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Being-for-itself and the Ontological Structure

Can Being-for-itself Avoid Bad Faith?

Ronald E. Santoni

regard to its desire , as Sartre claims, to be “ Being-in-Itself-For-Itself ”, or what he calls “God” and the ens causa sui? Given that Sartre regards the pursuit of this “God,” or simply of Being , to be in bad faith, two intertwined concerns

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Caleb Heldt

In The Imaginary, Sartre provides the foundation upon which the development of his theory of bad faith is built, pointing to a fundamental choice at the level of image consciousness between the unreflective projection of the image and the impure reflection upon that image constitutive of imaginative comprehension, or what he refers to in this text as pure comprehension. Pure comprehension can be seen as Sartre's early formulation of pure reflection in which thought is characterised by movement rather than the reification of thought indicative of impure reflection and imaginative comprehension. This will prove to have consequences for the interpretation of Sartre's conceptualizations of desire and bad faith and consequently for Sartrean ontology, psychoanalysis and ethics.

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Stephen Wang

Jean-Paul Sartre argues that human beings are fundamentally incomplete. Self-consciousness brings with it a presence-to-self. Human beings consequently seek two things at the same time: to possess a secure and stable identity, and to preserve the freedom and distance that come with self-consciousness. This is an impossible ideal, since we are always beyond what we are and we never quite reach what we could be. The possibility of completion haunts us and we continue to search for it even when we are convinced it can never be achieved. Sartre suggests that we have to continue seeking this ideal in the practical sphere, even when our philosophical reflection shows it to be an impossibility. Sartre puts this existential dilemma in explicitly theological terms. 'God' represents an ideal synthesis of being and consciousness which remains a self-contradictory goal. This dilemma remains unresolved in his thinking.

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Paul Reed

Whenever Daniel has been the focus of critical attention, he has invariably been seen within an ontological framework, in terms of a desire to ‘be’, in the Sartrean sense. It has now come to be regarded as a truism that Daniel’s attempts at self-punishment signify such a desire. The interpretation originates with Iris Murdoch who, quoting an extract from Le Sursis, in which Daniel expresses a desire ‘to be a pederast, as an oaktree is an oaktree’, concludes that ‘[Daniel] is never able to experience a pure coincidence with his vice; he remains detached from it, an observer, a possibility. His attempts to achieve coincidence take the form of self-punishment’.

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Thomas Meagher

This article explores Sartre’s existential psychoanalysis as a phenomenological method for apprehending the fundamental project of the existent through an examination of the anonymous features of human desire. In grasping the anonymity underlying the “I want,” existential psychoanalysis seeks the meaning of freedom from a standpoint of alterity. I then analyze Fanon’s Black Skin White Masks as a work of existential psychoanalysis which hinges on his use of “sociogeny” to diagnose the alienation of Black existents. Finally, I conclude by examining the implications of a Fanonian existential psychoanalysis for anti-racism through a discussion of Michael Monahan’s critical reflections on the notion of being nonracist.

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John H. Gillespie

This two-part article examines whether Sartre's final interviews, recorded in L'Espoir maintenant [Hope Now], indicate a final turn to belief through an overview of his engagement with the idea of God throughout his career. In Part 1 we examine Sartre's early atheism, but note the pervasive nature of secularised Christian metaphors and concepts in his religion of letters and the centrality of man's desire to be God in Being and Nothingness. His theoretical writings seek to refute the idea of God, but in doing so God is paradoxically both absent and present. In Part 2 we assess his anti-theism and consider his final encounter with theism in L'Espoir maintenant, arguing that it is part of Sartre's long-term engagement with the idea of God.

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Daniel O'Shiel

By introducing 'drives' into a Sartrean framework, 'being-in-itself' is interpreted as 'Nature as such', wherein instincts dominate. Being-for-itself, on the contrary, has an ontological nature diametrically opposed to this former - indeed, in the latter realm, through a fundamental process of 'nihilation' (Sartre's 'freedom') consciousness perpetually flees itself by transcending towards the world. However, a kernel of (our) nihilated Nature is left at the heart of this process, in the form of 'original facticity' that we here name drives. Drives are the original feelings and urges of a freed Nature that simply are there; they are the fundamental forces that consciousness qua freedom always has to deal with. Drives, in addition, can be nihilated in their own turn, onto a reflective, irreal plane, whereby they take the form of value. This means Sartre's notion of ontological desire is always made up of two necessary components: drives and value.

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Nikolaj Lübecker

On 1 November 1946, Jean-Paul Sartre participated in a conference celebrating the inaugural session of the UNESCO. An important argument in his presentation – ‘La responsabilité de l’écrivain’ – was that an author writes in order to achieve recognition. As Sartre puts it: ‘The writer is a man who uses language, putting words together in a way he hopes will be beautiful. Why does he do it? I think the writer speaks in order to be recognised by the others in the sense in which Hegel talks about the mutual recognition of one consciousness by another.’ This question – ‘Why does he do it?’, Why Write? – was also taken up in the second essay of What is Literature? In this longer and more complex text, Sartre not only reiterates his position from La responsabilité de l’écrivain, he adds that the reader, too, comes to the literary work with the hope of satisfying his desire for recognition.

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Mabogo Percy More

In an important article published last year (2020), Tal Sela asserts that Sartre’s contributions to the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa throughout the 1960s are overblown and overestimated. Sartre was motivated, Sela argues, by a desire for self-aggrandizement rather than by any genuine concern for the victims of apartheid racism. This article refutes those claims. In countering Sela’s arguments, I revisit in detail Sartre’s interventions denouncing the phenomenon of apartheid and establish the importance of Sartre’s tireless struggle against racism to highlight the force of his opposition to South Africa’s infamous policy and his equally firm commitment to freedom both in his philosophy and personal life.

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John H. Gillespie

These two articles examine whether Sartre's final interviews, recorded in L'Espoir maintenant (Hope Now) indicate a final turn to God and religious belief through an overview of his engagement with the idea of God throughout his career. Part 1, published in Sartre Studies International 19, no. 1, examined Sartre's early atheism, but noted the pervasive nature of secularised Christian metaphors and concepts in his religion of letters and also the centrality of mankind's desire to be God in L'Etre et le néant (Being and Nothingness). Sartre's theoretical writings sought to refute the idea of God, but in doing so, made God paradoxically both absent and present. Part 2 considers Sartre's anti-theism and its implications for his involvement with the idea of God before examining in detail his final encounter with theism as outlined in L'Espoir maintenant, arguing that it is part of Sartre's long-term engagement with the divine, but refuting the idea that he became a theist at the end of his life.