities of the mind-body problem, Sartre believes, stem from failure to respect these ontological levels regarding the body and in particular from beginning our analysis with the body-for-others. The latter approach sees body as a thing among things and hence as externally related to consciousness and to other bodies. Sartre begins, on the contrary, with body as being-for-itself, that is, as my way of being-in-theworld. As such, body is ‘lived’ (pre-reflectively) and not ‘known’ (reflectively), it is the absolute centre of instrumentality that I am, rather than an instrument that I employ, and it is at once my point of view and my point of departure for acting in the world. Hence Sartre can claim that ‘being-for-itself must be wholly body and it must be wholly consciousness; it can not be united with a body’ ([3.2], 305). Sartre’s peculiar kind of ‘materialism’ depends on defending a body that is likewise wholly intentional, that is, that is not simply externally related to the projects by which an agent is individuated. Accordingly, body is integral to the existential ‘situation’ and is the vehicle by which other ‘necessary contingencies’ of our situation such as our race, our class and our very past figure in the mix. In other words, body as being-for-itself is the basic form of our facticity. Once we have phenomenologically described our way of ‘existing’ our body, there is no temptation to misread the body-for-others as a thing among things. The latter now appears as the Other’s flesh, a term elaborated by Merleau-Ponty and designating for Sartre ‘the pure contingency of [the Other’s] presence’ ([3.2], 343). What he calls ‘the pure intuition of the flesh’ is especially evident in the Other’s face (aclaim that invites comparison with that of Levinas regarding the primacy of the Other and the ethical significance of the face in this revelation). The body is thus revealed as a ‘synthetic totality of life and action’ ([3.2], 346, emphasis his). The third ontological dimension of the body, for Sartre, is ‘my body as known by the Other’. This denotes that real but uncontrollable aspect of our being-in-the-world before others—the poet’s ‘as others see us’. If shame-consciousness reveals the existence of other subjects, affective structures such as shyness indicate a vivid awareness of my body not as it is for me but as it is ‘for the Other’. Significantly, Sartre insists that language shows us abstractly the principal structures of our body-for-others. We shall observe him subsequently locate language among the ‘practico-inert’. This relation between language and body-for-others is a suggestive dimension of Sartre’s ontology yet to be fully explored. The social dimension of Sartre’s vintage existentialism elaborates our being-for-others as well as the facticity of our being-in-situation. His famous analysis of our basic relations to each other as an attempt to ‘assimilate the Other’s freedom’ through sadistic or masochistic manoeuvres scandalized the public and contributed to his reputation for pessimism in the late 1940s. This was reinforced by the well-known line from his play No Exit (1944), that ‘Hell is other people’ (l’enfer, c’est les autres). Although he later contextualized these remarks, along with the passages in Being and Nothingness on which they form a gloss, as referring to interpersonal relations ‘in an alienated society’ such as ours, the source of the difficulty and the obstacle to a more satisfactory social theory is ontological, not historical: his looking/looked-at model for interpersonal relations. Until this is surpassed in the Critique of Dialectical Reason, Sartre can offer us at best a theory of the other writ large, but not a social philosophy properly speaking. Ethics It is now common to divide Sartre’s ethical thought into three phases: the ethics of authenticity of his vintage existentialist years, the dialectical ethics that he began to formulate in the 1950s and 1960s, and the ‘ethic of the we’ that he was fashioning with Benny Levy toward the end of his life. Since the first is his best known and most fully articulated theory, we shall concentrate on the ethics of authenticity. If there is any existentialist ‘virtue’, it has been remarked, it is authenticity. The basis for this concept is appropriately ontological: ‘man is free because he is not a self but a presence-to-self’ ([3.2], 440). In other words, human reality is a ‘being of distances’— whatever it is, it is in the manner of not-being that property, that is, as being otherthanthat. So the male homosexual’s friend who urges him to ‘come out’ and admit what he is, in Sartre’s example, is really asking him to be inauthentic, to be a homosexual ‘the way a stone is a stone’, that is, in the manner of the self-identity of being-in-itself. But, of course, that is precisely what he cannot do—since, as conscious, he is ‘in situation’ as a homosexual. He is homosexual, French, courageous, or whatever, in the manner of transcending that facticity. Still, it is that facticity which he transcends, ‘nihilates’, ‘others’. The ‘moral’ challenge, if that word is appropriate, is to live that tension from day to day. One can no more resign oneself to complete identity as a homosexual than the reformed gambler or alcoholic can rest secure in his or her ‘sobriety’ after years of success. What others see as pessimism Sartre proclaims as hope: we are not condemned by our upbringing, our characters or our past behaviour; we are freed from determinisms of every kind; we can always make something out of what we have been made into. Perhaps Sartre’s best description of ‘authenticity’ published in his lifetime is found in Anti-Semite and Jew (1946): ‘Authenticity consists in having a true and lucid consciousness of the situation, in assuming the responsibilities and risks it involves, in accepting it in pride or humiliation, sometimes in horror and hate’ ([3.1], 90). What emerges from existentialism in general and from Sartre in particular is authenticity as an ethical style. Its elements are: first, a heightened awareness of facticity and possibility, that is, of the existential situation; second, the exercise of creative choice of self within this situation; and finally, owning or appropriating the consequences of this choice, that is, of the altered situation, the altered self. As he remarks in his posthumously published Notebooks for an Ethics (1992), ‘It is this double, simultaneous aspect of the human project, gratuitous at its core and consecrated by a reflective reprise, that makes it into authentic existence’ ([3.26], 481). This is not amor fati. Simply to resign oneself to one’s facticity is a lie, for it denies that other dimension of the existential situation, transcendence or consciousness, which must sustain the resignation and thereby leave rebellion a constant possibility. Rather, authenticity is the challenge to ‘have the courage to go to the limits of ourselves in both directions at once’ ([3.32], 599). This is the moral Sartre draws from the biography of his ‘hero’ of authenticity, Jean Genet. The ambiguity of ‘situation’, its indeterminate mélange of facticity and transcendence, reflects the now-self-coincidence of human reality. It makes ontologically possible ‘bad faith’, the best known of Sartrean moral categories. There are two basic forms of bad faith, depending on whether the individual flees the anguish of his or her freedompossibility for identification with facticity (for example, the alcoholic who is ‘cured’ once and for all) or denies the force of circumstances to float in the realm of pure possibility (like James Thurber’s Walter Mitty). Each is a kind of ‘lie to oneself, which, of course, is impossible unless one introduces another kind of otherness or inner distance into human reality, namely, one that affects consciousness itself. Sartre discovers a twofold duality in the human way of being: ontological (presence-toself) and psychological (levels of consciousness). The former accounts for the otherness that infects our very being; the latter divides our awareness such that we can be conscious without ‘knowing’ it. The former constitutes the split; the latter renders possible the selfdeception. In Being and Nothingness, he speaks of ‘pre-reflective’ and ‘reflective’ consciousness. The former is our immediate experience of the other, our being-in-theworld. It is ekstatic and pre-personal in the sense that it is not closed in on itself but is ‘already in the world’ when reflection intervenes. With reflection comes the self (as quasi-object of reflection), the concepts of ‘knowledge’ as distinct from the notions of ‘understanding’, which are rooted in the pre-reflective, and the objects of deliberation to which one turns when ‘making up one’s mind’. Significantly, the pre-reflective enjoys both an epistemic and an ontological primacy. It is the level of ‘fundamental project’ that orients our reflective moments as well as the locus of that comprehension which accompanies every conscious act. In fact, prereflective comprehension functions in Sartre’s thought in a manner not unlike Freud’s ‘unconscious’, to which Sartre was notoriously opposed. The chief and crucial difference is that appeal to the pre-reflective enhances rather than diminishes responsibility for Sartre. The extreme responsibility to which Sartre holds us in his polemical writings is an application of this far-reaching concept of pre-reflective comprehension: we all understand what we are about, even if we do not reflectively know it. Awareness and responsibility are coextensive. This virtual identification of consciousness and responsibility will strike many as hyperbolic, given the traditional conditions for moral responsibility, namely, some degree of control in addition to an element of knowledge. In the brief compass of a sub-section, it is impossible to pursue this at length, but it should be noted that Sartre is concerned with ‘responsibility’ in the sense of being the ‘incontestable author of an event or of an object’ ([3.2], 553). What we might call noetic responsibility, that is, our appropriation of the meanings that constitute ‘our world’, is the ground of the other forms of responsibility that Sartre acknowledges. And here it does not seem incredible to claim that awareness and responsibility are extentionally equivalent. Sartre confirms this interpretation when he occasionally responds as a trump card: ‘Well, he or she could always commit suicide.’ The point is that, if they did not do so, they have ‘chosen’ in the existential sense the ‘world’ in which they live. Fundamental ‘choice’ or project is both the individuating feature of existential ontology, the factor that distinguishes consciousnesses among themselves, and the totalizing aspect of human reality that renders it thoroughly responsible for its situation. Problematic as the concept is—Sartre once likened it to what psychologists mean by ‘selective attention’ (see [3.2], 462)—it is consistent with his claim that being-in-itself cannot act upon consciousness, that the for-itself is a ‘pure spontaneous upsurge’, and that consciousness is what makes motives motivate. Some have compared basic choice to R.M.Hare’s ‘decisions of principle’ in that both are prior to the principles to which one appeals in settling arguments. As Sartre puts it, when one pauses to decide, the ‘chips are [already] down’ ([3.2], 451). Fundamental choice is constitutive, not selective. It is coterminous with pre-reflective consciousness. It is a ‘choice’ which we ‘are/were’, to paraphrase a barbarism that Sartre introduces to express the transitivity and harsh facticity of lived time. Because consciousness, choice, freedom, responsibility are roughly extentionally equivalent terms in what Iris Murdoch called Sartre’s ‘great inexact equations’, the challenge to authenticity and the consequences of inauthenticity are all-encompassing. There is a ‘Weltanschauung of bad faith’, for example; it constitutes a manner of beingin- the-world ([3.2], 68). In a set of unpublished manuscripts for lectures in the 1960s, Sartre begins to elaborate another, dialectical ethic. This is more socially minded than his characteristically individualist stance of twenty years earlier. It builds on his concepts of situation and the exemplarity of moral choices as well as the thesis that no one can be free if anyone is enslaved—themes addressed briefly in his earlier works. His ontological categories are those of the Critique of Dialectical Reason and his discussions, for the most part inchoate and sketchy, are phenomenological descriptions of moral experience, especially the following of moral norms and their violation in moments of moral crisis and creativity. The ideal is no longer the ‘authentic’ individual but ‘integral man’, understood grosso modo as the person who has entered into relations of positive reciprocity with others whose basic animal and human needs have likewise been met such that they are liberated from the alienating tyranny of material scarcity and the violence it engenders. These are necessarily vague notions, Sartre admits, because they gain their precision from that which they oppose, namely, what he calls ‘sub-man’ or the oppressed and oppressing individuals of contemporary society.The most that can be said of integral man in the present state of our social existence is that he or she is made possible by the continuous refusal to live as sub-man. Although Sartre cites the colonist-native relationship to exemplify the notion of sub-humanity, he has always considered this an instance of more general relations of oppressive practice and structural exploitation that characterize bourgeois society. Clearly, Sartre was dissatisfied with this second attempt and so in his last years undertook a third ethic in discussion with Benny Levy. Characterized by Sartre as an ‘ethics of the WE’, this third version remains buried in the tape-recordings in Lévy’s possession. From Sartre’s somewhat exaggerated accounts, we learn that this product of a livre à deux was to leave uncriticized not a single major thesis of his earlier philosophy. As we noted earlier, the published interviews indicate that this is not the case, though they do reveal the revival of some more ‘positive’ theses from earlier works such as Notebooks for an Ethics. In any case, these tapes, if they are ever published, will almost certainly be chiefly of biographical value and are not likely to warrant our rejecting the systematic thought of Sartre at his prime. Existential psychoanalysis Although it has ‘not yet found its Freud’ ([3.2], 575), this approach to understanding the fundamental project of an agent is followed in increasing detail in Sartre’s ‘biographies’ of Baudelaire, Genet and Flaubert as well as in his Nobel-Prize-winning autobiography, The Words. The method is an application of the ontology of Being and Nothingness, although it does not rely on the latter’s discredited social theory. It assumes that human reality is a totalization, not a totality, and that this ongoing unity is forged by the existential project. If human reality is the ‘useless passion’ to coincide consciously with itself, to be in-itselffor- itself, that is, if each of us exemplifies the famous futile desire to be God, then psychoanalysis exercises an hermeneutic on the signs of an individual’s life that indicate its distinctive manner of living this futile desire—whether authentically, for example, or inauthentically. Because pre-reflective consciousness has replaced the Freudian unconscious, Sartre considers it possible in principle to understand an individual completely, that is, to uncover his or her self-defining project in complete transparency. Like so many of the claims enunciated at the height of existentialist enthusiasm, the ideal of total transparency is qualified in Sartre’s later works, where force of circumstance (‘what we have been made into’) modifies absolute freedom and ideology clouds individual awareness. But he remained true to theRousseauian concept of personal and social transparency, at least as an ideal. The details of Sartre’s love-hate relationship with Freud have yet to be recounted. On the one hand, he rejected the Freudian concept of the unconscious as being deterministic, and criticized Freud’s ‘censor’ for being in bad faith (it both knows and does not know what is acceptable to consciousness). And yet he employs the concept of pre-reflective consciousness in a manner that imitates Freudian unconscious in important ways and allows the analyst to reveal to the analys-and meanings which he or she had hitherto not known (in a reflective sense). Preparing the never-to-be-filmed script for a John Houston movie, later published as The Freud Scenario, forced Sartre to rethink his ideas about the unconscious. He acknowledged finding Lacan’s theory of the unconscious structured as a language less troublesome but did not go so far as to embrace the idea. As always, the concept of individual freedom-responsibility remained a non-negotiable. Sartre’s most ambitious exercise in existential psychoanalysis and most thorough use of the progressive-regressive method is his massive study of the life and work of Gustave Flaubert, The Family Idiot (1971–2). Numbering over three thousand pages in the original, it constitutes a kind of summa of Sartre’s intellectual endeavours, embracing everything from ontology and psychoanalysis to literary and social criticism. It addresses the question, ‘What at this point in time, can we know about a human being?’ ([3.15], French, vol. 1, p. ix). A synthesis of existential psychoanalysis and historical materialism, the progressive -regressive method seeks to uncover Flaubert’s basic project, namely, his ‘choice’ of the unreal-imaginary through adopting the ‘neurotic’ lifestyle that bourgeois society thrust upon any would-be artist of Flaubert’s generation. As becomes usual in the second phase of Sartre’s career, biography has broadened into social critique. What is both banal and profound in Sartre’s undertaking is his attempt to comprehend Flaubert’s life and times through the dialectical relationship between his progressive ‘personalization’ and the production and public reception of Madame Bovary. It is a commonplace to study the ‘life and times’ of a historical figure in mutual clarification. But there is something boldly ‘rationalistic’ about Sartre’s attempt to understand why Flaubert had to write Bovary and how he could finally claim, ‘I am Madame Bovary.’ Philosophy and literature No thinker in our century more adequately brokers the marriage of these two disciplines than Sartre. His novels, short stories and plays gave him an audience denied to most philosophers, and his criticism, gathered with occasional pieces in the ten volumes of Situations, established him as a major voice in that domain. This was furthered by the journal of opinion and criticism, Les Temps modernes, which he founded at the end of the war. In a collection of articles published first in that journal and later as a book, What is Literature? (1947), Sartre defends his concept of ‘committed literature’ (littérature engagée). Given his ontological theses of the fundamental project and the possibility of bad faith, Sartre examines literary art in terms of the authenticity and inauthenticity, not merely of its content (which would smell of socialist critiques) but of its very form. He distinguishes prose from what he calls generically ‘poetry’ and insists that the latter cannot be committed. Poetry employs its ‘analogues’ (words, musical sounds, painted surfaces and the like) as ends in themselves. They do not point beyond themselves to our being-in-the-world but undertake to short-circuit that outward movement by rendering the aesthetic object present-absent, that is, imaginatively present, for its own sake. We might say that, for Sartre, where prose looks beyond the pointed finger to the object indicated, ‘poetry’ focuses on the fingertip. If not precisely escapist, such art avoids the challenges of a period of crisis. Sartre believes that the postwar years form such a period. Hence his recommendation that artists should address social concerns and do so in a manner that ‘gives the bourgeoisie a bad conscience’. Once he appropriates this advice himself, ironically about the time the Nobel Committee is preparing to award him the prize for literature, he all but abandons imaginative literature except for an adaptation of Euripides’ The Trojan Women (1965) and his ‘novel that is true’ about Flaubert. And yet this very move to committed literature reveals that the distinction between poetry and prose is functional rather than substantive in the final analysis and that imaginative ‘derealization’ can constitute a form of social action even in genres that Sartre seemed to have dismissed as ‘poetic’. In fact his early (1948) praise of black poetry in French as ‘the only great revolutionary poetry of our time’ ([3.36], vol. 3, p. 233) indicates that he had understood his original distinction in a functional manner from the start. At this point we should summarize the elements of Sartre’s aesthetic theory. Its foundation is the theory of imaging consciousness developed in Psychology of Imagination. It applies intentionality to the constitution of an ‘aesthetic object’ for which the physical artefact serves as analogon. Both cognitive and affective ‘intentions’ conspire to ‘presentify’, that is, to render imaginatively present-absent the object in an aesthetic mode. In the case of non-figurative art, the artefact serves as analogon for itself. Words or their grammatical and syntactical configuration form the analogue of the literary object, a ‘world’ with its proper space and time that is a ‘derealization’ of our real world of praxis. Given both the paradigmatic nature of imaging consciousness for Sartre and the extensional equivalence of ‘consciousness’ and ‘freedom’, it is not surprising to find him discussing the work of art as an ‘invitation from one freedom to another’ and interpreting artistic creativity as an act of generosity. In fact, invitation-response replaces command-obedience as the model for ideal social relations in Sartre’s ‘city of ends’, as we shall now see. Social philosophy In his ‘biography’ of Jean Genet, Sartre avows: ‘For a long time we believed in the social atomism bequeathed to us by the eighteenth century…. The truth is that “human reality” “is-in-society” as it “is-in-the-world”; it is neither a nature nor a state; it is made’ ([3.32], 590). As we noted earlier, the possibility of developing an adequate social theory was hampered by Sartre’s looking/looked-at model of interpersonal relations. At best, this ontology warranted the methodological individualism that his erstwhile friend Raymond Aron ascribed to him in the social realm. But by subsuming his philosophy of consciousness into one of praxis, Sartre increases qualitatively the social potential of his thought. Whereas there is no such thing as a plural look, except as a merely psychological experience (a basic claim of methodological individualists), there is a ‘synthetic enrichment’ of my action when it is incorporated into that of a group. ‘We’ can do many things that remain impossible for me alone. Sartre’s major contribution to social philosophy is made at the level of social ontology, the theory of individual and group identity and action. It takes the form of two concepts, the practico-inert and the mediating third. But to explain each we must first elucidate the notion of praxis, which is the pivot on which his social theory turns. Praxis denotes purposive human activity in its cultural environment. It is distinct from human action sans phrase in being historical; its ‘world’ is a horizon of meanings that are already ‘there’, yet liable to interpretation in light of the ongoing project. But whereas the Husserlian discourse of intentions, meanings and noetic responsibility dominated the landscape of Being and Nothingness, Sartre displays a marked preference for the language of historical materialism in the Critique of Dialectical Reason. The basic form of praxis is labour as a response to material need. This original relationship overcomes whatever lingering idealism Sartre’s theory may have been liable to and generates a dialectic of negation, negation of negation, and transcendence (dépassement) adapted from the Hegelio-Marxist tradition. If the early Sartre left the impression that one could simply change oneself rather than change the world, since the terms were correlative in any case, such ‘Stoic’ freedom is strongly opposed by the later Sartre, and the factical component of one’s situation is finally given its due. Functional heir to being-in-itself, the ‘practico-inert’ refers to the facticity of our social situation in its otherness, especially the material dimension of our cultural environment, as well as to those sedimented past praxes that return to haunt us. If the act of speaking is an instance of praxis, language is a form of the practico-inert. This is the category of ‘counterfinality’ whereby intended ends entail unintended consequences. Sartre’s classic example is the deforestation by Chinese peasants that resulted in the very erosion from floods of the land they hoped to cultivate. Similarly, he employs this concept in his account of the impoverishment of the Spanish state through inflation caused by its hoarding of gold from its newly exploited American mines. Practicoinert ‘mediation’ is alienating, it steals one’s activity the way the ‘look’ of the Other robs one of one’s freedom in Being and Nothingness. And when qualified by material scarcity, practicoinert mediation renders human relations violent. Sartre describes violence as ‘interiorized scarcity’. The fact that there is not enough of the goods of the world to go around colours human history as a tale of violence and terror. Towards the end of his life, Sartre admitted to Benny Levy that he had never reconciled these fundamental features of social life, fraternity and violence. Both are essential to his social thought. ‘Fraternity’ is Sartre’s term for the mutuality and positive reciprocity that constitute his social ideal and which are achieved, albeit temporarily, in the spontaneously formed action group. Most relations are ‘serial’ because they are mediated by the practico-inert. Most of the individuals who populate our world, from the television-viewing public to the people waiting for the same bus, are rendered serial by the ‘false’ or ‘external’ unity imposed on them by such collective objects as a television announcer or an expected bus. They are related among themselves as ‘other’ to ‘other’—as competitors for scarce space, for example, or as fashioning their opinions as the newscaster dictates. Sartre notes that such ‘serial impotence’ is cultivated by dictators who wish to maintain an illusion of power on the part of their subjects in the midst of the latter’s profound malleability. In the ‘apocalyptic’ moment when people realize in a practical manner through a common project that they are ‘the same’, not ‘other’, and that each is performing the task which the other would do were he or she required to do so at this point, the ‘We’ emerges in a fusing group. Sartre’s idealized example of such a genesis is the famous storming of the Bastille. Under threat from an external source, the crowd changes from serial dispersion to practical unity, from a mob to a group. By a performative utterance that effects what it describes, the cry ‘We are a hundred strong!’ in Sartre’s imaginative reconstruction of the event creates a new entity: the fused group. The mediating Third is the ontological vehicle for this transformation. Unlike the objectifying voyeur of Being and Nothingness, the third party in group formation performs a mediating, not an alienating function. By subordinating purely personal or divisive concerns to general interest, he or she emerges as the ‘common individual’. Mediation is exercised no longer via the practico-inert but by means of the praxes of ‘common’ individuals. Complete organic integration is impossible, Sartre continues to insist; some otherness always remains. But it is ‘discounted’, not fostered. He calls it ‘free alterity’ of the group in praxis as opposed to the serial otherness of the impotent collective. A threefold primacy of praxis emerges in Sartre’s later thought. At the ground is an ontological primacy. Even at the highest moment of social integration, the group-infusion, it is organic praxes who create and sustain the group. The entire ‘inner life’ of the group is a revolving circle of practical relations whereby each praxis ‘interiorizes’ the multiplicity of the rest. (Any member could have cried ‘We are a hundred strong!’) Even the practico-inert is not an autonomous force that renders us powerless. It is, after all, practico-inert; the praxes that it absorbs or deflects are still operative, though in alienated fashion. Sartre explicitly adopts the Marxist thesis that ‘there are only individuals and real relations among them’ ([3.35], 76). If Sartre’s early work was a relentless rejection of idealism, his later, social theory is intent on avoiding organicism. The ontological primacy of praxis is his chief weapon in that campaign. On this original primacy Sartre founds an epistemological and an ethical primacy as well. The epistemological primacy of praxis stems from the fact that comprehension is the consciousness of praxis and that we can comprehend the other’s comprehension through the progressive-regressive method. This is an elaboration of the Verstehende sociology of Dilthey, Weber and others, placed in service of an historical materialist conception of social change. But unlike Marxist ‘economism’, the comprehension Sartre seeks comes to rest in the praxisproject of the organic individual. Sartre summarized the difference in a memorable line: ‘Valéry is a petit bourgeois intellectual…. But not every petit bourgeois intellectual is Valéry’ ([3.35], 56). Because individual praxis sustains the most impersonal economic laws, like the ‘iron law of wages’, and the most ‘necessary’ practicoinert processes, such as the colonialist system, one can ascribe existential-moral responsibility to the serialized ‘agents’ whose passive activity carries them out. In other words, one cannot escape responsibility by appeal to facticity. For Sartre the moralist, the spark of human freedom-responsibility is unquenchable: you can always make something out of what you have been made into. Philosophy of history A glance at the posthumously published War Diaries which Sartre kept during the Phoney War of 1939–40 reveals that his interest in the topic was not the result of his socalled conversion to Marxism after the war. But he does set the matter aside in Being and Nothingness, reserving a lengthy discussion of morality and history for his Notebooks for an Ethics, again not published in his lifetime. In the Diaries, his dialogue is primarily with Raymond Aron, whose two volumes on the philosophy of history had just been published. In criticism of Aron, Sartre enunciates a thesis that will be formative of his existential approach to history ever after: the only way to achieve historical unity is by studying the lived appropriation of historical events by an individual agent. What is being sketched at this early stage is the rationale of his existential psychoanalyses of the next decades. If history is to be more than the positivist concatenation of facts and dates, it must come to life in the projects of the historical agent. This is more than psychohistory, to which it exhibits a marked resemblance, because of Sartre’s characteristic moral concerns as well as the historical materialist dimension which he will introduce after the war. In the Notebooks Sartre indicates that an existentialist theory of history will have to respect the paradox of moral responsibility. At this stage the dialogue is with Hegel and the French Hegelians, Kojève and Hyppolite. The existentialist individual makes an ‘end’ to history inconceivable: any totality of which consciousness is part will be a ‘detotalized’ totality. Although he speaks of positive reciprocity, the generosity-gift relationship and good faith in ways that correct the one-sided, pessimistic view of interpersonal relations conveyed in Being and Nothingness, these notes remain in thrall to the looking/looked-at model of the social. Accordingly, the theory of history is faced with seemingly insurmountable difficulties as it attempts to interrelate the individual and the social, morality and history. It is in the two volumes of the Critique of Dialectical Reason, where the dialogue is now with Merleau-Ponty’s criticism of his social thought in the latter’s The Adventures of Dialectic, that Sartre formulates the philosophy of praxis and its attendant social ontology that enable him to construct a theory of history that accounts for collective action and counterfinalities, recognizes the specificity of the sociohistorical, and reserves pride of place for existential-moral responsibility on the part of organic individuals. Since his War Diaries, it has been clear that the root problem for an existentialist theory is the relationship between biography and history. He treats this matter apropos of Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Union in the 1930s in his posthumously published notes for volume 2 of the Critique, but the relation of biography to history receives its most extended consideration in The Family Idiot (especially in volume 3 of the French edition). SARTRE AND TWENTIETH-CENTURY CONTINENTAL PHILOSOPHY Although one of the few major twentieth-century philosophers not to be associated with academe for most of his career, Sartre was professionally trained and remained in dialogue with academic philosophy all of his life. Any assessment of his thought should address his relationship to the leading philosophical movements of his time. Existential phenomenology It was Gabriel Marcel who first called Sartre an ‘existentialist’. By the time of his famous public lecture, Existentialism is a Humanism (1945), his name had become synonymous with the movement. Indeed, it was in part to separate himself from association with Sartrean existentialism that Heidegger denied he was an existentialist and wrote his groundbreaking Letter on Humanism (1947) to explain why. We have noted Sartre’s debt to Husserlian phenomenology throughout this chapter. In Being and Nothingness he criticizes Hegel, Husserl and Heidegger at several junctures but clearly has adopted numerous concepts from each. While it is a gross exaggeration to characterize Sartre’s masterwork as ‘Being and Time translated into French’, the similarities as well as the profound differences between each thinker are underscored by comparing the two works. As soon as a French translation of Heidegger’s 1930 lecture The Essence of Truth appeared (1948), Sartre wrote a lengthy response. It was published posthumously as Truth and Existence (1989). Sartre was a close collaborator with Simone de Beauvoir in the sense that they read each other’s work prior to publication, and she completed several of the lacunae in his social ethic in the mid-1940s with her The Ethics of Ambiguity. Despite its obvious originality, Merleau-Ponty’s The Phenomenology of Perception shows numerous signs of Sartrean influence, even as it takes Sartre to task for his ‘Cartesianism’. But we noted that the Critique seems to be a response to the trenchant criticism levelled by Merleau-Ponty in his Adventures of the Dialectic against a Sartrean social philosophy. Sartre’s indebtedness both to Merleau-Ponty and to Kierkegaard is recounted in memorial essays he penned in honour of each (‘Merleau-Ponty Alive’ (1961) and ‘Kierkegaard: The Singular Universal’ (1966)). The ‘existential turn’ that Husserl’s phenomenological movement took, if initiated by Heidegger, was completed by Sartre. To the extent that such phenomenology grew increasingly anthropological and ethical, it became associated with its French practitioners. The phenomenological method was enriched and its limitations as an approach to history were compensated for by the progressive-regressive method. This last, as we noted, is a synthesis of existential psychoanalysis and historical materialism. The former places it in direct line with the hermeneutic tradition of interpreting symbolic action; the latter relates Sartre’s method to more ‘scientific’ (in the Hegelian sense) approaches to historical intelligibility. Marxism Sartre’s ‘Marxism’ was always adjectival to his existentialism. In the late 1940s, he advised the workers to support the Communist Party faute de mieux, while refusing to join it himself. In Search for a Method, he declares Marxism ‘the philosophy of our times’ and even makes it synonymous with ‘knowledge’ (savoir). But he described the Critique of Dialectical Reason, to which Search served as a kind of preface, as an ‘anticommunist book’ and in his last years explicitly denied he was a Marxist. Still, historical materialism (the Marxist theory of history) is operative in The Family Idiot as well as in his other writings after the late 1950s. Sartre joins that group of Marxists known as ‘revisionists’ in that they question or reject totally the Marxist dialectic of nature (DIAMAT) and emphasize the humanistic dimension of Marx’s writings. In Search for a Method, Sartre announces that his mission in this regard is ‘to conquer man within Marxism’ ([3.35], 83). It is because of their failure to respect the moral dimension of human action, that Sartre abandoned even fellow-travelling in favour of les maos after the events in Paris of 1968. This odyssey is recounted in his discussion with two members of that group, published as On a raison de se révolter (1974). Structuralism The structuralist movement in France as exemplified by the work of Althusser, Lacan, Lévi-Strauss, Barthes and others in the 1960s is commonly credited with having replaced existentialism as the reigning Parisian ‘philosophy’. This is true to a large extent, though that school of thought was subsequently eclipsed by poststructuralist writers. Sartre occasionally criticized the structuralists for ignoring history in general and human agency in particular—essential existentialist concerns. But even a cursory reading of the Critique of Dialectical Reason will reveal the important role that Sartre reserves for structural factors in his account. The ‘formal conditions’ revealed by the regressive movement of the progressive-regressive method are arguably structural. In fact, the major portion of volume 1 of the Critique is synchronic and structural. Whether it is thereby ‘structuralist’ depends on the meaning of the term. Clearly, Sartre opposed it as a system because of its inadequacy to existential experience. And its binary relations, he would accept only as complementing the dialectical, totalizing ‘Reason’ that he was elucidating in the Critique. The ontological locus of structural relations in his social ontology is the practico-inert. Recall that language as such, for him, is practicoinert. So too is analytical, as distinct from dialectical, reason. Sartre speaks of the practico-inert and hence of structure as nonhistorical and even ‘anti-dialectical’. But this must be taken in the context of the totalizing activity of praxis, which renders these structures historically relevant. The ‘platonizing’ tendencies of structuralist thought are tempered by Sartre’s ‘dialectical nominalism’, an approach to ontology and epistemology that respects the qualitative difference between individual and collective phenomena as well as the irreducibility of the latter to the former, while insisting on the threefold primacy of free organic praxis. Dialectical nominalism is a middle ground between holism and individualism in the methodology of the social sciences. Postmodernism Foucault once referred to Sartre as the last of the nineteenth-century philosophers. It was not only his interest in History with a Hegelian ‘H’ and his seeming fixation on Flaubert that generated this remark. It was equally Sartre’s philosophy of the subject, of freedom and of moral indignation that lay behind Foucault’s words. And yet one can find several strikingly ‘postmodern’ theses in Sartre’s work. These would make valuable contributions to the current philosophical conversationand deserve closer scrutiny by contemporary thinkers. By way of conclusion let us consider three. Postmodern thinking is noted for its ‘evacuation of the subject’ from current discourse. In so far as the ‘subject’ in question is the Cartesian res cogitans, Sartre never held that position. His concept of ‘presence to self instead of a substantial self or ego, with its attendant ‘circuit of selfness’ rather than an outer spatio-temporal plane, leaves Sartre free to consider the fluidity of subjectivist discourse and speak of the self as an achievement rather than an origin. The constitution of a moral ‘self, to which Foucault devoted his last years, could have been the topic of a Sartrean treatise. There is an aesthetic strain in Sartre’s thought, owing to the paradigmatic role that he accords imaging consciousness. Postmodern critics from Lyotard to Foucault have shown a marked preference for aesthetic categories as well, even to the point of advocating the Nietzschean aestheticist injunction to ‘make one’s life a work of art’. Not that Sartre should ever be accused of aestheticism. But his reading of history is certainly ‘poetic’, and his existential biographies as ‘novels that are true’ suggest a fruitful field of future inquiry and dialogue with postmodern writers. The Nietzschean inspiration of Sartre’s thought has not received the attention it deserves, especially since the ‘postmodern’ Nietzsche has emerged. Sartre’s early essay ‘The Legend of Truth’, written in 1929, is profoundly Nietzschean in content and tone. The general problem of contingency and chance, which Foucault wished to reintroduce into postmodern historiography, was an abiding theme of Sartre’s existentialist thought. It surfaces again in the posthumous Notebooks for an Ethics. The career of Nietzschean interpretation forms another link between Sartre and postmodern thinkers. And yet it would be excessive to refer to Sartre as a ‘postmodern’. He was a thinker of unities, not of fragments. His emphasis on intentional consciousness and later on totalizing praxis was meant to counter the historical pluralism of Raymond Aron as well as the brute facts of the positivists. And his corresponding commitments aimed at effecting socio-economic changes that would make it possible for ‘freedoms’ to recognize one another. He shared the neo-Stoic belief of postmoderns that one should try to maximize freedom even though there is no hope of complete emancipation. But he persevered in the hope that such a ‘city of ends’ might be possible and urged people to work to realize its advent. Again, we encounter the integral role of the imagination in effecting a meaning-direction (sens) to history. If Sartre is to be remembered as an important and influential philosopher of the twentieth century, it will be as much for the consistency of his commitment to individual freedom as for the insights of his phenomenological descriptions and the force of his categories (bad faith, authenticity, practico-inert, and the like). When he died, the press likened him to Voltaire and noted that we had lost the conscience of our age. It is as moralist, philosopher of freedom and philosopher of the imagination that he made his most memorable contributions. Despite the Teutonic length of his sentences, especially in the later works, he was a quintessential Gallic philosopher. SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY References to the original French texts are given below only in cases where the translations in the text of the chapter are by the author and not from the published versions. Translations 3.1 Anti-Semite and Jew, trans. G.J.Becker, New York: Schocken, 1948. 3.2 Being and Nothingness, trans. H.E.Barnes, New York: Philosophical Library, 1956. 3.3 Between Existentialism and Marxism, trans. J.Mathews, New York: William Morrow, 1974. 3.4 ‘Cartesian Freedom’, in [3.18], 180–97. 3.5 The Communists and Peace with A Reply to Claude Lefort, trans. M.H. Fletcher and P.R.Berk respectively, New York: Braziller, 1968. 3.6 The Condemned of Altona, trans. S. and G.Leeson, New York: Random House, Vintage Books, 1961. 3.7 ‘Consciousness of Self and Knowledge of Self’, in N.Lawrence and D. O’Connor (eds), Readings in Existential Phenomenology, Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1967. 3.8 Critique of Dialectical Reason, 2 vols: vol. 1 Theory of Practical Ensembles, trans. A.Sheridan-Smith, London: NLB, 1976; vol 2, The Intelligibility of History, trans. Q.Hoare, London: Verso, 1991. An emended edition of vol.1 was produced by A.Elkam-Sartre, Critique de la raison dialectique précédé de Questions de méthode, vol. 1, Théorie des ensembles pratiques, Paris: Gallimard, 1985. 3.9 The Devil and the Good Lord, trans. K.Black, New York: Random House, Vintage Books, 1960. 3.10 Ecrits de Jeunesse, ed. M.Contat and M.Rybalka, Paris: Gallimard, 1990. 3.11 The Emotions: Outline of a Theory, trans. B.Frechtman, New York: Philosophical Library, 1948. 3.12 Entretiens sur la politique, with D.Rousset and G.Rosenthal, Paris: Gallimard, 1949. 3.13 ‘Existentialism is a Humanism’, in Existentialism from Dostoevsky to Sartre, selected and intro. W.Kaufmann, Cleveland: World Publishing, Meridian Books, 1956. 3.14 ‘Hope, Now…Sartre’s Last Interview’, Dissent, 27 (1980):397–422. 3.15 L’Idiot de la famille, 3 vols, Paris: Gallimard, 1971–2, vol. 3 revised edn, 1988; vols 1 and 2 trans. C.Cosman as The Family Idiot, 4 vols, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981–91. 3.16 ‘Intentionality: A Fundamental Idea of Husserl’s Phenomenology’, Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology, 1:2 (1970):4–5. 3.17 ‘Introducing Les Temps modernes, in [3.41], 247–67. 3.18 Life/Situations: Essays Written and Spoken, trans. P.Auster and L.Davis, New York: Pantheon, 1977. 3.19 Literary and Philosophical Essays, trans. A.Michelson, New York: Crowell-Collier, Collier Books, 1962. 3.20 ‘A Long, Bitter, Sweet Madness’, Encounter, 22 (1964):61–3. 3.21 Marxisme et existentialisme: Controverse sur la dialectique, with R.Garaudy, J.Hyppolite, J.P.Vigier, and J.Orcel, Paris: Plon, 1962. 3.22 ‘Materialism and Revolution’, in [3.18], pp. 198–256. 3.23 ‘Merleau-Ponty’, in [3.36], vol. 4, pp. 189–287. 3.24 Nausea, trans. L.Alexander, New York: New Directions, 1959. 3.25 ‘No Exit’ and Three Other Plays, trans. L.Abel, New York: Random House, Vintage Books, 1955. 3.26 Notebooks for an Ethics, trans. D.Pellauer, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992. 3.27 Oeuvres Romanesques, ed. M.Contat and M.Rybalka with G.Idt and G. H.Bauer, Paris: Gallimard, 1981. 3.28 On a raison de se révolter, with P.Gavi and P.Victor, Paris: Gallimard, 1974. 3.29 On Genocide, intro. A.Elkaïm-Sartre, Boston: Beacon, 1968. 3.30 The Psychology of Imagination, trans. B.Frechtman, New York: Washington Square Press, 1966; L’Imaginaire, Paris: Gallimard, 1940. 3.31 ‘The Responsibility of the Writer’, in Reflections on Our Age, intro. D. Hardiman, New York: Columbia University Press, 1949. 3.32 Saint Genet, Actor and Martyr, trans. B.Frechtman, New York: Braziller, 1963. 3.33 Sartre on Theater, ed. M.Contat and M.Rybalka, trans. F.Jellinek, New York: Pantheon, 1976. 3.34 Sartre, un film, produced by A.Astruc and M.Contat, Paris: Gallimard, 1977. 3.35 Search for a Method, trans. H.E.Barnes, New York: Random House, Vintage Books, 1968. 3.36 Situations, 10 vols, Paris: Gallimard, 1947–6. 3.37 The Transcendence of the Ego, trans. F.Williams and R.Kirkpatrick, New York: Noonday Press, 1957. 3.38 Truth and Existence, trans. A.van den Hoven, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992. 3.39 ‘L’Universel singulier’, in [3.36], vol. 9, pp. 152–90; ‘Kierkegaard: The Singular Universal’, in [3.2], pp. 141–69. 3.40 War Crimes in Vietnam, with V.Dedier, Nottingham: The Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, 1971. 3.41 The War Diaries, trans Q.Hoare, New York: Pantheon, 1984. 3.42 What is Literature? and Other Essays, trans. B.Frechtman et al., intro. S. Ungar, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1988. 3.43 The Words, trans. B.Frechtman, New York: Braziller, 1964. 3.44 Preface to The Wretched of the Earth by F.Fanon, trans. C.Farrington, New York: Grove Press, 1968. Bibliographies 3.45 Contat, M. and Rybalka, M. The Writings of Jean-Paul Sartre, 2 vols, Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1974. Updated in Magazine littéraire, no. 103–4 (1975):9–49; and in Obliques, 18–19 (1979):331–47. 3.46 Contat, M. and Rybalka, M. Sartre: Bibliographie 1980–1992, Paris: CNRS, 1993. 3.47 Lapoint, F. and C. Jean-Paul Sartre and His Critics: An International Bibliography (1938–1980), 2nd edn, rev., Bowling Green: Philosophy Documentation Center, 1981. 3.48 Wilcocks, R. Jean-Paul Sartre: A Bibliography of International Criticism, Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 1975. Criticism 3.49 Anderson, T.C. The Foundation and Structure of Sartrean Ethics, Lawrence: Regents Press of Kansas, 1979. 3.50 Aron, R. History and the Dialectic of Violence, trans. B.Cooper, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1975. 3.51 Aronson, R. Jean-Paul Sartre, New York: New Left Books, 1980. 3.52 Aronson, R. Sartre’s Second Critique, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987. 3.53 Aronson, R. and van den Hoven, A. (eds), Sartre Alive, Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1991. 3.54 Barnes, H.E. Sartre, New York: Lippincott, 1973. 3.55 Barnes, H.E. Sartre and Flaubert, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981. 3.56 Bell, L.A. Sartre’s Ethics of Authenticity, Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1989. 3.57 Burnier, M.A. Choice of Action, trans. B.Murchland, New York: Random House, 1968. 3.58 Busch, T.W. The Power of Consciousness and the Force of Circumstances in Sartre’s Philosophy, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990. 3.59 Cannon, B. Sartre and Psychoanalysis, Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1991. 3.60 Catalano, J.S. A Commentary on Jean-Paul Sartre’s ‘Being and Nothingness’, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980. 3.61 Catalano, J.S. A Commentary on Jean-Paul Sartre’s ‘Critique of Dialectical Reason,’ Volume 1, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986. 3.62 Caws, P. Sartre, London: Routledge, 1979. 3.63 Collins, D. Sartre as Biographer, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1980. 3.64 Danto, A.C. Jean-Paul Sartre, New York: Viking Press, 1975. 3.65 de Beauvoir, S. Adieux: A Farewell to Sartre, trans. P.O’Brian, New York: Pantheon, 1984. 3.66 de Beauvoir, S. Letters to Sartre, trans. and ed. Q.Hoare, New York: Arcade, 1991. 3.67 Desan, W. The Marxism of Jean-Paul Sartre, Garden City: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1965. 3.68 Detmer, D. Freedom as Value, La Salle: Open Court, 1986. 3.69 Fell, J. Emotion in the Thought of Sartre, New York: Columbia University Press, 1965. 3.70 Fell, J. Heidegger and Sartre: An Essay on Being and Place, New York: Columbia University Press, 1979. 3.71 Flynn, T.R. L’Imagination au Pouvoir: The Evolution of Sartre’s Political and Social Thought’, Political Theory, 7:2 (1979):175–80. 3.72 Flynn, T.R. ‘Mediated Reciprocity and the Genius of the Third’, in [3.83], 345–70. 3.73 Flynn, T.R., Sartre and Marxist Existentialism: The Test Case of Collective Responsibility, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984. 3.74 Hollier, D. The Politics of Prose, trans. J.Mehlman, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986. 3.75 Howells, C. (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Sartre, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992. 3.76 Jameson, F. Marxism and Form, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1971. 3.77 Jeanson, F. Sartre and the Problem of Morality, trans. and intro. R.V.Stone, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1981. 3.78 McBride, W.L. Fundamental Change in Law and Society: Hart and Sartre on Revolution , The Hague: Mouton, 1970. 3.79 McBride, W.L. Sartre’s Political Theory, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991. 3.80 Merleau-Ponty, M. Adventures of the Dialectic, trans J.Bien, Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1973. 3.81 Murdoch, I. Sartre, Romantic Rationalist, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1953. 3.82 Poster, Mark, Sartre’s Marxism, London: Pluto Press, 1979. 3.83 Schilpp, P.A. (ed.) The Philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre, La Salle: Open Court, 1981. 3.84 Silverman, H.J. Inscriptions: Between Phenomenology and Structuralism, London: Routledge, 1987. 3.85 Silverman, H.J. and Elliston, F.A. (eds) Jean-Paul Sartre: Contemporary Approaches to his Philosophy, Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1980. 3.86 Verstraaten, P. et al. Sur les écrits posthumes de Sartre, Bruxelles: Editions de l’université de Bruxelles, 1987. Journal issues devoted to Sartre 3.87 L’Arc, 30 (1966). 3.88 Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology, 12 (1970). 3.89 Magazine Littéraire, 55–6 (1971) and 103–4 (1975). 3.90 Obliques, 18–19 (1979) and 24–5 (1981). 3.91 Les Temps modernes, 2 vols, nos 531–3 (1990).
Routledge History of Philosophy. Taylor & Francis e-Library. 2005.
Look at other dictionaries:
Existence (Philosophy of) 1 — Philosophy of existence 1 Heidegger Jacques Taminiaux At the very outset and up to the end, the long philosophical journey of Martin Heidegger (1889–1976) remained oriented by a single question, the question of Being, the Seinsfrage. This does… … History of philosophy
Existence (Philosophy of) 3 — Philosophy of existence 3 Merleau Ponty Bernard Cullen à Henri Godin LIFE AND WORKS Maurice Merleau Ponty was born on 14 March 1908 into a petty bourgeois Catholic family in Rochefort sur Mer on the west coast of France. When he died suddenly, at … History of philosophy
existence — For the question of why there is something and not nothing, see being . The modern treatment of existence in the theory of quantification is sometimes put by saying that existence is not a predicate. The idea is that the existential quantifier is … Philosophy dictionary
Philosophy of religion — is a branch of philosophy that is concerned with the philosophical study of religion, including arguments over the nature and existence of God, religious language, miracles, prayer, the problem of evil, and the relationship between religion and… … Wikipedia
Philosophy — • Detailed article on the history of the love of wisdom Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Philosophy Philosophy † … Catholic encyclopedia
Philosophy of space and time — is the branch of philosophy concerned with the issues surrounding the ontology, epistemology, and character of space and time. While such ideas have been central to philosophy from its inception, the philosophy of space and time was both an… … Wikipedia
Existence of God — The Existence of God † Catholic Encyclopedia ► The Existence of God The topic will be treated as follows: I. As Known Through Natural Reason A. The Problem Stated 1. Formal Anti Theism 2. Types of Theism B.… … Catholic encyclopedia
Philosophy of Immanuel Kant — Philosophy of Immanuel Kant † Catholic Encyclopedia ► Philosophy of Immanuel Kant Kant s philosophy is generally designated as a system of transcendental criticism tending towards Agnosticism in theology, and favouring the view that… … Catholic encyclopedia
Philosophy of Common Sense — Philosophy of Common Sense † Catholic Encyclopedia ► Philosophy of Common Sense The term common sense designates (1) a special faculty, the sensus communis of the Aristotelean and Scholastic philosophy; (2) the sum of original … Catholic encyclopedia
Philosophy of history — or historiosophy is an area of philosophy concerning the eventual significance, if any, of human history. Furthermore, it speculates as to a possible teleological end to its development that is, it asks if there is a design, purpose, directive… … Wikipedia