Human Incompletion, Happiness, and the Desire for God in Sartre's Being and Nothingness

in Sartre Studies International
Author: Stephen Wang
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Jean-Paul Sartre argues that human beings are fundamentally incomplete. Self-consciousness brings with it a presence-to-self. Human beings consequently seek two things at the same time: to possess a secure and stable identity, and to preserve the freedom and distance that come with self-consciousness. This is an impossible ideal, since we are always beyond what we are and we never quite reach what we could be. The possibility of completion haunts us and we continue to search for it even when we are convinced it can never be achieved. Sartre suggests that we have to continue seeking this ideal in the practical sphere, even when our philosophical reflection shows it to be an impossibility. Sartre puts this existential dilemma in explicitly theological terms. 'God' represents an ideal synthesis of being and consciousness which remains a self-contradictory goal. This dilemma remains unresolved in his thinking.

Sartre Studies International

An Interdisciplinary Journal of Existentialism and Contemporary Culture

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