Your Past Comes Back to Haunt You

Sartre on Pure Reflection in Response to Husserl & Levinas

in Sartre Studies International
Curtis Sommerlatte Dean's Postdoctoral Fellow, Florida State University, USA

Search for other papers by Curtis Sommerlatte in
Current site
Google Scholar
Restricted access


This paper examines how Sartre's early phenomenological works were influenced by Emmanuel Levinas's The Theory of Intuition in Husserl's Phenomenology. Sartre embraced two key aspects of Levinas's interpretation of Husserl: 1) that phenomenology is an ontological philosophy whose foundation is the doctrine of intentionality; and, 2) that consciousness's being consists in intentionality, which entails that consciousness is non-substantial as well as pre-reflectively or non-thetically aware of itself. In addition to adopting these views, Sartre also became gripped by a methodological problem raised by Levinas. Namely, phenomenology reflects on consciousness, yet reflection modifies the consciousness it reflects on. I argue that Sartre responds to this problem by developing two of Levinas's ideas: that reflection is a motivated act and that reflection must adequately grasp consciousness's temporality.

Contributor Notes

Curtis Sommerlatte is a Dean's Postdoctoral Fellow at Florida State University. He has previously held positions at Union College and Concordia University, and he received his PhD from Indiana University in 2016. His research focuses on the philosophy of mind and epistemology in early modern philosophy, Kant, post-Kantian philosophy, and Sartre. In addition to some articles on Kant, his previous publications on Sartre concerned non-thetic consciousness and temporality.

  • Collapse
  • Expand