The Charles Dewey Tenney Papers

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Charles D. Tenney: Aesthetics in the Philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre. Library of Living Philosophers

Charles D. Tenney

AN adequate aesthetics should undergird the artist as he creates a work of art, the viewer or listener as he experiences it, and the large culture which the artist and his audience thereby support. This support cannot be
established by reducing aesthetic processes to mere factual data, to physical or psychical determinants, to raw feelings and emotions, to crude sensations, to remembered images, to conceptual schemes, to verbal constructs, to political slogans, to anthropological reports, or to psychological case histories. Methods of analysis contribute little to aesthetic apprehension, which is an apprehension of richnesses, complexities, and totalities. To break up these totalities, to simplify these complexities, to water down these abundances is to misrepresent the very thing presented. Richness itself is the distinction of aesthetics.

Unfortunately, richness is difficult to assess, and this is why aesthetics plays such a negligible part in many philosophies -- in fact, in all philosophies that are reductive rather than productive in character. In their efforts to devise manageable schemes of description, such philosophies tend to fix upon discrete elements and to deal only with combinations derivable from ready-made formulas. In the process, they drop the subtleties, surprises, and distinctive qualities of experience. Presumably they intend to reinstate them later, but somehow they seldom do. This kind of reductionism -- whether deliberate or inadvertent -- may have a certain healthy
utility in the physical sciences or in abstract metaphysics, but it wounds the biological and social sciences and it is usually fatal to the humane arts.

Materialisms, positivisms, and absolute idealisms are simply too coarse to screen the fine substance of aesthetics. Because of its subtlety and complexity, aesthetics cannot be based on a narrow philosophy. It is noteworthy that the problems of art have achieved their most adequate treatment in the systems of two great comprehensive thinkers, Aristotle and Kant. These men had the time and patience to pursue
the complex as well as the simple, the nuances as well as the obtrusions. Such thinkers establish firm connections between art and the rest of life. They find the aesthetic important to their systems precisely because it is a way of surpassing the regularities of science and the schemata of logic. 
Conversely, a philosopher's view of art provides an excellent test of the adequacy of his system, for the very reason that experience of art is perhaps the most inclusive and most complex of human experiences. Unlike reason, which is essentially abstract and reductive, art is concrete and enriching. Unlike analysis, which is by definition divisive and sequential, art is unifying and immediate. Attempts to reduce the philosophy of art to a specific type of philosophy usually fail, or at the very least produce monstrous theories that maim and hinder the practice of both the art and the philosophy.
Art theory, therefore, needs a base as broad as the broadest of philosophies. The objects of art are shaped materials subject to the most subtle ontojpgical and cosmological considerations. They provide kinds of knowledge -- perceptual, illuminating, revelatory -- that stretch our epistemological theories to the breaking point. They create not only aesthetic values but also utilitarian, emotional, material, and intellectual values in complicated relationships that fully test theories of axiology.
A philosopher's view of art (like his view of science) puts the historical relevance of his theories to the ultimate test. For art (as well as science) is accumulative: it changes, grows, develops, enlarges, and never ends. These constant alterations demand oil the philosopher a certain prescience; his theories must have predictive value and a dynamism of their own. Otherwise his aesthetics (and his science) are condemned to perpetual inadequacy. 
Some schemes of thought better support an aesthetics than others. For example, Aristotle's ontology clashes less with his aesthetics than does Plato's with his. Bergson's view of existence is more congenial to theorizing about art than, say, Ernst Mach's. 

Jean-Paul Sartre is unusual in that his ontology is already an aesthetics and his aesthetics is already an ontology. He emphasizes a kind of existence that seeks to create being; and in general he is more interested in the process of creation than in its end product. He sees man's imagination as forever at work on projects, each unique to him in his situation.
Some of these projects result in objects of art, and some do not. At all events, the creative process is broadly the same whether it results in an imagined object (that is, a work of art), or a technological discovery (say a new instrument or machine), or a social invention (say a unique life-style), or a political device (say a novel method of balloting), or a new morality, or a new metaphysics. The creative process is inherently an aesthetic process,
for it enriches the world with new qualities and values; at the very least it achieves a basic aesthesis that is lacking in more abstruse intellectual processes. The union in Sartre of the imaginative and the rational is of great advantage to his aesthetic thinking.
It must first be noted, however, that the Sartrean aesthetic tends either to repudiate or to ignore traditional aesthetics -- the classicisms, the romanticisms, the realisms of the past. The ancient theory of art as the imitation or representation of nature has never appealed to Sartre, who seldom if ever speaks of nature in the same terms as the stolid realist, the romantic enthusiast, or the restrained classicist. For the very word "nature" he tends to substitute such terms as "world," "objectivity," "situation," "being." Being, as the extreme of nature, is distasteful to him; it is either marmoreal, stonelike, inert, and cold, or viscous, gummy, doughy, and slimy -- in a word, nauseating.
Even nature as modified by scientific thinking is too abstract, too rigid, too fragmented by analysis to be aesthetically appealing. The physiologist, for example, does not show us the life in nature, but the death. In fact, physiology reveals life itself as a modality of death; it attempts to reconstitute living persons into corpses.
Realistic art, based as it is on the scientific attitude, attempts to reconstitute nature by representing it in faithful artifacts or simulacra. But it succeeds only in yielding anatomies, skeletons, which lack the wholeness of particular lives.
Classical or neo-classical art, seeking as it does a conceptualization or idealization of nature, runs into a similar difficulty. By attempting to discover essences, it reduces art to fixity, to its pastness or history, thereby removing it from the sphere of living existence. Forms become formulas, meanings are regulated under hierarchal classifications, objects become frozen into signs, and lives sink beneath their appurtenances. In general, classical art is subsumed into ideas or at the very least into allegories.
Romantic art is closer to the aesthetic in its attempts at emotional syncretization and concrete mythologies; but in its idealizing tendency it often runs awash in undifferentiated feelings and blurred sensations. It is in a sense a return to primal viscosity; and it constantly verges on the bad faith of the sentimentalist.
By attempting to adhere to the outlines and details of being, all kinds of representative art limit and deaden the artist's program of expression. To imitate is simply to yield up one's freedom of expression.
It is for these reasons, among others, that Sartre is inclined to repudiate traditional and official art, however prestigious. Among the works he spurns are the vast majority of "masterpieces," which err chiefly by exalting political and economic power. For example, Sartre protests against
the Venetian establishment of the sixteenth century, which approved slick paintings that supported the religious, mythological, and monarchical hierarchies of the day. He thinks Titian too smooth and too bland, a painter who allowed a suave technique to gloss over the pain of cruelty and struggle. He is suspicious of the alliance between painting and money that has produced not only ornate mythological pieces celebrating heroines and heroes, goddesses and gods, but also numerous portraits of kings, queens, popes, presidents, and merchant princes. Such works, commissioned by the rich and powerful, are full of the trappings of position and wealth -- velvets and brocades, gold chains and jewels, splendid furniture and ornate accessories, the luxury of Arcadian countrysides. They attempt to immortalize the sitters, immobolize the living flesh, deny the human, and in general emphasize being rather than becoming.
Sartre also despises the museums that enshrine official art. In his first novel, La Nausée, he includes a number of famous set pieces that presumably reflect stages of his own intellectual development. Among these is a fictional museum in the fictional town of Bouville, as viewed by the novel's protagonist Antoine Roquentin, who is presumed to be a thin disguise of Sartre himself. In the portrait gallery of the museum are ensconced the worthies of Bouville, or rather depictions of these worthies by the fictional painters Bordurin and Renaudas. 
The complexions in the portraits tend to dark brown; lively colors would seem indecent. The backgrounds of the portraits tend to deep black, but against them white hair and white whiskers show up well and collars shine "like white marble," The accessories and appointments in the portraits are consistent with the positions of leadership held by the sitters: top hat and gloves, pearl-gray trousers, books with handsome bindings, a great leather armchair, a table loaded with papers. Roquentin starts out by noting these perquisites in a mildly satirical fashion, but the set piece ends with his explosion of rage and contempt ("Salauds!") in what can only be a glamor of loathing, an inspried nausea. 
In La Mort dans l'âme (volume 3 of Les Chemins de la liberté), Sartre gives a fictional rendering of the Museum of Modern Art in New York -highly organized, systematized, approved, enclosed, sanitary, and sterile. Although this museum contains much of the kind of art Sartre finds congenial, he treats it too in a somewhat satirical fashion, as a place more dead than alive. In fact, he tends to wax sardonic about recognized art of any sort, but the height of his animus is directed against official portraits that glorify the power structure of a community. 
This leaves for Sartre's approval a comparatively small number of works that, in his judgment, express the complexity, the mobility, the vitality, and the anguish of human existence by showing it in passage or process. 
These works are open, not closed; dynamic, not static; suggestive and expressive, not fixed and definitive.
For example, Sartre has admired the AvignonPieth and the Grünewald Crucifixion because they disclose, not only in their subject matter but also in their technical means, what it is to exist in anguished humanity. He has admired Tintoretto for the violence and expressiveness he was able to achieve in his paintings in spite of all the blandishments of the Venetian art establishment. In modern art, as against the fixity of Mondrian, he approves the disintegrative power of Picasso. He dislikes most sculptures because they are frozen, inert, but he enjoys Giacometti's emaciated and isolated forms because they are placed in an open field: they exist in never completely defined relationships with each other and with the ambient spaces, thereby discovering the solitude that enwraps individuals. He enjoys African poetry because of its emphasis on dynamics, which seems to relate it to dancing, and its expression of negritude, in which an image of blackness becomes an image of openness, of freedom. Obviously Sartre's resentment of closure has had a marked effect on his aesthetic preferences.
Among poets he finds little to admire in Mallarmé, whose work is hermetically sealed, but a great deal to admire in Francis Ponge, whose work flickers between interiority and exteriority. Sartre sees in the poems of Ponge, which constitute miniature existential psychoanalyses of specific physical objects, a refusal to comply with human society. He argues that the poet, in his attempt to penetrate physical objects and to allow them to speak in their own styles and voices, has gone a long way toward achieving an intuitive grasp of nature, an understanding of things not as human representations but as reposing in their own uniqueness. Ponge's poems appear to Sartre like the solids seen in the paintings of Braque and Juan Gris: discontinuities that force the eye to create continuities. Ponge's lines constantly flicker between objective and subjective elements, an effect emphasized by the poet's elimination of verbal connectives and his technique of gradual agglutination into an expressive synthesis. Owing to this achievement, in Sartre's view, Ponge's poems are truly creations rather than imitations of nature. Perhaps because Ponge deals with solid objects, however, Sartre feels a certain petrifaction, not so much in the poems as in the poet, whose project transforms him into statue and stone, into being rather than becoming. Sartre argues that Ponge is unable actually to assimilate consciousness into external objects; hence, his work tends to be retractile instead of expansive, as perfect poetry should be. It lacks the dynamism Sartre finds in African poetry.
As I have said, Sartre is disinclined to admire sculpture because of its customary massiveness and stolidity, which remind him of the immobility 
of a plenum. He makes art exception, however, in the case of the mobiles of Alexander Calder, which he claims cannot really be compared to the sculptor's art. For a mobile is an object defined by its movement; the imagination revels in its continually changing forms. It moves, it hesitates, it gropes, it decides upon new courses as if correcting former errors of choice. Its motions can be violent or indolent, tremorous or sweeping, abrupt or gradual. When it is responding to movements of the air, it enjoys the holiday spirit of a festival; it is animated, alive. Aside from these movements, it is dead: in effect, non-existent.
Sartre enjoys Calder's creations because they are lively; because their motion is pure motion, signifying nothing save their own animation; and because, like living creatures, they are full of unpredictable variations, even though they work within general patterns.
Since Sartre himself is a fine literary artist, a word should be said about his own work in fiction and drama, which provides an interesting perspective on his aesthetics.
All aesthetic objects contain impurities -- materials not perfectly assimilated while the artist is carrying out his aesthetic project. It is possible for a novel or a play, as a work of art, to contain a great deal of factual, moral, and philosophic matter, but it may then run the risk of being taken for an exposition or a tract. It is possible for a poem to incorporate a metaphysics without ceasing to be a poem, but only if its readers are able to subordinate the metaphysics to its total poetic intention. It is possible for a painting to represent historic events, costumes, faces, landscapes, and architecture, but it can surpass photography only by subduing the descriptive details to the painterly elements. It is possible for a musical composition to embody a program, but only at some risk to its character as music.
On the other hand, without some kind of solid content, the object of art may seem frivolous or inane. The problem in hand is for the artist to interpenetrate his aesthetic structure with non-aesthetic data, which by virtue of this interpenetration become thoroughly assimilated into the structure. There should be sufficient data to pack the structure densely, but not so much as to overstrain and destroy it. Furthermore, there should be no overage of unassimilated data.
As an artist, Sartre is fully aware of this principle, and in his best novels and plays (for example, in La Nausée, Huis clos, Les Mains sales) he adheres to it quite closely. These works are packed with images and ideas that nevertheless are successfully integrated into the projects that carry them forward: balance and tension are admirably sustained.
But Sartre, like most writers, is an uneven artist and he often violates the principle. At heart, perhaps, he is a moralist who has used fiction and drama to convey his ethical and political concepts.
Hence it is that when he comes close to assimilating his concepts into the basic imagery and structure, his fictional and dramatic works are superbly effective, but when he fails to do so his audience may end with the feeling that it is hearing lectures or exhortations. No work of art can successfully carry an intractable burden of factual data and intellectual material.
In sum, Sartre is responsive to two schemes of art, one of which he regards with satirical contempt and the other of which he applauds generously. Traditional and official art belongs to the past; it is over and done with, finished. Open art carries us into the future and can continue indefinitely. Traditional art is oppressive: it weighs us down with its unnecessary detail and its emphasis on a larger than life scale, on heroics and flourishes. Open art frees us: it is conceived on the human scale, it is close to our emotions, we live in it as an ongoing process. Traditional art limits itself to the death of essences; open art reveals the liveliness of existence. The two schemes are dialectical opposites that in a sense define each other.
Although Sartre well knows where his sympathies lie, he must recognize the strength and the persistence of tradition. This he must regard as part of what he has called the "practico-inert," the active resistance of the material environment and of all other finalities that limit the ends toward which we aspire. Official art cannot be ignored: it has the massiveness and the plenitude of endlessly accumulated data. But it is dead or ever dying and must be opposed by living art. Although traditional and official art cannot be ignored, it must somehow be surpassed. To surpass it should be the aim of all artists to come.
Sartre's declared preferences in art reveal his aesthetic predispositions, but they by no means add up to a systematic aesthetics. As far as I know, he has never brought all his artistic interests together into a statement that reveals an organizing philosophy of the fine arts. If anything resembling a complete aesthetics is to be found in his work, it must be inferred from the components of his total philosophy, and certain of these components must be inferred from other components.
Moreover, although Sartre's view of art is wide-ranging and ingenious, it is not held together by dominating principles. Instead it seems to emerge out of his disquisitions in the form of aperçus. It tends to anticipate or to follow from the several stages of his developing thoughts on other topics, phenomenological, ontological, political, sociological, anthropological, psychological, biographical. In other words, Sartre's aesthetics is a reflux from his other interests; it appears to be not central to his thinking and perhaps is not even a major interest. This in no way diminishes its value, but it does reduce the possibility of making accurate judgments and statements about it. 
Nevertheless, we must now assume that from his basic views we can adumbrate an aesthetic that is both sound and attractive. I shall attempt to disclose the components of his thinking upon which his aesthetic responses and his art criticisms appear to be based. My purpose in doing this is not only to understand Sartre but also to understand new possibilities in aesthetics.
The first component of a Sartrean aesthetics is undoubtedly his philosophy of the situation. Sartre assumes that all human activity takes place in-and has developed from -- specific circumstances and contingencies. My situation includes my place (the space in which I and all my projects are located), my past (which provides me with both a backdrop and a point of view), my environment (the instrumentalities that surround me, each with its coefficients of adversity and utility), my fellows (who constitute the Other and provide the words and techniques whereby I can both appropriate the world and belong to such of its collectivities as the human race, one of its nationalities, certain professional and family groups), and my approaching death (which I must choose as the certain limitation of all my choices, as one term of a series in effect present in all my other terms, as the phenomenon that makes my life unique because I can never recover from it).
In situation, I am an existent among other existents; but I can know only my own situation, not others. I cannot exist without my situation, for it is that part of externality upon which I must draw in my quest to surpass it. My growth takes place in a specific but changing context. All other externality is to me irrelevant. My situation is my place, an environment presented to my consciousness.
But I must not rely only upon my situation: I must also surpass it. In order to justify my existence, to objectify myself, I must imagine myself as ahead of my immediate circumstances. I must take hold of My freedom to foresee, to imply, to transcend. As a material being who is able to go beyond the condition in which he has been placed, I must work, act, and dramatize my situation. The situation is that which I must surpass to create my existence.
From the standpoint of Sartre's philosophy, it would appear that both artists and their art spring from situations. There is something vacuous about the work of artists who dwell in the ivory tower (although that, too, is a situation). Only in the, hurly-burly of time and circumstance can they develop their art effectively and in strength.
The artist, like everyone else, is to some extent the slave of his situation. He must work against certain resistances and overcome certain obstacles. An important element in his situation is the medium in which he works. A sculptor confronts the intolerance of stone or metal. A painter
finds limits to the possible uses of canvas and pigments. A poet is rebuffed by the intractability of words, particularly when he tries to match them against the pattern of a sonnet or a five-act play. A musician may be baffled by the contingencies of instrumentation. Any artist may find himself crushed by the establishment, by the burden of history and tradition it forces him to bear. Any artist may find his opportunities for creation reduced by illness or privation.
The artist's situation usually includes the audience that is lying in wait for his work-- an audience that may accept it, reject it, or ignore it. The terrible presence of the Other may ruin him or sustain him.
The artist's situation provides him with materials, subjects, themes, and models which must, however, be adapted to the need of his artistic projects and may exhibit considerable resistance to the adaptation. It also provides him with the setting or scenes of his story, poem, play, picture, or composition, but not with its intentions and freedom of action.
In aesthetic terms, therefore, the situation is everything that directly infringes upon the artist's freedom but that may also, in certain circumstances, assist him in carrying out his projects.
From the situation and the need for transcending it, we must turn to the second component of a possible Sartrean aesthetics: namely, his philosophy of the project. My character as a human being is that I can go beyond a situation and make of myself more than what I have already made. My behavior must grow out of both present and future factors: first, those that condition it and, secondly, those related to an object still to emerge that I am trying to bring into being. Those factors already given constitute the situation; those still to come (in the form of a surpassing of the given) constitute the project.
In a sense, however, situation and project are inextricably intertwined. For my situation consists of those coefficients of adversity and utility which will oppose or support my project; and my project retains much of the situation it surpasses. I must think of this surpassing as a leap ahead, as a relation of the existent to its possibles. By projecting the situation toward a field of possibles and by realizing one specific possible, I objectify both the possible and myself. The possible intervenes between two poles of objectivity: the given object and the surpassing object. In effect, the possible thereby accounts for my creative powers.
A chief distinction with respect to projects is that some are selfrenewing and some are not. A completed project is a mere thing: the process of totalization is over, the imagination is stilled. We then have a museum object, a machine operating routinely, a stratified social system, a repressive tradition or institution, or what William James called a "block universe." 
But some projects are open-ended; they involve perpetual activity. The formation and carrying out of such a project involves (or rather is) the total man; it is never really finished. Sartre's own activities as a writer illustrate this point. The last page of L'Etre et le Néant announces a sequel on morals, which was never written; the tetralogy Les Chemins de la liberté was suspended during its fourth book; half the Critique de la raison dialectique may never come forth. Sartre's apparent reluctance to finish a complex work perhaps stems from a feeling that this freezes it, consigns it to the past, and closes off its future. His personal project must remain open at any cost; and so these incomplete works stand as reminders of his theory of existence, always free and extensible.
Each artist (or, for that matter, any person who lives creatively) is defined by an original choice of being, which constitutes his total individual project. Each man aims at producing himself as an objective totality. Baudelaire's fundamental project differs from Flaubert's fundamental project; that is why Baudelaire is Baudelaire and Flaubert is Flaubert. Consciousness is initially projective, for it is always consciousness of something. Its project is not a mere bundle of separate drives or desires, but a totality, an irreducible and radical decision or choice. In effect, the original project I have as an artist can be discerned in my personal unity. The project itself constitutes me; it is my total impulse and upsurge toward being. My problem at any moment is to recover the impulse of the preceding moment in a totalizing process of enrichment. Each of my actions as an artist takes on the coloration of my fundamental project.
As an artist, therefore, I always do something more than nature demands, whether with my life or with my work. My project organizes my work so that, in my execution of an object of art, each partial structure can assimilate the details of my situation into a total structure as indicated by partial structures that indicate each other as well. In the process of composition, the data not only coalesce but achieve a totality much greater than the sum of their parts. And because my project not only discloses my situation but also transcends it, I gain a control over circumstances, not in any predeterministic sense, but in that I myself have become the chief cause of my development.
Considered in these terms, the making of a work of art is a project, or part of a project, growing out of a situation the artist must surpass. By responding actively to those coefficients of adversity and utility which oppose or support his project (thereby making it both difficult and possible) and by mastering the art of assimilating his data into complex structures, the artist achieves his totality and his creation.
The possible consummation of an artistic process through an aesthetic project entails examination of a third possible component of aesthetics:
Sartre's philosophy of bracketing, based (with alterations) upon Husserl's idea of abstention (the phenomenological epochē).
In order to free myself from the coils of brute reality (that is, in order to enter the realm of art), I must eliminate the natural view of things as an active force in consciousness. This I can do, said Husserl, by placing in "brackets" whatever the spatio-temporal world includes as objects, environmental laws, and natural facts generally. I simply abstain from any recognition of the world as an active force by disconnecting it (in my ego) from phenomena of which I may be otherwise conscious. The world may still remain in my consciousness, and its being cannot be denied; but by putting it in brackets, setting it off to one side, and abstaining from any consideration of it except as it appears in disconnection (that is, in judgments modified by bracketing), I rid myself of its rules and its objects.
On the positive side, consciousness must be consciousness of something, and hence it is always intentional. From Sartre's standpoint, the intention that underlies all my reflections is a project. At best it is an intention of beauty, the value that can emerge only with great difficulty from a blending of being and consciousness. In my project is embedded both my knowledge of phenomena and a volitional thrust or upsurge. My intention is to seize upon the phenomena and assimilate them into the project, to select and emphasize, through voluntary reflection, the values I reflect on. My project isolates the phenomena from the stream of irrelevant causes that would otherwise clog my consciousness. It insures that the important in my reflection survives.
My project, therefore, proceeds by a kind of bracketing that places the objects of my reflective consciousness in suspension, as in a cell cut off from the remainder of being. It insulates those objects with a layer of nothingness (nothingness in this sense is unacceptability to consciousness), and it makes them believable or valuable in their own terms, not in those of other volitions.
In terms of Sartre's views on bracketing, a work of art must be regarded not so much as nature extending itself, but as a free, separate, and autonomous project. Consisting as it does of imagined realities, it is separate from the ponderousness of the large world of common sense and science and refuses to obey its laws. It disconnects itself from the rest of nature by a kind of nihilation. Although it does not exist for its own sake it does not exist for nature's sake either, but for the responsive human consciousness. An aesthetic artifact is bracketed off from the rest of being by its man-made form, which delimits it in space-time, cuts it off from an overweening plenum, surrounds it with a nothingness in which it can live and move, and frees it from most of the contingencies that condition natural objects. 
Artists often emphasize this separateness by devising frames that bracket off their work from the externalities of brute being. The painter puts a frame around his painting; the dramatist separates his action from its audience by a proscenium arch and a curtain on an elevated stage, the writer and the musician invent distancing devices to place their works in their own times and spaces.
The use of bracketing is of major consequence in the arts, because objects of art usually stand not on the world, but on pedestals. Their space-frames and time-frames separate them from the remainder of reality: when the viewer or listener is attending to them, he is not attending to anything else. They exist in a shell of nothingness, the effect of which is not to evaporate or eviscerate them, but to disclose the perfection of their being free from the distractions of the imperfect.
All this applies only when the viewer or the listener can concentrate upon an object of art without let or hindrance. If he allows his attention to wander or permits it to encompass objects irrelevant to the aesthetic object proper, the autonomy of the work is violated, and the resulting experience is scarcely art at all. It is a mush, a viscosity, a misplaced intention, an example of bad faith. The autonomy of art is its chief preservative.
This does not mean that art must be closed or hermetic. In its shell of nothingness it has freedom to extend itself, to reach out, to reveal its value. But this it does in its own terms, not by external references or confusing juxtapositions.
Unfortunately, the autonomy of a work of art is sometimes undercut by the artist himself. In so far as he feels bound to follow nature by imitating given objects, he constricts his own freedom to choose, to arrange, to express; he denies free consciousness and becomes enslaved by the thing itself. In so far as he follows, other artists and draws upon existing conventions, he likewise surrenders his freedom cheaply in the name of moribund classicisms or romanticisms.
This is an error that Sartre would avoid at all posts. As we have seen, he is impatient with the slavishness of naturalistic art and the timid conformity of neo-classic art. Detailed likenesses, whether on glossy canvas or in polished marble, offend his sensibilities. He prefers the expressiveness of a free consciousness.
I doubt that we should infer from this preference that he entirely rejects the art of the past or even the art of the schools and academies. Surely he would grant to each artist a period of apprenticeship in which to study and learn from both nature and his fellow artists: an artist is first of all a craftsman, a workman. Surely he would concede that even the most selfexpressive artist must accept something of what has been learned about the limitations of his medium and his forms. But the important thing is that the 
artist must be free to move out on his own and to renounce the fruits of his apprenticeship, which after all only affords a basis for his creative extrapolations and distortions and by no means defines his true work as an artist. He must honor the brackets that maintain his work as integral.
A fourth basis for a Sartrean aesthetics is Sartre's philosophy of the imagined object. In order to imagine, I must be able to hypothecate an unreality. As a consciousness, I must somehow elude the massive body of the world and seek to withdraw from the impermeability of being. The world taken as a whole is a plenum; the world for the imagination is. . . nothing. For my imagination dwells in its own realm, which is a negation of the plenum. It directs my attention away from the practico-inert and toward the responsive and free.
To be sure, each of my images is limned across the wholeness of reality, but it achieves its status as image only by negating that wholeness, that reality. What is real and what is imaginary are two distinct things. They can come close to each other only in analogies or symbols, which are sources of correspondence between being and nothingness.
Art creates images and therefore must in part deal with the unreal. The work of art exists as partly real and partly imagined -- partly as an object immersed in the plenum of being and partly as a dislocation of that object from the plenum by a negating consciousness. Although the object as object is subsumed in an undifferentiated plenitude, the object as a work of art is isolated (and hence defined) within that plenitude by an intentional consciousness that locates and identifies and brackets it off. The aesthetic consciousness makes a hole, a gap, a breach in being. It is like a cookiecutter that surrounds a portion of dough within a boundary of nothingness, thereby shaping it into something distinct and perhaps tasteful.
For itself, the work of art is an imagined object; it exists not in actual time or space but in its own imagined atmosphere. To be sure, a painting as a physical object may occupy geographical space and endure in historical time -- but only as a physical object. A painting as an imagined object, however, is not concerned with the motives and agencies of the geographical and historical world. What goes before it, or comes after it, or is external to it, is also irrelevant to it; and in a sense it is irrelevant to them. It is a negation of the world, and therefore free of the world. The negation as a sanctuary of freedom is in itself more real than the world; for art relies upon the nothingness that is rather than the nothingness that is not. By its disconnection with the world, the imagined object gains its autonomy, its freedom.
The physical object of art can, however, provide analogues to that pleasant state of consciousness which entertains imagery. The real is never beautiful; only states of mind supervening upon the real across nothingness 
are beautiful. The beauty of an imagined object may in a sense be due to physical presences, but only in the form of analogous states in consciousness.
Each of the artist's image takes on the coloration of his fundamental project. He therefore reveals himself totally in an imagined object, because it is symbolic of his project and hence of him. Truly to interpret his art is to locate in his symbols the totalizing effort, the human thrust, which distinguishes him as an individual.
The intention of art is expressed in terms of the numberless concrete desires that weave themselves into the artist's life. In a totalizing movement of enrichment, each desire comes to stand for the artist himself; it enters into his project, his total vision. By virtue of his artist's skill in symbol-making, that vision may become generalized in an imagined object that embodies a desire for total being. What is significant for the individual thereby becomes significant for mankind (or at least for those men who understand and accept symbols).
The creation of imagined objects or symbols is not, of course, confined to the professional artist, who has no monopoly on artistry. Everyone senses some of the analogies between images and the feelings they seem to enshrine; almost everyone is an artist at moments.
Sartre delimits art by making a distinction between imagined objects and useful signs. A painting or a sculpture is an imagined object; a fire alarm or a red light is a useful sign. Painting and music consist of imagined objects, the materials and forms of which embody qualities that are directly felt. Poetry likewise consists of imagined objects -- collections of words recognized not so much as signs but as objects with their own qualities of tonality and structure.
Prose, however, is not so much an art as a craft: it uses words as signs or cues to action. To the extent that we concentrate on the direct meanings of the words and neglect their tonal values or structures, we are dealing with them as practical objects and not as aesthetic objects. In literature, only poetry is art, and poetry is only art. Prose is utilitarian -- in other words, non-art.
Drawing this distinction enables Sartre to cope with the problem of pure literature (art for art's sake) versus engaged or committed literature (explanation and persuasion). The poet deals with the qualities of life; the prose writer with the exigencies and urgencies. The poet regards writing as an end in itself; the prose writer, as a means to social activism. In Sartre's terms, social action should not be an aesthetic issue at all; it is simply the prose of experience. Unfortunately, however, poetry at times encloses prose, and prose at times encloses poetry; the two are not strictly separable. The distinction beween artistic and utilitarian writing is always being muddled. 
Therefore Sartre sometimes has appeared to waver between a literature of exis and a literature of praxis. He started out by separating prose from the arts of poetry, painting, and sculpture: that is, prose is not an art but a praxis. He then began to urge a literature of commitment to the social causes in which he believed, but argued that it should fall short of outright propaganda. This literature of commitment must have at its command all the devices of art, but it must not use them for art's sake only -- it must use them to encourage and abet the survival of man. In other words, prose literature must bring artistic means to bear on moral and political situations, but it must avoid the extreme of becoming an art, because that would argue its disengagement.
Ideally, of course, there could be a pure poetry without utility or moral reference, and a pure prose without aesthetic value. In practice, however, there is usually an admixture of the two, for life is seldom simple. And so art and utility are not single self-sustaining threads, but strands woven together in different combinations. We must constantly cope with totalities that yoke together both aesthetic (or disjunct) and non-aesthetic (or engaged) elements, but the distinction sometimes disappears in the work of art itself. The plain fact of the matter is that there is no hard and fast boundary between poetry and prose. They are simply two poles, between which extends an indivisible continuum.
The effect of all this is to blur the line between being and nothingness. In the most perfect art, the line may be clear; but many imagined objects are far from perfect.
A fifth Sartrean principle of aesthetics has been his philosophy of freedom. Creation and innovation are confined to artists and inventors, the freest of men. Starting from a still undefined situation, the free man comes to exist as a project -- precognition of his own -- future. He carries out this project through actions that are basically free, that is, bracketed off from brute being; and as a result he is perhaps able to create imagined objects of surpassing worth. In carrying out his work, he both uses up and expresses his freedom by objectifying it.
The processes by which imagined objects come into being do not differ essentially from the processes that produce other kinds of creations. Provided that they result from the activities of free men, they achieve the uniqueness of freely created art.
Sartre's early and insistent regard for freedom is no doubt allied to his distaste for representative art, which inhibits the artist's freedom. To imitate is to conform to the outline and details of what is imitated. Only minor adjustments and deletions are allowable; basically, the object imitated controls the work. 
Furthermore, realism stultifies nature itself: the medium in which nature is imitated never reproduces the truth of nature. Whereas in a nonrepresentative work of art the value lies chiefly in the medium itself (which thereby becomes the very existent expressed), in a realistic work the value lies chiefly in the object simulated by the medium, even though this object is always falsified. Words or pigments become pseudo-objects; broad prospects are constrained to the limits of a page or a canvas; three dimensions are collapsed into two. Devices of illusionism -- perspective and onomatopoeia, for example -- may improve the simulation somewhat; but illusionism, being false to nature, always fails in the end to achieve a true representation. In free artistry, however, this problem does not arise; a non-representative artist has no obligation to try to match up one thing with another.
To the early Sartre, therefore, the achievement and practice of freedom was an aesthetic principle. For example, he rejected (in theory, at least) the familiar omniscient point of view that governs the course of the narration in many an old-fashioned novel, for the simple reason that it belies the notion of a free and open future. If everything is known to the narrator, all appears to be determined in advance. Only if the successive events are handled as if each were slipping into place as something fresh and unpredictable can the novelist convey feelings of life and freedom in his characters. Similarly, a painting should suggest not the rigidity of a plan but a feeling of spontaneity, as if no brush stroke is precontrolled but instead has been elected at the moment of its making.
In fact, all good art is made up of details that are not rigidly locked into place but that have emerged from a free selection.
There is no need to dwell further on Sartre's philosophy of freedom because, in his early writing, it held an eminent place. It must be said, however, that as he grew older Sartre quietly de-emphasized freedom as an aesthetic principle and moved in the direction of an increasing engagement to non-aesthetic principles. The exigencies of politics and of a bourgeois society predictably controlled the sequence of details in his later treatises; and in effect he ceased to regard the writer as a free spirit, an artist.
The sixth basis for a Sartrean aesthetics is most important of all: Sartre's philosophy of beauty. If essence and existence could combine, the result would be beauty. In the fusion of essence and existence, the abstract would become concrete and the concrete would become universal. Action and stasis would become one. The form would be its own matter, and matter would be completely realized form.
In any total sense, however, the fusion of essence and existence is impossible. Such a fusion would require a being at one and the same time
universal and concrete, completely in-itself and completely for-itself, object and subject as one, a combination of being and nothingness, a past that is simultaneously present and future, a reality that is also a myth, like a ghost that haunts consciousness. It would require as a basis for meditation the assumption of an absolute value and an unrealizable ideal.
What consciousness lacks but is constantly seeking is a totality of being -- beautiful, ideal, and god-like -- which is not only for itself as consciousness but also in itself as dense, comprehensive, and impermeable objective being.
Beauty is a value at the locus of which the in-itself and the for-itself unite. This combination Sartre usually designates by the hyphenated term in-itself-for-itself." Outside art and beauty, there is no such thing as an in-itself-for-itself (unless it be God, which Sartre doubts). The in-itselffor-itself is the fusion we are seeking of essence and existence. This unattainable aim of becoming in-itself-for-itself is the basic human project. In other words, humans aim at a contradiction.
Nevertheless, the hope of a possible totality is a condition of consciousness and perhaps has such ontological status as pertains to indications of ideal states and transcendent values. Although total beauty may be impossible, local and temporary beauties can be realized in imagination. A beautiful object is always an imagined object -- or an imaginary object. In effect, it is a perpetual possibility for apprehending imaginatively both an essence in a thing and a totalization of consciousness in ourselves.
This fusion of being and nothingness takes place in art as symbolism, which is the real extended by the imaginary. To be in-itself-for-itself is possible only if one of each pair of terms is real and the other concurrently imaginary.
An aesthetic symbol is simultaneously there and not there. Its being as a bare object -- that is, as a relic or an artifact -- is its being in-itself. But its being as a value, a significance, a tenor, a meaning, an expression, is a being for-itself, or rather is a being conferred by its compresence with a for-itself, a consciousness.
The God-seeker also aims at the complete in-itself-for-itself, but in Sartre's view he cannot achieve it (that is, there is no God). But the artist can have a kind of success that is impossible for the God-seeker. Because he deals with imaginary objects, the artist can embody in themsymbolically -- the beauty he lacks and seeks. On the small scale of an object of art, he can realize the perfection of being -- the full in-itself-foritself -- provided that he is willing to accept as well the fact that part of the object of art -- the imaginary part -- is a nothingness, an unreality.
The God-seeker, on the other hand, is perpetually disappointed; for a god without plenitude -- an imagined God -- is scarcely satisfactory. Only a
God-seeker who is willing to accept God as a work of art, an imaginary object, a creation of man, could in fact capture him. But this is usually not enough for the God-seeker, who in spite of the imperfections and incompatibilities within being itself, desires God as a manifestation of total Being.
One cannot arrive at being God -- or at the being of God -- all at once. Instead, he must work at realizing particular desires in particular concrete situations; and he must accept what he imagines as well as what he senses. As Bernard Shaw put it: "Only on paper has humanity yet achieved glory, beauty, truth, knowledge, virtue, and abiding love." The project of being God always fails, whereas the project of being an artist may have its small successes.
A Sartrean aesthetics must find a place for the ugly as well as the beautiful. Ugliness is the reversal of beauty, a special kind of value. Whereas beauty is the impossible ideal of the in-itself-for-itself, ugliness is the. only too active possibility that the in-itself will compromise or destroy the foritself. Most of Sartre's own fiction embodies the harsh, the hateful, the graceless; but such works as La Nausée and Huit clos cannot be called unaesthetic. Instead, they involve the imagination of the ugly, and thereby may become objects of art.
There are some embodiments of ugliness, however, which in Sartre's scheme must be viewed as anti-aesthetic. Two chief perils lie in wait for the in-itself-for-itself as that stage of being that encompasses art. The first peril is that it may succumb to the state of viscosity. The second is that it may end in a state of petrifaction.
Viscosity compromises freedom; in it, the in-itself entangles the foritself. Viscosity is the quality of all sticky, gummy, gluey, adhesive, absorptive, clinging, miry, sucking, sugary, molasses-like, honey-like, pitch-like, leech-like things -- things that are fluid, soft, yielding, docile, compressible, collapsing, deflating, foundationless, baseless, creeping, squashy, and slimy. In spite of its liquidity, the viscous may also be solidifying, crystallizing, resistant, thick, and slow. Morally, the viscous is ambiguous, vague, compromising, destructive, ensnaring, entrapping, appropriative, parasitical, possessive, fascinating, resistant, and stubborn.
In viscosity, the child and the artist come to recognize existence as an anti-value -- the attempt of plenitude to overwhelm nothingness, of being in-itself to take over existence for-itself, of substance to invade and ultimately to obliterate consciousness. The child is both curious about the viscous and fearful of its entrapments. He seeks to re-establish plenitude by eliminating all the holes in it -- he sticks his fingers and arms into every opening; he tries to fill up his mouth with all of the world he can take in. The artist seeks to re-establish the plenitude by filling vacancies with forms, 
by creating beautiful or even ugly objects; by crowding the void with images and symbols; by eliminating from his art whatever is sentimental, mawkish, murky, syrupy, foggy, or nasty; by purifying his intentions; and by refusing to lapse into a bad conscience.
Petrifaction goes beyond viscosity by altogether eliminating freedom: in it, the in-itself destroys the for-itself and becomes marmoreal. Like the being of Parmenides, the plenum is solid and stolid, excluding the possibility of movement, life, and creativity. Because it fills to repletion, it excludes the nothingness that makes change possible. Fullness of being destroys all aspirations, even all anxieties. In the end, it destroys art -- or at least it results in an unimaginative art, marmoreal and cold.
I have already indicated that Sartre scorns the formal portraits and statuesque postures of official art. Art that aims at "being," at Platonic ideas or essences, is petrified even apart from its stony materials. The art of museums and galleries, which is out of the living world, likewise is the victim of petrifaction. Art that attempts to present divinities in a hierarchy murders itself by sheer immutability.
In order to avoid the perils of petrifaction, the artist not only must repudiate the classical tradition, reject Parmenides' plenum and Plato's essences, destroy the hierarchy of officialdom, and burn down the museums and galleries, but also must devise new forms (like Giacometti's solitary figures and Calder's mobiles) that are bracketed by nothingness and have room to move in. He must emphasize the unique and ephemeral rather than the kind of finality that derives from depictions of a retractile immobility. Although, as Sartre has said, a chief aspect of the beautiful is the appropriateness of act to essence, act must leave its traces in the object of art if petrifaction is not to ensue.
In sum, an aesthetics that is firmly based in the actuality of situations, that sees the artist projecting himself beyond situations into a creative surpassing, that assures the autonomy of imagined objects by suspending them between phenomenological brackets and properly defining their imaginative contents, that stresses the freedom the artist requires in order to remain creative, and that defines the beautiful (and the ugly) in terms appropriate to the arts -- this would appear to be a sound and attractive aesthetics. All these concepts are firmly in place in Sartre's ontology; and even though he has not attempted to bind them together into a coherent system, or even to apply them consistently throughout his own art criticism, they are no doubt responsible for his most dazzling insights into the arts.
Sartre's aesthetics, as far as he has completed it, stands up well against the general requirements for a philosophy of art. It is by no means reductive or limiting. It testifies to the adequacy of his total philosophy, at least in those parts of it that abut on the rationale of the arts. It has the further 
value that it fully supports the artist and his audience in their respective roles, thereby enriching the culture to which they contribute. It accepts current practices in the fine arts and has by no means been outmoded by present-day developments.
Works that Sartre selected for admiration many years ago have also stood up very well; in fact, the reputations of the artists he early acclaimed -- men like Hemingway, Faulkner, Calder, and Giacometti -- have been steadily growing. Conversely, the trends he has opposed look worse now than when he first criticized them. His sardonic comments on traditional aesthetics and on the museum mentality that enshrines the tradition have lost none of their bite, simply because they have lost none of their truth.
For all these reasons, it is a bit sad that Sartre appears to have lost a great deal of his interest in aesthetics (although not necessarily his interest in the fine arts). For a while his concern for aesthetics grew in concord with his ontological interests and gave promise of his developing a powerful and effective instrument for the elucidation of the fine arts. In particular, his theory of situations and projects initially held great promise for aesthetics by providing a structure in which the artist can germinate, develop, organize, and totalize an aesthetic creation.
At some point along the way, however, Sartre's ontology changed into a scheme that no longer supported his aesthetic interests. This is not to say that Sartre was no longer capable of making aesthetic judgments, but rather that he increasingly came to see the situation and the project as psychological and political constructs. They became subdued to the needs of praxis; they were entangled by ideas of engagement, involvement, and commitment; instead of developing fully and freely they vanished in dialectical sleight of hand. The aesthetic components of his judgments were overshadowed by sociological and biographical components, which tended to dwarf his earlier concern for the fine arts as such. Although he never lost his interest in artists, particularly in literary artists like Genet and Flaubert, he came to regard them not so much as artists but as phenomena constituting case materials for existential psychoanalysis or anthropological investigations. Perhaps it was their stature as literary artists that initially drew him to them; but as he later viewed them he seemed much more concerned with their prose as psychologically or politically significant than as artistically rewarding.
What is responsible for Sartre's change in emphasis and for his increasing use of art and artists for other than aesthetic purposes?
First, it is evident that from the very start Sartre's own artistic production carried a heavy burden of non-aesthetic materials: philosophical concepts, autobiographical and biographical data, implied and overt moralizing. At his best, his command of form, imagery, and feeling was powerful 
enough to maintain an aesthetic totality (for example, in La Nausée and Huis clos) even when he was handling an admixture of factual, conceptual, and didactic materials. But as certain of his social and political interests became more and more obsessive, his artistic production became more and more burdened with non-aesthetic materials. Sometimes it degenerated into allegories whose characters were little more than crude cartoons, whose speeches were coarsened into harangues, and whose drama fell away to melodrama (as, for example, in La Putain respectueuse). At the very least, internal strains began to show up and weakened the effect of totality.
This evolution was spasmodic and gradual, but the fact remains that the Sartre of the seventies is not so much concerned with literature as an art as is the Sartre of the forties.
Secondly, Sartre came down hard on the distinction between writing as instrumental or engaged and writing as artistic or poetic. In engaged writing, words are indicators, signs pointing beyond themselves. By virtue of their reference, they implicate us in our intentions. In the art of poetry, however, words are not signs but the stuff of symbols. They interest us because of their inherent qualities and the subtle analogies they can suggest. Their forms are more important than their meanings; they point largely to themselves. As Sartre has said, poets are those who refuse to utilize language.
It may be dangerous to draw parallels between the arts, but as far as utility and engagement are concerned poetry behaves like music and painting-it refuses to traffic with practicality; it lacks signification; it simply is. It lacks truth, but that is not a fault because it subsists in a world extraneous to truth: a world of imagined objects, a world in which the nothingness that denies its claims is more important than the kind of being it feigns.
In the writing of engagement, on the other hand, rhetoric replaces poetry, which gives way to the persuasiveness of actions and things. To be engaged is to intend with passion what one says and to say it in order to make things happen. The commitment to a non-aesthetic aim, as in a political directive, connects rhetoric ineluctably to being.
In his early thinking, it would appear, Sartre recognized the value of poetry as aesthesis; but over the years, as he became more and more committed to social and political aims, he tended to neglect, if not to deprecate, the poetic point of view. His first interest in the techniques and forms of poetry and fiction did not altogether disappear; for he recognized that those techniques can be applied to the rhetoric of engagement. Unfortunately for the arts, any such application deprives these techniques and forms of their
aesthetic bases and may even reduce them to the gimmicks of the special pleader and the propagandist.
Thirdly, Sartre's philosophy of art came to depend for its support upon an ontology with a broken back. Initially, his strength lay in his undivided concern for the free individual. Then he shifted to an equally strong emphasis on collective responsibility. Since individualism and collectivism are opposed terms (at least as exploited by Sartre), the growing strength of the latter sapped the vitality of the former. Nor was this shift merely a move in the dialectic, for it failed to yield a synthesis of the two terms. Sartre had simply broken the spine of his ontology.
To understand Sartre's aesthetic, therefore, we must largely confine our study to his work of the 1940s and early 1950s. We can trace its afterhistory only by its early history. To take it up in terms of his later years is scarcely to find much that is useful for the arts.
I say this not to be critical, but merely to report the facts of the situation. Perhaps Sartre's early concern with aesthetics simply cooled off as he moved away to other interests. Perhaps he came to regard the arts as mere flotsam in the massive currents of Marxist thought. Perhaps he became more interested in men themselves than in their paintings and stories. Perhaps his grief over the continual suffering of humankind led him to denigrate the arts as trivial decoration. After all, one may not be privileged to enjoy the playfulness of the imagination in the midst of overwhelming vicissitudes and heartbreaking catastrophes.
Another question that may call for consideration is whether or not certain of Sartre's personal preferences hindered the development of his aesthetics. Obviously, Sartre's responsiveness to the multiplicities of being is highly individual. Certain of the qualities of being obsess him and hence become his chief signs for other qualities. He stresses in particular those qualities which nauseate him, and he tends to neglect those qualities which fail to engender strong negative responses. What disturbs him most in being is its coldness and inertness on the one hand, and its adhesiveness and sliminess on the other. These qualities have provoked in him a bias toward freedom of movement and action, but they have also produced an aesthetic devoted to darkness, disgust, and hatred -- an aesthetic of extreme situations committed to intolerance and violence.
The question arises, however, whether it would not be equally possible and satisfactory to construct a theory of being based upon quite another group of qualities and their sources. Take, for example, colors and colorfulness, light and luminosity, touch and tactility -- sensations that typically yield pleasure. Take enjoyment, happiness, gratification, comfort, ease, refreshment, good health, and other states of euphoria. Take softness,
warmth, gentleness, which can palliate even a world grown hard, cold, and violent. Take the firm (as contrasted with the hard), the stable (as contrasted with the stolid), the resolute (as contrasted with the stubborn), the sympathetic (as contrasted with the absorptive), the integral (as contrasted with the sticky). One can derive aesthetic satisfaction from combinations of these qualities without thereby becoming an escapist, a sentimentalist, a voluptuary, or a grasping bourgeois. If Sartre had somehow been able to view the world in larger terms and to grant more attention to its aspects of light and joy, would he not have emerged with a different and perhaps more comprehensive aesthetics?
Sartre's advocacy of extreme positions also appears to limit his aesthetics; for in a sense it is a kind of bad faith. To attack one hierarchy of values in the name of what is really only another hierarchy of values, or to honor freedom in order to practice the violent repression of political views other than one's own is, to say the least, inconsistent.
Full freedom would extend to the republican as well as to the socialist or anarchist, to the deserving well-to-do as well as to the deserving poor, to the middle classes as well as to the proletariat (in America workers in all categories seek and often achieve middle-class status), to the lover of life as well as to the political assassin. Sartre's sympathies generally do him credit, but his revulsions are sometimes inconsistent with the arguments he uses to support his sympathies. How can one argue' without drawing a second breath for both a radical freedom and a radical commitment? And is not his aesthetics to some extent falsified by his attempts to have it both ways? Why must he resort to the expedient of calling what is not committed "poetry," and what is committed "prose"? Even on his own terms this split does not work, for in the very essays 1 in which he lays down the distinction, he repeatedly devotes attention to aesthetic qualities in committed literature.
A part of the difficulty appears to lie in a conflict between Sartre's all-or-nothing methods of argument and the genuine reasonableness of many of his positions. On page x he may go all out for one point of view, on page y for another. Taken together (and stripped of their extremism), the points on pages x and y might make excellent sense. Possibly Sartre is actually committed to a view somewhat between total freedom and total engagement, but his reader has to figure this out for himself: it does not emerge from the extremes of the argument. And so aesthetic as well as other issues are beclouded.
The oddity of some of Sartre's responses toward the beautiful and the ugly is, of course, a matter of degree. Every strong philosophy is to some extent odd, individual, obsessed. But the unique attitudes from which it
springs perhaps disqualify it from including an impartial survey of general aesthetic qualities.
And perhaps, too, Sartre's use of overstatement is a deliberate strategy. What renders his philosophy exceptional is the vigorous, concrete terms in which he expresses it. He never fears to use analogies, metaphors, and expressive language generally. The result is a powerful individual style that exposes a powerful individual outlook.
Finally, we must raise the question, What happened to Sartre as a critic of the arts? Sartre's early criticism was illuminated by flashes of insight; it was sometimes playful and often witty; it ran off in unexpected but promising directions. In his criticisms of Ponge, Calder, Faulkner, Dos Passos, and the like, he developed a genuine feeling for aesthetic effects and values.
The aesthetic motive as such, however, seldom if ever appears in Sartre's more ponderous later works. Existential psychoanalysis, social commitment, political engagement, and Marxist exegesis are his chief concerns and felt obligations over the later decades. A philosophy of all or nothing, of extreme situations, of revolutionary intent propels him in new directions. Although he retains the skills he developed as an art critic, he increasingly devotes them to tenets or doctrines, to analyses and explications, to campaigns and vendettas. It is as if Sartre had come to regard the arts as too playful, too decorative, too disinterested, too distracting (in a word, too autonomous) to displace the serious mechanisms of his life. His intellectual intensity and his fiercely controversial attitudes simply could not accept the sensuality of an aesthesis, but had to burn through to the intellectual and moral core of things. In the process, what is aesthetic is either consumed or radically transformed.
As a result, Sartre is not a critic of art and literature in any strict sense of the phrase. That he has been a powerful and effective critical force in the arts cannot be denied; but that he might still be considered an art critic as such is open to question. Other commitments took him off on other critical tangents.
It is the business of an art critic or a literary critic to disengage from the artistic performance those qualities, actions, passions, and images which reinforce its aesthetic effect. This is the analytical part of his work. Having done this, he must turn his attention to the aesthetic effect itself -- to the totality that should emerge from the particulars and, in the end, should define the aesthetic value of the performance. This is the synthetic, integrative, and totalizing part of his work.
It is not his business as art critic to produce a history, a biography, a memoir, a psychological case study, a political tract, or an anthropological treatise. True, each of these may contain elements that support an aesthetic 
judgment; but when those elements are heaped too high on the aesthetic scale they destroy the balance and throw off the judgment. Art criticism is a delicate business: the fine discriminations it requires can only be blunted by confusing them with unassimilated alien elements that distract from the experience proper to art.
This is not to deny that there are many kinds of criticism other than art criticism, and that the practice of any one of these is a perfectly honorable profession. The analysis and evaluation of historical epochs, individual lives, political dynasties, or social trends must not be scorned, even by literary critics. But in the end, critics dealing with the arts must keep their heads clear and know what they are doing, never tangling up the strands so that, say, art criticism becomes hopelessly confused with, say, social criticism.
Nor is this to say that Sartre himself became confused; he always knew full well what he was doing. Near the end of Saint Genet, comédien et martyr, he states explicitly:

I have tried to do the following: to indicate the limit of psychoanalytical interpretation and Marxist explanation and to demonstrate that freedom alone can account for a person in his totality; to show this freedom at grips with destiny, crushed at first by its mischances, then turning upon them and digesting them little by little; to prove that genius is not a gift but the way out that one invents in desperate cases; to learn the choice that a writer makes of himself, of his life and of the meaning of the universe, including even the formal characteristics of his style and composition, even the structure of his images and of the particularity of his tastes, to review in detail the history of his liberation. 2
This statement admirably places Sartre's late works about literary artists, not as literary criticisms, but as extended biographical studies. The thrust of the statement is that he has written a complex study touching upon psychology, the nature of genius, the writer's philosophy and tastes, and politics. To be sure, Sartre includes in his statement a reference to matters frequently allied to aesthetics -- style, composition, imagery -- but this is thrown in almost as an afterthought, where it is subordinated to his other intentions. What he is presenting is not an aesthetics or even a mode of art criticism, but a combination of phenomenological psychoanalysis, Marxist social interpretation, and libertarianism.
In his massive studies of Flaubert, even more than in Saint Genet, Sartre creates a new kind of criticism that cannot properly be called art criticism. The "Flaubert" has in fact been styled a total biography, and it surpasses Saint Genet by devoting thousands of pages to psychological interpretations and Marxist explanations of Flaubert's individual and family history. One could hardly treat a self-conscious artist like Flaubert without side glances at his aesthetic beliefs, but the commanding thrust of the work comes from its elaborate analyses of his life and circumstances.
Sartre was always able to draw out his works to enormous lengths; in fact, he found it difficult if not impossible not to carry them to extremes. At his intense and brilliant best, his use of details for purposes of diagnosis was highly effective. But sometimes, particularly in his long later works, the result was a kind of imbrication -- analysis upon analysis upon analysis -that had little to do with aesthetic totalization. In Sartre's treatments of Genet and Flaubert there is a kind of obscene giantism. He appears to know everything about them: and the smallest clues take on enormous meanings: a single phrase, precept, or symbol may be blown up, deflated, and blown up again. In these works Sartre is no longer viewing the artist as an artist but as a kind of elaborate case history, twisting and tearing away at his perceptions in the interest of a pre-emptive understanding. The machinery of analysis disrupts any feeling for the quality of his fictions.
To be sure, Sartre exhibits the details for purposes of diagnosis, as symptomatic of larger issues. But I cannot help thinking his concentration on clinical symptoms that particularly interest him gives false impressions of works of art, by putting these works under rigid constraints. Sartre virtually ignores Baudelaire's genius as a poet while dwelling at length on his childish adoration of his mother. He shows greater appreciation for Genet's response to being called a thief and his ability to violate the canons of bourgeois respectability than for any aesthetic quality he displays. He defines Flaubert also mainly in terms of his relationships to the complexities of bourgeois society (although he occasionally analyzes some of his artistic maxims as well).
Now all this is in no way discreditable to Sartre. His intensity, his scruples, his intellectual bent, his moral concern, and his profound sympathies and anxieties are all to be respected, if not admired; and his phenomenological analyses and Marxist excursions are of course perfectly justifiable. What is wrong is to call such occultations literary criticisms. Instead, they are fascinatingly detailed treatments of Sartre's preoccupation with bourgeois antics, revolutionary violence, psychological obsessions, moral doctrines, and partisan nuances. They do at times throw a somewhat lurid light on the literary works of Baudelaire, Flaubert, and Genet, but more as biographical artifacts than as works of art.
From the standpoint of art criticism, however, Sartre's emphasis on these matters is something of a tragedy, because Sartre had it in him to become a top-level art critic. Some of the essays collected in the several volumes of Situations demonstrate this only too well. In these essays, Sartre does not ride a thesis or pursue a project to its ultimate demise. In them he shows the finest critical abilities and sensitivities, together with a determination to respond to a body of work not in doctrinaire fashion but in terms of sympathy with its unique qualities. I think that a great critic of art and 
literature was lost in Sartre, even though a powerful theorist and polemicist emerged.
1. Qu'est-ce la littérature? ( 1948).
2. Translator: Bernard Frechtman (in Saint Genet, Actor and Martyr [ New York: George Braziller, 1963], p. 584).
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Publication Information: Book Title: The Philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre. Contributors: Paul Arthur Schilpp - editor. Publisher: Open Court. Place of Publication: La Salle, IL. Publication Year: 1981. Page Number: 138. 
THE interview with Jean-Paul Sartre that follows represents a major departure from the format which has heretofore characterized works in the Library of Living Philosophers. The departure was occasioned by an unfortunate circumstance. Shortly after Sartre agreed to participate in this Library project, his eyesight began to fail. The condition progressed so rapidly that it soon became clear that he would be unable either to read the papers contributed by others or to compose the responses and the autobiographical statement usually submitted by philosophers featured in this series. ( Sartre was long accustomed to editing as he wrote, and therefore eschewed the use of a dictating machine.)
With the resourceful advice of Professor Michel Rybalka, we endeavored to complete the project despite these apparently insurmountable difficulties. We concluded that it would be possible only if one or more bilingual scholars would be willing first to read the contributed articles with some care and then to sit down with Sartre and summarize the authors' statements, pose the questions they raised, and invite his responses. By this interview procedure we hoped to obtain from Sartre not only some observations of an autobiographical nature, but also at least some answers to the more persistent questions raised by the contributed articles. To avoid abandoning the project altogether, Sartre agreed to participate in the interview designed to elicit some of this desired information.
However, it will become immediately obvious that, under these circumstances and with these handicaps, it was impossible to get either specific or detailed answers to each of the contributions. In brief, we had to do the best that could be done, which as it turned out, resulted in material which went beyond our fondest expectations. Any Sartre scholar who reads this interview will agree that it would have been most unfortunate if these frank and unhindered Sartrean remarks had been lost to posterity. The interview should be read as a document rather than a series of replies.
The interviewers were:
Dr. Michel Rybalka (hereafter designated as R.), Professor of French at Washington University
Dr. Oreste F. Pucciani (hereafter P.), Professor of French at the University of California at Los Angeles 

Miss Susan Gruenheck (hereafter G.), an instructor of philosophy at the American College, Paris, who at the time of the interview was completing a dissertation on Merleau-Ponty at the Sorbonne
All three are philosophy scholars, all well versed in Sartre's writings, all fluent in French as well as English. Their task was in part to represent the contributors who had submitted articles for this volume, in part to draw upon their own expertise in framing questions concerning Sartre's thoughts about his life and work.
The interview spanned two sessions, which took place in late afternoon on May 12 and May 19, 1975, in Sartre's small apartment in Montparnasse. All told, it was one of the longest interviews Sartre ever accorded for publication, and it should be read together with the Sartre interview conducted shortly before by Michel Contat, "Self-Portrait at Seventy," which is contained in Life/Situations ( New York: Pantheon Books, 1977).
Both sessions were preceded by a thorough preparation, especially on the part of Dr. Pucciani and Miss Gruenheck. Unfortunately, it proved impractical to try to give Sartre complete summaries and systematically to ask all the questions raised by close to thirty contributors. It will be found, nevertheless, that in the course of the discussion Sartre actually answered at least many of these questions in one way or another.
Sartre was in good physical condition (except, of course, for his problems with seeing), and he answered questions in a lively and easy manner. He was particularly at ease when he talked autobiographically, but he was less willing to get involved in theoretical problems. Sometimes he either dropped or eluded lines of questioning; often he simply referred for answers to his already published works. All these reactions are fairly well shown in the interview transcript.
The document will doubtless be disappointing to the contributors from a purely personal point of view. But under the existing circumstances, it was impossible to find -- or even to invent -- any better procedures.
The interview sessions were taped while they were in progress. The tapes were first transcribed in the original French, then arranged and (where necessary) edited, and finally translated into colloquial English. Sartre's spoken style has been preserved insofar as possible, but several parts have been condensed to omit repetition and trivia.
We recommend that the transcript be read in its entirety both before and after a reading of the essays.
[At Sartre's request, the first interview session began with an overview of the, subjects covered by the contributed essays. The transcript commences following that overview.]
R. Now that we have introduced the essays, if you are willing, we will first attempt, by way of more general questions, to get something like all intellectual autobiography from you. After that we will go on to some of the specific questions raised in the essays.
R. D. Cumming makes the following observation: You, M. Sartre, have left a kind of literary testament in the form of your Les Mots; you have hinted at what might be your political testament with On a raison de se revolter, but until now you have not yet taken such a retrospective look at your own philosophy.
Sartre This is precisely what I have undertaken with Simone de Beauvoir: a book that would be a sequel to Les Mots in which I take the position of someone drawing up a philosophical testament. This book will follow a topical procedure, not the chronological order of Les Mots.
R. There is a period in your life concerning which we know relatively little, the one dating roughly from 1917 to 1930, in other words, from the end of what you have written'about in Les Mots to the beginning of Simone de Beauvoir's memoirs. My first question may seem rather trite: Your initial intention was to write, that is, to do literary work; how did you come to do philosophy?
Sartre I was not at all interested in philosophy in my last years at the lycée. I had a teacher named Chabrier, whom we nicknamed "CucuPhilo." He did not arouse in me the slightest desire to do philosophy. Nor did I acquire that desire in hypokhâgne; * my teacher, by the name of Bernes, was inordinately difficult and I did not understand what he was talking about.
* Editor's Note: This is the name for the first year of preparation for the entrance examination to the Ecole Normale Supérieure. Khâgne is the second and final year of such preparation.
It was in khâgne that I made up my mind, under a new teacher, Colonna d'Istria. He was a cripple, a very small and wounded man. The story went around in class that he had been in a taxi accident and that the crowd had moved in around him saying, "How horrible!" Actually, he had always been like that.
The first essay topic that he assigned, advising us to read Bergson, was: "What Does Duration Mean?" [Qu'est-ce que durer?]. I therefore read Bergson's Essay sur les données immédiates de la conscience, and it was certainly that which abruptly made me want to do philosophy. In that book I found the description of what I believed to be my psychological life. I was struck by it, and it became a subject for me on which I reflected at great length. I decided that I would study philosophy, considering it at that point to be simply a methodical description of man's inner states, of his psychological life, all of which would serve as a method and instrument for my literary works. I still wanted to continue writing novels and, occasionally, essays; but I thought that taking the agrégation exam in philosophy and becoming a professor of philosophy would help me in treating my literary subjects.
R. At that time you already saw philosophy as a foundation for your literary work. But didn't you also feel a need to invent a philosophy to account for your own experience?
Sartre Both were involved. I wanted to interpret my experience, my "inner life" as I called it then, and that was to serve as a basis for other works that would have dealt with I don't quite know what, but assuredly purely literary things.
R. Thus in 1924, when you entered the Ecole Normale, you had made your choice.
Sartre I had made my choice: I was going to study philosophy as my teaching discipline. I conceived of philosophy as a means, and I did not see it as a field in which I might do work of my own. Undoubtedly, so I thought at the time, I would discover new truths in it, but I would not use it to communicate with others.
R. Could your decision be described as a conversion?
Sartre No, but it was something new which made me take philosophy as an object for serious study.
As the basis and foundation for what I was going to write, philosophy did not appear to me as something to be written by itself, for its own sake; rather, I would keep my notes, et cetera. Even before reading Bergson, I was interested in what I was reading and I wrote "thoughts" which seemed to me philosophical. I even had a physician's notebook, arranged in alphabetical order, that I had found in the subway, in which I wrote down those thoughts.
R. Let's go back. Was there a philosophical tradition in Your family?
Sartre Absolutely not. My grandfather, who taught German, knew nothing about philosophy; in fact, he made fun of it. For my stepfather, an engineer graduated from Ecole Polytechnique, philosophy was only, in some sense, philosophy of science.
R. Was your decision influenced by friends such as Nizan?
Sartre No, although Nizan (I don't know why) studied philosophy at the same time as I, and he too obtained the agrégation several years later. He made the change at the same time I did, and for him philosophy played more or less the same role as for me.
R. Didn't you discuss it with each other?
Sartre Obviously, we did.
P. What was it in your first reading of Bergson that awakened your interest in philosophy?
Sartre What struck me was the immediate data of consciousness. Already in my final year at the lycée, I had had a very good teacher who steered me a bit toward a study of myself. From then on, I was interested in the data of consciousness, in the study of what went on inside my head, in the way ideas are formed, how feelings appear, disappear, and so on. In Bergson, I found reflections on duration, consciousness, what a state of consciousness was, and the like, and that certainly influenced me a great deal. However, I broke away from Bergson very quickly, since I stopped reading him that same year in khégne.
R. And you attack him rather harshly in L'Imagination, for which Alerleau-Ponty reproached you.
Sartre I was never a Bergsonian, but my first encounter with Bergson opened up to me a way of studying consciousness that made me decide to do philosophy.
P. Even at that time you already thought that literature needed to be based on something.
Sartre That's right. What was new for me was the idea of literature having philosophical foundations, foundations concerning the world and the life of consciousness [la vie intérieure], concerning general topics which I thought were of interest only to philosophers.
R. In one of your early writings,"La Semence et le scaphandre,"you describe yourself as determined to write only about your own experience. Did you have the same intention in philosophy?
Sartre Of course. I thought that my experience was the universal experience of man. That was my starting point, and then my studies naturally gave more importance to philosophy. At the Ecole Normale, I wrote works intended to be both literary and philosophical, which is very dangerous; one should never do that. But anyway, that is how I began, by writing novels of a sort, myths that in my eyes had a philosophical meaning.
R. You once told me that you considered "La Légende de la vérité" [un
published] to be a literary work. I read and re-read the manuscript with Michel Contat and we came to the conclusion that it is more philosophical than literary.
Sartre At that time I considered "La Légende" to be literary, and yet the content obviously tended to be philosophical.
R. Nevertheless, we still have two philosophical texts from that period: your thesis on the image for the diplfime d'études supérieures and the essay on the theory of the State.
Sartre Those are very small, unimportant things.
R. And yet, your interest in the image . . .
Sartre The thesis on the image had some importance, but I did not really expand my ideas on the question until later.
R. But why this particular interest rather than some other?
Sartre Because, in my mind, philosophy ultimately meant psychology. I got rid of that conception later. I was surprised a moment ago to learn that some of the contributors speak of my psychology. There is philosophy, but there is no psychology. Psychology does not exist; either it is idle talk or it is an effort to establish what man is, starting from philosophical notions.
R. That, by the way, is the point of view of [Amedeo] Georgi. He sees only behaviorism in psychology today and he considers that you, on the contrary, have provided the groundwork for true psychology.
When did you reject traditional psychology?
Sartre In L'Esquisse d'une théorie des émotions, which is still psychology, I try to explain that our conception of psychology does not correspond to true psychology, and in L'Imaginaire I go beyond what is ordinarily called psychology.
P. For your diplôme d'études supérieures you worked with Professor Henri Delacroix . . .
Sartre He was a professor of psychology, as a matter of fact.
P. What sort of relationship did you have?
Sartre We were on good terms, but I had little esteem for him. He was there to grant my diploma, that's all. He had written some works on language that were worthless. He was a professor at the Sorbonne like a hundred others every year. He was rather well known, I don't know why, but he had no influence on me.
R. Since we are talking about influence, what philosophers interested you after Bergson?
Sartre Well, they were classical philosophers: Kant, Plato very much, above all Descartes. I consider myself a Cartesian philosopher, at least in L'Etre et le Néant.
R. Did you study these authors systematically?
Sartre Quite systematically, since I had to take the required courses for 
the licence and the agégation. The development of my ideas on philosophy was related to what I was taught at the lycée and at the Sorbonne. I didn't come to philosophy independently of the courses I had: Colonna d'Istria assigned me that essay on Bergson, Delacroix directed my thesis . . . The philosophers I liked, Descartes and Plato, for example, were taught to me at the Sorbonne. In other words, the philosophical education I received all those years was an academic education. That is natural, since it leadsup to the agrégation. Once one has passed the agrkgation, one becomes a professor of philosophy and everything is settled.
R. Were you influenced by Nietzsche?
Sartre I remember giving a seminar paper on him in Brunschvicg's class, in my third year at the Ecole Normale. He interested me, like many others; but he never stood for anything particular in my eyes.
R. That seems a bit contradictory. On the one hand, one senses that you were somewhat attracted, since in Empédocle/Une défaite you identified with Nietzsche, with the characterization "the lamentable Frederic." On the other hand, during the same period, you threw water bombs on the Nietzscheans of the Ecole Normale, yelling: "Thus pissed Zarathustra" [Ainsi pissait Zarathustra].
Sartre I think they go together. In Empédocle I wanted to take up again, in the form of a novel, the Nietzsche -- Wagner -- Cosima Wagner story, giving it a far more pronounced character. It was not Nietzsche's philosophy that I wished to portray but simply his human life, which made him fall in love with Cosima in his friendship with Wagner. Frederic became a student at the Ecole Normale and ultimately I identified with him. I had other referents for the other characters. I never finished that little novel.
R. And Marx?
Sartre I read him, but he played no role at that time.
P. Did you also read Hegel then?
Sartre No. I knew of him through seminars and lectures, but I didn't study him until much later, around 1945.
R. As a matter of fact, we were wondering at what date you discovered the dialectic?
Sartre Late. After L'Etre et le Néant.
P. [surprised] After L'Etre et le Névant?
Sartre Yes. I had known what the dialectic was ever since the Ecole Normale, but I did not use it. There are passages that somewhat resemble the dialectic in L'Etre et le Néant, but the approach was not dialectical in name and I thought there was no dialectic in it. However, beginning in 1945 . . .
R. There are one or two contributors who maintain that you were a diaiectician from the start . . .
Sartre That is their affair. I didn't see things that way.

P. But isn't there, after all, a dialectic of en-soi and pour-soi?
Sartre Yes. But then, in that case, there is a dialectic in every author's work; we find everywhere contradictions that oppose each other and are transformed into something else, et cetera.
R. You have often been criticized for not being interested in scientific thought and epistemology. Did they have a place in your education?
Sartre Yes. I had to study them at the lycée and at the Ecole Normale (where much attention was paid to, the sciences), and afterward, for my own courses, I had to read particular works. But after all, I never found them terribly absorbing.
P. And Kierkegaard, when did you discover him?
Sartre Around 1939-1940. Before then I knew he existed, but he was only a name for me and, for some reason, I did not like the name. Because of the double a, I think . . . That kept me from reading him.
To continue this philosophical biography, I would like to say that what was very important to me was realism, in other words, the idea that the world existed as I saw it and that the objects I perceived were real. At that time this realism did not find its valid expression, since, in order to be a realist, one had to have both an idea of the world and an idea of consciousness -- and that was exactly my problem.
I thought I had found a solution or something resembling a solution in Husserl, or rather in the little book published in French on the ideas of Husserl.
R. Lévinas' book?
Sartre Yes. I read Lévinas a year before going to Berlin. During the same period, Raymond Aron, who had just come back from Germany, told me, for his part, that it was a realist philosophy. That was far from accurate, but I was simply determined to learn about it and I went to Germany in 1933. There I read the Ideas in the original text and I really discovered phenomenology.
R. Among the contributors, there are some who see a phenomenologist Sartre and some an existentialist Sartre. Do you think this distinction is justified?
Sartre No, I don't see any difference. I think they were the same thing. Husserl made the "I" of the "ego" a datum within consciousness, whereas in 1934 I wrote an article called "La Transcendance de l'ego," in which I held that the ego was a sort of quasi-object of consciousness and, consequently, was excluded from consciousness. I maintained that point of view even in L'Etre et le Néant; I would still maintain it today; but at this stage it is no longer a subject of my reflections.
P. This question concerning the ego presents a problem for many of your critics.
Sartre Such critics are adhering to tradition. Why should the ego belong to an inner world? If it is an object of consciousness, it is outside; if it is within consciousness, then consciousness ceases to be extra-lucid, to be conscious of itself, in order to confront an object within itself. Consciousness is outside; there is no "within" of consciousness.
P. The difficulty stems from the fact that it is not a thing . . .
Sartre No, but you are not a thing either and yet you are an object of my consciousness. Subjectivity is not in consciousness; it is consciousness. Through this, we can restore one meaning of consciousness as objectified in the subject. The ego is an object that is close to subjectivity, but it is not within subjectivity. There can be nothing within subjectivity.
P. Simone de Beauvoir wrote that this continues to be one of your firmest convictions. Is it a conviction or a fact?
Sartre I consider it a fact. In non-reflexive thought, I never encounter the ego, my ego; I encounter that of others. Non-reflexive consciousness is absolutely rid of the ego, which appears only in reflexive consciousness -- or rather in reflected consciousness, because reflected consciousness is already a quasi-object for reflexive consciousness. Behind reflected consciousness, like a sort of identity shared by all the states that have come after reflected consciousness, lies an object that we will call "ego."
R. In your early philosophical writings, for example when you were writing L'Imagination or L'Imaginaire, did you have any stylistic ambitions?
Sartre I never had any stylistic ambition for philosophy. Never, never. I tried to write clearly, that's all. People have told me there are passages that are well written. That is possible. Ultimately, when one tries to write clearly, in some sense one writes well. I am not even proud of those passages, if there are any. I wanted to write as simply as possible in French, and I did not always do this, as, for example, in the Critique de la raison dialectique (which was due to the amphetamines I was taking).
R. How would you define "style"?
Sartre I have already discussed style elsewhere, in other interviews. Style is, first of all, economy: it is a question of making sentences in which several meanings co-exist and in which the words are taken as allusions, as objects rather than as concepts. In philosophy, a word must signify a concept and that one only. Style is a certain relation of words among themselves which refers back to a meaning, a meaning that cannot be obtained by merely adding up the words.
P. In this respect, then, if we employ the distinction set down in Qu'estce-que la littérature? style would come closer to poetry than to prose.
Sartre Certainly.
R. The question is often raised as to whether there is a continuity or a break in your thought.
Sartre There is an evolution, but I don't think there is a break. The great change in my thinking was the war: 1939-1940, the Occupation, the Resistance, the liberation of Paris. All that made me move beyond traditional philosophical thinking to thinking in which philosophy and action are connected, in which theory and practice are joined: the thought of Marx, of Kierkegaard, of Nietzsche, of philosophers who could be taken as a point of departure for understanding twentieth-century thought.
P. When did Freud enter in?
Sartre I had known about Freud ever since my philosophy class and I read several of his books. I remember having read the Psychopathology of Everyday Life in my first year at the Ecole Normale and then, finally, The Interpretation of Dreams before leaving the Ecole. But he ran counter to my way of thinking, because the examples he gives in the Psychopathology of Everyday Life are too far removed from rational, Cartesian thinking. I talked about that in the interview I gave to the New Left Review in 1969.
Then, during my years of teaching, I went deeper into the doctrine of Freud, though always separated from him, by the way, because of his idea of the unconscious. Around 1958, John Huston sounded me out on doing a film about Freud. He picked the wrong person, because one shouldn't choose someone who doesn't believe in the unconscious to do a film to the glory of Freud.
I think you had a look at the manuscript, didn't you?
R. Yes, I looked through it. It is a rather imposing manuscript, about 800 pages.
Sartre I wrote a complete script. In order to do it, I not only re-read Freud's books but also consulted commentaries, criticism, and so forth. At that point, I had acquired an average, satisfactory knowledge of Freud. But the film was never shot according to my script, and I broke off with Huston.
R. R. D. Cumming says you have a tendency to exaggerate the discontinuity in your thought: you announce every five or ten years that you are no longer going to do what you have been doing. If we take the example that you gave a moment ago -- that of the little notebook you had when you were a student, which became the notebook of the Self-Taught Man in La Nausée -- it is obvious that you were thinking in opposition to yourself.
Sartre But it's not like that! I was thinking in opposition to myself in that very moment of writing, and the resulting thought was in opposition to the first thought, against what I would have thought spontaneously.
I never said that I changed every five years. On the contrary, I think that I underwent a continuous evolution beginning with La Nausée all the way up to the Critique de la raison dialectique. My great discovery was that of the sociality during the war, since to be a soldier at the front is really to be a victim of a society that keeps you where you do not want to be and
gives you laws you don't want. The sociality is not in La Nausée, but there are glimpses of it . . .
R. However, in Les Mots you say: "I transformed a quiet evolutionism into a revolutionary, discontinuous catastrophism."
Sartre [continuing what he was saying] At that time, having become aware of what a society is, I returned from being a prisoner of war to Paris. There I encountered a society occupied by the Germans, which gave a stronger and, I might say, more experimental character to my knowledge of the social phenomenon.
R. And in terms of the social phenomenon, L'Etre et le Néant was the end of a period in your life?
Sartre Yes, it was. What is particularly bad in L'Etre et le Néant is the specifically social chapters, on the "we," compared to the chapters on the "you" and "others."
R. Then do you think you deserved to be reproached for idealism, as has rather frequently been charged?
Sartre No, not idealism but rather, bad realism. That part of L'Etre et le Néant failed.
P. One often has great difficulty with your analyses of love, of the "forothers." You yourself have said that in L'Etre et le Néant you depicted above all negative love.
Sartre Yes, certainly. Beginning with Saint Genet I changed my position a bit, and I now see more positivity in love.
P. Sadism and masochism are quite normal aspects of human love.
Sartre Yes, that was what I wanted to say. I would still maintain the idea that many acts of human love are tainted with sadism and masochism, and what must be shown is what transcends them. I wrote Saint Genet to try to present a love that goes beyond the sadism in which Genet is steeped and the masochism that he suffered, as it were, in spite of himself.
R. Natanson asks the question: "Does the 'for-itself' have a plural or a gender?"
Sartre That relation is not in L'Etre et le Néant, as a matter of fact. It is in the Critique de la raison dialectique.
R. In this connection, do you consider the notion of scarcity to be ontological?
Sartre No, nor is it anthropological. If you like, it appears as soon as there is animal life.
R. Natanson asks the question: "Does the 'for-itself' have a plural or a gender?"
Sartre No, obviously not. There is always and only the "for-itself": yours, mine. But that does not make several "for-themselves."
P. The strength of your system is that it is grounded in ontology. How did you arrive at your notion of ontology?
Sartre I wanted my thought to make sense in relation to being. I think that I had the idea of ontology in mind because of my philosophical training, the courses I had taken. Philosophy is an inquiry concerning being and beings. Any thought that does not lead to an inquiry concerning being is not valid.
P. I quite agree; but I would remind you that some scientific thought (the philosophers of the Vienna Circle, for example) completely denies any notion of being as a sort of daydream.
Sartre I know that, and that is exactly what I mean: when one begins with being, one is doing philosophy. In other words, I do not believe that the thought of the Vienna philosophers (and that of people close to them) is valid; nor do I believe that it yielded valid results later on. One must either begin with being or go back to it, like Heidegger. Whatever the case, being must be called into question, and that leads to more detailed thinking on current philosophical problems.
R. As Natanson asks, Must one have a retrospective point of view and can one discuss L'Etre et le Néant today without entering into dialectics?
Sartre That raises a difficult problem, the problem of knowing how to interpret a dead philosopher who had several philosophies. How should one speak of Schelling, let's say: what value should be placed on his early philosophy and how should it be understood in relation to his later thought? To know exactly what are the sources of an early philosophy insofar as it is early and the sources of the later philosophy, to know to what extent the early one plays a part in the later one -- that is a very difficult question, which I have not yet entirely answered.
P. But without a fundamental ontology, I wonder if you could have raised the social problem in the way you did in the Critique.
Sartre I think not. That is really where I differ from a Marxist. What in my eyes represents my superiority over the Marxists is that I raise the class question, the social question, starting from being, which is wider than class, since it is also a question that concerns animals and inanimate objects. It is from this starting point that one can pose the problems of class. I am convinced of that.
P. That is how it always seemed to me.
R. To go back a little, I would like to ask you, with regard to the imagination, if you still maintain the analogon theory that has so often been contested.
Sartre Yes, I still maintain it. It seems to me that if I had to write on the imaginary, I would write what I wrote previously.
P. Philosophers have a great deal of trouble understanding the relation between the analogon and the mental image, when the mental image is the analogon of something else.
Sartre Yes, but that is the definition of the mental image itself, to be always the analogon of something else.
P. And this something else is found in the real world?
Sartre Yes, I can have an image of Simone de Beauvoir, even though she is not here at this moment.
P. Do you have both an analogon of Simone de Beauvoir and a mental image of her?
Sartre No. The analogon is part of the intention that makes up the mental image. There is no separate mental image that would be the act of consciousness. There is an intention of Simone de Beauvoir through the analogon, and this intention is on the level of the image. That is what we call the image, but it is an intention, the intention by way of the analogon.
R. You said that in the "Flaubert" you were in part taking up again L'Imaginaire.
Sartre That is correct. I give it more . . . rather, I develop it somewhat differently. The "Flaubert" is L'Imaginaire at seventy years of age, while L'Imaginaire was at thirty.
R. I read in an interview that it was Groethuysen who asked you to add the final chapter to L'Imaginaire, the one concerning the status of the aesthetic object.
Sartre Originally, I did not plan to do such a broad "Imaginaire"; I wanted to do it only on the level of the analogon. In fact, I was not happy with that last chapter, because an entire book should have been done on it.
R. There were rumors that you originally considered doing a thesis on Husserl.
Sartre That is completely untrue. Moreover, I never thought that L'Imaginaire was going to be a thesis, even if I may have said so in conversation.
R. One often asks what is the place of aesthetics in your philosophy. Do you have an aesthetics, a philosophy of art?
Sartre If I have one -- I have somewhat of a one -- it is entirely in what I have written and can be found there. I judged that it was not worthwhile to do an aesthetics the way Hegel did.
R. That was never your ambition?
Sartre Never.
P. Your aesthetics is implicit; it is everywhere and at times it becomes explicit.
Sartre That's it, exactly. In Saint Genet, in the "Flaubert," one would find more specific things because I am dealing with an author, but in fact it is everywhere. I never wrote a book on aesthetics and I never wanted to write one.
P. Was there a reason for that?
Sartre No. I chose to talk about what interested me most.
R. One of your commentators, [Charles] Tenney, writes: "Sartre could have produced a first-rate aesthetics; he could have become an art critic." Then he makes a distinction between aesthetic materials and non-aesthetic materials and he finds that the latter (Marxist interpretation, autobiography, sociology) have been gradually invading your work.
Sartre But everything is aesthetic. It is incongruous to suppose that some material could be non-aesthetic.
R. Tenney brings up a question that you have often been asked: "Sartre insists on the darker aspects of humanity. Shouldn't he have offset that by a study of light and joy?"
Sartre And abundance, et cetera. Well, no, because they are not situated on the same plane. He seems to assume that men are made half-good and half-bad and that someone who speaks of the bad half without talking about the good half has only seen half of humanity. But that is his idea. Things are not at all like that!
It seems to me that this kind of question is no longer relevant, and it is brought up again by people who have not read anything after L'Etre et le Néant.
R. Tenney raises a third question: "In recent years, Sartre has been especially interested in psychoanalysis and Marxism. Does he now consider poetry, painting, and music as insignificant or less important?"
Sartre That's inept. Why? One can concern oneself with psychoanalysis and Marxism and still have other areas of interest.
R. A final question from Tenney: "Does Sartre maintain the distinction between prose and poetry?"
Sartre But that is a distinction that exists of itself. Prose and poetry have different aims and different methods. I still maintain what I wrote on this subject-more or less.
R. However, you have slightly modified the distinction that you made . . .
Sartre Yes, a little. In the "Flaubert," for example. But the distinction remains true. If we push it to its limits, I see prose and poetry as two poles within an overall idea of literature. Moreover, it is in Qu'est-ce que la littérature? that I made the distinction.
P. But the writers of the Nouveau Roman brought the novel closer to poetry and were able to attack your conception of literature . . .
Sartre They did not fail to do so, by the way. But the Nouveau Roman has disappeared; it attempted to take a position it could not maintain. Personally, I liked some of Robbe-Grillet's novels very much, as well as a few of Butor's.
P. So, artistic prose would come closer to poetry, and purely signifying prose would be true prose . . .?
Sartre That's right. But artistic prose is also removed from poetry so far as meaning and signification are concerned. There one would have to go much further.
R. Given the difficulties raised by this distinction between prose and poetry, do you think it is operative?
Sartre Yes, but one must know how to use it, and most literary critics do not.
G. Have you ever thought of doing a philosophy of language?
Sartre No. Language must be, studied within a philosophy, but it cannot be the basis for a philosophy. I think that a philosophy of language could be drawn out of my philosophy, but there is no philosophy of language that could be imposed upon it.
G. To continue on the literature/philosophy problem, do you still see literature as communication?
Sartre Yes. I can't even imagine what else it might be. One never publishes anything that is not for others.
R. And yet [in your own work] you have gradually reduced the role of literature, whereas originally philosophy was simply intended to serve as a foundation for literature.
Sartre Philosophy has always served that purpose; there is no doubt about it -- to the extent of becoming indistinguishable from it. Les Mots, for example, is a work which has philosophical underpinnings but which is purely literary. It is the story of a man who remembers what happened when he was a child.
R. Couldn't Les Mots be considered part of a larger undertaking? Starting in 1953, you began to work out a threefold project: autobiographical with Les Mots, biographical with L'Idiot de la famille, theoretical with the Critique -- and those three projects complemented each other.
Sartre Yes, I had those three projects, but I did not see them through to the end and they will never be completed. I did not finish Les Mots. I am continuing it now with Simone de Beauvoir, but in a different way. I will never finish the Critique, which was supposed to have a second volume on history. I will not finish the "Flaubert"; it is too late now.
R. And yet when I saw you some time, ago, you were absolutely determined to finish it.
Sartre There is my eyesight . . . and the "Flaubert" is very difficult. There are also those television programs I am preparing.
I cannot see what I write and therefore I cannot correct it. I can't re-read; someone must re-read it to me. Those are the worst possible conditions for writing. Other methods have been suggested to me: I have a tape recorder over there. If you press the button, it starts talking. Either I
am too old to learn that or it is not very ingenious-I don't know which. In any case, it does not replace the act of crossing out a word and putting in a new one above it.
R. I suppose that those who are used to a tape recorder no longer know how to write.
Sartre That's what I think. [Laughter]
R. Robert Champigny points out that your early novels were already marked "to be continued" and he adds, without knowing about your eyesight: "If Sartre finishes the "Flaubert" we should have to offer him our condolences." [Laughter]
Sartre He is right in saying that. There is something that goes beyond my eyesight. I took notes on the fourth volume of the "Flaubert" before my eyes became weak. They were read back to me; they were not first-rate . . . Something had stopped.
R. In this regard, you have said that someone else, having read the first three volumes, could write the fourth. Then what is your role in your own written works? [Laughter]
Sartre That someone could not write the first three volumes! The fourth book can be deduced or induced from the first three and, incidentally, people have already given me dissertations written after reading my "Flaubert."
R. Do you think that the philosopher, like the writer, has an individual experience to transmit?
Sartre No . . . well, perhaps. His role is to show a method whereby the world can be conceived starting at the ontological level.
G. [R. D.] Cumming attempts to prove that this method, in your work, has always been dialectical. It is first a method for defining things; then it becomes a way of exploding the image in consciousness; and, finally, it appears as a dialectic of social classes. The truth always arises from such an explosion, from the displacement, the gap between opposing elements.
Sartre You will find that in any philosopher, even in a non-dialectician. After all, the dialectic is more complicated than that. I tried to give an account of it in the Critique.
At first I was a non-dialectician, and it was around 1945 that I really began to concern myself with the problem. I delved deeper into the dialectic beginning with Saint Genet and I think that the Critique is a truly dialectical work. Now it is always possible to amuse oneself by showing that I was previously a dialectician without knowing it; one can show that Bergson was Bergsonian at age six when he ate jam and toast. [Laughter]
G. Cumming uses as an example of a nascent dialectic your article "How a Good American Is Made," in which you describe a twofold process of disintegration and reintegration.
Sartre It is a process that resembles the dialectic, but I do not think that
one becomes a dialectician just like that, by providing an example, a particular thought. One becomes a dialectician when one has posited what the dialectic is and tries to think dialectically.
P. One is a dialectician when one thinks a totality.
Sartre That's right, a totality with lots of contradictory relationships within the whole and an interconnection of the whole that comes from the shifting of all these particular contradictions. If one has a thought that contains an opposition between two terms and a third element that goes beyond them both, it is an ordinary thought of which the dialectic has indeed taken advantage but which is non-dialectical for most people who use it. People do this all the time.
G. Cumming says that the synthesis must be the inert because, once synthesized, a thing becomes a product. His idea of the dialectic is, I believe, one of movement, of continual displacement without synthesis.
Sartre That is one conception.
G. Do you think that syntheses exist?
Sartre Yes; partial syntheses, in any case. I demonstrated that in the Critique de la raison dialectique.
G. You would reject an absolute synthesis, I suppose?
Sartre Absolute, yes. But a synthesis of an historical period, for example, no. Our time is its own synthesis with itself. That is what I would have explained in the second volume of the Critique. Certainly one must go beyond the type of synthesis that was available to me in the first volume in order to arrive at syntheses touching oneself and others. We can, at every moment, each one of us, make syntheses. For example, I can make a synthesis of you three and, in some way, place myself in it, and you can do the same thing. But these syntheses are not at all on the same level as the synthesis of the whole, and one person alone can never accomplish that. If there were six of us, we could start over; but if there were a thousand of us, it would no longer have much meaning. Only individuals can take several individuals to make a group but not the totality, since they would have to place themselves within it. It is therefore necessary to look for another way of conceiving these latter syntheses. That is what I tried to do when I was working on the second volume of the Critique, but it was not finished.
P. In L'Etre et le Néant, however, you say that consciousness is synthesis.
Sartre Yes, of course. But it is the consciousness of everyone that is the synthesis of what he sees. I am synthesis in relation to everything I see, in relation to you three, but to you three in your relation to me. But I am not a synthesis of what happens in the street that I do not see. [At this moment, the wail of sirens sounds in the street.] Since I believe only in individual consciousness and not in a collective consciousness, it is impossible for me to provide, just like that, accollective consciousness as historical synthesis.
P. That would be providing what one wished to find.
Sartre Obviously.
R. You have defined the Critique de la raison dialectique as a work opposed to the Communists and yet endeavoring to be Marxist.
Sartre Opposed to the Communists, certainly. But Marxist is a word that I used a bit lightly then. At that time I considered the Critique to be Marxist; I was convinced of it. But I have changed my mind since then. Today I think that, in certain areas, the Critique is close to Marxism, but it is not a Marxist work.
R. In Question de méthode you differentiate between ideology and philosophy, and that is a distinction which bothers people.
Sartre That is because they all want to be philosophers! I would still maintain the distinction, but the problem is very complex. Ideology is not a constituted, meditated, and reflected philosophy. It is an ensemble of ideas which underlies alienated acts and reflects them, which is never completely expressed and articulated, but which appears in the ideas of a given historical time or society. Ideologies represent powers and are active. Philosophies are formed in opposition to ideologies, although they reflect them to a certain extent while at the same time criticizing them and going beyond them. Let us note that, at the present time, ideology exists even in those who declare that ideology must be brought to an end.
P. I myself was bothered by your distinction. I saw the existentialism of the Critique as an attempt at synthesizing Marxism and going beyond it, whereas you said that existentialism was only an enclave of Marxism.
Sartre Yes, but that was my mistake. It cannot be an enclave, because of my idea of freedom, and therefore it is ultimately a separate philosophy.
I do not at all think that ultimately this philosophy is Marxist. It cannot ignore Marxism; it is linked to it, just as some philosophies are linked to others without, however, being contained by them. But now I do not consider it at all a Marxist philosophy.
R. Then what are the elements that you retain of Marxism?
Sartre The notion of surplus value, the notion of class-all of that reworked, however, because the working class was never defined by Marx or the Marxists. It is necessary to re-examine these notions, but they remain valid in any case as elements of research.
R. And today you no longer consider yourself a Marxist?
Sartre No. I think, by the way, that we are witnessing the end of Marxism and that in the next hundred years Marxism will no longer take the form in which we know it.
R. Theoretical Marxism, or Marxism as it has been applied?
Sartre Marxism as it was applied, but it was also applied as theoretical Marxism. Since Marx, Marxism has existed, living a certain life and at the same time growing old. We are now in the period in which old age moves toward death. Which does not mean that the main notions of Marxism will
disappear; on the contrary, they will be taken up again . . . but there are too many difficulties in preserving the Marxism of today.
R. And what are those difficulties?
Sartre I would simply say that the analysis of national and international capitalism in 1848 has little to do with the capitalism of today. A multinational company cannot be explained in the Marxist terms of 1848. A new notion has to be introduced here, one which Marx did not foresee and which therefore is not Marxist in the, simple sense of the word.
P. And the Critique therefore already goes beyond Marxism?
Sartre In any case, it is not on the level where it was placed, that of a simple interpretation of Marxism with a few alterations here and there. It is not opposed to Marxism; it is really non-Marxist.
P. You go beyond Marxism with the idea of seriality, of the practico-inert, through new ideas that have never been used.
Sartre Those are notions that seem to me to have, come out of Marxism, but which are different from it.
R. And what would be this philosophy of freedom that is being born today?
Sartre It is a philosophy that would be on the same level, a mixture of theory and practice, as Marxism -- a philosophy in which theory serves practice, but which takes as its starting point the freedom that seems to me to be missing in Marxist thought.
R. In recent interviews, you seem to have accepted the term "libertarian socialism."
Sartre It is an anarchist term, and I keep it because I like to recall the somewhat anarchist origins of my thought.
R. You once said to me. "I have always been an anarchist," and you declared to Contat: "Through philosophy I discovered the anarchist in me."
Sartre That is a bit hasty; but I have always been in agreement with the anarchists, who are the only ones to have conceived of a whole man to be developed through social action and whose chief characteristic is freedom. On the other hand, obviously, as political figures the anarchists are somewhat simple.
R. On the theoretical level as well, perhaps?
Sartre Yes, provided that one considers only the theory and deliberately leaves aside some of their intuitions which are very good, specifically those on freedom and the whole man. Sometimes those intuitions have been realized: they lived in common, they formed communal societies, for example, in Corsica around 1910.
R. Have you been interested recently in those communities?
Sartre Yes, I read that in the book on the anarchists by Maitron.
R. In your television programs are you planning to adopt an anarchist view of history?
Sartre Anarchist, no; but we will talk about anarchism.

R. You have not said much about what socialism could be, and I surmise you have reproached yourself for having insufficiently outlined socialist society.
Sartre That is correct, but I do not reproach myself severely, because it is not up to people now to do so. We can indicate the basis and the principles, but we cannot think through such an alteration of society. We know in what direction we are going, the direction of the freedom that must be given to men . . .
R. If you had to choose today between two labels, that of Marxist or that of existentialist, which would you prefer?
Sartre That of existentialist. That is what I just told you.
R. Wouldn't you prefer another term that would better render your position?
Sartre No, because I didn't look for it. I was called an existentialist and I took on the name, but I didn't give it to myself.
R. The notion of lived experience [vécu] that you use in the "Flaubert" remains rather vague and you have not yet theorized it . . .
Sartre I think that would have come, little by little, in the volume on Madame Bovary. But it is difficult to go very far in this area, because it means really "breaking into" the other. I can talk about my lived experience [mon vécu], but only at risk can I reconstitute yours.
P. Wouldn't a theory of lived experience require you to reconsider the notion of consciousness? Because lived experience seems at times to be a reply to the Freudian unconscious.
Sartre It is to some degree a reply to the Freudian unconscious, a way of showing that a host of complex intentions that Freud placed in the unconscious can be found in lived experience. That is certainly part of it. It is also the fact that we constantly have in ourselves states that we can understand if we take time, but that we do not understand. These states are full of richness, but they do not yield it. They come and go, there is nothing mysterious about them, nothing unconscious. Simply, they retain and contain in themselves a richness that is undeveloped, that one understands but does not develop.
P. That is "understanding without understanding," as you say in the "Flaubert"?
Sartre Exactly. Lived experience [le vécu] is just that.
P. It is thus a question of a reflection that is pushed to genuine understanding and even farther, to become knowledge.
Sartre Yes, if that happens.
P. If that happens?
Sartre Because with most people that does not happen. And then there are those who try to do it and fail, and those who sometimes succeed.
P. Would this change the theory of consciousness as it is formulated in L'Etre et le Néant? For example, wouldn't lived experience call into question the perfect translucidity of consciousness?
Sartre I don't think so. In theory, it would not have any effect on it. In practice, obviously, the states that are understood without being understood are not . . .
P. Wouldn't lived experience introduce opacity into consciousness?
Sartre No, for to be understood without being understood assumes that the object is not a pathos, is not something thick and opaque, but is grasped. Only we do not have the words, the divisions that would enable us to describe all the richness that this object has. If you like, it is a compression of consciousness. What would remain to be done would be to create centers, subdivisions and so forth, that would make the object a whole that is completely clear to the other. In the end, to be understood without being understood is to be understood by me without being able to make it understood by the other.
P. Wouldn't that be that switching of the position of consciousness that goes from perception to imagination? There are two different theses and we retain in us the product of these two theses.
Sartre Exactly. Frequently even the understanding will be achieved in a different language from that of "understanding without understanding."
P. Thus, in some sense, lived experience would be a kind of imaginary within us.
Sartre Exactly.
P. Then a theory of forgetting would also be necessary...
Sartre That has often tormented me, but I did not do it. Why? Because I did not know how to do it. There are plenty of problems pestering me that I have not resolved.
P. Isn't forgetting an annihilation?
Sartre No, because one can recall things that one has forgotten. There is perhaps a movement toward annihilation, but with many degrees before annihilation.
R. Are there other problems, like the one of forgetting, that you have not treated?
Sartre Social problems . . .
R. Do you consider that your work [oeuvre] is done?
Sartre Yes. You've come at the right time! You have found a dead man who isn't dead!
R. That's going too far . . .
Sartre Listen, I can no longer write and there are things that one cannot do at age seventy. But I can do television programs, for example.
R. By the way, how are those programs working out?
Sartre I don't know. As you know, the programs are an attempt to outline the history of France from my birth to my seventy years of age. Originally, they were to be placed under the category of "Documentaries"; but I find the word very unsatisfactory, because a life within seventy years of history is not a document. Now the name "Drama" has been proposed to me, and the directors of the program and I have accepted it, for that will make it possible to get things moving. Television has more money for dramatic programs and, moreover, the name allows for the imaginary side involved in reconstructing seventy years of history. *
R. Many people who write about you say that your thought is essential but that you have not always pursued your intuitions and you have left obscurities and difficulties.
Sartre That is true; but I think it is an extremely severe and even very partial view of things to imagine that a man is obliged to pursue the idea he launched down to its smallest details. That was not my work; that was not my role. What I wanted to do was to discuss as many problems as possible starting from ontology.
R. That is what makes your work open-ended . . .
Sartre Yes, open-ended, absolutely open-ended. That is one of the reasons why I said that anyone could continue it on any level, that anyone could, for example, finish the "Flaubert."
R. On the other hand, in many people, especially the young, there is an adherence to your thought that leads to doing exactly what you have done, in the same context and in your own language . . .
P. There is a spell cast by your thought. It takes a long time to free oneself from it. If one wishes this thought to be an instrument, one must get perspective on it at a distance.
Sartre You are right.
P. But before getting to that point, one is under its spell.
Sartre Yes. That is what I wanted. [Laughter]
G. Listening to you talk, I have the impression that you continue to reflect as a phenomenologist. Have you ever left phenomenology?
Sartre Never. I continue to think in those terms. I have never thought as a Marxist, not even in the Critique de la raison dialectique.
P. Would it be fair to say that Marx provided you with ideas that you have treated in your own way?
Sartre If you like, yes. At one time I even thought that one could not do without some of Marx's ideas, that it was absolutely necessary to go through Marxism in order to go farther. But now I no longer think that altogether.
* Editor's Note: Having concluded that the working conditions proposed to him were unacceptable, Sartre finally abandoned this television project at the end of September 1975.
P. You have not by-passed Marx; you have gone right through.
Sartre Yes, that's right.
P. I see many people today trying, to go beyond Sartre without going through Sartre's thought.
Sartre Ha-ha!
R. What is interesting is to grasp to what extent your thought is the thought of an historical time, how you are contemporaneous. In other words, how, have you "programmed" yourself in relation to the philosophical thought of the time?
Sartre That is a difficult question. L'Etre et le Néant was the phenomenology and existentialism . . . (existentialism is the wrong word) . . . let us say the philosophy of Heidegger and Husserl. I took from them what appeared to me to be true and I tried to develop my own ideas from there. For example, I took Husserl for a realist, which he is not; that is a philosophical error, He is much closer to Kant.
R. In short, you took a pseudo-Husserl as Merleau-Ponty took from you a pseudo-Sartre?
Sartre That's right.
R. At the present time, Marxism is being contested by some. Are you in sympathy with them?
Sartre That depends. I am in sympathy with the ones called " les Maos," the militants of the Gauche Prolétarienne with whom I directed La Cause du Peuple. They were Marxists in the beginning, but they have done what I (lid: they are riot Marxists any longer, or they are much less so than before. Pierre Victor, for example, with whom I am working on these television programs, is no longer a Marxist, or at least he envisions the end of Marxism.
R. Some critics attempt to find in you a Maoist philosopher.
Sartre That is absurd. I am not a Maoist. That is meaningless, by the way. When I was writing L'Etre et le Néant, Mao was seldom talked about.
For some groups it had a meaning, though very vague: they imagined certain forms of socialist life such as had been seen or believed to have been seen in China, and they wanted to apply them here. These groups were Maoist when Mao's face had not yet appeared on the front page of La Cause du Peuple; they ceased to be when Mao's face did appear.
R. It always seemed to me that in French Maoists there was 10 percent Mao and 90 percent something else that is not very easy to define.
Sartre Difficult to define but interesting. That is what we tried to do in On a raison de se révolter.
[The conversation now continues in a rambling fashion, covering various subjects: Oreste Pucciani underlines the difficulty of fully representing the viewpoint of the various contributors and of playing the role of inter-
mediary. Sartre says that intermediaries are necessary, then wonders why, among the articles for the book, there is only one on literature, that of Marie-Denise Boros Azzi. Pucciani points out that he is directing a thesis on " Sartre in Rumania." Sartre observes that there would be more to discuss concerning his role in Czechoslovakia and Poland. Finally, we come to the situation in Portugal.]
R. Some people who recently returned from Portugal told me that your work is widely read there, that it is being read in buses and even sold in dairy shops.
Sartre Sartre next to jars of cream -- that's very good. I just spent Easter vacation in Portugal, and a translation of On a raison de se révolter has recently been published there.
P. And what do you think of the revolution that has taken place there?
Sartre What is interesting is not so much the military that has taken power or the political parties, but rather the people, that is, the creativity of the masses. They have self-management there; groups create entire hospitals by occupying buildings and even palaces and mobilizing the whole district. They are taking action with the support of the population and are forming a people's power.
P. Were you surprised by the relative defeat of the [French] Communist Party in the April elections?
Sartre No, it was expected. The Communist Party is powerful because it works in connection with the military and controls the press and the television. It is opposed to the socialists and it is not well liked among the people.
R. Is the socialist party really playing into the hands of the right wing?
Sartre It is the old Social-Democrat party. One cannot have sympathy with it.
R. Do you think this third power, the people's power, that you spoke of in your interview in Libération, is truly important?
Sartre It exists and it is very interesting. It is not a party but rather people who are reacting to their own difficulties and problems in a socialist manner.
R. Do you foresee this sort of people's power in France?
Sartre Yes, but for the moment we have suffered a setback. It is such a people's power that we would like to encourage through the television programs.
[End of First Session]
R. Before going on to the summaries of the articles, I would like to ask you two or three questions that were previously left aside.

One of the contributors was struck by the status you give to the historical neurosis of the nineteenth century in Volume III of the "Flaubert." He considers it a discovery and would like to know what is the status of this inventive power. At what moment does a discovery take place? For example, when did the idea of programmation or that of historical neurosis occur to you?
Sartre I don't know. It comes in the course of my reflections, but I cannot say at what moment it appears.
R. Some of us wonder how you invent hypotheses.
Sartre That we do not know. It comes, we cannot say how.
R. Is it the text that gives you a thesis of interpretation and leads you to be ideologically creative? Another idea is that today we can keep philosophy from being closed by the use of texts.
Sartre That is correct. I agree on that score.
R. Is that the reason you chose to make the "Flaubert" an example of concrete philosophy?
Sartre Yes. But we do not know how ideas arise. How a specific idea came to me, I no longer know.,
R. Many critics raise the problem concerning the works that you did not complete. What is your position now concerning those works?
Sartre I did finish some works. But there are many that I will not finish: L'Etre et le Néant, which was to include an ethical sequel that will never be done, at least not in that form; the novel Les Chemins de la liberté; the Critique de la raison dialectique; the "Flaubert" . . .
The novel, for example, has been completely forgotten. I do not attach great importance to it now; I don't think it was good.
R. Didn't'you take the project for the novel up again in other forms in the "Flaubert," insofar as you wanted to make it a true novel [roman vrai]? Wasn't there some sort of transfer there?
Sartre Not at all. Volume IV of Chemins was not a true novel; it was a false novel that contained many imaginary or false circumstances unrelated to the "Flaubert." When I thought of the true novel it was rather in the sense that it was impossible to write an untrue novel and that it was necessary to raise questions about characters that had existed.
R. As regards the incomplete works, do you have a feeling of regret or of necessity?
Sartre Necessity. It stopped there. I feel perhaps some regret about the Critique de la raison dialectique, which I could have finished. But it did not happen. Well, that's too bad.
R. In many cases, the manuscripts still remain
Sartre. . . which convey what might have been a continuation. . . .
R. . . . and that you are not particularly anxious to see published for the moment, I believe?
Sartre It is not worth the trouble. If it amuses people after my death . . . [Laughter]
R. And yet, Michel Contat and I plan to publish in the Pleiade the manuscripts dealing with the novels.
Sartre I don't care. Or rather, it no longer interests me.
R. Publishing the philosophical manuscripts seems to me to be somewhat urgent: those concerning the "Ethics," the second volume of the Critique, Volume IV of the "Flaubert," and so on. In general, they are highly valuable. Why not consider that they, too, are part of the domain of the Other?
Sartre They can be published later.
R. There is a question that comes up several times and is perhaps best put by Robert Champigny, who accuses you of human racism, of anthropomania. What bothers him about your famous statement in Les Communistes et la paix, "An anti-communist is a dog," is not the political idea expressed . . .
Sartre It's the dog?
R. It's the dog. [Laughter]
Sartre Really, I don't think one can conclude from that statement that I have something against dogs. I used a quite ordinary expression there.
R. Champigny wrote a whole book to reproach you for that.
Sartre A whole book! That's a lot.
R. He is not the only one who raises the problem.
Sartre This is the first time I have heard about it.
R. Alluding to the passage in L'Idiot de la famille, where you describe the dog, he notices a certain evolution. From a general standpoint, it raises the problem of consciousness.
Sartre I think animals have consciousness. In fact, I have always thought so. There is no evolution in that.
R. What status would their consciousness have in relation to man?
Sartre That is an extremely difficult problem, and I would not know how to answer. I know that animals have consciousness, because I can understand their attitude only if I admit a consciousness. What is their consciousness? What is a consciousness that has no language? I have no idea. Perhaps we will be able to determine that later on, but more will have to be known about consciousness.
P. All the same, animals do have a kind of language, not an articulated language, but the possibility of communicating in another way.
Sartre Certainly, but that still poses problems.
P. This question amuses me because my students are always asking me: Where are the animals in L'Etre et le Néant?
Sartre They are not in it, because I consider that what is said about ani-
mals in animal psychology is generally stupid or, in any case, absolutely unconnected to the conscious experiences that we have. Animal psychology has to be redone, but it is difficult to say on what foundations.
P. At the present time, very interesting research is being done in the United States on monkeys. They are being taught to type on a machine. They can think symbolically even though they cannot speak.
R. Do plants have consciousness?
Sartre I have absolutely no idea. I don't think so. I don't think that life and consciousness are synonymous. No, for me, consciousness exists where we notice it; and there are animals that do not have it, protozoa, for example. Consciousness appears in the animal kingdom at a certain moment: in men; surely also in monkeys. But how does it appear and what is it?
R. There is a problem that is very bothersome to the Americans (who have a solid naturalist tradition), namely, ecology. Have you reflected on it?
Sartre No.
P. Some Americans have developed the idea that today the question of classes is completely secondary in relation to the question of the species: we live in Nature, which is the source of production and where the relations of production are less important.
R. One even uses the phrase "Capitalism mystifies biology."
Sartre That does not appear to me to be serious thinking. The development of the human species has placed it in conditions that are no longer natural; but it nevertheless retains relations to Nature. The real problems of the human species today, the problems of class, capital, and so on, are problems that have no relation to Nature. They are posed by the human species in its historical movement, and that leaves Nature outside of them.
P. I would agree, but what concerns these ecologists is that we are now in a situation in which we risk exhausting the resources of Nature, or of spoiling them completely. In several years there will be no more air for us to breathe. . .
Sartre That is rather likely. In that case, there are two alternatives: the first is that as resources have been exhausted, we will have invented something else, which could happen; the other is that we will disappear, which could also happen. I never thought that the human species was infinite.
R. To the Americans, you are often the philosopher of anti-Nature.
Sartre I am an anti-Nature philosopher, but only in certain respects. I know that in the beginning there was Nature, which directly influenced man. It is; certain that primitive men had real relations with Nature, like orang-utans or ants. This relation still exists, even today; but it is surmounted by other relations that are no longer material ones, or at least by relations in which Nature no longer plays the same role.
P. The ecologists think that everything in Nature has been politicized and that a possible repercussion of this might affect the essential vitality of the human species.
Sartre I think so too. It could end in the death of the species.
R. It seems to me, however, that ecology, as it is often advocated, is mystifying thought insofar as it does not bring in the class struggle and claims to be universal.
Sartre Yes. It is in the domain of class struggle, in the domain of contemporary societies that one can see the real problems. The problems of Nature come in below these domains.
P. Some who begin with ecology go on to assert that today everyone is proletarized, that there is only one universal class, which is the working class . . .
Sartre That seems to me an exaggeration. For example, I do not consider us here to be proletarians. I have many relations with the proletariat and much sympathy for it, but I do not think the work we are doing here can be defined as the work of proletarians.
R. . . . The contention is nevertheless interesting, because it shows a whole new orientation of the former American New Left toward the ecology movement.
Let us go on to another question. Frequently your critics allege that you give too much importance to the notion of scarcity, that you accord it an overemphasized status compared with other elements of Marxist thought.
Sartre It is not Marxist thought. Marx did not think that primitive man or feudal man lived under the rule of scarcity. He believed that they did not know how to use resources, but not that they were living in scarcity. This notion has been introduced into philosophy by others besides me, and I do not owe it to Marx. I consider that scarcity is the phenomenon in which we live. It is impossible to suppress it without changing the conditions of existence, of what is real, of intelligence . . . Even here, among ourselves, there is scarcity in our conversation: scarcity of ideas, scarcity of understanding. I may not understand your questions or may answer them baldly -- that, too, is scarcity.
P. How is that? I don't understand.
Sartre Well, a moment ago we were talking about ecology, about which I know practically nothing. There is therefore a certain scarcity in relation to ecological theory, scarcity in relation to me. The answers I gave, although I consider them to be true as regards the relation between Nature and capitalist man today -- those answers are still scarce compared to the specific questions that an ecologist would ask me. There is scarcity on every level and from every point of view. You asked me a while ago how I came upon an idea. An idea is also a scarcity. Then how can such a scarcity
appear in the midst of perceptions and imaginings . . . ? That question.
R. Is scarcity linked to desire, or to need?
Sartre Sometimes to need, sometimes to desire. Inasmuch as a cause, any cause whatsoever, makes us need a certain substance or a certain object, that object is not given in the proportion that we need it: that is scarcity.
R. Doesn't scarcity thus tend to become an ontological category rather than an historical one? Oscar Wilde said, for example: "Wherever there is a demand, there is no supply."
Sartre It is not an ontological notion, but neither is it simply a human notion or an empirical observation. It is drawn from the ontological side, but it is not ontological, because the human beings we are considering in the world are not to be studied only ontologically or on the level of particular abstract ideas, as some philosophies or particular ontologies do. They must be studied empirically as they are. And, on this level, one observes that a man is surrounded by scarcity, whether it be the toy that is not available to the child when he wants, it or the food supplies that a human group demands and of which there is only a portion. In any case, there is a difference between supply and demand that arises from the way man is made, from the fact that man demands more, whereas the supply is limited.
R. We are clearly seeing today that the idea of abundance that was once current in the United States is a mystifier.
Sartre Absolutely. Totally. We live in a world of scarcity, and from time to time we may imagine that we have found abundance by changing the nature of our desires. Not having what is necessary in one domain, we shift our desire to another. But it is all the same scarcity that lies at the origin of this conception.
P. However, I always understood scarcity in the Critique de la raison dialectique as a fact of social oppression.
Sartre It is always a fact of social oppression. But there are other scarcities that arise solely from the relation of man's demand -- a free demand, in no way imposed by someone else -- to the quantity of what is given.
P. But if there is an objective lack, is this also scarcity?
Sartre Of course. In fact originally that is what scarcity was. Desire, will, the necessity to use such and such an object as a means, create a demand that may sometimes be unlimited, whereas the object in demand is limited in quantity in a territory or on the globe. Thus, for me, scarcity is a phenomenon of existence, a human phenomenon, and naturally the greatest scarcity is always the one based on social oppression. But scarcity is at the bottom of it. We create a field of scarcity around us.
P. In the Critique, I thought need was the basic condition which afterward gave rise to scarcity.
Sartre Indeed, but need is not an oppression; it is a normal biological
characteristic of the living creature, and he creates scarcity. In any case, the need of an animal or of primitive man for a certain object -- for example, for food -- does not make the object appear where he is. Thus, we must consider that the need is greater than the way in which the space surrounding us is constituted, which forces us to seek the object we lack elsewhere. As soon as this begins, there is struggle, the building of roads and a new construction of the field that surrounds us.
P. Could one generalize and say that need is natural whereas scarcity. is social?
Sartre Need is natural, but that does not mean that the object of our desires is there. Scarcity is social to the extent that the desired object is scarce for a given society. But strictly speaking, scarcity is not social. Society comes after scarcity. The latter is an original phenomenon of the relation between man and Nature. Nature does not sufficiently contain the objects that man demands in order that man's life should not include either work, which is struggle against scarcity, or combat.
R. Do you see a possible end to scarcity?
Sartre Not at the moment.
R. And what of the socialism we were talking about last time?
Sartre It would not lead to the disappearance of scarcity. However, it is obvious that at that point ways of dealing with scarcity could be sought and found.
G. When I study Heidegger with my students, they are often wary of him because of the position he took at one point in favor of Nazism in Germany, and they wonder if one can take a philosopher seriously who acts in such a way in the political sphere.
Sartre In the case of Heidegger, I would not take him seriously; but I don't know if it is because of his character or because of his social action. And I don't know if one is the result of the other. I do not think that Heidegger's character, his way of entering into social action, trying not to compromise himself while at the same time giving certain assurances to the Nazis, justifies great confidence. It is not for his Nazism that I would reproach him, but rather for a lack of seriousness. His attitude showed a compliance with the regime in power in order to continue teaching his courses more than an awareness of any value that Nazism claimed to have.
P. But why wouldn't you reproach him for his Nazism?
Sartre I'm quite willing to reproach him for that; it wouldn't bother me in the least. [Laughter] You know I am not that fond of Heidegger. What I have said is simply the impression I had when I saw him. Heidegger's political ideas were of no importance, and he was doing philosophy almost in opposition to politics. But perhaps I am mistaken. In any case he was
wrong, very wrong to adhere to Nazism, even discreetly as he did. It is possible that Nazism was a philosoplhy or political theory in which he really believed. But I think not; and this neither brings s me closer to nor separates me farther from his philosophy.
G. Do you think that one can do philosophy without taking politics into account?
Sartre In Descartes' time, perhaps, but today it is impossible to do philosophy without having a political attitude. Of course, this attitude will vary according to the philosophy; but it is impossible to avoid having one. Every philosopher is also a man and every man is political.
For a long time, philosophy was a kind of thought by which one tried to escape from the conditions of life, especially from those that created the obligation to be political. There was the man who was alive, who slept, who ate, who clothed himself, and this man was not taken into account by the philosopher. He studied other areas, from which politics was excluded. Today the concern of philosophers is the man who sleeps, eats, clothes himself, and so on. There is no other subject matter, and the philosopher is forced to have a political position, since politics develops at this level.
[We now proceed to the essays themselves. Oreste Pucciani points out to Sartre that there are essays on ontology, ethics, Freudianism and psychoanalysis, Marxism and politics, and aesthetics. He then sums up the essay of Ivan Soll (on Freud) and asks several questions raised by Soll.]
P. Here is Soll's first point: Sartre uses above all Freud's first topology and fails to take into account the second. In so doing, he distorts the Freudian model into an ego, a censor, and an id.
Sartre I didn't know that that was called a topology, but I think I tried to take everything into account.
P. Soll's second point: Sartre's thought is a kind of strategy -- the word is mine, not Soll's -- designed to save the theory of consciousness in opposition to the Freudian theory of the unconscious. Sartre maintains that consciousness is equivalent to psychic reality. He puts forth a theory of consciousness that requires a theory of mind.
Sartre I never maintained that consciousness was equivalent to psychic reality. Indeed, I consider that consciousness is a psychic reality; but I do not consider that all psychic reality can be defined by consciousness. One has only to look at what I have written on the subject. There are plenty of facts that appear to consciousness that are not themselves consciousness.

Consciousness is only consciousness of and the objects are outside consciousness and transcendent. Thus it is impossible to say that consciousness is the only reality.
P. Third point: Sartre develops the theory of the pre-reflexive cogito in order to explain unconscious psychic processes. Thus consciousness becomes, according to Sartre, "the generic category of various psychic processes."
Sartre To me that is meaningless. Consciousness is not a generic category.
P. Fourth point: By consciousness, Sartre means any intentional psychic process. Judgment, desire, intention, emotion, and so forth are all conscious a priori; therefore there is no unconscious. That leaves the empirically known mental processes. How can they be explained? That would be the role of pre-reflexive consciousness or bad faith.
Sartre It is certain that I explain a number of so-called unconscious states in that way.
P. But, according to Soll, bad faith fails as a criterion for criticism of Freud, because Freud himself had abandoned the unconscious system in his second topology. And even in the first topology, the censor was not a lie to oneself, bad faith, conscious in order not to be conscious, the duper-duped, but simply duper or a duped pre-conscious. The Sartrean conditions for lying were fulfilled: it was a question of an interpersonal lie on an intrapsychic level.
Sartre This comparison between Freud and me in this area seems to me absurd. I did not create the theory of bad faith in order to argue against Freud, nor in connection with the works of Freud, but because it appeared to me to be true. Moreover, to talk about the lie told by the conscious to the unconscious is simply to reduce the nature of the lie to someone who knows the truth and conceals it and someone who does not know the truth and from whom it is concealed. This ordinary, commonplace conception of the lie is only partly true. There are persons who know the truth and from whom one conceals it nevertheless, and there are persons who conceal a truth they know. At this point, there is no longer liar and lied-to, but each is liar and lied-to at the same time. This conception is much more complex but also much more true.
Soll abolishes consciousness as I tried to define it, that is, precisely the liar/lied-to at the same time, which is to say, consciousness as relation to self. He turns this relation into a relation to others, and it is consequently impossible to keep it within consciousness.
P. I noticed that none of the articles here seems to take into account the circuit of selfness, although this characterizes the consciousness that needs to be a consciousness in order to be consciousness, and which can then constitute itself as an ego. It is starting from the circuit of fundamental selfness that consciousness becomes a structure of being.
Sartre Of course.
P. Soll next attacks the pre-reflexive cogito: Sartre's chief argument is a true reductio ad absurdum. The notion that an unconscious consciousness would be absurd fails in face of the fact that such a consciousness exists. I am conscious of this table, but I am simultaneously unconscious of other objects that are not in my visual field. Here is a consciousness that is both conscious and unconscious, unless we specify that it concerns the same object. There are therefore unconscious intentional processes, and the thesis of the unconscious is not absurd. It is not contradictory to say that one desires something without being conscious of desiring.
Sartre But the example he provides is absurd. I am indeed unconscious at this moment of the St. Lazare Station, which is not in my perceptual field. But if I am unconscious of it, it is not because of consciousness, it is because of my position in the perceptual field and in the existential field. I may be conscious of it tomorrow, which does not mean that it is unconscious and acting at this moment. I am not in relation to the St. Lazare Station. If I am, I am in some way conscious of it. If I am waiting for the moment when a taxi will drive me there, I am conscious of the St. Lazare Station. But in the meantime, there is no relation to it and therefore I am not conscious of the St. Lazare Station.
P. Soll continues. Sartre demonstrates his theory of the pre-reflexive cogito by an example, that of counting cigarettes. But this example is valid only in certain cases, whereas it must be shown to hold in all cases. Moreover, the example is badly formulated: Sartre gives it in the present tense, whereas it should have been done in the past tense, since it involves a memory. Therefore, there is no need here either for the pre-reflexive cogito or for a positional self-consciousness.
Sartre I don't remember the example of the cigarettes . . .
P. It is in L'Etre et le Néant where, taking twelve cigarettes, you explain how you have arrived at that number. Soll claims that you should have said, "I was counting cigarettes" and not "I am counting cigarettes," which falsifies the whole example.
Sartre Indeed. It is now that I count them. Obviously, I should not have said, "I have arrived at twelve" but instead, "For the moment, I have counted four and there remains a group to be counted." [Laughter]
P. Next, Soll wonders if there are certain cases in which a non-positional self-consciousness would be required. In La Transcendance de I'ego, the object of reflexive consciousness contains the "I." The "I" appears in every memory and is the universal possibility of reflecting in memory. Can one truly say that the object of reflexive consciousness contains the "I"?
Sartre Not necessarily. Reflexive consciousness contains the "I" but outitself; it manifests the "I."
P. Then where does the "I" come from?
Sartre That's just the point: it is not there. There must be some confusion here between reflected consciousness and reflexive consciousness.
P. Soll goes on: Why must the memory depend on previous selfconsciousness? Cannot a simple awareness of an object leave memory traces? A non-thetic consciousness of self is not necessary to explain a nonthetic memory; if the "I" that is attached to the memory is not present in original consciousness, one cannot explain how the "I" enters the memory. The pre-reflexive cogito does not shed any light on the mechanism of memory.
How can a non-reflexive consciousness explain the fact of counting cigarettes -- I would add, in the past -- whereas I was counting them without reflecting and my. reply was a kind of memory? Haven't we an unconscious, unrepressed process here, as Freud would call it, a pre-conscious or latent process which can easily be brought to consciousness? This would avoid the Sartrean Paradox of a conscious memory before the act of remembering. According to Freud, one can become conscious of something for the first time in memory. His terminology is more natural.
Sartre I am astonished. That is not what I said. One can criticize what I said, but that is not what I said. For example, there is no ego in consciousness any more than there is an "I." In L'Etre et le Néant I firmly insisted on the fact that the "I" and the ego were part of the system of objects, the system of things that are outside consciousness.
[ Oreste Pucciani next summarizes the article "Mechanism, Intentionality, and Unconscious" by Lee Brown and Alan Hausman, an article that attempts a synthesis of the theories of Sartre and of Freud, by sometimes forcing Freud's thought in a Sartrean direction. The discussion concerns especially the following points.]
P. The two positions are in agreement in that the patient comes to know what he did not know, and one could even make Freud admit, although in a weak sense, that the patient knew it from the beginning.
Sartre It is Freud who must decide on that, but I don't think that for him the patient knew from the start; he knew it in some way, but he did not know it consciously. Whereas, indeed, in my study of bad faith one could say that he knew it from the beginning. The comparison is forced.
P. For the authors of the article, where Sartre speaks of a distinction between knowledge and consciousness, Freud speaks of a distinction between conscious and unconscious. It is a question of terminology.
Sartre That is rather simple and facile. Yet it is true that, for me, the idea of knowledge is given at the start, that it is a work performed on data
already existing for consciousness. There is a kind of original vision of things that can be made known by working upon this content. However, I do not see what could be said similarly for Freud.
P. The authors conclude, after a four-point argument, that Freud and Sartre leave us with the dilemma of a psyche that both knows and does not know its symptoms.
Sartre Yes, but that is because in this case knowledge does not have the same meaning at the beginning as at the end. The psyche knowing its symptoms means one thing and the psyche not knowing its symptoms means something else. At the beginning, we have a kind of non-thetic, undeveloped, non-affirmative knowledge and we can, by certain methods, arrive at an affirmative, definite knowledge with distinctions, judgments, and so forth. These two kinds of knowledge have almost no relation to each other. It is going from the former to the latter that requires the greatest effort, both for the analyst and, very simply, for the individual who thinks.
You were asking me a moment ago how an idea comes to me. Well, it comes in the same way: at first one has a vague, completely unasserted idea and then one attempts to determine it, to create functions. At this point one attains an awareness that is already beyond the pure consciousnessfeeling that one had in the beginning. At first one has something that I would call not knowledge but intuition, and in a sense knowledge is radically different from what is given by this original intuition. It clarifies things that were not clarified; it amplifies others; it tones down some that were more apparent in the beginning. It retains a certain relation to the original intuition, but it is something else. This is what has been misunderstood in this article, I believe.
G. Professor Giorgi attempts to show that there exists in your work a systematic psychology, a metapsychology that radicalizes our understanding of psychology because it objectifies the psychic without transforming it into a thing. He wonders if the psychic could be characterized as "being-intension" and if it would thus form a third category situated between the foritself and the in-itself.
Sartre That is more or less what I did, but I did not consider it of major importance. It is true that, on the whole, one can compare a feeling to the in-itself, but obviously it is something other than the in-itself of a table or of a chair.
G. Going on to the problem of method, Giorgi distinguishes three approaches: first, the phenomenology of Husserl that would be a complete reduction (progressive method); then an empirical psychology in which there would be no reduction at all (regressive method); finally, your phenomenological psychology that would be partly a reduction and partly empirical, thus constituting a progressive-regressive method.
Sartre That is a bit oversimplified, but I accept the idea of a progressiveregressive method.
G. For a phenomenological psychology?
Sartre Yes, and for all human endeavors. I talked about the progressiveregressive method in Question de méthode, but perhaps that has nothing in common with this except the terms. I do not think my psychology is partly empirical in the sense he gives the word.
G. Is your existential psychoanalysis a psychology?
Sartre No. Quite frankly, I do not believe in the existence of psychology. I have not done it and I do not believe it exists. Even the little book that I wrote on the emotions is not psychology, because in it I am forced to return to the nature of consciousness to explain the simplest emotion. I consider that psychology does not exist except in the sense of the empirical psychology that one does in novels, for example, when we see a future assassin thinking about killing his victim an hour before he puts him to death.
P. To go on to another problem, Professor [Risieri] Frondizi considers your ethical work to be above all negative, and feels that one ends up falling into moral indifference. It is a fact that freedom is a necessary but not sufficient condition for a moral human life of significance and creativity; the Sartrean man goes drifting off on the stream of freedom. How, asks Frondizi, can one avoid this moral indifference?
Sartre I have never had an ethics of indifference. That is not what makes ethics difficult, but rather the concrete, political problems that have to be solved. As I already said in Saint Genet, I think that at present we are not in a position . . . society and knowledge are not such that we can rebuild an ethics that would have the same kind of validity as the one we have gone beyond. For example, we are unable to formulate an ethics on the Kantian level that would have the same validity as Kantian ethics. It cannot be done because the moral categories depend essentially on the structures of the society in which we live, and these structures are neither simple enough nor complex enough for us to create moral concepts. We are in a period without ethics, or, if you like, there are ethical theories but they are obsolete or they depend on each other.
R. Isn't it impossible to live morally today?
Sartre Yes. It has not always been impossible, will not always be, but it is today. Whereas a "morale" is necessary for man and such is still possible, there are periods in which it is unrealizable, because too many contradictions exist and ideas are too confused. We are in one of those periods.
R. What I would reproach Frondizi for is that, insofar as your writings are concerned, he stopped in 1949.
Sartre But they all stop too soon. I think that a study of my philosophical thought should follow its evolution. But no, they don't do it. It's odd.
[Next, Oreste Pucciani gives a rather lengthy summary of Hazel Barnes' article on Sartrean materialism.]
P. For Hazel Barnes, your materialism, the materialism of the Critique, implicitly is or assumes a metaphysics of Nature. You were stopped by that question, but you yourself have said that it was not your affair. However, you have to explain the problem of man in his relation to Nature or risk exposing yourself to the same criticisms that you level against the Marxists. Barnes concludes with the following conjecture: If the expression "dialectical materialism" had not been adopted by a purely Marxist context, shouldn't we have to qualify Sartrean materialism precisely as "dialectical materialism"?
Sartre To attempt to do so leaves me a little cold.
P. Barnes considers that you assume a materialism without providing the metaphysical grounds for it. She also cites a passage of the Critique where you say: "We shall accept the idea that man is one material being among others and that as such he does not enjoy any privileged status. We shall not refuse a priori that a concrete dialectic of Nature may one day disclose itself."
Sartre Yes, but by that I mean, if it were disclosed, the dialectic of Nature would go from the strictly physical object to the animal and to man, thereby indicating the material sources of what has thus far been irreducible in man: for example, consciousness. A dialectic of Nature would have to account for that; but since this dialectic does not exist and since I do not intend to do it, the problem remains unchanged. If it exists, we will have accounted for the material aspect of the conscious phenomenon, the material aspect that is behind consciousness.
P. Barnes takes four statements from your philosophy:
"Man loses himself as man in order that God may be born."
"Man loses himself so that the human thing may exist."
"The for-itself is the in-itself losing itself as in-itself in order to find itself as consciousness."
"All this happens as if the for-itself has a passion to lose itself so that the affirmation 'world' might come to the in-itself."
Does not the in-itself seem to have produced something, and do not these statements, especially the third and the fourth, have metaphysical implications? Does not the analysis of motion in L'Etre et le Néant as "pure disorder of Being," "the malady of Being," "the clue to the alteration of the for-itself," reflect a metaphysics?
Sartre In all of those cases, yes. But it is not up to me to deal with it. I don't wish to deal with it. I do not have the necessary knowledge; I am not competent to do it. I can simply point out the various elements and the questions that would be raised.
P. To conclude, Barnes raises four questions. Here is the first: What is the nature of the in-itself or of matter?
Sartre Matter is not exclusively the in-itself precisely because, if one is a materialist, one considers that consciousness itself is part of matter. Therefore it is not the in-itself. Both the for-itself and the in-itself must be included in materialism.
P. In the Critique, consciousness belongs to matter . . .
Sartre Exactly, but in the question that was asked it does not.
P. What must be the being of matter if this being is capable of giving rise to a being that nihilates it, that is free of it, but without ceasing to be matter?
Sartre That is true in a sense, but not quite in those terms.
P. Sartre admits that Nature could conceal a kind of dialectic. Then how can the in-itself be simple plenitude?
Sartre But Nature is not exclusively the in-itself. A plant that is growing is no longer altogether in-itself. It is more complex. It is alive.
P. To what extent is it necessary to identify in-itself and matter?
Sartre The in-itself is one kind of matter. But a man cannot be reduced to the in-itself precisely because he is conscious, and consciousness has been defined as a for-itself. That seems clear to me.
R. Barnes also asks what the relations are between consciousness and the brain and reasoning.
Sartre That is a problem I studied for several years at the time of L'Etre et le Néant and afterward. I tried to deal with it, but I did not finish it. I was not interested in doing a study on the relations of consciousness and the brain, because I first wanted to define consciousness. That is enough for one man's lifetime. I wished to define it as it presents itself to us, for you, for me. In so doing, I wanted to posit a definite object which others would then have to try to explain within a materialist system, that is, to study its relation to the brain.
More generally, what I have noticed in the articles you are summarizing is that there is one thing the authors do not recognize: one chooses a kind of work and one does it. One can do certain things somewhat alongside, but one will not go into domains that are not among those chosen at the outset. One can try to show how they are related to the domain one is studying, but one does not study them in themselves.
R. Indeed, there are quite a few articles that lose sight of the overall view of your work, and they represent the work of specialists. Someone who does psychology, for example, would like to draw you into his domain and will find inadequacies that concern him rather than you.
P. In my own contribution I emphasize that, in your philosophy, it has always been a question of the priority of problems.
Sartre Absolutely.
P. Very often in reading these critical essays, I have the impression that they are telling you it would have been better had you begun with the "Flaubert."
Sartre That's childish. One does not begin by what one wishes.
G. In his essay on aesthetics, Professor Tenney raises a question that I find interesting: for Sartre, the ontology of freedom seems to have been replaced by a philosophy of engagement that places heavy sociopolitical obligations on the artist. Does the artist thereby lose his privilege of free creation.
Sartre I do not consider that there has been such a shift from freedom to engagement. I still speak of freedom, and the engagement, if there is one, is the result of freedom. On this issue I have not changed since L'Etre et le Nbant. Consequently, I do not understand the question.
G. Tenney is speaking of socialist art or revolutionary art as it is practiced in socialist countries.
Sartre I never believed in that kind of art. For example, I do not at all believe in literature as it is viewed by the writers in Moscow. I hope the author does not see anything like that in my aesthetics, for he would be very much mistaken.
G. Tenney would like to know if, in general, sociopolitical responsibilities do not infringe upon the freedom of the artist.
Sartre No. According to my view, responsibility necessarily arises from freedom. I can conceive of a responsibility only in someone who is free. If he is not, if he is constrained or forced to accept a responsibility, that responsibility is worthless. The only responsibility that counts is the one that is freely assumed. Therefore, I do not see what is interesting in his question. He begins by thinking that I have changed -- and that is his point of view, not mine -- and he asks me if, starting from this change, I can say whether engagement infringes on freedom. He is the one who is making this distinction, not. I. Therefore, I cannot answer. I maintain my principles, and in any case my aesthetics, if there is one, stems from the idea of freedom and not from the idea of engagement, which is a by-product of freedom, a necessary by-product . . .
P. In his article, Tenney says, by the way, that the ontology of Sartre has changed.
Sartre No, it has not changed. L'Etre et le Néant deals with ontology, not the Critique de la raison dialectique.
P. He speaks of an ontology that has been sapped, thinned out, and is no longer holding together because its back has been broken.
Sartre That must be my second ontology. I don't believe that I broke the back of the first. [Laughter]
P. And then he discusses Sartrean aesthetics without mentioning either the analogon or the real center of irrealization. 
Sartre Then what does he talk about? 
G. He lists six elements that compose your aesthetics. [A briefsummary of the article follows.] Sartre's aesthetics must be measured against philosophies that are productive and comprehensive, not reductive and niggling.The Sartrean aesthetic tends to repudiate the traditional aesthetics of representative objects, that is, the imitation of Nature in classical, romantic, and realistic works of art. It also rejects most official or "museum" art. The Sartrean aesthetic tends to embrace an art that is open, not closed; dynamic, not static; suggestive, not fixed.But presumably the Sartrean aesthetic has never been formalized. It must be inferred from statements scattered throughout his works, as well as from certain features of his total philosophy.The chief components of an aesthetics drawn from Sartre's total philosophy would appear to be:
1. The situation, that is, the place, historical time, environmental instrumentalities, fellow humans, and ultimate debility that must be expected and surpassed if I am to create art.
2. The project, that is, my choice of being and my leap ahead into the realm of possibles. Art always begins as a project or in a project.
3. The use of bracketing, the Husserlian abstention. This is especially relevant to aesthetics, because in order to enter the realm of art I must eliminate the natural view of things. Phenomenological brackets make possible the detachment and autonomy of imagined objects.
4. The imagined object, which derives from both the plenum of being and the nothingness of images. It is in these terms that I must define and create a work of art.
5. The freedom to transcend situations and to activate projects that makes possible all my creative work -- notably my work in the arts.
6. The beautiful, which is the chief value of art. As the in-itself-foritself, beauty is a golden impossibility, but art can come close to realizing it in imagined objects, because these extend elements of the real into the imaginary. The "correspondences" between the objective and the subjective provide symbols, by means of which I can place the beauty of a work of art in a bracketed totality.
Sartre Those ideas are not mine. I think that I would write my aesthetics better than he. [Laughter]
G. I think that is exactly what he would like to provoke.
P. Tenney goes on to say: It is sad that Sartre seems to be losing interest in aesthetics.
Sartre But I am not losing interest in it. That is the third thing he has decided on his own.
R. However, this article, like many others, is helpful inasmuch as it is characteristic of the things that are said about you and it functions as a catalogue of commonly accepted ideas. Since we are going on to MerleauPonty, I might interject that perhaps many of these authors are doing pseudo-Sartrism.
Sartre That's right.
P. Monika Langer's article on Sartre and Merleau-Ponty develops the following thesis: Merleau-Ponty, in attacking the philosophy of Sartre, actually turned it into a pseudo-Sartrism, as Simone de Beauvoir has shown. Yet, had he examined Sartre's philosophy in the light of his own and especially of the notion of "interworld" (which he calls "flesh" and which is situated between pure transcendence and inert matter), Merleau-Ponty would have discovered a genuine Sartrism, in perfect conformity with his own philosophy, for, at least from Langer's point of view, there is a fundamental agreement between the two positions. The positive significance of the flesh for Sartre appears in his analyses of sexuality. There would thus be an in-itself, an interworld (that is, an intersubjectivity), and a for-itself. Can one consider that there is an interworld in your philosophy?
Sartre I admit neither that I have the same philosophy as Merleau-Ponty nor that there is this element of interworld.
G. Is it a question of a mere misunderstanding, or is there a fundamental incompatibility between your philosophy and that of Merleau-Ponty?
Sartre I believe that there is a fundamental incompatibility, because behind his analyses Merleau-Ponty is always referring to a kind of being for which he invokes Heidegger and which I consider to be absolutely invalid. The entire ontology that emerges from the philosophy of Merleau-Ponty is distinct from mine. It is much more a continuum than mine. I am not much of a continuist; the in-itself, the for-itself, and the intermediary forms that we talked about a moment ago -- that is enough for me. For MerleauPonty, there is a relation to being that is very different, a relation in the very depths of oneself. I spoke about that in my article "Merleau-Ponty vivant."
R. There, are two versions of that article. Why did you abandon the first?
Sartre Because it was neither well thought out nor well written. Simone de Beauvoir urged me to abandon it. So I said the same thing again, but a little better.
R. Was this difference between you and Merleau-Ponty obvious from the beginning of your relationship?
Sartre I think we always felt it. We were starting from the same philosophy, namely, Husserl and Heidegger; but he did not draw the same
conclusions from it that I did. It is impossible for me to get my bearings in the philosophy of perception. That is something completely different.
P. Is not the major difference between the two of you that concern for ontology which we talked about last time?
Sartre Yes. Merleau-Ponty does not do ontology, but his reflections lead to an obscure ontology, a little like that of Heidegger.
P. I would like to come back to a question that has already been asked. How did you come to decide that the problem of ontology was fundamental, since that is rather unusual among twentieth-century thinkers?
Sartre In spite of everything, I think it grew out of the few ideas on realism that I had in mind, although not very clearly, when I went to Berlin and read Husserl. I spent a year reading Husserl and wrote that article on the transcendence of the ego in which I indicated rather emphatically the necessity of an ontology. Yes, it started from the distinction between some vague, personal ideas -- to which I have always remained faithful, as a matter of fact -- and the thought of Husserl.
R. To come back to Monika Langer, she says that for you, "consciousness is engulfed in a body which is itself engulfed in a world."
Sartre That is beautiful; but consciousness is not engulfed in a body nor is the body engulfed in the world.
R. She also says: "human being in the world and of the world . . ."
Sartre Human being is of the world for the other but not for himself. He is in the world, yes, and he can also withdraw at a certain moment from his place, from his situation, although his only true thoughts are his thoughts in situation. That is baroque!
R. Langer specifically says that the separation of consciousness does not necessarily imply hostility.
Sartre In any case, the separation exists, and I do not see any reason to speak of intersubjectivity once subjectivities are separated. Intersubjectivity assumes a communion that almost reaches a kind of identification, in any case a unity. It designates a subjectivity that is made up of all subjectivities and it thus assumes each subjectivity in relation to the others -- at once separated in the same way and united in another. I see the separation but I do not see the union.
[Here Susan Gruenheck summarizes Charles Scott's article comparing Sartre and Heidegger. Sartre, who seems to have had difficulty following, comments simply.]
Sartre Obviously one can compare anyone to anyone. One can compare me to Heidegger, although I think that we are too far apart for a comparison to be made.
G. Would you accept the definition of ontology proposed by Scott: Ontology is a descriptive interpretation of things that enables us to see at a distance the conditions necessary for human fulfillment.
Sartre No, I, would dissociate myself from all that. Ontology is the study of the various forms of being -- nothing else.
G. Is it done for a particular purpose?
Sartre It is for the purpose of defining, of knowing what being is. It is obviously for the purpose of reconstituting the edifice of knowledge by basing it on the knowledge of being.
R. The word fulfillment is not exactly part of your vocabulary.
P. This author sees ontology as a kind of moral edification; ontology should give us a rule of life and help us to live better . . .
R. To overcome scarcity through ontology, that wouldn't be bad!
Sartre That is incredible. If ontology were able to show that man would be better off committing suicide, that would not be giving us a moral viewpoint: we would have to take a revolver and shoot ourselves in the head. Ontology is not done so that we can use it for a time and then move on to something else.
R. Inasmuch as time is running out, we should ask Oreste Pucciani to tell us about his own essay.
Sartre I was Just about to ask him.
P. I have, concentrated so much On these articles that I have not re-read mine and I have forgotten much of it. However, my thesis is that, from an early age, Flaubert represented for you the problem of art.
Oreste Pucciani attempts to demonstrate the interaction of the enterprise of Sartre and that of Flaubert, an interaction that in 1947 took the form of a fundamental dilemma in Sartre of art, thought, and action. This dilemma is resolved in Sartre's work on Flaubert, L'Idiot de la famille. The "engagement" of the artist, which was at issue in 1947, becomes the assumption of total risk of one's self as a "universal singular" in order to create "permanent, real, stable centers of irrealization, " material objects (such as Madame Bovary) which are analoga of reality itself. These works are grounded in an engagement that is ethico-aesthetic. "Eternal Art" is a myth and an ideology, the truth of which is not the essence but the making of a work of art. Thus the method of ontological inquiry once more permits Sartre to state a human reality: in the sick society of nineteenth-century France, the making of art became the enterprise of "Neurosis Art" by a "worker" persuaded that he must be either ill or mad to create in bourgeois capitalist society. It is not difficult to see that Sartre is explaining his work to himself as well as his own evolution pore literature to philosophy.
I myself floundered in the unreal for years and I was struck by the Fact that, at a very young age and despite your neurosis, you grasped the problem

of the real. From then on, there was a kind of inoculation by Flaubert that had a decided effect on your own acculturation . . .
Sartre It was not Flaubert that provided my acculturation, because at the time I read many things -- Corneille, et cetera. Culture was not especially Flaubert, who, on the contrary, was an aborted attempt at reading, since ultimately I did not read him all the way through to the end. I stumbled onto a book that was too adult for me and I didn't understand it very well.
R. In this connection, to what extent do the references to Flaubert you make in Les Mots derive from your preoccupation with Flaubert during the fifties and sixties?
Sartre Certainly I was writing the " Flaubert" at that time, but on the other hand, everything I said on the subject in Les Mots is true. I had those memories for a long time, but perhaps I might not have talked about them if I had not written the "Flaubert." They were certainly connected. There certainly was a link between the two.
P. I talked about your grandfather in relation to Flaubert. You yourself have said that he had "socialized your pen" and that that pen had fallen from your hand. I saw in him a kind of bearer of the nineteenth-century culture that had affected you.
Sartre It was certainly my grandfather who gave me my idea of culture. Not the idea that I have now, but the one I had for a long time, from the age of six onward.
R. You seem also to have reacted against the culture that he gave you, against visits to museums, speeches at awards ceremonies, and so on. Yet didn't he influence you regarding the image and the relation between the image and the word? He himself was one of the pioneers of the audiovisual method.
Sartre No, that was over my head.
P. In the course of your studies, there were two options: literary positivism and idealism. I took your former professor, Henri Delacroix, as an example of idealist immanentism and Gustave Lanson as an example of positivism. Sartre But Lanson was only the director of the Ecole Normale. I didn't take any courses from him.
P. But hadn't everyone read his history of literature?
Sartre Of course.
[The interview is interrupted here by the arrival of Simone de Beauvoir, who, however, leaves in a few moments.]
P. In the Critique de la raison dialectique you define totalities and you say that, all the same, they require an imaginary status. Then you go on to practical totalities. Do these practical totalities also require an imaginary status?
Sartre Not necessarily. For example, an object, a machine that represents a totalization of the product it makes or the action it performs, is not imaginary. It is a rational totalization.
P. My understanding was that they both had the same status, required the same status in the social world. There are objects such as coffee mills that, with the passage of time, become aesthetic objects, analoga of themselves. How can they do this if there is no imaginary status?
Sartre They become imaginary at that moment, but they are then no longer practical totalities. If they have an aesthetic quality from the start -for example, eighteenth-century ships had this quality -- there may be a relation to the imaginary, but it exists above all for us.
P. Is there not in your philosophy a constant crossfire between the realizing thesis and the irrealizing thesis?
Sartre Yes, always. Our perception includes the imaginary.
P. In L'Imaginaire, however, these two theses are mutually exclusive.
Sartre Yes, but that was too radical. In the "Flaubert" I have tried to point out that they are often combined, and I have there outlined another theory of the imaginary. In this sense, it is possible that certain practical totalities include imaginary elements. I have not reflected on that, but it is possible.
G. One problem that is raised several times in the articles is that of selfknowledge. Do you have the impression that you know yourself?
Sartre Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that, through consciousness, I can grasp a certain type of psyche or elements of the psyche that are in direct relation with myself. For example, I know my feelings. If I love or detest a person, I know it. If I love or detest many, I can draw a line: those I love, those I detest; I have such and such a type of affection, such and such a type of animosity. I can therefore describe myself from this point of view. I can truly know myself in my desires; I feel them immediately.
There is a whole psychology which is the relation to the Other. One's feelings and actions, the number of recurrences of an action or a feeling -- it is the. Other who knows them. I cannot grasp this psychology myself. Someone tells me "You are like that," enabling me to realize that it may be true. But it is the Other who tells me. One can only have complete selfknowledge starting from that. If the Other does not tell you what you are for him, you cannot attain self-knowledge.
On the other hand, each person is made aware by others of such and such a relation to oneself or with others. He can thus learn from the world what he is, not in his consciousness or at least not through his consciousness, but through what others think. Thus there is a whole psychology pertaining to oneself that comes from the Other. I feel quite clearly what I feel myself and what I feel according to what others tell me, according to those
who I thought were right. One would not know oneself without the Other. For example, anger, irascibility -- these are things I can know only if someone describes them to me.
Through myself, I know that a number of times I have been angry at those who contradicted me, but that signifies nothing. I don't know if I am irascible or not. But someone says: "You were really angry under certain circumstances, although the person's objections were facile and not malicious, and you were angry at other times under similar circumstances. Therefore you are irascible." I discover that, I learn that through the Other. Perhaps I will be sorry about it. It is clearly part of myself, but part of myself in relation to others. Thus there are: (1) an easy psychology of oneself that one possesses as soon as one reflects a little on oneself; (2) another, deeper psychology possessed by people who think to the depths of themselves, because they are in circumstances such that the depths are revealed or because they think about themselves that far; and then (3) the psychology of relations to others, relations that one cannot define without what is given by the Other. As a matter of fact, these three kinds of selfknowledge are not completely in accordance with each other. One always remains a little ignorant of oneself concerning the knowledge that others give us. If someone says: "You have an inquiring mind, you are ambitious, et cetera," one accepts that if the examples are specific, but often one does not unravel it. This is the kind of knowledge that one would find if one were to read a book about oneself once one is dead. It is knowledge that one does not control and it does not correspond to the other two categories, the ordinary self-knowledge that everyone has and the deeper self-knowledge that some have.
R. These "others" whom you allude to, are these not the critics, the people who write about you?
Sartre No, they are not. [Laughter]
R. I think that in general -- and today's example proves it -- you learn rather little from others about your work.
Sartre Thus far, rather little. When I was seventeen or eighteen I was always told that one learned a great deal from critics. So I approached them with positive ideas about criticism, with disciplined, sensible ideas. I read the critics, saying to myself, "What are they going to teach me?" But they taught me nothing.
R. Even from the standpoint of you as "Other"?
Sartre Yes, because most of the time the critical articles about one's work in the course of a lifetime are not very carefully done.
R. Aren't there any critical works on you that you found notable?
Sartre There are many that I have not read. From the ones I know, I never learned very much. However, sometimes, let us say in one onehundredth of what I read, the critics contribute an idea.
R. And in those cases, what is it?
Sartre It is a relation between two passages in a work, a comparison between two works that shows me something they have in common, and so on. It strikes me and I say, "Well, that's true." But that doesn't go very far.
R. Aren't there confrontations, other ideas that lead you to revise some of your own ideas?
Sartre I have never been obliged to revise my ideas. I am perhaps an obstinate philosopher, but it has never happened. I read, I saw that indeed there were things to be said, and then I continued to do what I was doing.
R. Has your thought therefore developed relatively autonomously?
Sartre In relation to the thought of critical writers, yes. If friends point out something to me, it may have more importance. Among the critics, the best I encountered were those who said what I meant.
R. Are you irritated at seeing your thought often simplified?
Sartre No. Some people write those things, that's all.
R. You have said yourself that "mediators" would be necessary for the "Flaubert." What do you foresee as a possible criticism of your work?
Sartre To begin with, my work would have to be read. [Laughter] Many critics stop along the way.
R. Read the whole of your work?
Sartre Indeed, yes. I do not ask that of the ordinary reader, but only of specialized critics: Let them take the time. Then, the work has to be presented in order to see if a single point of view extends over a whole lifetime or changes midway, to try to explain the developments, the breaks, to attempt to find my original choice, which is the most difficult part: What did I choose to be by writing such and such a work? Why did I choose to write?
R. The critic may not put himself in your place as much as you would like and thus would not completely do justice to you.
Sartre In spite of all that, let him do something of what I did on Flaubert. I do not claim to have done justice to him entirely, but I hope to have found some directions, some themes.
R. You would like a work to be done on you like the one you did on Flaubert?
Sartre Yes, that's right. That seems to me to be the meaning of criticism. Here are books; a man wrote them. What does that mean? What is that man? What are these books? I find the aesthetic point of view so variable that it is this aspect that seems interesting to me.
R. Do you attach great importance to documentation?
Sartre Yes. I can positively affirm that because I know what had to be done for the "Flaubert."
P. However, there is relatively little documentation on you. If one compares what you have put in Les Mots with what is known about the childhood of Flaubert, there is a huge difference.
Sartre That is due to the time in which we live. Today fewer details are given about people, much less is known about them than in the preceding century, precisely because the problems of sexuality, the problems of life, become individual and disappear. For example, what is known about Solzhenitsyn are things that ultimately concern all of Russia. We know that he was exiled in a camp. Immediately when we reflect on the camps, we recall what they were, and so on. But, as for knowing whether he likes coffee or what is the nature of his sexuality -- mystery. Perhaps certain elements can be defined on the basis of his books, but someone will have to do it.
Indeed, none of those things really is hidden. I think that my taste for coffee and my sexuality are in my books. They have only to be rediscovered and it is up to the critics to find them. In other words, the critics should, on the basis of the books and nothing but the books, together with the correspondence, establish what was the person who wrote these books, reestablish the trends, see the doctrines to which the author subscribed . . .
R. Will there be much correspondence in your case?
Sartre There won't be any, or very little.
R. What you want, then, is a biography?
Sartre Yes, a kind of biography that can be done only with documents. A literary biography, that is, the man with his tastes, his principles, his literary aesthetics . . . rediscover all those things in him, from his books and in him. That, I believe, is the work criticism should do.
R. Curiously enough, none of the articles we have before us mentions the teaching of philosophy, the way your philosophy could be taught. How did you teach philosophy?
Sartre That was a long time ago . . .
R. The problem is especially acute today. What would you advise?
Sartre That is a different question.
R. But what was your method?
Sartre I had to cover the philosophers included in the program and I did not teach strictly contemporary philosophers. And if I had ideas of my own . . .
R. According to the French system, you were the only philosopher in your lycée?
Sartre Yes.
R. Therefore, there was no possibility for discussion with other philosophers?
Sartre No. I gave professorial lectures, lectures ex cathedra, as they say; but I interrupted myself all the time to ask questions or to answer the questions I was asked. I thought that teaching consisted not in making an adult speak in front of young people but in having discussions with them starting from concrete problems. When they said, "This guy is an idiot: he
says this, but I have experienced something else," I had to explain to them that one could conceive of the matter differently.
R. Did you succeed in establishing the beginnings of reciprocity, since it is never completely reciprocal?
Sartre The reciprocity was rather strong. I should add that I was involved in other activities with my pupils, even boxing, and that helped. I also spent a lot of time drawing out the ideas they had in their heads.
R. Wasn't that method of teaching considered a little scandalous at the time?
Sartre Yes. I got reactions from colleagues, from the censor, from all those people. Moreover, I allowed my pupils to smoke in class, which met with great disapproval.
R. What do you think of the teaching of philosophy today?
Sartre As you know, in the proposed reform bill, philosophy is no longer required on the secondary school level.
R. Did you know that in the United States philosophy is not taught in secondary school but only in college?
Sartre In my opinion, it should be the other way around. I think, as someone has suggested, that a little philosophy could be taught up to the junior year of high school, enough to allow an understanding of the authors: for example, three hours a week.
To me, philosophy is everything. It is the way one lives. One lives as a philosopher. I live as a philosopher. That does not mean that I live as a good philosopher, but that my perceptions are philosophical perceptions, even when I look at that lamp or when I look at you. Consequently, it is a way of living and I think it should be taught as soon as possible, in simple language.
R. That is the conclusion we needed. Thank you for giving us this interview.
Publication Information: Book Title: The Philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre. Contributors: Paul Arthur Schilpp - editor. Publisher: Open Court. Place of Publication: La Salle, IL. Publication Year: 1981.

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