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From In-Itself to Practico-Inert

Freedom, Subjectivity and Progress

Kimberly S. Engels

This article focuses on Sartre’s concept of the practicoinert in his major work A Critique of Dialectical Reason, Vol. 1 (CDR). I first show the progression from Sartre’s previous conception of in-itself to his concept of practico-inert. I identify five different layers of the practico-inert: human-made objects, language, ideas, social objects and class being. I show how these practico-inert layers form the possibilities for our subjectivity and how this represents a change from Sartre’s view of in-itself in Being and Nothingness. I then explore the relationship of freedom to the practico-inert and how Sartre argues that the practico-inert places limits on our freedom. Lastly, I argue that despite the pessimistic picture Sartre paints in CDR, the practico-inert has the potential to both limit and enhance our freedom. I appeal to Sartre’s post-CDR essay ‘A Plea for Intellectuals’ to argue that a Sartrean account of progress requires the utilisation of the practico-inert.

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Eric Tremault

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.

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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.

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Ota de Leonardis

Social policy plays a very important role in the social quality of Europe, and not only because it considerably affects the life conditions of the population. I will argue that its structure and weight affects at least as much: (a) the possibility of acknowledging as common goods social benefits such as health, education, social security; and (b) the presence of public discourse arenas about these goods, where the daily life of democracy is carried out. This is why social policy holds a great importance even for the building of European democracy, and for Europe's socio-political integration in itself.

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Marie-Eve Morin

This paper compares Sartre's and Nancy's experience of the plurality of beings. After briefly discussing why Heidegger cannot provide such an experience, it analyzes the relation between the in-itself and for-itself in Sartre and between bodies and sense in Nancy in order to ask how this experience can be nauseating for Sartre, but meaningful for Nancy. First, it shows that the articulation of Being into beings is only a coat of veneer for Sartre while for Nancy Being is necessarily plural. Then, it contrasts Nausea as an experience without language with Nancy's thinking of the excription of sense in the thing.

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Geneviève Giroux

This article analyzes references to history and, a fortiori, to memory in official French discourse during and after German unification. It shows that the understanding of the past complies, in every sense of the word, with France's European policy. Entirely oriented towards the promotion and justification of the European future, official memory distorts some historical facts in order to exorcise the present of a cumbersome past. Because it serves as a means of deferring to the national interest rather than as an end in itself, this representation of the past shows the limits of the official memory.

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Jonathan Magonet and Lionel Blue

This interview was conducted in 1965 by Jonathan Magonet at the time when Lionel Blue was newly appointed European Director of the Youth Section and of the World Union for Progressive Judaism itself. It addresses his concern about rebuilding European Diaspora Jewish communities after the war, through helping them find meaning and purpose in their existence beyond survival as an end in itself. Progressive Judaism is well placed to take on such a task because of its openness to the outside world. Progressive Judaism is not a breakaway from Rabbinic Judaism but sifts it and transposes it into a new key. He outlines a variety of programmes he envisages to undertake this work.

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A Letter from the Past and the Present

Tokutomi Roka's `Autumn in Ryōmō'

Susanna Fessler

In 1893, a young writer named Tokutomi Kenjiro¯ (pen name Roka, 1868–1927) set off from Tokyo on a few days’ journey to the Ryo¯mo¯ region in the western mountains of central Japan. This in itself was unremarkable, as countless others had made similar journeys before. What was noteworthy was the travelogue he produced as a result of this trip. A fascinating mix of tradition and modernity, this travelogue shows us how travel writing in Japan metamorphosed during the late nineteenth century into a unique subgenre that incorporated both Japanese and Western sensibilities.

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Daniel O'Shiel

By introducing 'drives' into a Sartrean framework, 'being-in-itself' is interpreted as 'Nature as such', wherein instincts dominate. Being-for-itself, on the contrary, has an ontological nature diametrically opposed to this former - indeed, in the latter realm, through a fundamental process of 'nihilation' (Sartre's 'freedom') consciousness perpetually flees itself by transcending towards the world. However, a kernel of (our) nihilated Nature is left at the heart of this process, in the form of 'original facticity' that we here name drives. Drives are the original feelings and urges of a freed Nature that simply are there; they are the fundamental forces that consciousness qua freedom always has to deal with. Drives, in addition, can be nihilated in their own turn, onto a reflective, irreal plane, whereby they take the form of value. This means Sartre's notion of ontological desire is always made up of two necessary components: drives and value.

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James Gibbs

This study of Sartre's first novel seeks to move beyond the metaphysical constraints that are implicit when specifically focusing on either the work's literary or philosophical qualities, instead approaching the text as metafiction. Through an understanding of the novel's self-referentiality, its awareness of its accordance to narrative technique or reliance on existential verbatim, one gains an understanding of Sartre's fascination with the dialogue that exists between literature and philosophy. The examination of La Nausée and its Anglo-American criticism leads to a re-evaluation of the role of bad faith, in which character, author and, particularly, reader, are implicit. For reading is, like Roquentin's concluding understanding of existence, a balancing-act between the in-itself and the for-itself; an interaction with bad faith in which it is the individual/the reader that is responsible for attributing meaning to experience/La Nausée.