Continental Philosophy: Sartre

Sartre was a philosopher born in 1905 and died in 1980. He was an essayist novelist and playwright. He had several popular works and was a very popular philosopher in the 20th century. His views are somewhat similar, if not a small compilation of Husserl, Heidegger, and Kierkegaard. A well-known theory of Sartre is his theory of consciousness. This theory basically states that a consciousness called “Unreflected consciousness” is when the consciousness is not yet reflected upon (obviously). The example represented is more of an idea of objects. While saying “I ran to catch a trolley,” it is not being used as an object as it would be in “streetcar-to-be-caught.” He clarifies that there is no “I” to be found since only his objects exist. Therefore, it is known as unreflected consciousness. Another consciousness he brings up is reflective consciousness which is consciousness that reflects on itself. This is the only time where “I” can be used or discovered.

It is phenomenologically stated that consciousness gives us spontaneity that eventually leads to anguish. Basically we are able as humans to do certain things as well as have the freedom to do them even if we probably shouldn’t be. Eventually from this freedom of capability and doubt in whether or not to take these actions, dread arose. For us as humans, our consciousness will sometimes break down and then its bad spontaneity is then revealed. Sartre believed that epoche would break in on us when we least expect it to, creating a consciousness crisis. It is expressed in one of his popular works knows as Nausea, where the main character is sitting on a bench while looking up at a chestnut tree. After a while, he sees the tree to be more than just a plant. He sees all of its naked imperfections. This is how the tree shows its “being” to the main charter causing him to experience epoche. This proved Sartre’s theory that epoche could experienced spontaneity.


One thought on “Continental Philosophy: Sartre

  1. Great break down on Sartre’s theory of consciousness. I can clearly see how Sartre related reflected consciousness to ego. During an action we consciously, as in the case of you street-car example, reflect on the object. As we reflect on our days events, we subjectively refer to ourselves as chasing the street-car; just like you said, “I ran to catch the trolley”. What I also found interesting was how as humans we struggle to impose some kind of order within our conscious minds, and seem to always fail. Like in the case of the woman who sits nude at the window when her husband leaves. She consciously knows that her husband is gone, and because she now is free to sit at that window freely nude she fears she may prostitute herself.

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