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.
Authentic Love and the Mother-Child Relationship
In this article, I explore the question of whether authentic love is possible in Jean-Paul Sartre’s early philosophy. In Being and Nothingness, Sartre claims that love is inauthentic and doomed to failure. I dismiss a prominent view that is built upon Sartre’s account of love in Notebooks for an Ethics, which states that authentic love is possible after a radical conversion to authenticity. The continued existence of patriarchal oppression prevents men and women from undergoing such a conversion. Adopting a different approach, I examine a form of love which Sartre largely overlooks: the love between mother and child. Before the boundaries between Self and Other are fully formed, mother and child exist in an ambiguous union. It is here, I argue, that the existence of authentic love is possible.
Nik Farrell Fox and Bryan Mukandi
Counter-Violence and Islamic Terrorism
Is Liberation without Freedom Possible?
One of the biggest threats in the contemporary world is the phenomenon of Islamic terrorism, which is increasingly becoming a facet of everyday life in Europe. In this article, I question whether it is possible to define Islamic terrorism as a form of counter-violence, according to how Jean-Paul Sartre presented this concept in Notebooks for an Ethics, and, as a consequence, whether it can be legitimized or justified. According to this argument, the freedoms that perceive themselves as oppressed can try to liberate themselves through violence, given certain conditions. However, with terrorism we do not simply face the paradox inherent to counter-violence. The key point, which clearly distinguishes Islamic terrorism from counter-violence, is the fact that behind this nihilistic fury there is no concept of freedom to be liberated.