Journal of the History of Philosophy 43 (3):325-351 (2005)

Sebastian Gardner
University College London
Introduction: This paper has two, interrelated aims. The first is to clarify Sartre's theory of intersubjectivity. Sartre's discussion of the Other has a puzzling way of going in and out of focus, seeming at one moment to provide a remarkably original solution to the problem of other minds and at the next to wholly miss the point of the skeptical challenge. The nature of his argument is equally uncertain: at some points it looks like an attempt to mount a transcendental argument, a kind of Refutation of Idealism regarding the existence of others, at others, to be a defence of direct realism; yet again, it can seem to propose a dissolution of the problem closely analogous to Wittgenstein. I will argue (Section 1) that none of these provides quite the right model for understanding Sartre, which requires one to take seriously his method of resolving epistemological issues into matters of ontology. I argue further (Section 2) that Sartre's theory becomes fully coherent only if we make explicit its implicit presupposition of a conception of intersubjectivity articulated by Fichte. My second aim is to pursue the connection opened up of Sartre with German idealism. To the extent that commentators attempt to relate Sartre systematically to German idealism, it is almost always Hegel who provides the other term of comparison.1 What I try to show (Section 3) is that the usual comparison of Sartre with Hegel, which is largely negative, is distracting, and that Sartre's closer philosophical [End Page 325] relations are to Fichte and Schelling.2 This supplies, I argue, an important correction to the tendency of anglophone discussion of Sartre to isolate his claims from historical considerations, or to restrict Sartre's historical frame of reference to Hegel, Husserl and Heidegger: Sartre's philosophy, I suggest, is viewed fruitfully in the context of philosophical debates pursued in early German idealism. Sartre's ethics, I argue (Section 4), provide supporting evidence for this view. I propose tentatively in conclusion (Section 5) a corresponding view of existential phenomenology as a whole
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DOI 10.1353/hph.2005.0135
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