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Sartrean Self-Consciousness and the Principle of Identity

Sartre’s Implicit Argument for the Non-Self-Identity of the Subject

Maiya Jordan


I address the problem of what grounds Sartre’s paradoxical claim that consciousness is non-self-identical, and his equally paradoxical gloss on that claim—that the nature of consciousness is to be what it is not and not to be what it is. I argue that there is an implicit argument in Being and Nothingness, which both entails and elucidates Sartre’s claim that consciousness is non-self-identical, and which also maps on to, and clarifies, the explicit argument that Sartre provides for this conclusion. This implicit argument presupposes that we attribute to Sartre a distinctive theory of pre-reflective self-consciousness—what I call the non-iterative theory. I argue that we should attribute the non-iterative theory to Sartre.