Your Past Comes Back to Haunt You

Sartre Studies International 26 (2):63-89 (2020)
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Abstract

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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