Jean-Paul Sartre's account of the Look in Being and Nothingness is not straightforward and many conflicting interpretations have arisen due to apparent contradictions in Sartre's own writing. The Look, for Sartre, demonstrates how the self gains thematic awareness of the body, forming a public and self-conscious sense of how the body appears to others and, furthermore, illustrates affective and social aspects of embodied being. In this article, I will critically explore Sartre's oft-cited voyeur vignette in order to provide a coherent account of the Look and to illustrate the significance of intersubjectivity and self-consciousness in Sartre's work. Through considering Sartre's voyeur vignette and other examples of reflective self-consciousness, this article will examine epistemological, self-evaluative and ontological concerns in the constitution of reflective self-consciousness. It will be contended that Sartre's accounts of the Look and reflective self-consciousness within social relations can provide insight into the intersubjective nature of the shaping of the body and the significance of self-presentation within the social realm.
At the center of his ontological treatise, Being and Nothingness, in a section titled "The Look," Sartre creates a small narrative moment of dubious virtue in which he is able to resolve one of the truly vexing problems of phenomenology up to his time. It is the problem of the Other. How is it that one can apprehend the Other as subject? Previously, philosophy had sought to understand the other through reflection or attribution (and Sartre deals in particular with the Hegelian and Heideggerian accounts). But to regard the other as a reflection of oneself ends in an obvious solipsism: all others would be only reflections of oneself. To define the other as a subject simply because one saw a person standing there reduces subjectivity irretrievably to object status. And to attribute subjectivity to the other as an extension of experience with oneself as a subject renders one a source of mere doctrine through which to see others. Yet to proclaim the other to be unknowable as a subject leaves no basis upon which to speak about personal and social relations. I will argue that because Sartre's account of the look, his vision of the interpersonal as a subject-object relation, is couched within the realm of the visible, it takes the form of conflict. It will be my contention that being-for-others takes on a different character when articulated in terms of the spoken or "audible." And this difference will have certain socio-political ramifications.
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’.
Julie Van der Wielen
Sartre's analysis of intersubjective relations through his concept of the look seems unable to give an account of intersubjectivity. By distinguishing the look as an ontological conflict from our relation with others in experience, we will see that actually intersubjectivity is not incompatible with this theory. Furthermore, we will see that the ontological conflict with the Other always erupts in experience in the form of an emotion, and thus always involves magic, and we will look into what the presence of the Other adds to such emotion. Emotions I have in front of the Other are directed toward my being-for-others, which escapes me by definition. This has a peculiar consequence when the imaginary is involved, which could help explain complexes such as narcissism and paranoia.
Sartre's phenomenological ontology discloses that understanding consciousness and its mode of being requires an analysis of its relation with other consciousnesses. The primordial manner in which the Other relates to consciousness is through the look. Sartre claims that consciousness tends to adopt a pre-reflective fundamental project that leads it to view the Other as a threat to its pure subjective freedom. This creates a conflictual social relation in which each consciousness tries to objectify the Other to maintain its subjective freedom. But Sartre also notes that consciousnesses can establish a social relation called the “we” in which each consciousness is a free subject. While certain commentators have noted that communication allows each consciousness to learn that the Other is not simply a threatening object but another subject, communication can only play this positive role if both consciousnesses have undergone a specific process called conversion. Only conversion brings consciousness to recognise, respect, and affirm the Other's practical freedom in the way necessary to create a we-relation. To support my argument, I spend significant time outlining what conversion and the social relations created post-conversion entail.
In this paper I examine the role of emotions in the initial development of self-awareness through intersubjective communication between mother and infant. I argue that the empirical evidence suggests that the infant's ability to communicate is initially an ability of the infant to share emotions with the mother. In section one I examine the biological foundations that allow infants from birth to interact with others of their own kind, focusing on the abilities which allow them to engage in emotional relationships with others. These include an infant's ability to express, share, and regulate emotions as well as her brain's ability to imitate the neuronal activity of another. In section two, I explore the fit between Sartre's phenomenologically-based account of intersubjectivity in Being and Nothingness and the accounts from psychology and neuroscience that I've examined in section one, focusing on his phenomenology of the Look and the emotional response he claims it elicits. In section three I examine the explanatory gap objection that Sartre among others could raise to my attempt to understand phenomenological accounts of human reality and scientific ones in light of each other. I don't have any final answer to this objection, but I offer some thoughts on why I think it's less of a problem than it might first appear to be.
are conflictual. ‘The essence of relations between consciousnesses is not the Mitsein ; it is conflict’ ( BN , 451). The struggle begins from the first moment we are aware of the Other-as-subject, in the ‘Look’ ( BN , 281–284). Sartre illustrates this
well-known section, ‘The Look’, 53 in his part on being-for-others. 54 ‘The look’ (le regard) is the principle that allows a third dimension of our being—for-others—to be given to us. The look of the Other, which can be instantiated in a particular
Damon Boria, Thomas Meagher, Adrian van den Hoven, and Matthew C. Eshleman
’s notion of being-for-others and “the look” through an examination of racialized modes of seeing and being seen. Though clear thematics link these chapters, the text as a whole avoids an argumentative through-line. Taking each essay on its own terms, the
imposes order. It becomes the look of all third parties . Language, in the context of the statutory group, has a practical function, in truth a practical necessity, in so far as it unifies all of the third parties and makes possible a further