Being Oneself: Self-Consciousness in Husserl and Henry

Abstract

Taking up phenomenology’s problem of intentionality in the wake of Husserl, Jean-Paul Sartre in the introduction to Being and Nothingness says, «All consciousness, as Husserl has shown, is consciousness of something […] All consciousness is positional in that it transcends itself in order to reach an object, and it exhausts itself in this same positing». Continuing down the page, Sartre notes in turn that intentionality itself is only possible insofar as it is aware of itself. Just as an unconscious intentionality is unthinkable, so too all consciousness is self-consciousness. As he thus explains, «the necessary and sufficient condition for a knowing consciousness to be knowledge of its object, is that it be consciousness of itself as being that knowledge». To pose Husserl’s problem of intentionality, hence, is to pose with it the question of self-consciousness. Sartre asks: “What is this consciousness of consciousness?” Sartre’s question— the question, in short, of what it is to be conscious of oneself—in what follows shall be ours as well.

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