The Look as a Call to Freedom

On the Possibility of Sartrean Grace

in Sartre Studies International
Sarah Horton Ph.D. in Philosophy, Boston College

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While the traditional understanding of the look views it in terms of shame and oppression, I read Sartre's Notebooks for an Ethics with Beauvoir's Ethics of Ambiguity to argue that the look always gives me the world and inaugurates my freedom. Even the oppressor's look reveals that I am free and that my existence is conditioned by the existence of other free beings. Because the look gives me the world as the arena within which I act freely, it is a means of grace, and receiving it only in shame is bad faith. Although my existence remains unjustifiable and this grace cannot promise salvation, the look calls me out of shame to the pursuit of my and others’ freedom, and this call is a gift.

Contributor Notes

Sarah Horton received the Ph.D. in Philosophy from Boston College. She is completing a book on friendship, and her research deals with questions of risk, discernment, and ethical responsibility. She specializes in ethics and 19th- and 20th-century Continental philosophy, and her articles have appeared in journals including Continental Philosophy Review and Epoché. In addition, she is co-editor, along with Stephen Mendelsohn, Christine Rojcewicz, and Richard Kearney, of Somatic Desire: Recovering Corporeality in Contemporary Thought (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2019).

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Sartre Studies International

An Interdisciplinary Journal of Existentialism and Contemporary Culture