This essay raises some questions concerning the method and conceptual structure of Sartre's Being and Nothingness. Three substantially different types of interpretation of this text have been put forward. One of the main issues separating the three interpretative strategies is the relationship that they each establish between Sartre's three fundamental concepts: consciousness, nothingness and freedom—each of which can be seen to play the fundamental role in the argument. It therefore seems crucial for any interpretation of Being and Nothingness to determine the exact relationship between these terms. However, Being and Nothingness presents a hybrid argument that interweaves metaphysical deduction, phenomenological description and moral-existential argument in a way that makes it almost impossible to decide which of the strands of the argument should be seen to dominate the others. It is therefore perhaps equally difficult to ascertain which of its principal concepts has the most central place in the system. One could therefore argue that a reading of Being and Nothingness should aim to account for (rather than dismiss) the hybridity of the argument and then seek to assign relative functions to its different strands. The following remarks are intended as a step in that direction.
Joseph S. Catalano
I understand Sartre's ontology to develop in three stages: first, through Being and Nothingness and Saint Genet: Actor and Martyr; second, through the Critique of Dialectical Reason; and, finally, as it unfolds in The Family Idiot. Each stage depends upon the former and deepens the original ontology, while still introducing novel elements. For example, in Being and Nothingness, the in-itself, which is the source of our world-making, develops in the Critique into the practico-inert, which is the world made artifact, and in The Family Idiot, both the in-itself and the practico-inert unite to become the Spirit of the Age, joining our adventure with nature to that of our adventure with our family and our history. My reflection will be developed in four stages: first, a general overview; second, a more extended study of what Sartre calls the problematic of human reality; third, a brief reflection on Sartre's methodology; and finally, a concluding survey.
In this article I wish to discuss the problem of self-knowledge in Sartre’s early philosophy with regard to its consequences within the field of ethics. I shall not try to cover all aspects of self-knowledge in Being and Nothingness since all of the major doctrines expounded in that work concerning consciousness, identity, freedom and knowledge have implications for self-knowledge. I would be content if I could draw attention to aspects of Sartre’s thought which are interestingly different from other moral philosophies as well as from certain empirical conclusions it would seem natural to draw from Sartre’s own ontology in the sphere of moral psychology.
In Being and Nothingness, Sartre explains that being-in-itself is transphenomenal and becomes a phenomenon only through the process by which consciousness qualifies itself as its negation. Thus, there can be no phenomenon except as the object that consciousness (consciously) negates. This ontology of phenomena proves contradictory because one does not understand how consciousness can negate what does not appear to it, especially if it needs to do so as an existentialist freedom, which has to choose (in terms of phenomena) the end towards which it negates being. Sartre's theory of facticity as 'body' then comes as an alternative conception of phenomena, answering these problems by ultimately tending to present being-in-itself as a non-objective, hence non-conscious, phenomenon. Intentional consciousness thus becomes a transcendental condition for objectivity only and not for phenomenality in general.
Devin Zane Shaw
In this essay, I propose a mutually constructive reading of the work of Jacques Rancière and Jean-Paul Sartre. On the one hand, I argue that Rancière's egalitarian political thought owes several important conceptual debts to Sartre's Being and Nothingness, especially in his use of the concepts of freedom, contingency and facticity. These concepts play a dual role in Rancière's thought. First, he appropriates them to show how the formation of subjectivity through freedom is a dynamic that introduces new ways of speaking, being and doing, instead of being a mode of assuming an established identity. Second, Rancière uses these concepts to demonstrate the contingency of any situation or social order, a contingency that is the possibility of egalitarian praxis. On the other hand, I also argue that reading Sartre with Rancière makes possible the reconstruction of Sartre's project within the horizon of freedom and equality rather than that of authenticity.
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.
The importance of freedom in Sartre’s philosophy cannot be overestimated, and the understanding of Sartre’s account of freedom is necessary for the understanding of Sartre’s philosophy as a whole. In this article, I will show that there are two distinct, but related, notions of freedom used in Being and Nothingness, and will suggest that a clarification of the two notions will open the possibility of grounding Sartre’s demand that each individual should promote the freedom of all Others.
Adrian van den Hoven
and Nothingness in his other texts. For example, in the Introduction to L'Etre et le néant Sartre states: ‘Mais si nous nous sommes une fois dépris de ce que Nietzsche appelait “l'illusion des arrière-mondes” et si nous ne croyons plus à l
In Being and Nothingness (1943), Sartre explains love as a strategy for achieving control over "being-for-others," the objectified aspect of the self-imposed by others' defining looks. Two contemporaneous fictions by Sartre, The Room (1939) and Dirty Hands (1948), expand the notions of love and of being-for-others in surprising directions. Dirty Hands shows the creative, productive potential of being-for-others: Hugo's reliance on the other for his self-definition paradoxically generates his decisive embrace of being for-itself. The Room dramatizes the role of the family in constituting a child's subjectivity: Eve's family situation explains her ontological imprisonment in the dimension of being-for-others. The two stories' tolerant vision of the complex social and psychological reasons for adopting being-for-others as one's dominant modality contrasts with Sartre's rigorous critique of reliance on being-for-others as a form of bad faith in Being and Nothingness. The fictions' enlarged perspective on human love and on being-for-others provides a framework for complicating and critiquing the ontological categories presented in Being and Nothingness.
Matthew C. Eshleman
This essay argues that an adequate account of bad faith cannot be given without taking the second half of Being and Nothingness into consideration. There are two separate but related reasons for this. First, the objectifying gaze of Others provides a necessary condition for the possibility of bad faith. Sartre, however, does not formally introduce analysis of Others until Parts III and IV. Second, upon the introduction of Others, Sartre revises his view of absolute freedom. Sartre's considered view of freedom helps to make sense out of bad faith in a way that does not seem possible were freedom absolute.