fuller discussion in Being and Nothingness; second, I should like to dis cuss a few of In this same article Sartre lays down two fundamental principles con cerning the . sesses of wavering back and forth, demanding the privileges of a free. (eBook - PDF - Philosophy) Being and Nothingness by Jean-Paul Sartre of philosophy at the Lycée Condorçet in Paris.. essays. you can't turn down the Even vague and free-floating fears have objects — vague and free-floating ones. 1. Being and nothingness: an essay on phenomenological ontology. [Jean-Paul for a Library. Create lists, bibliographies and reviews: Sign in or create a free account Edition/Format: eBook: Document: EnglishView all editions and formats. Summary: .. rdfs:comment "for this downloadable OverDrive eBook. Library card.
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Being and Nothingness contains the basic tenets of his thought. A work . In this same article Sartre lays down two fundamental principles concerning the pre- reflective .. It was never able either to choose not to be, or to choose not to be free. Download ebook for print-disabled Download Protected DAISY. Other editions of this book may be available: Check Other Editions. Being and Nothingness: An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology (French: His overriding concern in writing the book was to demonstrate that free will exists.
All rights reserved. Permission is hereby granted to copy this document in whole or in part for any purpose whatever, provided only that acknowledgment of copyright is given. Getting Started Life and Works But it will be quite a while before we actually get into that. I have not asked you to buy this book, but it is available on reserve. You should start reading that book immediately, and consult the outline included in the course packet.
The phenomena are what we see on our movie screen. How can we ever know anything about what is really going on outside the mental movie-theater? As he says. How are we going to rule out solipsism? How can we avoid the possibility that it might be correct? How are we going to be sure of anything outside my own mind? But now back to Descartes.
Training in phenomenology is rather like the training a painter gets. The painter must learn to be sensitive to nuances that all of us in a sense see. How can we be certain of the correspondence between cognition and object cognized?
Everything else is just a dream. We will see some of this at its best in Sartre. Descartes tried. But Kant went further than this. God would not deceive us about the oar in the water any more than he would deceive us about other things. But before we look at how he does this. And on this theory. And he does. But we obviously do make mistakes. The only way we could ever be sure that our phenomena are accurate representations of external realities would be to look at the phenomena.
The only things. As he himself sets it up. Of course. In order to see what they are. By what right can Descartes claim to be sure that God exists.
Kant Immanuel Kant realized what Descartes should have realized: The mind in fact contributes a great deal to the phenomena. It is active. For Descartes. Kant claimed. But the doctrine is very much an authentically Kantian one. What determines which way it is seen? So true is this that. My mind organizes the perceptual data in the one way or in the other. All it did was watch them. The phenomenon. Things- in-Themselves Ego. Self Phenomena Now Kant argued as follows: Descartes in effect assumed that the mind contributed nothing to the phenomena.
But that same pattern can be seen in two different ways. In other words. It imposes a certain organization. I can learn to flip-flop from the one to the other at will. This organizing and interpreting function of the mind is what is called Constitution — and it is very important. In both cases. This need not be taken literally as a visual perspective. In brief. All my descriptions — indeed.
Without it. This implicit reference to a point of view or perspective is inevitable. What does the claim mean? He says that: You can see this readily in the example of the Gestalt figure. Even if I do not explicitly make reference to that point of view or perspective. Sartre refers to this claim at the very beginning of Transcendence of the Ego — on p.
Why is this important? It is important because it means that all our concepts. Get that notion down. What you are demanding is obviously contradictory. Things-in-themselves are whatever they are with no special reference to us. You are saying: I want to discuss how things are apart from any particular point of view or perspective.
I want to discuss how things are. We always see things from our own point of view. And so we are always biased. I think this would be all there was to it. If you have a view that says it is the mind that determines which is foreground and which is background in that figure.
I want to talk about how they are all by themselves. The basic idea here is this: Now our biases may really be correct. And here I think the example of the Gestalt figure illustrates the point quite clearly.
I want to consider them apart from the very precondition under which alone I can have any experience or any concepts at all. And what the theory says is: I must add that Kant was quite certain that there were such mysterious things-in-themselves out there. The whole Kantian picture is that. I want to stress this now.
So of course. Having said that. Now the theory of constitution may in fact not be right. That would just amount to wondering whether your theory is right in the first place. So the picture we get with Kant is like this: All we really need are the raw data of cognition. Kant cannot know that. And eventually. Kant showed that that question is incoherent.
But I thought causality was one of those categories that we were forbidden under pain of contradiction to attribute to things-in-themselves.
First of all. Now of course there are obvious problems with this theory. So now our picture is like this: Here I am in my phenomenal theater. It was a doctrine that had some currency after Kant.
The answer. And in fact. How can I be sure that the projector. There are really three main premises that get us to the point we have arrived at: The phenomena are all mental. When Kant realized that the mind itself contributes to the phenomena.
Remember the raw data Kant was worried about. You put 1 and 2 together. In terms of our movie-theater model. So I think it will be useful to review how we got here. This is the point of the doctrine of constitution. But now the story has changed.
By itself. The whole phenomenal world I am aware of is simply a story the mind is telling itself — the mind itself is the cause of it. Kant still wanted to have some kind of thing-in-itself outside the theater. It inevitably leads to absurdity and contradiction to try to talk about things-in- themselves.
In order to do this. It contributes a perspective or point of view that. We can already see some glimmerings of what is to come in the later sections of The Idea of Phenomenology. In his early philosophy.
They were attracted by the promise of the way out of the seemingly inevitable idealism. And he did. He rejected step 2. Husserl had a doctrine that promised to break out of this bind. The doctrine of Constitution. So there developed a split in the phenomenological movement.
And then there were the others. Ingarden and the others must have done so. On the one hand.
The Idea of Phenomenology Again After telling the above story. I think we can see that what goes on in The Idea of Phenomenology. The book begins with the astonishing sentence: I have often asked myself why Husserl. In Lecture I. But he was never able to persuade others of this. For example. It sounds a lot like Descartes. Husserl himself resisted the doctrine. Husserl seemed remarkably incapable of explaining to his students the reasoning that led him to adopt his later idealism.
With this as background. Yet the two disciplines are closely parallel. Husserl says. But when we adopt the natural standpoint. Husserl himself describes all this in a very dry. In that case. I said.
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See p. Of course p. Husserl was a terrible writer! But it is not hard to see what he is doing. Husserl recognizes p. Sometimes too we make inductive errors — we infer general hypotheses from the particular data.
This is the assumption that. For Husserl. So much for the method we employ from the natural standpoint. When we adopt this attitude. He is in effect describing scientific method.
If it is a matter of logical error in the deductive reasoning. We observe particular objects. But we also employ deductive reasoning. When this happens and when we find it out. I mention this because Husserl contrasts psychology very sharply with his own phenomenology.
This is inductive reasoning. This is the attitude the mind adopts when it is engaged. We know how to handle them. But in fact. You might think that psychology is an exception. But I am not worried about the general question how — or even whether — the mind can really get at any objective facts at all. When I am doing biology. This then is the natural attitude. How can we get at the realities behind the appearances? How can we break out of our own minds and get to anything beyond?
The natural standpoint takes all this for granted — that we can get at reliable. The fact that the objects we study in psychology are so close to us makes no difference — and in fact may make things harder! Husserl thinks. It is exactly this possibility that we take for granted in the natural standpoint. I may be worried about getting the facts straight. Look again at the passage we have already read from p.
Now of course the problem Husserl is describing here. There we implicitly assume we are able to get at objective and unbiased data about our own minds and their contents. Once we withdraw ourselves from the business of pragmatic and scientific engagements and begin to reflect, the implicit assumption of the natural standpoint becomes a real problem for us.
We begin to see that we should not take it for granted. This is exactly what happened to Descartes. And this realization requires a real change of attitude. It is not a small thing. It requires that we put away our pragmatic and scientific interests for a time, to look at their foundations. This is no small matter — it requires a complete shifting of mental perspective.
It requires, for instance, a certain amount of leisure and freedom from external pressures. Descartes tells us at the beginning of his Meditations the kind of circumstances that are required for this peculiarly philosophical kind of attitude:.
The present is opportune for my design; I have freed my mind of all kinds of cares; I feel myself, fortunately, distracted by no passions; and I have found a serene retreat in peaceful solitude. The point of this is that the philosophical attitude and the natural attitude are mutually exclusive. You can be in the one or the other, but not both at once.
They are incompatible. On pp. We shall have to see how these two characterizations of phenomenology fit together in the end. That will be a long story. That is what it must answer. It must investigate what the natural standpoint takes for granted. Phenomenology is therefore a theory of knowledge; a critique of natural cognition.
Being and nothingness
But how is it going to proceed? It cannot proceed the way the usual sciences do, by starting with particular data, and then proceeding to construct general theories to explain those data.
It is the very possibility of getting at those particular data to begin with that is in question here. So philosophy — or phenomenology, which is the same thing for Husserl — is not going to be just one science among many. Some people have a view of philosophy that does think of philosophy this way: Philosophy as simply the most general and broadest of all the sciences.
Philosophy for Husserl is going to require an entirely new method. Philosophy, so to speak, goes off in a completely new dimension. Philosophy still paraphrasing the text is going to have to try to answer the question of the possibility of knowledge — that is, of the correspondence between our thought and. It is going to have to investigate what cognition is and what it is to be an object of cognition, and then try to see what correspondence, if any, there is between the two.
Or, as Husserl himself puts it p. What I have just given you is a brief summary of Lecture I. In effect, Lecture I sets up the problem that is going to be addressed in the rest of the book. In the remaining lectures, there are three main points I want to focus on:. Instead, I will discuss it under the heading of constitution.
This is what on p. In all these cases, we are talking about the same thing, although the terminology is a little fluid. What then is the phenomenological reduction? In other words, once I adopt the phenomenological reduction, I no longer infer or argue on the basis of the phenomena to something further. I stay at the level of phenomena and simply describe them. In effect, this means I reject the method of the natural attitude, which — you recall — involved inference.
Phenomenology is not an argumentative discipline; it is a descriptive one.
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Husserl accepts it. He describes this step in various ways in various places:. The idea is that our job is simply to describe the phenomena on our mental movie-screen.
It is not our job to try to decide whether the phenomena we see represent really existing objects out there. Sometimes in the secondary literature you see the claim made that Sartre rejects the phenomenological reduction. In fact, this whole issue rests on some terminological sloppiness. But, as we shall see, Sartre qualifies that so much that in the end the difference between him and Husserl on this point is not as great as it first appears.
Once again, we make no claims about whether the natural world is real or not. It may all be an illusion — but I can describe it anyway. Here too we see the idea we touched on earlier: It is bracketed along with all the other sciences. So Husserl starts off the way Descartes does. They are included among the phenomena. And so they are fair game for phenomenology.
Nevertheless, he thinks Descartes made two important mistakes:. In the end, Husserl thinks, Descartes in effect identified the Ego that we can still talk about after the phenomenological reduction with his own psychological personality or self. In other words, according to Husserl, Descartes thought that after adopting the policy of confining myself to the directly given, I am nevertheless still able to talk with certainty about the facts of my own psychology.
And this is where Husserl thinks Descartes made his first mistake. What exactly is the point here? Well, Husserl thinks there is a sense in which the Cartesian cogito is correct. But that Ego is not the same thing as the self or Ego we talk about in psychology. Once again, for Husserl phenomenology is not psychology.
What is this Ego that Husserl thinks we can continue to be certain of after the phenomenological reduction? Well, think of it like this This is important! Go back and think of the movie-theater model again. In this analogy, the phenomena are the pictures on the screen. But when I look at a scene on my mental movie-screen, there is something else I am directly given — in addition to the pictures on the screen.
But it is directly given to us. This is my term. It will look one way if the camera is on the far bank. John Wayne is crossing the Rio Grande with the wagon train. Notice something important here: Recall that I told you a while back that the Ego was going to be a special case. In slightly less metaphorical terms.
This perspective is not itself a phenomenon. It will look different yet if it is photographed from above.
It will look another way if the camera is on the near side. But that same scene will look different depending on the position of the camera when it is photographed. And so on. That is the picture on the movie-screen. It will look different yet if it is photographed from the side. Consider a John Wayne movie. This is just as true for Husserl as it was for Descartes.
This is something I can be absolutely sure of. The psychological Ego for Husserl is an object. Descartes according to Husserl thought it was the psychological Ego. Husserl thinks that is wrong. It is what we have called the phenomenological Ego. It is individual. Let me summarize them: But Husserl agrees with Descartes that the Ego is a kind of special. It is worth taking the trouble to get these points and distinctions straight now.
The Ego in that sense as the psyche is an object that we can describe phenomenologically. So Husserl will allow us to talk about an individual Ego after the phenomenological reduction. At this stage.
Husserl is thinking of the Ego as simply an observer of phenomena. I have not so far put the issue in the technical vocabulary of immanence and transcendence.
But does it go the other way around? Apart from the Ego. This then is where Husserl thinks Descartes made his first mistake: Husserl had not yet adopted the theory of the Transcendental Ego. Both agree that we are going to confine ourselves to what is directly given. Husserl agrees that: But is that all? But what all do they include? As Husserl puts it. But it is not personal. But Husserl does. Both agree that. The correlative opposite. And if I think about Mars real hard. This sense of immanence and transcendence is also the hard and obscure one.
So in this first sense. In this sense. This is the way Husserl puts what I have described in other terms. Now Husserl tells us in a crucial passage on pp. How can cognition transcend itself and reach its object reliably? And later on. They are important. And I think they will clear up some as we proceed. By contrast. And that is exactly what he thinks happened with Descartes. But the concept or sense-image is. Nothing rests on the words here.
Now what is the point of making these distinctions? If so. The criterion or test of whether something is immanent or transcendent in this second sense is: Is an inference required before I can make a claim about this thing?
If you think about it a bit. I have to infer from what is directly present to my mind the concept or sense image to what is not the planet Mars.
The first one. After all. Husserl thinks it is a question that has to be asked: But neither can he argue that there are such phenomena. Phenomenology is not supposed to proceed like that. But can it be that absolute self-evidence. How would you know when you had found one? So if Husserl is going to answer his question in the affirmative and say there are phenomena that are immanent in the one sense and transcendent in the other.
It is an important question because. Are there any phenomena things directly present to the mind in cognition that are not themselves real parts or characteristics of mental acts? Husserl cannot of course just take it for granted that there are such phenomena. The Eidetic Reduction Husserl finds such phenomena as the result of the second of the three main things I said I wanted to focus on in The Idea of Phenomenology: Here is what he says p.
And it was that principle which. Husserl thinks no. I could in principle think about it again.. Later on p. We are talking about a combination of mental acts that I actually perform.
To view the matter more precisely. Redness is thus never exhausted by my acts of thinking about it — either any single act or any combination of acts. In that sense. It can always come back again. Is it the case that what is directly given is no more than the particular thought. There are two parts to the claim in this discussion: What is given to me here is redness. I mean things that can recur and be recognized again as having been there before.
In our example. But second. And finally. It sounds as if what he is saying is: Any device that will help us do this is fair game — even arguments and inferences. The purpose of either participant is not to exist, but to maintain the other participant's looking at them. This system is often mistakenly called "love", but it is, in fact, nothing more than emotional alienation and denial of freedom through conflict with the other.
Sartre believes that it is often created as a means of making the unbearable anguish of a person's relationship to their " facticity " all of the concrete details against the background of which human freedom exists and is limited, such as birthplace and time bearable.
At its extreme, the alienation can become so intense that due to the guilt of being so radically enslaved by "the look" and therefore radically missing their own freedoms, the participants can experience masochistic and sadistic attitudes.
This happens when the participants cause pain to each other, in attempting to prove their control over the other's look, which they cannot escape because they believe themselves to be so enslaved to the look that experiencing their own subjectivity would be equally unbearable.
Sartre explains that "the look" is the basis for sexual desire , declaring that a biological motivation for sex does not exist. Instead, "double reciprocal incarnation" is a form of mutual awareness which Sartre takes to be at the heart of the sexual experience.
This involves the mutual recognition of subjectivity of some sort, as Sartre describes: My caress causes my flesh to be born for me insofar as it is for the Other flesh causing her to be born as flesh.
Even in sex perhaps especially in sex , men and women are haunted by a state in which consciousness and bodily being would be in perfect harmony, with desire satisfied. Such a state, however, can never be. We try to bring the beloved's consciousness to the surface of their body by use of magical acts performed, gestures kisses, desires, etc.
But at the moment of ens causa sui , the God of the ontological proof. Sartre contends that human existence is a conundrum whereby each of us exists, for as long as we live, within an overall condition of nothingness no thing-ness —that ultimately allows for free consciousness. But simultaneously, within our being in the physical world , we are constrained to make continuous, conscious choices. It is this dichotomy that causes anguish, because choice subjectivity represents a limit on freedom within an otherwise unbridled range of thoughts.
Subsequently, humans seek to flee our anguish through action-oriented constructs such as escapes, visualizations, or visions such as dreams designed to lead us toward some meaningful end, such as necessity, destiny, determinism God , etc. Thus, in living our lives, we often become unconscious actors —Bourgeois, Feminist, Worker, Party Member, Frenchman, Canadian or American—each doing as we must to fulfill our chosen characters' destinies.
However, Sartre contends our conscious choices leading to often unconscious actions run counter to our intellectual freedom. Yet we are bound to the conditioned and physical world—in which some form of action is always required. This leads to failed dreams of completion , as Sartre described them, because inevitably we are unable to bridge the void between the purity and spontaneity of thought and all-too constraining action; between the being and the nothingness that inherently coincide in our self.
Sartre's recipe for fulfillment is to escape all quests by completing them. This is accomplished by rigorously forcing order onto nothingness, employing the "spirit or consciousness of mind of seriousness" and describing the failure to do so in terms such as " bad faith " and " false consciousness ".
Though Sartre's conclusion seems to be that being diminishes before nothingness since consciousness is probably based more on spontaneity than on stable seriousness, he contends that any person of a serious nature is obliged to continuous struggle between:.
In Sartre's opinion, consciousness does not make sense by itself: Consciousness is therefore always and essentially consciousness of something , whether this "something" is a thing, a person, an imaginary object, etc. Phenomenologists often refer to this quality of consciousness as " intentionality ".
Sartre's contribution, then, is that in addition to always being consciousness of something , consciousness is always consciousness of itself. In other words, all consciousness is, by definition, self-consciousness. By "self-consciousness", Sartre does not mean being aware of oneself thought of as an object e. By appearing to itself, Sartre argues that consciousness is fully transparent; unlike an ordinary "object" a house, for instance, of which it is impossible to perceive all of the sides at the same time , consciousness "sees" all aspects of itself at once.
This non-positional quality of consciousness is what makes it a unique type of being, a being that exists for itself. In this sense, Sartre uses phenomenology to describe ontology. Philosopher Kenneth Williford suggests that Sartre's reasoning turns on a logic of full phenomenal transparency that might not withstand scrutiny.
In other words, Sartre implicitly argues that if consciousness "seems" to possess a certain property, then it actually possesses that property. But, conversely, if consciousness does not seem to possess a certain property, Williford argues that it would be hasty to conclude from this "seeming" that consciousness does not actually possess that property. For example, consciousness might not "seem", upon reflection, to be brain process, but it is not clear from this "seeming" that consciousness is not , in fact, a brain process.
Being and Nothingness offers a critique of Sigmund Freud 's theory of the unconscious , based on the claim that consciousness is essentially self-conscious. Sartre also argues that Freud's theory of repression is internally flawed. In response, Freud postulated the existence of the unconscious, which contains the "truth" of the traumas underlying the patients' behavior. This "truth" is actively repressed, which is made evident by the patients' resistance to its revelation during analysis.
Yet what does the resisting if the patients are unaware of what they are repressing? Sartre finds the answer in what Freud calls the "censor". In other words, Sartre views Freud's unconscious to be a scapegoat for the paradox of simultaneously knowing and not knowing the same information. But instead of alleviating the paradox, Freud simply moves it to the censor, establishing "between the unconscious and consciousness an autonomous consciousness in bad faith".
For Sartre, what Freud identifies as repression is rather indicative of the larger structure of bad faith. Often criticized, and all too rarely understood, the philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre encompasses the dilemmas and aspirations of the individual in contemporary society.
The principal text of the modern existentialist movement, Being and Nothingness contains the basic tenets of his thought. A work of inherent power and epic score, it provides a vivid analysis for all who would understand one of the most influential philosophic movements of our time. Read more Image hclib. Show all links.
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