This article attempts to redress the neglect of Sartre's relationship to Augustine, putting forward a reading of the early Sartre as an atheist who appropriated concepts from Augustinian theology. In particular, it is argued, Sartre owes a debt to the Augustinian doctrine of original sin. Sartre's portrait of human reality in Being and Nothingness is bleak: consciousness is lack; self-knowledge is impossible; and to turn to the human other is to face the imprisonment of an objectifying gaze. But this has recognizable antecedents in Augustine's account of the condition of human fallenness. The article, therefore, (a) demonstrates the significant similarities between Sartre's ontology of human freedom and Augustine's ontology of human sin; and (b) asks whether Sartre's project – as defined in Existentialism Is a Humanism – 'to draw the full conclusions from a consistently atheistic position' – results in a vision of the world without God, but not without sin. It is proposed that this opens the possibility for a previously unexplored theological reading of Sartre's early work.
Sin and Lovelessness in Sartre's Saint Genet
In his biography of Jean Genet, Sartre says his aim is ‘to demonstrate that freedom alone can account for a person in his totality’. Building on my reading of Being and Nothingness in Sartre on Sin, I examine the compatibility of Sartrean freedom and love in Saint Genet. Sartre’s account of Genet’s person is largely a loveless one in which there is no reciprocity, others are ‘empty shells’ and love is ‘only the lofty name which [Genet] gives to onanism’. I use Saint Genet to suggest Genet’s lovelessness is the direct result of locating the totality of personhood in freedom. This location results in a lonely experience of subjectivity as ‘master, slave and merciless struggle’ – never lover or beloved, whether on the divine plane or the human.
Ârash Aminian Tabrizi, Kate Kirkpatrick and Marieke Mueller
This special issue of Sartre Studies International represents a selection of the papers presented at a conference held on the 30th and 31st of January 2015 at the Maison Française d’Oxford. Called ‘Thinking with Sartre Today/Penser avec Sartre aujourd’hui’, the bilingual conference with participants from across the world provided a forum for scholars studying Sartre in diverse intellectual milieux to dialogue fruitfully and forge new connections.