John H. Gillespie, Marcos Norris, and Nik Farrell Fox
Challenging the Absurd?
Sartre’s Article on Kafka and the Fantastic
In 1943, Jean-Paul Sartre published several important articles of literary criticism on Blanchot, Camus and Bataille. In addition to propounding his own literary views, these articles functioned as a means of marking out his own version of existentialism, which risked being conflated with the Camusian absurd. Whereas Camus, according to Sartre, advocated a detached attitude in the face of the meaninglessness of existence, Sartre maintained that the subject cannot withdraw from the (historical) situation and that existence is ultimately meaningful. One author in particular, Franz Kafka, acts as the figurative ‘prism’ through which Sartre challenges rival versions of existential thinking. He does so by introducing the concept of le fantastique (the fantastic) on account of Kafka’s work. In so doing, Sartre not only rebutted the dominant interpretation, according to which Kafka was an absurd author, but also uncovered a historical critique implicit in the Prague author’s work.
De Beauvoir, Existentialism and Marx
A Dialectic on Freedom
In this article, I focus on de Beauvoir’s view and argue that, alongside an original account of existential freedom, she utilises a Marxist-inspired historical materialism as a methodological tool with which to analyse the social position of women. First, I discuss existential freedom and highlight de Beauvoir’s introduction of gender, whereby the concepts of material, social and situational conditions cohere to restrict the possibility of freedom and agency for women. Next, I explore Marx’s view on freedom and de Beauvoir’s endorsement that in order to promote human flourishing, structural and material change is required. Although some tensions prevail, I conclude that by weaving together existentialism, phenomenology and Marxism in her unique way, Simone de Beauvoir offers a complex and nuanced approach to human freedom.
Thinking with Sartre
Edited by John H. Gillespie and Sarah Richmond
From In-Itself to Practico-Inert
Freedom, Subjectivity and Progress
Kimberly S. Engels
This article focuses on Sartre’s concept of the practico-inert in his major work A Critique of Dialectical Reason, Vol. 1 (CDR). I first show the progression from Sartre’s previous conception of in-itself to his concept of practico-inert. I identify five different layers of the practico-inert: human-made objects, language, ideas, social objects and class being. I show how these practico-inert layers form the possibilities for our subjectivity and how this represents a change from Sartre’s view of in-itself in Being and Nothingness. I then explore the relationship of freedom to the practico-inert and how Sartre argues that the practico-inert places limits on our freedom. Lastly, I argue that despite the pessimistic picture Sartre paints in CDR, the practico-inert has the potential to both limit and enhance our freedom. I appeal to Sartre’s post-CDR essay ‘A Plea for Intellectuals’ to argue that a Sartrean account of progress requires the utilisation of the practico-inert.
Les Conférences du Havre sur le roman
Sartre et le roman.
Adrian Van Den Hoven
Les cinq conférences de La Lyre havraise (novembre 1932–mars 1933) constituent une tentative d’élucidation des techniques du roman moderne. Pour cela, Sartre se base sur les distinctions entre le roman et le récit introduites par Alain et Fernandez. Ces conférences traitent des Faux-Monnayeurs d’André Gide, de Contrepoint d’Aldous Huxley, du monologue intérieur d’Ulysse de James Joyce, des Vagues, de Mrs. Dalloway et d’Orlando de Virginia Woolf, des Hommes de bonne volonté de Jules Romains et du 42ième Parallèle de John Dos Passos. Ces analyses préfigurent les techniques employées par Jean-Paul Sartre dans ses œuvres romanesques qu’il publiera plus tard dans sa carrière littéraire.
The Authentic Person’s Limited Bad Faith
Drawing on Sartre’s account of violence, I argue that not only is bad faith inevitable in practice, but a limited bad faith is necessary for authenticity. Although violating the freedom of others is bad faith, it is impossible to never violate anyone’s freedom. Moreover, and more fundamentally, the ontological structure of the for-itself entails that the for-itself can only be authentic in the mode of not being authentic. Seeking to altogether avoid bad faith is bad faith, for it is an attempt to constitute oneself as essentially authentic, yet the for-itself has no preexisting essence. By recognizing one’s complete responsibility for choosing bad faith, however, one limits one’s bad faith. This limited bad faith is in fact necessary to authenticity, which is a project lived out in concrete situations and not a categorical moral law that forbids bad faith.
Jorge Lizarzaburu, Adrian van den Hoven, and Donovan Irven
Critiquing Presence with Sartre and Derrida
The traditional interpretation of the Sartre-Derrida relationship follows their own insistence that they are separated by a certain irreducible distance. Contemporary research has, however, questioned that assessment, mainly by reassessing the thought of Sartre to picture him as a precursor to poststructuralism/deconstruction. This article takes off from this stance to suggest that Sartre and Derrida are partners against a common enemy—ontological presence—but develop different paths to overcome it: Sartre affirming nothingness and Derrida affirming différance. While much work has been done on these concepts, they have rarely been used as the exclusive means through which to engage with the Sartre-Derrida relationship. Focusing on them reveals that while Sartrean nothingness and Derridean différance are oriented against ontological presence, the latter entails a radicalization of the former. Their relationship is not then one of opposition but rather one of disharmonious continuity.