This article focuses on the relation between philosophy and literature in early Sartre, showing how his literary writing can be seen as philosophically significant by interpreting Sartre as practising a variant of phenomenological method. I first clarify Sartre’s approach to phenomenological method by comparing and contrasting it with Husserl’s. Despite agreeing that philosophy is a reflective descriptive study of essences, Sartre sees no use for phenomenological reduction and free variation. I then consider the philosophical function of Sartre’s literary works, arguing that, although these cannot reliably convey philosophical theories, their significance lies in describing concrete situations that ground reflective theoretical concepts. However, this grounding function can be understood only if Sartre is seen as realising Husserl’s phenomenological method – including phenomenological reduction and free variation – more fully than he acknowledges. Finally, I address two challenges to my view and briefly assess the value of literary phenomenology as a philosophical method.
Malin Wahlberg, Documentary Time: Film and Phenomenology; Jennifer Barker, The Tactile Eye: Touch and the Cinematic Experience; Julian Hanich, Cinematic Emotion in Horror Films and Thrillers: The Aesthetic Paradox of Pleasurable Fear
Malin Wahlberg, Documentary Time: Film and Phenomenology (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2008), xvii + 170 pp., $22.50 (paperback).
Jennifer Barker, The Tactile Eye: Touch and the Cinematic Experience (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009), xii + 196 pp., $24.95 (paperback).
Julian Hanich, Cinematic Emotion in Horror Films and Thrillers: The Aesthetic Paradox of Pleasurable Fear (New York and London: Routledge, 2010), xi + 301 pp., $118 (cloth).
This article is an interweaving of three strands: an account by Imre Kertesz of his experiences in Nazi concentration camps during the Second World War, which he published as the novel, Fateless; an account of a walking tour in Suffolk that the German Anglophile, W. G. Sebald, published as the travelogue, The Rings of Saturn; and my own account of visiting the Auschwitz memorial site, which has been constructed on the edge of the Polish city still bearing the same name. Linking the three strands is the issue of the phenomenology of walking: the consciousness that is capacitated by this activity and the accompanying power to interpret one's life and surroundings in imaginative ways. Kertesz would walk the Nazi lager without stopping for death; Sebald would walk the Suffolk landscape without admitting the passage of time; I would walk Auschwitz without falling victim to the systemic constructions of others. For all, the physical activity is linked to becoming conscious of certain symbolic patterns in time and space. Walking, this article concludes, entails both a phenomenological objectivity, which may be appreciated by virtue of a common human embodiment, and a phenomenological subjectivity: an individual consciousness engaging in imaginative projects of disembodiment and otherness.
Despite significant increases in social scientific studies of the environment, there has recently been a narrowing of focus. Increasingly, sociologists have looked at claims and counterclaims about specific environmental problems while missing the broader question of the cultural and social character of environmental concern itself. Only social anthropologists and some social theorists have continued to investigate this issue. In this paper it is argued that McKibben's work offers a useful starting point for examining the meaning of environmental worries since his writings offer a form of "phenomenology" of our concerns for nature. In this paper, this "phenomenology" is subject to a critical review and assessment.
This article explores Sartre's approach to the phenomenon and praxis of boxing in the Critique of Dialectical Reason. It examines two aspects of Sartre's approach to the 'sweet science': first, it analyses the claim that a single boxing match (and each punch thrown within it) 'incarnates' all the violence of boxing itself, which in turn 'incarnates' all socio-economic violence, so that, by extension, all such violence is concretely particularized in the boxing match; and second, it attempts to link the phenomenology of transcending/transcended subjectivities degraded by the fight-relation to the praxiology of alienation and the deterioration of praxis.
The work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty has enjoyed a marginal presence within Anglo-American sociology and social theory for many years, particularly within the phenomenological and interactionist camps. In more recent years, however, his profile has grown. This is due largely to the growth of sociological interest in embodiment, a theme which Merleau-Ponty’s work addresses at length, and perhaps also to the rise to prominence within sociology of Pierre Bourdieu, whose work is influenced by that of Merleau-Ponty, particularly in relation to themes of embodiment and habit. Loic Wacquant1 has described Bourdieu as the ‘sociological heir’ of Merleau-Ponty and many other writers2 have identified the connection between the two thinkers as pivotal in their attempts to elucidate the nature and contribution of Bourdieu’s thought. It is perhaps only natural, therefore, that Bourdieu’s recently elevated standing in Anglo-American sociology should entail some reflected glory for Merleau-Ponty too.
This article discusses experimental studies of facial imitation in infants in the light of Sartre's and Merleau-Ponty's phenomenological theories of embodiment. I argue that both Sartre's account of the gaze of the other and Merleau-Ponty's account of the reversibility of the flesh provide a fertile ground for interpreting the data demonstrating that very young infants can imitate facial expressions of adults. Sartre's and Merleau-Ponty's accounts of embodiment offer, in my view, a desirable alternative to the dominant mentalistic interpretation of facial imitation in terms of the theory of mind.
Modern Pilgrimage and the Expression of Suffering on Spain's Camino de Santiago
This article examines the experiences of walkers along the Spanish Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. It explores their journeys as exercises in narrative adjustment, social practices, and somatic experiences of a crippling loss of control over the course of their lives. Using a phenomenological method of descriptions, the article argues that mobility is a trope that expresses existential issues in a bodily idiom. It draws attention to the value of inter-subjective experience as a potential source of existential mobility, one that finds metaphorical expression in the slow daily rhythms structuring pilgrims' journeys and that impacts on the researcher as much as the pilgrims.
Matthew C. Ally
This essay revisits the question of Sartre's method with particular emphasis on the posthumously published Notebooks for an Ethics, Critique of Dialectical Reason (Volume II), and “Morale et histoire.” I argue that Sartre's method—an ever-evolving though never seamless blend of phenomenological description, dialectical analysis, and logical inference—is at once the seed and fruit of his mature ontology of praxis. Free organic praxis, what Sartre more than once calls “the human act,” is neither closed nor integral, but is rather intrinsically open-ended and integrative. Thus a philosophical method that seeks at once to illuminate human experience and human history must itself be both a reflection and inflection of the essential openness and integrativity of praxis itself. In the conclusion, I argue that the openness and integrativity of Sartre's method are its core strengths and the sources of its continued philosophical worth.
Michael J. Monahan
In his Critique of Dialectical Reason, Sartre argues that it is the milieu of scarcity that generates human conflict. His account of scarcity is rather ambiguous however, and at points he seems to claim that conflict is inevitable given the context of scarcity. In this article I provide a brief account of Sartre's position, and offer a critical evaluation of that position. Finally, I argue that Sartre's claims regarding the necessity of conflict are excessive, and that the resources provided in the Critique offer a means to re-evaluate our relationship to scarcity.