‘Pure reflection’ is an important concept that bridges Sartre’s ontology and ethics in his early philosophy. In Being and Nothingness, Sartre devoted a section (Part Two, Chapter Two, Section III) to a discussion of the ontological characteristics of pure reflection. In Notebooks for an Ethics,3 he explored the ethical implications of the ontological characteristics of pure reflection (that he had presented in Being and Nothingness) and he used pure reflection as an essential stage leading to an ethical life of ‘authenticity’.
After decades of separation between Sartre's philosophy and Foucault's philosophy, we are now in a position to offer an analysis free from all dogmatic presuppositions. On the basis of certain themes, such as the study of the mechanisms of power, systems of marginalization, and how subjectivity is constituted, it is now possible to create links which go beyond the sterile polemics which have so often marked French philosophy. Today, Sartre and Foucault can be re-read as two very important tool-keys for giving us a way to understand the developments arising during our time. Their personal polemic of the mid-1960s must be re-read as a mutual misunderstanding. Notwithstanding some of the acerbic remarks the two philosophers said about each other, we will see that in these same pages can be found ways of thinking, especially regarding the conception of subjectivity, which can bring together these two intellectual itineraries.
French Après quelques décennies de séparation académique entre la philosophie sartrienne et foucaldienne, nous pouvons maintenant déployer une analyse qui se détache de tous les préjugés dogmatiques. À partir de certaines thématiques particulières comme celles de l'étude des mécanismes du pouvoir, des systèmes de marginalisation, de constitution de la subjectivité, il est possible aujourd'hui de construire des liens qui dépassent les stériles polémiques qui ont souvent marqué la philosophie française. Aujourd'hui Sartre et Foucault peuvent être relus, en fait, comme deux boites-à-outils très importantes pour donner une clé de lecture des évènements marquants de l'époque contemporaine. Leur polémique personnelle du milieu des années soixante doit être relue, en effet, comme une incompréhension réciproque : malgré les échanges acerbes entre les deux philosophes, nous verrons dans ces pages que certaines considérations, surtout à propos de la conception de la subjectivité, peuvent rapprocher les deux parcours intellectuels.
Translator : Ârash Aminian Tabrizi
Atheism is at the heart of Sartre’s philosophy but also of his reflections on writing and the choice of the imaginary. Nonetheless, atheism for him is not a matter of an acquired and self-assured spiritual option. It is a struggle against the temptation of faith, a struggle which is nothing else than the aspiration to Being, to a justified existence, to the surpassing of contingency. This is why Sartre can qualify atheism as ‘cruel’. To be victorious against the illusions of necessity, against the confusion of literature and religion, atheism is a never-ending process of liquidation of the very idea of ‘Salvation’.
‘C’est dans la connaissance des conditions authentiques de notre vie qu’il nous faut puiser la force de vivre et des raisons d’agir’ states Simone de Beauvoir at the outset of her plea for an existentialist ethics in Pour une morale de l’ambiguïté. Surely, very few philosophers would disagree with her. A correct understanding of the ‘human condition’ has always been held indispensable to the formulation of any moral philosophy, and it seems all the more necessary in the context of an existentialist theory which, in denying the existence of a common human nature, places all the emphasis on the self-made aspect of human life.
Sartre’s account of freedom is still widely understood as a version of metaphysical libertarianism, a doctrine which asserts that the human being is completely and unconditionally free. This prevalent reading is largely due to the influence still held by Mary Warnock’s interpretation of his early texts and her privileging of the role of anguish in his thought. The true doctrine of Sartrean philosophy is, according to this position, the idea that man is absolutely and unconditionally free and that determinism is false.
Debra Jackson, David Detmer, and Kenneth L. Anderson
Jon Stewart, ed., The Debate Between Sartre and Merleau-Ponty, Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 1998, 634 pp. ISBN 0-8101-1532-8 (paper). Review by Debra Jackson
Sartre’s Radicalism and Oakeshott’s Conservatism: The Duplicity of Freedom. Anthon Review by David Detmer
Roger Frie, Subjectivity and Intersubjectivity in Modern Philosophy and Psychoanalysis: A Study of Sartre, Binswanger, Lacan, and Habermas. Lanham, MD, Boulder, New York and London: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1997, 227 pp., ISBN 0-8476-8415-6, $57.50 (cloth). Review by Kenneth L. Anderson
‘What can one know about a man, today?’ When Sartre poses this question on the opening page of the first volume of L’Idiot de la famille, he encapsulates a huge project with teasing casualness. He brings together two of the four fundamental questions of philosophy formulated by Kant, ‘What can I know’ and ‘What is the human being’; and whilst the final word, today, indicates that our knowledge of others is bound to our own historical moment, for Sartre understanding others also necessarily entails attempting to under- stand their relation to history.
Ian Birchall, Steven Hendley, and Phyllis Morris
Noureddine Lamouchi, Jean-Paul Sartre et le tiers monde, Paris: L’Harmattan, 1996, 346 pp. ISBN 2-7384-4179-3, Ffrs.180.50 Review by Ian Birchall
Thomas R. Flynn, Sartre, Foucault, and Reason in History, Volume 1: Toward an Existentialist Theory. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1997, 340 pp., ISBN 0-226-25468-2, $18.95 (paper). Review by Steven Hendley
William L. McBride, ed., Sartre and Existentialism: Philosophy, Politics, Ethics, The Psyche, Literature, and Aesthetics, Garland Publishing. 8-volume set $583/or by volume. Toll-free (U.S.) 800-627-6273 Review by Phyllis Morris
In the spring and summer of 1938 two quite different seminars took place in Paris. One was the very well-known Collège de Sociologie, which included the participation of Caillois and Bataille – see ‘Sacred Sociology of the Contemporary World’, 2 April 1938, and the session ‘Festival’, 2 May 1939, in which Caillois indicates the importance of sacred games (in Hollier 1988: 157–159, 279–303). The other was the Walter Lippman Colloque, 26–30 August 1938 (in Rougier 1939). The former was the significant forerunner of French sociology and philosophy – from Derrida to Baudrillard – decisively influenced by Marcel Mauss.
Phyllis Sutton Morris, co-founder of the Sartre Society of North America and member of its executive committee for several years, died on May 31, 1997 from complications due to cancer. Phyllis received her undergraduate degree in philosophy from the University of California at Berkeley and her doctorate from the University of Michigan. She taught for several years at Kirkland College in New York and was, at various times in more recent years, on the faculty at LeMoyne College, Oberlin College, and the University of Michigan. She was a devoted teacher who dedicated a great deal of time and energy to preparing her classes and to meeting with students.