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.
Critiquing Presence with Sartre and Derrida
The traditional interpretation of the Sartre-Derrida relationship follows their own insistence that they are separated by a certain irreducible distance. Contemporary research has, however, questioned that assessment, mainly by reassessing the thought of Sartre to picture him as a precursor to poststructuralism/deconstruction. This article takes off from this stance to suggest that Sartre and Derrida are partners against a common enemy—ontological presence— but develop different paths to overcome it: Sartre affirming nothingness and Derrida affirming différance. While much work has been done on these concepts, they have rarely been used as the exclusive means through which to engage with the Sartre-Derrida relationship. Focusing on them reveals that while Sartrean nothingness and Derridean différance are oriented against ontological presence, the latter entails a radicalization of the former. Their relationship is not then one of opposition but rather one of disharmonious continuity.