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Jean-Paul Sartre and Ronald Aronson

In early 1945, with the war not yet over, Sartre travelled to the United States for the first time. He travelled with a group of correspondents who were invited in order to influence French public opinion favourably towards the United States.1 Sartre was sent by his friend Albert Camus to report back to Combat, the leading newspaper of the independent left. Once invited, he arranged also to report back to the conservative newspaper, Le Figaro. Simone de Beauvoir reports that learning of Camus’ invitation in late 1944 was one of the most exciting moments of Sartre’s life.

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Thomas R. Flynn

Despite Sartre's almost proverbial rejection of Freudian psychoanalysis, Jean-Pierre Boulé places the philosopher himself on the couch in a wonderfully detailed and suggestive work. He notes that the fruit of his study may well be "to help us gain a better understanding of Sartre as an embodied sexual being and possibly demonstrate a new way of connecting biography with oeuvre." After analyzing Boulé's argument and considering the psychoanalytic method itself, I address this last claim about relating Sartre's biography and oeuvre, especially in view of the integral role assigned biography in any existentialist theory of history.

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John Ireland

Sartre's conflicted relationship with his theatrical audience is explained by showing how Sartre's initial theatrical venture, Bariona, created in a POW camp in December 1940, sparked an idealized conception of the audience. The particular context in which the play was produced brought its performers and audience together into an almost mystical fusion. But these virtues, derived from pre-textual “oral“ culture, lost much of their luster with Sartre's second play, The Flies. Like its predecessor, The Flies used myth to counter German censorship, but in occupied Paris in front of a much more heterogeneous audience. The resulting comparative failure complicated Sartre's relationship to the mass audiences he sought in the post-war years. Theater audiences became emblematic of a wider public Sartre never fully trusted to accept or understand his ideas. Furthermore, Sartre's decision to stage almost all his plays between 1946 and 1959 at the “bourgeois“ Théâtre Antoine only made him even more mistrustful of audiences he often found himself writing “against.“

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Patrick Engel

This article interprets Sartre's ethical reflections as leading to a negativistic ethics, that is to say an ethics that denies the possibility of conceiving a positive ideal that has to be attained, and therefore limits itself to the criticising of the negative in the existing world as the only way left for ethics. After a brief introduction into negativism, the article sets out the negativism of Being and Nothingness and the metaethical dilemma that the ontological work poses for a conception of a traditional, positive ethics, which Sartre apparently tried to undertake in his Notebooks for an Ethics. Instead of speaking of a failure of Sartre's attempts to found a traditional ethics, the article shows how already in the Notebooks Sartre is on the way to establishing a conception of an ethics that can be called negativistic, and finally how the late Sartre attains, on the basis of the socio-ontological insights of his Critique of Dialectical Reason, a foundation for a genuinely negativistic ethics which he drafted in his 1964 Rome Lectures.

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Andrew Inkpin

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.

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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.

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Michael Fleming

Sartre's views on violence have been subject to considerable scholarly discussion over the last decade. At the same time, there has been renewed interest in the issue of structural violence. This paper is an attempt to engage with the two debates. I argue that by highlighting structural violence it is possible to reframe our understanding of how Sartre viewed violence and to demonstrate that Sartre's work remains a useful compass with which to orientate ourselves in a world saturated in violence. I contend that Sartre maintained a broadly consistent line on violence that held in tension the world we live in and the possibility of humanity in the world that we may create. In addition to this temporal dimension, Sartre's thinking on violence oscillated between social scales: between the individual and the collective. Awareness of this methodological double-movement helps clarify and contextualise Sartre's views, and facilitates fruitful re-readings of current scholarship on violence.

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Marie-Andrée Charbonneau

Sartre's reading of Harald Höffding's works was instrumental in his critical reception of Spinoza. One may find traces of Höffding's critical monism in Sartre's Being and Nothingness. Höffding had formulated his critical monism in order to remedy what he perceived to be problems in Spinoza's view. Sartre's critique of Spinoza aligns with that of Höffding. Moreover, Höffding's influence on Sartre goes well beyond the reception of Spinoza. Indeed, the young Sartre's interest in Bergson, psychology and questions relative to the totality of Being could have followed from his reading of Höffding. In fact, the way in which Höffding tackles questions about the soul, the world, and God illuminates the timid proposals offered by Sartre in the conclusion of Thus, understanding Höffding

French Cet article démontrera que la réception critique de Spinoza par Sartre est influencée par sa lecture des oeuvres de Harald Höffding. Une lecture attentive permet d'identifier des traces du monisme critique de celui-ci dans L'être et le néant. Ce monisme critique avait été formulé afin de pallier aux problèmes perçus par Höffding chez Spinoza. Or, cette même critique se retrouve chez Sartre. De plus, cet article fera aussi la démonstration que l'influence de Höffding sur Sartre va au-delà de la réception de Spinoza. En effet, l'intérêt du jeune Sartre pour Bergson, la psychologie et les questions relatives à la totalité de l'Être pourraient être le résultat de sa lecture de Höffding. En fait, la manière dont Höffding traite des questions de l'âme, du monde et de Dieu éclairent les timides propositions métaphysiques offertes par Sartre en conclusion de L'être et le néant. Par conséquent, bien comprendre Höffding permet de mieux comprendre Sartre.

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Kate Kirkpatrick

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.

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Esther Demoulin

« On parle dans sa propre langue, on écrit dans une langue étrangère », nous dit Sartre dans Les Mots. Quelle langue Sartre a-t-il dès lors utilisée dans ses romans pour écrire la parole ? Pensé comme une véritable composante romanesque de la liberté, le dialogue selon Sartre répond à trois grands préceptes. En premier lieu, pour ne pas imposer au lecteur un narrateur tout-puissant et pour faire coïncider le temps du personnage avec celui du lecteur (c’est le fameux « isochronisme » genettien), Sartre refuse de condenser les propos de ses personnages. En découle une scrupuleuse utilisation du discours direct qui distingue le dialogue sartrien de celui de ses contemporains. En outre, sous l’influence de Dostoïevski, Sartre incite à recourir aux tâtonnements et au superflu de la langue parlée, et non à la vitesse et à la clarté de la langue théâtrale qui impliqueraient une irréaliste conscience du personnage à luimême. Enfin, Sartre accorde que le dialogue puisse être « pâteux », c’est-à-dire qu’il ne fasse pas avancer à tout prix l’action du roman. Cet article entend présenter la poétique sartrienne du dialogue avant d’en interroger, à partir de l’ensemble du corpus romanesque de Sartre, les implications narratologiques et stylistiques.