Sartre and The Existence of Others – some notes

September 24, 2013 — Leave a comment

The Problem – the relation of my being to the being of the Other

human reality is:

1) negating conduct – we are not what we are, we are what we are not.

2) the cogito – we are subjects looking outwards from ourselves (suggests solipsism – a standard problem of philosophy; Sartre describes people as being shipwrecked on this reef). For Heidegger we are in a world of practical activity – Dasein is social. Being-with-others. For Sartre Heidegger has not offered an explanation. He does not deal with the presence of other beings and how they might impact on the subject.

3) is-for-itself

“It is in relation to myself as subject that I am concerned about myself, and yet this concern reveals to me a being which is my being without being-for-me.” (p221 B & N)

Shame as an example:

” […] the Other is the indispensable mediator between myself and me. I am ashamed of myself as I appear to the Other.” (p222)

This comment suggests that the only experience I can have is of me. I can never meet with anything except the consciousness which is mine. But it is the other that is somehow a catalyst for my relation to myself.

“By the mere appearance of the Other, I am put in the position of passing judgment on myself as on an object, for it is as an object that I appear to the Other […] But at the same time I need the Other in order to realize fully all the structures of my being.” (p222)

Sartre is respecting the individuality of the subject. He is sticking with the cogito as the starting point. He acknowledges that our own being is genuinely modified by the presence of others.

“The For-itself refers to the For-others.” (p222)

The Look (pp252 – 261)

Others to me are objects. At least one mode of the Other in relation to the subject is object-ness. To bring the Other out of conjecture (Descartes evil demon) Sartre asserts that “object-ness must of necessity refer not to an original solitude beyond my reach, but to a fundamental connection in which the Other is manifested in some way other than through the knowledge I have of him.” (p253) The presence of others differs from the presence of objects. We might initially experience others as objects (Husserl and Descartes have this view – bodies as objects) but, objects always essentially present the same kind of experience. People on the other hand present different kinds of experience. The situation changes for us when we encounter another. Sartre doesn’t want to dwell on the problem of proving the existence of others. He asserts the unique experience of encountering the Other and keeps moving forward.

However, because these beings are referred to doesn’t guarantee their probability. The face which is seen does not refer to a consciousness which exists in a separate state. Sartre calls this; ‘Being-in-a-pair-with-the-Other’.

The man in the park:

The Other, the man across the lawn, is apprehended first as an object and at the same time a man. If he were apprehended only as an object (a ‘puppet’ Sartre suggests) the subject would apply to him the categories with which he ordinarily groups temporal-spatial ‘things’. He would be ‘beside’ the benches. I take this to mean that as one looks at a tree and slots it into the 3-dimensions of the landscape, the look towards the man requires more categorisation. Perhaps movement temporally and spatially plays into this?

“We are dealing with a relation which is without parts, given at one stroke, inside of which there unfolds a spatiality which is not my spatiality; for instead of a grouping toward me of the objects, there is now an orientation which flees from me.” (p254)

Because the relation is reaching toward the man-as-object, it escapes me and I am not at the centre of it. So if I look at Pierre looking out the window, I cannot be at the centre of this exchange as it is the relationship of Pierre to the window and his look out of it that moves away from me. This is a negation of the spatial awareness I have established. It disrupts my experience as centre of things in the world.

“The distance appears as a pure disintegration of the relations which I apprehend between the objects of my universe.” (p255)

“The Other is first the permanent flight of things toward a goal which I apprehend as an object at a certain distance from me but which escapes me inasmuch as it unfolds about itself its own distances.” (p255)

When Sartre talks about the man being a plughole into which the world drains, this is what he is talking about. All spatial relations are changed from the perspective of the subject, in favour of a trend towards and relation to the Other.

The keyhole example relates to shame:

You are spying through a keyhole, and from the subjective point of view the world is being structured around that experience. Someone creeps up behind you and discovers you spying and you experience shame. The structuring of your view of the world is being affected by the Other. An ordinary pre-reflective experience of life.

We now have to define ourselves partly through the negating of the other. This situation is reciprocal. A battle of ego – a dialectic.

On the origin of Bad Faith:

“Moreover I can not truly define myself as being in a situation: first because I am not a positional consciousness of myself; second because I am my own nothingness. In this sense – and since I am what I am not and since I am not what I am – I can not even define myself as truly being in the process of listening at doors. I escape this provisional definition of myself by means of all my transcendence. There as we have seen is the origin of bad faith. Thus not only am I unable to know myself, but my very being escapes – although I am that very escape from my being – and I am absolutely nothing. There is nothing there but a pure nothingness encircling a certain objective ensemble and throwing it into relief outlined upon the world, but this ensemble is a real system, a disposition of means in view of an end.” (p260)


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