Your Past Comes Back to Haunt You

Sartre Studies International 26 (2):63-89 (2020)
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This paper examines how Sartre’s early phenomenological works were influenced by Emmanuel Levinas’s The Theory of Intuition in Husserl’s Phenomenology. Sartre embraced two key aspects of Levinas’s interpretation of Husserl: 1) that phenomenology is an ontological philosophy whose foundation is the doctrine of intentionality; and, 2) that consciousness’s being consists in intentionality, which entails that consciousness is non-substantial as well as pre-reflectively or non-thetically aware of itself. In addition to adopting these views, Sartre also became gripped by a methodological problem raised by Levinas. Namely, phenomenology reflects on consciousness, yet reflection modifies the consciousness it reflects on. I argue that Sartre responds to this problem by developing two of Levinas’s ideas: that reflection is a motivated act and that reflection must adequately grasp consciousness’s temporality.



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Curtis Sommerlatte
Indiana University, Bloomington (PhD)

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