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Editors’ note

This is a special issue of Sartre Studies International based on the Diverse Lineages of Existentialism conference held in St. Louis from June 19 to 21, 2014.

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Is Violence Necessarily in Bad Faith?; Liberatory Violence, Bad Faith, and Moral Justification: A Reply

Matthew C. Eshleman and Ronald E. Santoni

Can violence ever be justified or is violence necessarily oppressive? Is self-defensive counter-violence or “revolutionary violence” aimed at human liberation, which Sartre defended, necessarily in bad faith? These questions form the crux of the debate between Matt Eshleman and Ronald Santoni. Is violence by nature Manichean, making the Other into an “object” and evil antagonist, and thus dehumanizing and oppressing the Other? Or can violence be liberatory when it is directed at oppressors? Both authors—but especially Eshleman, and Santoni reluctantly—agree that some forms of violence (such as self-defense) do not involve bad faith, but disagree about whether or when revolutionary violence can be justified.

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Marcuse’s Ghost: On Ronald Aronson’s Existentialist Politics; What Does It Mean to Transform the World? Ron Aronson, Hope and Revolution; We – A Response to Jonathan Judaken and Beck Pitt

Jonathan Judaken, Rebecca Pitt, and Ronald Aronson

These articles deal with the theme of revolutionary hope in Ron Aronson’s work. Jonathan Judaken looks at Aronson’s conception of the politics of everyday life, or existentialist politics, inspired by Herbert Marcuse’s Marxism, which offered an explanation for inequality, privilege, and other social evils, as well as pointing the way to a solution to those problems. Rebecca Pitt deals with Aronson’s activism and commitment to changing the world, contextualizing this in Aronson’s work: his book on Sartre’s Second Critique, as well as his most recent work on social progress and hope.

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Progress and the Practico-Inert; Tom Flynn on Sartre’s “dialectical nominalism” and the “mediating third”; Two Core Concepts of Sartre’s Later Philosophy: Responses to Gyllenhammer and Baugh

Paul Gyllenhammer, Bruce Baugh, and Thomas R. Flynn

The articles in this section deal with two concepts from Sartre’s Critique of Dialectical Reason analyzed in the work of Tom Flynn. The first is the practico-inert, the materialized result of human activity that can turn that activity against itself, but which can also take on a positive and progressive role in history. It is this progressive role that Paul Gyllenhammer analyzes. Bruce Baugh’s article looks at Flynn’s analyses of how, in the Critique, the “third” mediates group praxis in such a way that it moves from passivity to activity but without fusing into a hyperorganism, and how this decisive shift accounts for “the revolutionary moment.”

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Sartre’s Concept of Freedom(s); There is No Good Answer: The Role of Responsibility in Sartre’s Ethical Theory; Critique of Freedom as a Value: Defending the Early Sartre against Moral Relativism; Trying to Get it Right: A Reply to Four Critics

Peter Jones, Michael Butler, Taylor Smith, Matthew C. Eshleman, and David Detmer

Three articles analyze David Detmer’s first book on Sartre, Freedom as a Value. Peter Jones argues that Sartre uses freedom in only one sense, as freedom to choose, whereas Detmer argues that Sartre distinguishes between freedom of choice (“ontological freedom”) and freedom of obtaining (“practical freedom”). Michael Butler’s paper contends that under a Sartrean framework, any moral judgment we make regarding our own action is never final; the meaning and moral value of our past actions always remains reinterpretable in light of what unfolds in the future. Our interactions with other people reveal that we are responsible for far more than we had initially supposed ourselves to be choosing when we began our project, such that it is in fact impossible to ever finish taking responsibility completely. Taylor Smith and Matthew Eshleman tackle Sartre’s supposed “subjectivism” from the opposite angle. They agree with Detmer that Sartre’s belief that values are mind-dependent does not necessarily entail ethical subjectivism, but argue that even the early Sartre was more fully committed to a cognitivist view of normative justification than Detmer allows. Detmer’s replies to all three essays round out this section and this issue.

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Book Reviews

Georges Barrère, Tim Huntley, and Nik Farrell Fox

Penser à deux ? Sartre et Benny Lévy face à face by Gilles Hanus Review by Georges Barrère

Critical Theory to Structuralism: Philosophy, Politics and the Human Sciences by David Ingram (ed.) Review by Tim Huntley

Sartre and Posthumanist Humanism by Elizabeth Butterfield Review by Nik Farrell Fox

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Playing Seriously with Bad Faith: A Derridean Intersection

Dane Sawyer

In this article, I reconsider the question of how best to understand Sartre's concept of bad faith by investigating it through the Derridean lens of deconstruction. I argue that Sartre's discussion of bad faith in Being and Nothingness mirrors Derrida's criticisms of structuralism in 'Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences'. Examining their distinctive discussions of 'play', I claim that Derrida's unique deconstructive interpretation of this notion operates within Sartre's criticisms of the 'spirit of seriousness'. I reinterpret bad faith as the attempt to solidify a permanent structure of one's personality, in order to avoid or escape from the 'play' or 'freedom' built into structures and our existential condition, and conclude that embracing 'play' is an essential characteristic of authenticity.

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Sartre: An Augustinian Atheist?

Kate Kirkpatrick

This article attempts to redress the neglect of Sartre's relationship to Augustine, putting forward a reading of the early Sartre as an atheist who appropriated concepts from Augustinian theology. In particular, it is argued, Sartre owes a debt to the Augustinian doctrine of original sin. Sartre's portrait of human reality in Being and Nothingness is bleak: consciousness is lack; self-knowledge is impossible; and to turn to the human other is to face the imprisonment of an objectifying gaze. But this has recognizable antecedents in Augustine's account of the condition of human fallenness. The article, therefore, (a) demonstrates the significant similarities between Sartre's ontology of human freedom and Augustine's ontology of human sin; and (b) asks whether Sartre's project – as defined in Existentialism Is a Humanism – 'to draw the full conclusions from a consistently atheistic position' – results in a vision of the world without God, but not without sin. It is proposed that this opens the possibility for a previously unexplored theological reading of Sartre's early work.

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Sartre's Crabs

David Lethbridge

Sartre's phobia of crabs is traced through his experimental experience with mescaline and such literary works as Nausea, The Words and The Condemned of Altona. The phobia is analysed through an examination of Sartre's biphasic childhood Oedipus complex and attendant castration anxiety relating to his mother, father and stepfather. Finally, the question is raised of what the existence of unconscious phobias might imply about the relations between existentialism and psychoanalysis.

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Surviving the Neoliberal Maelstrom: A Sartrean Phenomenology of Social Hope

Ronald Aronson

It might seem that Sartre's thought is no longer relevant in understanding and combating the maelstrom unleashed by triumphant neoliberalism. But we can still draw inspiration from Sartre's hatred of oppression and his project to understand how his most famous theme of individual self-determination and responsibility coexists with our social belonging and determination by historical forces larger than ourselves. Most important today is Sartre's understanding in Critique of Dialectical Reason of how isolated, serial individuals form into groups to resist oppression, and the ways in which these groups generate social understandings and collective power.