Sartrean Self-Consciousness and the Principle of Identity

Sartre’s Implicit Argument for the Non-Self-Identity of the Subject

in Sartre Studies International
Author: Maiya Jordan1
View More View Less
  • 1 McGill University
Restricted access


I address the problem of what grounds Sartre’s paradoxical claim that consciousness is non-self-identical, and his equally paradoxical gloss on that claim—that the nature of consciousness is to be what it is not and not to be what it is. I argue that there is an implicit argument in Being and Nothingness, which both entails and elucidates Sartre’s claim that consciousness is non-self-identical, and which also maps on to, and clarifies, the explicit argument that Sartre provides for this conclusion. This implicit argument presupposes that we attribute to Sartre a distinctive theory of pre-reflective self-consciousness—what I call the non-iterative theory. I argue that we should attribute the non-iterative theory to Sartre.

Contributor Notes

Maiya Jordan is a PhD student at McGill University working under the supervision of Professors Alia Al-Saji, David Davies, and Ian Gold. She received a BA honours (2010) and an MA (2011) in philosophy from the University of Sheffield. Her main research interests are in philosophy of mind and phenomenology. She is currently finishing her dissertation on issues surrounding self-awareness and self-deception, where she puts forward a Sartrean (literalist) account of self-deception. She also defends (Husserl Studies, 2017) a pre-reflective account of self-awareness against representationalist accounts.

Sartre Studies International

An Interdisciplinary Journal of Existentialism and Contemporary Culture