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Iain Stewart

Taking as its starting point recent claims that Jean-Paul Sartre's Critique de la Raison Dialectique was written as an attempt to overcome the historical relativism of Raymond Aron's Introduction à la philosophie de l'histoire, the present article traces this covert dialogue back to a fundamental disagreement between the two men over the interpretation of Wilhelm Dilthey's anti-positivist theory of Verstehen or 'understanding'. In so doing it counters a longstanding tendency to emphasise the convergence of Aron and Sartre's philosophical interests prior to the break in their friendship occasioned by the onset of the Cold War, suggesting that the causes of their later, radical political divergence were pregnant within this earlier philosophical divergence.