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42. Sartre, Foucault and Derrida

GARY GUTTING


Subject Philosophy

People Derrida, Jacques, Foucault, Michel, Sartre, Jean-Paul

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631219088.2002.00047.x


Extract

Sartre was important not only as a philosopher but also as a literary figure and a political activist. Our discussion will be restricted to his philosophy and, within philosophy to what is by far his most important and most influential achievement, Being and Nothingness. Sartre's position derives from his two fundamental claims about consciousness: that it is always of something , but that it itself is not something. C onsciousness (pp. 185–7) is always of something in the sense that for me to be conscious implies that there is some object-typically something real, though in some cases something imaginary or illusory-that I am conscious of. Consciousness is, in the language of Husserl's phenomenology, essentially intentional —directed toward something else. Intentionality is a relation, but it cannot be understood on analogy with ordinary relations between things in the world; for example, the relation whereby a box is on top of a table or a fish is in a stream. This is because consciousness is not a thing, not a material thing but also not an immaterial thing such as a soul or a spiritual substance. It is not a thing because its entire existence is exhausted by its relation to its objects. It has no content or structure of its own. Nor does it take on content or structure by somehow incorporating its objects. Our ordinary talk of what we experience or think about ‘being in ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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