Man is always a Sorcerer to Man

Forum Philosophicum: International Journal for Philosophy 28 (2):223-241 (2023)
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This article sets out to reinterpret Sartre’s famous analysis of the look in Being and Nothingness from the cultural-anthropological perspective developed in the posthumous Notebooks for an Ethics. In the latter, he comments on some passages by Michel Leiris on the cult of the zar, a North-African belief and practice involving spirit possession. The article also seeks to show the influence of cultural-anthropological thought on Sartre, asking about what new light these rather unexpected analyses may shed on his thinking about the relationship to the Other. I start with the doctrine of the look as we know it from Being and Nothingness. Then I examine how, in Sartre’s Notebooks, his account takes some new directions. The link with possession, already present—though underdeveloped—in Being and Nothingness, becomes clear. I briefly introduce Michel Leiris in order to interpret Sartre’s comments on the zar cult as described by Leiris. This opens up a new perspective on religion and the social. Finally, I offer some concluding considerations.



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Ruud Welten
Erasmus University Rotterdam

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