Sartre & the Other: Conflict, Conversion, Language & the We

in Sartre Studies International
Author: Gavin Rae
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Sartre's phenomenological ontology discloses that understanding consciousness and its mode of being requires an analysis of its relation with other consciousnesses. The primordial manner in which the Other relates to consciousness is through the look. Sartre claims that consciousness tends to adopt a pre-reflective fundamental project that leads it to view the Other as a threat to its pure subjective freedom. This creates a conflictual social relation in which each consciousness tries to objectify the Other to maintain its subjective freedom. But Sartre also notes that consciousnesses can establish a social relation called the “we” in which each consciousness is a free subject. While certain commentators have noted that communication allows each consciousness to learn that the Other is not simply a threatening object but another subject, communication can only play this positive role if both consciousnesses have undergone a specific process called conversion. Only conversion brings consciousness to recognise, respect, and affirm the Other's practical freedom in the way necessary to create a we-relation. To support my argument, I spend significant time outlining what conversion and the social relations created post-conversion entail.

Sartre Studies International

An Interdisciplinary Journal of Existentialism and Contemporary Culture

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