Imagination and the imaginary, both in life and in Sartre's treatment of these phenomena, seem so wide-ranging that it is hard to find your feet—what is in common between imagining the absent Pierre's face and imagining something never before seen? What role does imagination play in seeing someone in a portrait of them? What about in seeing Chevalier in Franconnay's imitation (or ‘performative simulation’) of him? Elad Magomedov's question is even trickier: how do we navigate the similarities and differences between Franconnay's Chevalier, Sartre's waiter's ‘playing at being a waiter’, and Jean-Claude Romand, ‘the “real” impostor who for fifteen years pretended to be a medical professional and ended up killing his entire family’?
Constance de Meulder argues for some unexpected points of continuity between Sartre and Lacan, especially the latter's 1946 article ‘Presentation on Psychical Causality’, via a comparison between Sartre's understanding of bad faith and Lacan's notion of misrecognition. Although at first sight ‘their disagreement seems clear-cut: Lacan believes in the existence of the unconscious; Sartre does not’, the author proposes a more nuanced view which, moreover, has clear implications for psychoanalytic practice.
Kathleen Lennon focuses on the distinction Sartre draws between imagination and memory, as part of a larger body of work on Old Age, in particular as part of an exploration of our relation to our past. She argues, on the one hand, that (as so often with Sartre), his phenomenology is better than his theorising: in fact, pace Sartre, ‘memories are part of the family of imaginings to which Sartre directs us’. But she argues, on the other hand, that ‘the working of imagination in memory does not mean that we are making up our past. Memory provides a distinctive relation to our past which makes evident to us what it is to live a life in time’. And she argues, in particular, following some reflections from Barthes, for the centrality of what she calls ‘the feel of the past’.
Maria Russo evokes the perennial question of Sartre's unfinished project of creating an existentialist ethics. She outlines his early insistence on the necessity of absolute individual freedom, stressing the moral implications of his concept of bad faith, and points out that, while maintaining, in Existentialism Is a Humanism, that freedom is subjective, he advances the importance of willing the freedom of others. Basing herself on Notebooks for an Ethics, she then identifies what she calls Sartre's unspoken ethics as a basis for the development of Critical Existentialism, taking it in a Kantian direction, outlining his theory of authenticity and generosity as pointing towards a normative freedom that can serve as a basis for human fraternity.
In his review article of Noudelmann's Un tout autre Sartre, Alfred Betschart gives us a Sartre who is rather different from the ‘official narratives’: and calls for this official image to be deconstructed ‘in order to reconstruct the real Sartre’. Noudelmann reveals the apolitical Sartre, the tourist, the romantic, and so on. His relationships with his family are redefined, and the influence of Germany and German culture are recognised. Most striking is the revelation of Sartre's lack of interest in politics and ideologies, despite his reputation, his actions being based on moral values. Sartre's lack of attention to philosophy from 1950 may be surprising, but the detailed philosophical biography of his early influences is fascinating. Betschart clearly welcomes this correction of Sartre's image, contending that the ‘official narrative’ does not do full justice to his life and his thought. He sees the emergence of a narrative that understands the Critique and his later political thought and values his screenplays as one way of closing the gap between the perspectives of Sartre scholars in France and Belgium and those in the English-speaking world.
In the review section, Robert Wick's Introduction to Existentialism is commended for the extensive nature of its treatment in not only presenting six key existentialist thinkers but also providing a substantial historical overview of key influences on the movement as well as documenting its broader influence on culture since the sixties and relating Existentialism to life today. The review of Gary Cox's How to Be an Existentialist: Or How to Get Real, Get a Grip and Stop Making Excuses is a refreshing look at the tenth anniversary reprint of this popular book. This popularity is undoubtedly based on Cox's application of the tenets of Existentialism to everyday situations, employing a lively style to provide a kind of existentialist self-help book.
French and Italian Stoicisms: From Sartre to Agamben is a fascinating collection of essays stimulated by the emergence of modern Stoicism in the last ten years as a popular philosophical movement. This study is linked to the reception of ancient Stoicism in recent times both in continental and anglophone scholarship. As well as two chapters on Sartre and Stoicism, among others, connections are formed with Deleuze, Badiou, Kristeva, Lacan, Foucault, and Agamben.
We can be sure that in these dark times, Sartre, were he still with us, would have provided a powerful voice reminding us of the importance of freedom and responsibility.