This issue spans the entirety of Sartre's philosophical life, from his mémoire on images written at the age of twenty-two for his diploma at the Ecole normale supérieure to his thoughts about democracy as expressed in his final interview, Hope Now, at seventy-four. Fittingly enough, in between come reflections on sin and love and on the ageing body. As a result, we can get a sense of how Sartre's thinking changes and develops throughout his career and is always engaged, right to the end.
Sartre's two-hundred-plus-page mémoire has just been published in Etudes sartriennes, of which Vincent de Coorebyter is the assistant director. Coorebyter's contribution, ‘L'image entre le corps et l'esprit: Le mémoire de fin d'études de Sartre’, introduces us to some of its major themes and will be of enormous value to those interested in the development of Sartre's thought. We see even in this very early piece some themes familiar from L'imagination and L'imaginaire – in particular, that the image is not a feeble sensation, a revived sensation or a representation. However, we must not conclude that Sartre managed to become a phenomenologist long before he ever encountered Husserl. In fact, as Coorebyter points out, Sartre's reasons for rejecting these traditional ideas of the image in this early piece are very different from those he offers later, and the methodology he employs here is decidedly not phenomenological.
Kate Kirkpatrick's ‘“Master, Slave, and Merciless Struggle”: Sin and Lovelessness in Sartre's Saint Genet’ analyses Sartre's account of love from the perspective of his theological influences, seeing his concept of nothingness as a secularised account of original sin, based on ontological hamartiologies. Sartre's view of freedom and the other, as the oscillation of the conflict between mastery and slavery, uses the language of guilt and sin but rejects its actuality; there is no freedom to love but rather to possess the freedom of the other as a freedom. She sees this as an eschatology of damnation: ‘sin from a graceless position’. For Sartre, only by turning away from God can one be free, an understanding confirmed in his reading of Descartes. This picture of love recurs in Saint Genet, but Sartre now introduces the concept of reciprocity. It is a cautionary tale, since Genet never finds it. Significantly, Kirkpatrick attributes its appearance as evidence of the influence of Beauvoir's early writings from Pyrrhus and Cinéas onwards and draws attention to the fact that the concept appeared in her student notebooks as early as 1927.
In ‘Alienation and Affectivity: Beauvoir, Sartre and Levinas on the Ageing Body’, Kathleen Lennon and Anthony Wilde identify a tension in Beauvoir between two ontologies. One, shared with Sartre, posits dichotomies between the body-in-itself and the body-for-itself, and between the body-for-the-self and the body-for-others; these dichotomies render the aging body inevitably alienating, first because it interferes with the pursuit of my projects, and second because as part of my being-for-others it is an ‘unrealisable’. The other ontology, however, expressed in Beauvoir's ‘muted voice’, as Bergoffen has called it, is closer to what Levinas more explicitly theorised. It sees affectivity and susceptibility as at the heart of our subjectivity; subjectivity is not all about doing – the pursuit of projects – but can simply involve being. Such a perspective makes an un-alienated relation to one's own aging body possible.
Maria Russo's ‘Does the City of Ends Correspond to a Classless Society? A New Idea of Democracy in Sartre's Hope Now’ traces Sartre's late rethinking of counter-violence, his development of a conception of democracy that revivifies France's tarnished end of fraternity, and his ultimate rejection of Marxism's overemphasis on economics and the relations of production in favour of something more fundamental, namely shared humanity. Thus, the answer to the question raised in the title is ‘no’, and, yes, existentialism is a humanism. Russo puts Sartre into fruitful dialogue with Axel Honneth and argues for the relevance of his vision of an ethical society for combatting today's neo-liberalism.
The topic of Russo's article intersects with that of three of the books reviewed: most obviously, William L. Remley's Jean-Paul Sartre's Anarchist Philosophy (which our reviewer Nik Farrell Fox admires while regretting Remley's ‘regressive’ approach) and William Rowlandson's Sartre in Cuba – Cuba in Sartre (which Mike Neary likewise admires while suggesting ‘Sartre would have regarded Rowlandson's book as counter-revolutionary’), and less obviously, Jonathan Webber's Rethinking Existentialism, which places ethics at the centre of existentialism properly conceived (even if, according to our reviewer Kyle Shuttleworth, he fails to explain why we ought to conceive of authenticity as a virtue). However, as John Gillespie contends, perhaps the most significant book reviewed for Sartre studies as a whole is Sarah Richmond's eagerly awaited translation of L'être et le néant, replacing Hazel Barnes's 1956 translation with a more accurate, fluent and philosophically contextualised version which will be a boon for English-speaking scholars for whom wrestling with the French text is too daunting a project.