Sartre's relation to Kantian ethics ... seems to reveal what Harold Bloom would call 'an anxiety of influence'. (1)
In his hook The Anxiety of Influence. A Theory of Poetry, (2) Harold Bloom presents several 'revisionary ratios', that is, several ways in which an author may critically refer to his predecessor in order to separate himself (3) from the latter. The author's criticism of his predecessor manifests an anxiety of influence insofar as it overstates the differences and neglects the similarities between his and his predecessor's works. In this paper I shall show that some aspects of Sartre's criticism of Kant's moral theory in the Notebooks for an Ethics manifest an anxiety of influence.
In what follows, three of Sartre's critiques will be examined. The first refers to the abstract character of Kant's moral system. (4) According to Sartre's interpretation, in developing his moral system Kant hopes to be able to formulate moral precepts which will guide a person out of moral predicaments. However, the type of moral theory that Kant has in mind is, on Sartre's reading, unable to take account of the singularity of a person and of his situation, and hence ultimately it is unable to guide action.
The second critique questions Kant's individualism. For Sartre a categorical imperative (5) necessarily presupposes a relationship between free individuals. From this perspective, Kant's ethics is an expression of bad faith, since it tries to ground imperatives in a person's autonomous choice (defined as a choice which observes the moral law). Since he reduces what is necessarily the result of an interpersonal relationship to an intra-personal process of decision, Kant could legitimise his moral system only by an individualistic mystification. The latter would do away with the anxiety and responsibility that, in fact, only an ethics of values (the ethics which Sartre hopes to write and which is opposed to one of imperatives) can preserve.
Finally, Sartre criticises the 'authoritarianism' of Kant's moral theory and cast of reason: even if Kant's ethics were not abstract and individualistic, the fact that its criterion of morality is a universal and unconditional law, a fact which Kant seems to postulate as evident, suggests that he makes use of an arrogated moral authority and thus contradicts the freedom that is supposed to be the basis of his ethical system.
It may seem inappropriate to conclude a comparative analysis of two such great philosophers without providing an account of the relevant respects in which their views diverge. Nevertheless, in this paper I shall not offer such an account, and to explain why the comparative study undertaken here can do without it, a brief methodological excursus is necessary. Standardly, comparative studies devoted to Sartre and Kant begin with a presentation of several resemblances between the ways in which the two philosophers deal with a particular question or problem. (6) Then, given the obvious differences between them (between their styles of philosophising, the problems which concerned them, the contexts in which they wrote and thought, etc.), these studies try to set a limit on the significance of the resemblances initially pointed out. (7)
Given that the comparative analysis draws several parallels between the ways in which these thinkers deal with particular issues, and given that Kant and Sartre are very different philosophers, following this standard comparative method it is reasonable to expect a concluding account of the divergences between their philosophies. However, sometimes this requirement carries an urgency that may lead to hasty conclusions about where exactly Sartre and Kant part philosophical company. (8) This is only one of the problems of this standard comparative strategy.
A second important problem is specifically related to Sartre's and Kant's practical philosophies, and in particular to their ethical thought. In general the secondary literature on Kant and Sartre is scant, and there are several reasons for this, not the least important being Sartre's numerous disapproving references to Kant. (9) But with regard to their ethical theories, Sartre's disparaging references to his own attempts to articulate an ethical system add to this. Consequently, Sartre scholars either deny that there is an ethics in Sartre, or when they claim that an ethics could be found in his writings, they insist that this ethics should be understood differently, basically not as an ethical system. (10)
Hence a comparative study which tries first to find similarities between Sartre's and Kant's ethical thought would not really have a starting point, or else its conclusion would always be the same and known from the beginning. Agreement in their ways of developing ethical systems would not count, since Sartre constantly discounted his own views on the topic. Correspondences between their answers to meta-ethical questions or to questions of 'moral psychology' would perhaps be a better place to begin a comparison, but concerning their moral systems the conclusion about divergences in their ethical thought could be drawn from the beginning: it would have to do with the fact that Kant has a moral system, whereas Sartre does not.
An alternative comparative strategy was suggested to me by Christina Howells's remark quoted in the motto to this article, a strategy that I shall try to put to work in this paper. As we have seen in the brief presentation of the arguments of this paper, the alternative interpretative approach will not start from the similarities between Kant and Sartre, but from Sartre's criticism of Kant, hence from what he assumes distinguishes him from the German philosopher. Then it will try to evaluate Sartre's criticisms--not in order to assess their cogency and success in the attempt to undermine the position objected to, but primarily in order to see whether this position is indeed Kant's. If it is not, the subsequent move will not be that of drawing parallels between Kant's and Sartre's conceptions of a particular theme, as the more complex version of the standard approach would try to do; (11) instead the further important task will be that of making clear what Sartre tries to avoid in his criticisms, and how Kant's philosophy, on an accurate interpretation, succeeded in avoiding that.
This alternative approach has a better chance of escaping the second problem faced by the standard interpretative strategy. Thus, for instance, it is true that Sartre comes to reject the particular solution that he formulates in the Notebooks for an Ethics, concerning the problem of formulating an ethical system which is not abstract, individualistic and 'authoritarian'; but he does not reject the requirements that an ethics not be abstract, individualistic and 'authoritarian'. Hence the comparison has a starting point and the conclusion is informative. These negative 'meta-ethical' principles or constraints can be regarded as 'structural similarities' between Sartre's and Kant's ethical thoughts. Now in contradistinction to the standard comparative strategy, to highlight these structural similarities will not subsequently require us to account for the differences between the two philosophers, and this is why the alternative comparative method overcomes also the first difficulty faced by the standard approach.
For an architect the fact that the house he is supposed to design should not have more than three floors and fewer than three bedrooms does not mean that it is not possible to conceive several different plans compatible with these constraints. Similarly, the fact that Kant and Sartre share a commitment to several meta-ethical constraints concerning how an ethical system should be formulated does not mean that they would end up with the same moral theory. (12) Therefore, for a study which adopts this alternative comparative method the requirement to conclude its analysis with an account of the divergences between the authors compared is no longer a reasonable necessary condition. (13) In this paper, for instance, I shall not try to offer such an account, since unlike the argumentative similarities, the structural similarities between two authors are perfectly compatible with argumentative dissimilarities. (14)
An important implication of the comparison undertaken here is that showing how Sartre's reading of Kant manifests an anxiety of influence illustrates the way in which the alternative strategy works. Moreover, I think that this comparative analysis contributes to a better understanding not only of the relationship between Kant's and Sartre's practical philosophies, but also of the importance that the articulation of an ethical system had for Sartre. Furthermore, several of Sartre's criticisms of Kant's moral theory are echoed in contemporary debates between 'modernists' and 'postmodernists', and there are already signs that a shift towards at least a provisory synthesis of these conflicting positions is under way, a synthesis that could tackle very urgent current socio-political problems: (15) A better understanding of what kinds of challenges Sartre's objections raise and how they can be answered ethically can pave the way for such a synthesis. (16)
2. Clinamen: Sartre's Critique of the Abstract Character of Kant's Moral Theory
For Sartre, Kant's moral system has several features which are characteristic of an 'analytic' morality: (17) He traces the origins of the analytic morality back to the second half of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth century, when people became increasingly separated from their concrete community, and projected themselves towards a universal human community, in which all individuals would be the same abstract person. In this way, the totality of a concrete community is denied to the benefit of individual units that nevertheless seek to realise another communal totality (NE 88; CM 95). Morality becomes universal and abstract precisely because the abstract community that a person comes to relate himself to is nothing but an infinite repetition of himself; categorical imperatives are transformed into precepts addressed to the same abstract persons.
Because persons are deemed the same, actions and circumstances are regarded as the same, and the analytic morality asks questions in an inappropriate form, namely: what ought one to do in that particular circumstance? (NE 46; CM 52) (18) This type of question makes the assumption that human conduct is a reaction to events which are already invested with meaning, independently of the persons' fundamental projects. Circumstances are selected from among those which, because equally relevant for all, tend to become equally irrelevant for all. Thus, morality turns even more into a set of precepts, imperatives that command particular actions; it becomes a code, a morality of imperatives (NE 46-47; CM 52).
Hence, insofar as imperatival rules of action are formulated for abstract persons and situations, Kant's categorical imperatives are not useful when concrete situations are considered (NE 426; CM 441-42). Perhaps Sartre could accept a less harsh interpretation of Kant's moral system according to which the latter does not formulate rules which dictate how one ought to perform every particular action. Nevertheless, Sartre also implicitly attributes to Kant the intention of devising a set of principles for each significant situation, principles starting from which a person would deduce rules of action for his singular circumstances. This alleged intention of Kant would still reflect the analytic character of his moral system, which, on this interpretation as on the previous, harsher construal, would be similarly abstract and incapable of guiding action.
Thus, on the gentler interpretation, we can perhaps assume that Kant formulated categorical imperatives in order to determine, for paradigmatic situations, the purpose or goal to be pursued by a person. Moreover, we can accept that for Kant rules of action had to be deduced by each person starting from the imperative which would correspond to his situation, and paying attention to his singular circumstances. But even in that case, for Sartre, the moral demand of an imperative pertains to an abstract universalism and, from this perspective, is deprived of any practical force. It cannot guide concrete actions and, because these are the actions that human reality performs, 'Kantianism does not teach us anything' (NE 7; CM 14).
An imperative contained within a demand posits a purpose, but at the same time stipulates that no actual circumstance may be an excuse for not reaching it (NE 138; CM 146). The person, however, cannot be separated from the actual circumstances in which he lives, and therefore the categorical imperative posits the goal as essential, whereas the concrete person is deemed inessential. On Sartre's reading, this contrast is intensified in Kant since an imperative does not only command against the circumstances in which a person is, but also against the sensible characteristics 0f the person (sentiments, desires, feelings).
In fact, a categorical imperative presupposes the freedom of an abstract individual from his situation and addresses itself to freedom. Yet, Sartre says, the freedom addressed is not freedom as generosity, which 'penetrates' the circumstances of the concrete situation, but a 'purely negative freedom that affirms itself against the concrete man I am' (NE 138; CM 146). Hence, the Kantian analytic morality would still be a code, though one of particular principles and not of singular rules of action. The freedom affirmed by such a moral code would be based on the destruction of a person's concreteness. What remains of the concrete individual would be his pure, universal freedom, which is the same in him as in all the others (NE 139; CM 147).
Nevertheless, Sartre's critiques of the abstract character of Kant's moral theory (19) are based on what Harold Bloom would call a 'clinamen' (AI 14). Bloom borrows this term from Lucretius, where it stands for a swerve of atoms that makes change possible. Paraphrasing (20) Bloom, a 'philosopher swerves away from his precursor, by so reading his precursor's philosophy so as to execute a clinamen in relation to it. This appears as a corrective movement in his own philosophy, which implies that the precursor's philosophy went accurately up to a certain point, but then should have swerved, precisely in the direction that the new philosophy moves' (AI 14).
In Being and Nothingness Sartre claims that Kant's ethical system is the first great ethical system of doing. (21) From the perspective of the Notebooks for an Ethics, this claim is one of appreciation, since here Sartre defines ethics as a theory of action. But he immediately adds that 'action is abstract if it is not work and struggle' (NE 17; CM 24), by which he means that the action needs to incorporate the particular social and historical circumstances which give its concreteness and of which it is an expression. For Sartre, Kant's moral philosophy accurately focuses on action, as the proper object of study for ethics, but fails to 'swerve' towards concrete practical contexts.
However, Sartre's attempt to separate himself from Kant's practical philosophy in this way is far from successful precisely because, to paraphrase Bloom again, it is based on a philosophical 'misprision' (AI 14). This misreading becomes apparent if we look more closely at Kant's conceptual framework and the use he makes thereof when articulating his moral system. Kant defines a practical principle as a proposition that contains a general determination of the will. For instance, a principle, like 'You ought to help those in need', tells me what I ought to do, and, in this sense, determines my will to act in a particular way. Kant distinguishes two kinds of practical principles. First, maxims are practical principles in which the determination of the will is valid for me, but not for all other persons. Secondly, and in contrast with maxims, laws are practical principles in which the determination is valid for all. (22)
Every general determination of the will has under it several practical rules. Every rule describes an action as a means to a purpose, the purpose being given by a principle (CPrR 154; KPV 126; A36). For instance, to use one of Sartre's examples, the rule 'You ought not to give away this piece of information' can be a means to the end described by the principle 'A Frenchman ought not to collaborate with the Nazis in 1940'. (23) When we deal with a purely rational will, a law of pure practical reason determines the will spontaneously; there is no need for a demand or an imperative, just as there is no need to formulate laws of nature in the form of imperatives- we follow them spontaneously. In contrast, in the case of finite rational beings, whose rational faculties coexist with their sensible powers (powers of inclinations and sensible drives), practical laws cannot determine the will spontaneously, since they have to counteract the influence of the faculty of desire. Hence, reason in this case is not the only determining ground for the will, and the rules it devises contain an 'ought', which is the sign of imperatives (CPrR 154; KPV 125-26; A36-37).
For Kant imperatives may be hypothetical or categorical. When the purpose of a rule of action is adopted because it is a means to some other end, the imperative is hypothetical. Therefore, a hypothetical imperative cannot be a practical law since its validity is conditioned by the other end. In contrast, when the purpose is adopted because it is right, the imperative is no longer conditioned by the validity of a further purpose--it is an unconditional or categorical imperative (CPrR 154-55; KPV 126-27; A37-38). For instance, if the principle 'You ought to help those in need' is adopted merely because I happen to desire to help those in need and get pleasure out of this, then the purpose of helping those in need will be realised only when I happen to enjoy helping. However, if I adopt that principle because it is right, then its validity does not depend on my happening to desire something; the principle is in this sense unconditional or categorical; it ought to be applied, whether or not is desired.
When the will is determined by a practical principle in virtue of the fact that its purpose is desired, then it is determined by the matter of the principle. When the principle determines the will because its purpose is right, then the purpose does not primarily count as an object of desire, and Kant says that the will is determined not by the matter, but by the form of the principle. Hence, despite the distinction between maxims and practical laws, a maxim can function as a practical law for a limited rational person (more exactly, as a categorical imperative), when it determines the will by its form (CPrR 160; KPV 135-36; A48-49).
Now, it seems that Kant's moral theory has the conceptual resources to translate the problems raised by Sartre's first critique. On the harsher interpretation, he claims that two aspects of Kant's ethics reflect an abstract character: the formulation of practical rules and the formulation of practical principles. Moreover, he claims that Kant's ethics is abstract in two senses: it cannot account for the concrete circumstances a person is in, and it cannot account for the concrete characteristics of a person. Sartre regards the process of the formulation of both practical rules and principles in Kant's ethics as a process guided by the ideal of working out codes of rules and principles applicable in all situations). (24)
Hence, when Kant tries to find unconditional imperatives on the basis of which practical rules of action can be justified, Sartre construes his attempt as aiming to draw a code of imperatives, which does not take into account the particular characteristics of a person, and which is potentially applicable to every situation a person is in. The ensuing moral principles and rules of action will not be able to consider concrete persons and situations. Accurately interpreted, however, Kant's moral theory proves to have the guiding force that Sartre requires. Thus, in his article 'Kants kategorischer Imperativ als Kriterium des Sittlichen', Otfried Hoffe offers an account of Kant's Categorical Imperative in which he makes it clear that all the elements of the conceptual framework that Kant develops in his practical philosophy have to be carefully considered. (25) Particularly important is Kant's notion of a maxim as 'the object of the generalisation' presupposed by the Categorical Imperative (KKI 356), a notion to which, Hoffe reports elsewhere, Kant did not pay much attention because in his practical philosophy he was mainly concerned to refute ethical empiricism and scepticism. (26) On Hoffe's interpretation, in order to decide whether a particular action is morally permitted or forbidden, one has first to find a maxim for it.
An action which is described by the same rule of action may be subsumed under different maxims, depending on the context in which the action is performed (KKI 356). Here Hoffe uses the example of a rule of action that prescribes that one should sing a song every evening. Depending on whether one lives in a house with many tenants and with the walls poorly soundproofed, or one lives in a house only with one's family and sings to entertain, or whether one sings in order to improve one's voice, or on the contrary one refuses to do this in order to spare one's weak voice we have different attitudes with regard to the same practical rule, since each action is assessed as being under a different maxim. Or, when it is assessed as being under the same maxim, like in the last two examples, one ends up with two different attitudes depending on the capacity of the persons involved. Hence, even when the same rule of action is subsumed under the same maxim, the rule can be followed differently depending on the situation in which a person finds himself (KKI 363). Hoffe concludes that in the maxim one finds neither a precise description of a concrete action, nor a setting of decision for an arbitrary choice [Willkur]. Precisely which action is to be performed can be established neither on the basis of the maxim, nor simply according to inclinations (KKI 363). (27)
On Hoffe's reading, in Kant's moral theory, one asks the agent himself to invent [erfinden] through a corresponding process of judgement the individual structure of moral action and to realise it by his own actions (KKI 364). The power of judgement has the task of interpreting and estimating in order to make possible the connection between the concrete situation and the corresponding maxim, and eventually to obtain precise practical rules.
The general framework of Kant's argument can be summarised as a two-step process (KKI 365). First, and less important for our purposes here, Kant needs to justify, to expose and legitimise the Categorical Imperative as a moral criterion. The second step refers to the specification of the Categorical Imperative. In the first instance, different maxims are legitimised or disqualified through the test put forward by the Categorical Imperative. Then, moral maxims are applied in concrete situations with the help of the moral faculty of judgement. As it has already been mentioned, Kant was not so much interested in this second step, even though in the chapters on 'Casuistical questions' in the Metaphysics of Morals, he offers some hints with regard to the applicability of his ethics (KKI 365). (28)
When Sartre criticised Kant's ethics as an abstract moral theory, which overlooks the concrete situations and individuals and commands particular imperatives as absolute, he fell prey to two interrelated misinterpretations of Kant's ethics. First, he claimed that, in deriving rules of action from maxims, Kant does not take into account the circumstances of the concrete situation a person is in, and the particularities of the concrete person himself. Secondly, he claimed that, in deriving maxims of action by means of the moral criterion (the Categorical Imperative), Kant does not take into account the concrete situation which is being judged. Hence he concluded that Kant's moral system is out of joint with the concrete situations and characteristics that constitute the moral context of any action in reality. (29)
In fact, we have seen that, when he formulates rules of action, Kant is not guided by the idea of a code of norms that ought to be applied in every situation. First, in order to decide which rule of action ought to be applied in a certain situation, we have seen that Kant considers as necessary a study of the person's circumstances and characteristics. Secondly, since circumstances and characteristics change, one has to take them into account each time a moral problem arises. As the example provided by Hoffe shows, a person should not follow the same rule of action independently of the relevant circumstances or the relevant characteristics. (30)
Moreover, when he formulates maxims for certain actions, a person has to invent the maxim, and the exact formulation of the maxim will depend again on the singular circumstances of the situation the person is in, as well as on that person's characteristics. Hence, once more, Kant does not hope to be able to provide a code of valid maxims that should be applied in every context, let alone to choose an appropriate maxim without the knowledge of the context. (31) For Kant, devising maxims and rules of action on the Categorical Imperative is not like deriving a conclusion from the premises of a syllogism in logic. Moreover, the Categorical Imperative is only a negative test, a test for deciding which maxims and rules of action are not right. As we will also see in the next section, to choose the right action implies some judgemental effort on the part of the agent.
3. Tessera: Sartre's Critique of Kant's Individualist Moral Theory
Even though Kant's moral system is not abstract in the twofold sense discussed above, some of the other objections to 'Kantianism' that Sartre formulates in the Notebooks for an Ethics seem to offer serious grounds for criticism. Among these objections, particularly interesting and challenging is his critique of Kant's individualism, on which this section will focus. For Sartre a demand is the form in which a morally valid imperative is expressed, (32) and he identifies as a necessary aspect of the demand its interpersonal character (NE 256; CM 263). Since in Kant's ethics morally valid imperatives are portrayed as the result of the individual's autonomous choices, the implication is that Kant overlooks the interpersonal character of the demand and tries to replace it with a sort of intra-personal test (the moral law as an expression of a person's autonomy).
If Sartre were right, Kant's account of imperatives would seem to be a form of bad faith, more exactly the reverse of the conduct identified by Sartre in a person's impure reflection (BN 152-54; EN 198-201). Thus, instead of taking a person's consciousness reflected-on as the consciousness of another For-itself, Kant seems to intend a reduction of an interpersonal relationship to a connection between the reflecting consciousness and the consciousness reflected-on of the same For-itself; hence, the individualism of Kant's moral system. To show that the moral demand of an imperative presupposes an interpersonal relationship, Sartre contrasts the normative force of an imperative with the ideality of a value. According to Sartre, there are two features of a demand that cannot be accounted for in terms of the defining characteristics of values. First, a demand makes me obey, subjects me to an end or purpose (I am the means to that purpose), and, secondly, a demand imposes on me a duty to realise an end without, however, requiring that I make it 'be as an end' (the purpose maintains its validity independently of my choice) (NE 250;CM 261).
The projection of a value is in fact the choice of one of my possibilities as an end to be realised. From the perspective of my end the world is revealed as a set of tools for the realisation of the end, and the perception of the world as a set of tools reveals my end as valuable (NE 240; CM 250-51). The end is not a purpose to which I am a means, but it is my possibility, in the pursuit of which I can realise myself by means of, and against, the world (NE 246; CM 256). As soon as my possibility is no longer revealed to me as an ideal (either because it appears as impossible, or because it is overshadowed by another ideal), it disappears as an end for my action (NE 248; CM 258-59). In contrast, the purpose established by a demand exists independently of my choices and transforms me into a means for its realisation. A duty or an obligation is my duty or obligation even if I fail to recognise it as such. Hence, according to Sartre, the demand of an imperative cannot be grounded in the individual person, but can only emerge through the Other, more exactly through the 'living categories of the For-others' (NE 250; CM 261).
The original source of demand is not duty as universal and unconditional; on the contrary, it is in the demand of a person vis-a-vis another that duty finds its origin (NE 238; CM 248). Kant may reply that a categorical imperative is not necessarily dependent for its validity on an interpersonal relation. He can argue for it as grounded in the freedom (autonomy) of the individual. We have seen that in a moral action his will is determined by the lawgiving form of a maxim, and not by the sensible incentives produced by the faculty of desire. In this sense, the will is beyond the sensible world of experience. Since it cannot be determined by the entities of the noumenal realm (the things in themselves), because this has the contradictory implication that things in themselves at the same time are and cannot be experienced, the will can find a determining ground only in its own law. Sartre acknowledges this argument, but claims that 'the freedom that for Kant upholds the categorical imperative is noumenal therefore the freedom of another. It is separated by that slight stream of nothingness which suffices so that I am not it. It is the projection of the Other in the noumenal world. There is a demand only through another freedom' (NE 139; CM 147).
For Sartre, contrary to Kant, the transcendent realm is no longer beyond our experience as sensible beings. Following one of the main ontological presuppositions of phenomenology, Sartre denies the distinction between the phenomenal and the noumenal worlds. When he claims that Kant's categorical imperative is based upon a noumenal freedom which is nothing else than the freedom of the other, he hints at a distinction that Kant draws both in the Groundwork, and in the Critique of Practical Reason. (33) For Kant, a human being can regard himself from two points of view: 'first, insofar as he belongs to the world of sense, under laws of nature (heteronomy); second, as he belongs to the intelligible world under laws which, being independent of nature, are not empirical but grounded merely in reason'. (34) The power which distinguishes human beings from other sensible beings is reason. But, what is more, Kant claims that reason does not distinguish human beings only from other sensible beings. He claims that reason actually distinguishes a human being 'even from himself insofar as he is affected by objects' (GMM 99; GMS 88; BA 107-8). Sartre alludes then to this distinction and identifies in it an ambiguity in the definition of human reality.
In fact, Sartre claims, the self-legislative reason which grounds the consciousness of the moral law represents the projection of a self into the noumenal or intelligible realm as the Other. Since in a demand the imperative which formulates a duty or an obligation is based on an interpersonal relationship, and since on Kant's account this relationship is replaced with one between a self and an other as two aspects of the same person, Kant had to create a duality sufficiently strong to suggest an interpersonal relationship without compromising completely a person's unity. This, according to Sartre, is a 'sleight of hand' which tries to maintain the appearance of freedom without the anxiety of the free choice (NE 255; CM 265-66).
Thus, when I exercise my freedom in concrete situations, 'I exist my unconditional freedom and I am my own project in its autonomy' (NE 257; CM 267). On this level, I choose ends which are in fact my possibilities of realising a fundamental project. However, as soon as I try to justify my ends by appeal to an 'absolute' purpose, the value of my ends gets transformed, it becomes 'an objectified and transcendent value that passes through my subjectivity' (NE 257; CM 267-68). The role I play changes from that of a person who creates ends and grounds them in his free choice, to a person who participates in the realisation of ends which are grounded independently of his choices.
Insofar as my appeal to an 'absolute' purpose is an attempt to justify the value of my actions, I implicitly affirm that this purpose is justified in its turn and that my implicit choice was free. For Sartre, this 'absolute' purpose is based on freedom, but on the freedom of the Other. However, since I take this freedom to be my freedom, I can deem the 'absolute' purpose justified and, together with it, my other ends as well. This conduct in bad faith has a motivation: 'In exchange for this mystification I do have one advantage: my freedom is safe from anxiety. Indeed it is discharged of any anxiety by that freedom in back of freedom that takes it upon itself to decide on my ends' (NE 257; CM 268). Since in Kant's ethical system categorical imperatives are justified as based on the individual's freedom, it follows that his practical philosophy can only be grounded in these forms of mystification and bad faith.
However, this second critique of the individualism of Kant's moral theory is based on what Harold Bloom would call a 'tessera', that is, the search for completion and antithesis. He takes this term from the ancient mystery cults, where it meant a token of recognition which, with other pieces of the same kind, would reconstitute an object (AI 14). Paraphrasing Bloom, one could define tessera as a relation in which 'a philosopher antithetically "completes" his precursor, by so reading the parent-philosophy as to retain its terms but to mean them in another sense, as though the precursor had failed to go far enough' (AI 14). Sartre retains Kant's notion of 'transcendence', which for the German philosopher represented the noumenal realm of things in themselves, but he makes it refer to the world (which is beyond a person's consciousness). For Sartre, as for Kant moreover, the ground of a demand's imperative is another than the person on whom the demand is imposed; Sartre even acknowledges that 'in Kantian freedom there is a duality of the atemporal and the temporal that does a good job of depicting the structure of obligation' (NE 253; CM 264). (35) However, unlike Kant for whom the 'other' (the source of the demand) refers to the same person regarded from a different standpoint, Sartre takes this 'other' to refer to another person. Sartre wants thus to retain key terms of Kant's philosophy, but he thinks that they should be invested with another meaning. (36)
This reflects again an anxiety of influence, due again to an inaccurate reading of Kant. The key distinguishing feature that Sartre identifies in the comparison between imperatives and values is their normative force. (37) In order for a value to determine my will to act, I have to choose its end as my possibility. This end is normative ('to be realised') insofar as I choose it, otherwise it does not determine my will and cannot motivate me. In contrast, in order for an imperative to be a moral imperative, and hence to be normative, I need not choose its purpose as my possibility. In fact, as Sartre acknowledges, even if I tried that, I could still not choose its purpose as my possibility, since its normative force goes beyond my actual choice of a purpose: 'even if all our desires were conformed to our obligation and as a consequence served the pure Will, there would still remain an underlying duality that is the source and ground of all the others' (NE 256; CM 267). (38)
The underlying duality that, for Sartre, differentiates between values and imperatives is, in fact, a distinction between a purpose (or principle), as regarded by a descriptive account of action, and a purpose (or principle), as presented by a prescriptive account of action. Thus, when he claims that the end of a value is 'to be realised' if I actually choose it as my possibility, he describes the necessary condition for a person to act in order to reach, against certain adverse circumstances, an end. In contrast, when he asserts that the purpose of an imperative is 'to be realised' independently of, and even against, my actual choice of it as my possibility, he formulates a condition for how a person ought to act.
We have seen that, for Kant, to determine how a person ought to act, that person has to formulate maxims on the basis of a careful consideration of his circumstances and abilities. Maxims are then tested on the basis of the Categorical Imperative, and the moral imperative thus selected is applied to the person's particular situation. If a maxim which passed the test imposed by the Categorical Imperative is adopted in virtue of its 'object', that is, if the maxim is adopted by a person because he happens to actually choose the maxira's purpose as an end to be realised, then the maxim is not a practical law (CPrR 167; KPV 145; A59-60).
This suggests that, at least for Kant, to act morally a person has not only to choose a maxim for his action, but also has to evaluate the reasons why he adopted that maxim. According to Sartre, in order to determine whether the end of a value is 'to be realised' by a person, we should simply determine whether or not the person has chosen that end; actual choice is in this case both a necessary and a sufficient condition for the normativity of an end, but it is no longer a necessary condition for the purposes of categorical imperatives. Kant provides this necessary condition: a moral imperative requires that it be adopted for a certain kind of reason. Therefore, on this level, Kant's and Sartre's accounts are compatible: when he acts, a person follows an end or principle as 'to be realised' in virtue of the fact that he has chosen that end or principle. Hence, the person regards himself as an agent who lacks that end or principle. In contrast, the purpose of an imperative is normative to the extent that the person is an agent who lacks that purpose, whether or not the person actually regards himself in that way.
The distinction between these two reflecting perspectives is necessary if ethics is to play any role. Thus, without such a distinction, whatever a person would choose as an end for his action would have to be considered as morally valuable. For instance, on Sartre's account of values the only condition for an end to be valuable is to have been chosen by a person. Insofar as values like authenticity or generosity are to have any ethical meaning in Sartre's existentialism, they have to share the status of Kantian imperatives, that is, they have to tell us which, among the chosen values, are authentic and ought to be pursued, and which are not. Hence, they have to tell us something about the good type of reasons that we ought to employ in our choices.
The distinction between a person as regarded from a subjective standpoint and as considered from an objective perspective is equally meaningful in a first-person account of action as it is in a third-person one. Thus, in the same way in which I can say that what a person considers as valuable is not necessarily ethically valid, I can also say that what seems to me to be good is not necessarily morally worthy. Sartre's emphasis on the difference between the methodology required by an ethics and that of Being and Nothingness shows that he actually accepts the distinction between an empirical agent (how a person sees himself), and a rational moral agent (how a person ought to see himself). Consequently, he must also accept that it is possible to ground categorical imperatives in an other's demand, where the 'other' is not another person, but the same person, this time as an other, rational individual. (39)
We have seen that the reasons for adopting a certain maxim are as important for the maxim's moral validity as is the method of its formulation. To adopt a maxim simply because someone else says it is the right maxim is not a good reason, since that other person may be wrong in his claim. To show that the person is right, and that his authority is rightly accepted by me is to abandon the initial reason for adopting the maxim (namely, that it is formulated by a person that I happen to consider as a moral authority), and provide reasons which may at least have a chance to prove the maxim's moral validity, that is, its validity for all. Hence my choice should be made on reasons which can identify a morally valid maxim, one which can be adopted not only by me, but at the same time by all, that is, universally.
This is exactly the test that is expressed by the Categorical Imperative (in one of its three formulations): 'So act that the maxim of your will could always hold at the same time as a principle in a giving of universal law' (CPrR 164; KPV 140; A54). Now, assuming that it is possible to regard moral imperatives as the result of a person's self-legislation (autonomy), the objection remains that Kant's morality becomes free of anxiety, and hence prey to the spirit of seriousness. But what I choose as nay purpose on the basis of this test may turn out to be wrong. This could happen either because I have missed a relevant aspect of my situation, or because I am not able to formulate properly my maxim and I have the impression that my action passes the test of the Categorical Imperative, or because I have not properly evaluated my relevant capacities and abilities.
At any rate, despite the fact that I can never be absolutely sure that my autonomously chosen maxim is morally valid, I can always be absolutely certain that a maxim chosen heteronomously is not morally valid, for instance when I choose a maxim just because a person I happen to admire has decided to follow it. Still, it should be stressed again that despite the fact that in exercising my autonomy I have more chances of acting morally, there is no guarantee that I really acted thus. Hence in Kant's ethics a person has to make a judgemental effort in order to decide how to act, and his decision and action presuppose both anxiety and responsibility. (40)
Perhaps Sartre's objection to Kant's individualist moral theory can be placed on a different plane, rephrased, and redirected against a more fundamental aspect of Kant's ethics. Thus, if an autonomous choice can never guarantee its moral validity, then perhaps the split between the rational and the empirical aspects of a person, which grounds Kant's conception of autonomy, is not sufficient to account for the duality introduced by the ethical question. Hence, the major problem with Kant's ethics may seem to lie with the very introduction of a split in the person. Indeed, it seems that for Kant there is a fundamental ambiguity in the definition of the subject. For him there is both a clear-cut distinction between the subject as a sensible being and the subject as a transcendent being (GMM 116; GMS 93; BA115-16), on the one hand, and a unity of these two aspects of the subject, since they 'must be thought as necessarily united in the same subject' (GMM 116; GMS 93; BA115), on the other hand. In fact, Kant's claim that this unity must be conceived as necessarily united relates to his claim that the Categorical Imperative, as a synthetic a priori proposition, is possible only when the subject conceives himself as belonging both to the phenomenal and to the noumenal world (GMM 114; GMS 90; BA 111).
If one looks from a transcendental perspective at this ambiguity, it appears that Kant's emphasis on the necessity of conceiving the two aspects or terms of human subjectivity as necessarily combined in the same person, provides us with
... a perfect definition ... of an essentialist grasping of human ambiguity: 'by one look ... with both its terms'. We could place the perspective ... which refuses to distinguish the two terms on the one side of this standpoint, and all metaphysical dualism which effects in principle their separation, and which afterwards shows itself incapable of placing them back in connection--unless through an arbitrary move towards a monism of Matter or Spirit--on the other side. In both cases, it seems that the possibility of a Morality is compromised. Indeed, if it is true ... that the moral attitude is as such only at the expense of not being continuous with a natural attitude--that is to say, if it requires a revolution beyond all evolution; and if it is equally true that, in order for its value to be preserved, this revolution must be accomplished by the very subject who is in evolution--then only an ontology which maintains the ambiguity in the very heart of the action performed by the subject, and which refuses to reabsorb it in some artificial unity as well as to separate it in a duality of independent substances, can provide a starting point for Morality, a starting point which would not be an illusion. (41)
But this passage is a description of Sartre's ethics of ambiguity, presented by Francis Jeanson in a book highly praised by Sartre for its accurate account of his philosophy; thus, like his first critique, Sartre's second critique actually reveals a profound structural similarity between Kant's and his own ethics. (42)
4. Askesir: Sartre's Critique of Kant's 'Authoritarian' Moral Theory
Sartre's third critique of Kant's moral system is no longer restricted to one particular aspect of Kant's practical philosophy, but aims at questioning his entire thought. We have seen that the normative origin of categorical imperatives is an unconditional and universal obligation, which is expressed by the Categorical Imperative. Despite Kant's distinction between rules of action, moral maxims (practical principles or imperatives), and the criterion of morality (the Categorical Imperative), and hence despite the fact that the Categorical Imperative is not a rigid rule of action and does not postulate particular rules of action or maxims as applicable to all situations, its universality and unconditional validity do suggest that the philosophical system it grounds is fixed once and for all. (43)
From this perspective Sartre contrasts Kant's philosophy with existentialism: 'After Kant, morality is set forever as is the tenor of reason and the orientation of science... Existentialism does not give itself out to be the end of History, or even as a form of progress. It simply wants to give an account through discourse of the absolute that each man is for himself within the relative' (NE 92; CM 99). For Sartre, all 'true' philosophy should put an end to History, since it discovers what it is, what is possible, what is impossible (NE 92; CM 99). Existentialism, however, cannot satisfy this condition; the very notion of possibility is either an epistemological concept, which requires a witness to whom the possibility is given in front of the world, or an ontological structure of the real, and in that case it belongs to certain beings as their possibility. In both cases, the possibility does not belong to being. It is either given to us, or it is ours (BN 81; EN 123-24). What is possible or impossible, as well as what it is, become either a matter of interpretation or a matter of personal possibility, which is permanently related to the person's freedom of creating his projects.
Initially seen as the mark of a true philosophy, the capacity to formulate an absolute end is transformed from the perspective of existentialism into a deficiency. Thus, Sartre claims that the sadness of all philosophy is that it declares itself in its own way as the end of History. Moreover, Sartre adds, every human being feels repugnance for an end of History, since every human being wants to make himself and to make his world in creative ignorance (NE 92; CM 99).
We have seen that Kant's moral theory is not more abstract and individualistic than the ethics Sartre is searching for; the Categorical Imperative is not meant to provide a set of unconditional standards which directly command actions, nor is it based on a mystification which tries to hide the interpersonal character of moral imperatives behind individual autonomy. Sartre's critique of these two constructivist (44) aspects of 'Kantianism' fail with regard to Kant's moral theory and foreshadow the type of ethics that Sartre hopes to articulate. From the perspective of this third objection, Kant's Categorical Imperative is critically portrayed as a fixed law, which presupposes that human beings have a certain purpose and that they ought to pursue this purpose in their actions. Consequently, it is difficult to see how Kant's positing of the Categorical Imperative as an absolute obligation can escape the charge of 'authoritarianism' and can be reconciled with the radical autonomy of the person.
However, Sartre's third critique of Kant's philosophy seems to be based on what Harold Bloom would call 'askesis'. He takes the term from the practice of pre-Socratic shamans and defines it as a movement of curtailing (AI 15). Thus, paraphrasing Bloom, in this attempt to escape the anxiety of influence, the later philosopher 'yields up part of his human and imaginative endowment, so as to separate himself from others, including the precursor, and he does this in his philosophy by so stationing it in regard to the parent-philosophy as to make that philosophy undergo an askesis too; the precursor's endowment is also truncated' (AI 15). Thus Sartre denies existentialism the capacity to set absolute ends, despite the fact that this is the mark of a 'true' philosophy. His critique of Kant is that the latter's systematic philosophy is precisely fixing the way in which we should approach the world, and in so doing he neglects precisely one of the most significant concepts of his philosophy: the freedom of rational persons.
Sartre is right that Kant's Categorical Imperative formulates a universal and unconditional obligation for all limited rational beings. The universality and unconditionality of this obligation is absolute in comparison with the more specific obligations expressed by morally valid maxims and rules of action. A maxim is universal in the sense that all persons ought to act according to it when they are in the type of situation that this maxim appropriately regulates; or, in other words, the fact that in the relevant situation actions ought to be performed according to that maxim holds for all. Hence, we can distinguish between a 'cognitive' validity of the maxim, which is universal in an unrestricted sense, and its 'practical' validity, which is universal in a restricted sense: only those persons who are in the appropriate situation ought to act under its moral authority. Hence, a particular morally valid maxim should not be acted upon by all persons who happen to be in a morally problematic context, but only by those who are in the relevant context.
The case of a rule of action is similar; this time, however, the degree of universality and unconditionality reduces even more, since, as we have seen, a rule of action also takes into account the capacities, abilities, and other relevant features of the agent. In contrast to morally valid maxims and rules of action, the Categorical Imperative is supposed to apply to all morally problematic contexts and for all limited rational beings, this not only in the cognitive sense, but also in the practical one.
Sartre is also right to note that the Categorical Imperative will posit an unconditional and universal purpose. This is not only because for Kant any practical principle presupposed such a purpose (sometimes he is unclear about what exactly he takes this purpose to be in the case of morally valid imperatives (45)), but primarily because this unconditional and universal purpose plays a very important role in Kant's philosophy. Kant is more specific about the purpose or object of practical reason in the 'Dialectic of pure practical reason', more exactly in the chapter 'On the concept of an object of pure practical reason'.
For him the only object of pure practical reason is what is morally good (CPrR 186; KPV 174; A101). This object cannot be defined starting from what is pleasant, since that would mean to make what is morally good dependent on experience, and hence, to present moral goodness as relative to the subjective and contingent experience of a person (CPrR 186-87; KPV 175; A102). Defined in this way, moral goodness would not be unconditionally good, and, assuming with Kant that persons are equal as moral agents, the conclusion would be that what is morally good for me, now, may turn out to be morally bad for another person, or even for me at a different moment in time.
Furthermore, Kant adds that even in the ordinary language 'pleasant' is distinguished from 'good': not everything that is pleasant is morally good. Since the moral law expresses the necessary condition for a principle to be morally good, and hence morally valid, the notion of the good is to be defined starting from the moral law. For instance, the action of a will determined by a morally valid maxim is good in itself (CPrR 190; KPV 180; A109). The conclusion is that one has to determine first the moral law, and only after that and by means of it, should one define the concept of the good (CPrR 190; KPV 180; A110).
For Kant the ancient philosophers committed the conceptual fallacy of defining first the good, and then the moral law. They placed this value either in happiness, or in perfection, or in moral feeling, or in the will of God. The principle derived from this value, as a principle of action which contributes to its realisation, places the origin of moral goodness in something which cannot be objectively valid, since it depends on the contingent experiences or beliefs of a person (CPrR 191-92; KPV 182-83; A113-14). In this way, they confused two distinct notions--the good, as a principle of virtue, and the pleasant, as a principle of happiness.
In the 'Antinomy of practical reason' Kant excludes a merely analytic connection between virtue and happiness: happiness is not merely part of virtue and virtue does not necessarily imply happiness (CPrR 231; KPV 242; A204). Both virtue and happiness are relatively independent parts which contribute to the whole, or perfect good (summum bonum). This whole or perfect good is the universal and unconditional purpose that is posited by the Categorical Imperative and to which Sartre refers in his critique of Kant's 'authoritarian' moral system.
Happiness is a very important part of this moral purpose, Kant says, because limited rational beings are also sensible beings for whom the satisfaction of wants is a rational demand, and hence is part of the moral good (CPrR 189; KPV 179; A108). The antinomy of practical reason is the result of the attempt to conceive of the summum bonum as a unitary purpose constituting these two distinct goals: virtue and happiness (CPrR 231; KPV 242; A204). Thus, to conceive of this purpose as realisable by the pursuit of happiness is not possible, since the action which has happiness as an end is not moral, but only pleasant; conversely, a virtuous action is not necessarily pleasant, since, as we have seen, (46) in a moral action one is concerned with the form of the maxim and not with the realisation of the object (the 'matter') of the maxim (happiness).
Kant's solution to the antinomy of practical reason starts from the difference between the pursuit of virtue and that of happiness. Thus, the latter makes impossible the former, but the former does not necessarily exclude the latter (CPrR 232; KPV 243; A206). Hence, the summum bonum, as the supreme end of a morally determined will, is possible insofar as the relation between virtue and happiness can be considered as one of causality, with virtue possibly leading to happiness (CPrR 232; KPV 244; A207). The summum bonum becomes a purpose for the realisation of which limited rational beings have to act morally.
Now one problem which the positing of this purpose suggests is that Kant assumes that there is a moral law or a Categorical Imperative, and limited rational beings can act by having their will determined by categorical imperatives. (47) In the 'Critique of practical Reason' he claims that he is able to demonstrate what he takes to be 'the keystone of the whole structure of a system of pure reason', namely that 'freedom is real' (CPrR 139; KPV 107-8; A4-5). For Kant the idea of freedom 'reveals itself through the moral law' (CPrR 139; KPV 108; A105), hence to prove the existence of the moral law becomes the main aim of the 'Critique'.
The reason why this turns out to be a problem is that the moral law is demonstrated on the basis of a 'fact of reason', which represents the 'consciousness of this fundamental law' and which 'one cannot reason ... out from antecedent data of reason ... because it instead forces itself upon us of itself as a synthetic a priori proposition that is not based on any intuition' (CPrR 164; KPV 141-42; A55-56). Therefore, it is not surprising that Sartre sees in Kant's moral system an 'authoritarian' theory which not only posits a universal and unconditional purpose, but justifies its reality by a putative 'fact' that appears to be an unjustified datum, the authority for the imposition of which Kant seems to arrogate too easily. (48)
Now according to Kant the fact of reason proves not only the existence of the Categorical Imperative, but also the practical force of pure reason, its capacity to command an action on the basis of the form of moral imperatives alone. (49) For Kant,
one need only analyse the judgement that people pass on the lawfulness of their actions in order to find that, whatever inclination may say to the contrary, their reason, incorruptible and self-constrained, always holds the maxim of the will in an action up to the pure will, that is, to itself inasmuch as it regards itself as a priori practical. (CPrR 165; KPV 142; A55) (50)
However, this means that, insofar as a person questions the ends of his actions and tries to determine how he ought to act, he has already assumed implicitly the validity of the Categorical Imperative. We have seen that to adopt the perspective of a moral agent in order to judge the moral worth of the empirical agent's ends is to assume that it is possible to determine which actions and principles of action are right and ought to be followed. But a morally valid principle or rule of action is valid for all; hence at the same time, both that agent and all rational agents should be able to will and follow it. But the latter is exactly the condition imposed by the Categorical Imperative. (51)
This means that Kant does not assume dogmatically the validity of the Categorical Imperative; he puts forward an argument for it. To be sure, this implies that the argument may be challenged and, together with it, the unconditional and universal purpose (summum bonum) that Kant posits for all rational agents. However, this very challenge presupposes a distinction between a right and a wrong argument; in other words, the validity of the unconditional and universal law and purpose is compatible with the freedom of the limited rational person. As Kant says in the Critique of Pure Reason:
But putting the investigating as well as the examining reason in a state of complete freedom--so that it can attend unhindered to its own interest--is always and without any doubt beneficial. Reason furthers this interest just as much by setting limits to its own insight as it does by expanding them; and this interest always suffers when outside hands intervene to lead reason--against its natural course--in accordance with forced aims. (CPR 691; KRV 760; A744/B772)
In this paper I have argued that, starting from an alternative comparative method, it can be shown that Sartre's criticism of Kant's moral system reveals an anxiety of influence. Kant was mainly interested in refuting moral empiricism and scepticism by a justification of an unconditional and universal criterion of morality; this strong emphasis on the justification of moral normativity left unanswered issues related to the application of the criterion of morality to concrete situations. Without taking into account the conceptual wealth of Kant's thought and without preserving the flexibility of his premises, Sartre tries to draw those implications pertaining to the application of Kant's system. He then criticises the abstract character of what appears to be an ethical system incapable of guiding action. But in his objections Sartre is misled by this absence in Kant of an appropriate account of the application of the Categorical Imperative.
His second objection to Kant's ethics is based on an accurate presentation of Kant's 'two-standpoint' view, as well as of his account of obligation. Yet, the terrain on which Sartre tries to rework these Kantian insights is not the appropriate one. Sartre remains on the level of a phenomenological description of action, whereas Kant's discourse takes place on the level of practical philosophy, namely that of a prescriptive account of action. He sees a person's values as the aims which make a person act in order to realise the ends he has chosen, and he regards imperatives as morally valid principles according to which a person ought to act, whether or not he has chosen them. Consequently, he claims that, in contrast to Kant's ethics of imperatives, an ethics of values is able to preserve a person's autonomy as the main ground of moral normativity without recourse to a mystification by which interpersonal relationships are reduced to intra-personal processes and by which anxiety disappears.
But Sartre misconstrues Kant's moral ethics as a theory which guarantees the discovery of such imperatives and the morality of the actions which conform to them. In fact, on the basis of the reasons a person has for choosing a certain end or principle, Kant distinguishes between an end or principle which determines a person to act and one which ought to determine a person to act. Hence, that an end or principle is chosen is neither necessary nor sufficient for its validity. This does not mean that a person should act on the ends or principles chosen by others; it only means that the choice and the action should be performed for the appropriate reasons. But to determine what principle and what action can be chosen for the appropriate reasons requires a judgemental effort which can never guarantee that the action is moral and which can never make anxiety disappear.
By the time he was preparing the lectures on ethics for Cornell University, Sartre came to realise that the distinction between values and imperatives is not as clear-cut as he initially thought. (52) Whereas Sartre may have realised the misinterpretation on which his second critique of Kant was based, his inaccurate reading of Kant, which constitutes the background of his third objection, can be also found in the Critique of Dialectical Reason. In particular his critique of Kant's notion of a purpose of universal history that Kant, on Sartre's reading, would regard as both constitutive and regulative, is a continuation of the third critique presented in this paper.
Sartre takes the fact of reason to be the result of Kant's arrogated moral authority by which the German philosopher would simply dictate a purpose associated with the Categorical Imperative. For Kant to act according to the Categorical Imperative is to act with a view to the summum bonum, that is, to the realisation of a world in which persons who are worthy of happiness are also happy. Sartre questions the compatibility between Kant's fact of reason and summum bonum, on the one hand, and the freedom that his German predecessor claims is the keystone of his moral system, on the other. He will later reiterate the implicit question concerning the compatibility between freedom and Kant's suggestion that the summum bonum can be taken as a working hypothesis for a universal history. But he does not acknowledge that the fact of reason is not only compatible with freedom, but it is actually made possible by freedom.
What is the upshot of all of this? Apart from the fact that Sartre's criticism of Kant manifests an anxiety of influence, the comparative analysis undertaken here has shown that Sartre and Kant share in fact a commitment to three constraints which must be observed by any attempt to develop an ethical system: an ethical system must not be abstract, individualistic, and 'authoritarian' in the sense defined above. Since Kant has succeeded in devising such a system, it follows that other ethical systems that observe these constraints are possible. Two conclusions can be drawn concerning Sartre's constant search for an ethical system. Sartre's repeated attempts to author a moral system show, first, that he probably realised that such a system is possible, and, secondly, that he thought that Kant's moral system has several problems despite the fact that these are not captured by its abstract character, by its individualism, and 'authoritarianism'.
One final question may be raised concerning the relation between the anxiety of influence and the anxiety which Sartre explicitly refers to in the formulation of his second critique of Kant, and which he implicitly employs in the other two critiques. For Bloom, the anxiety of influence is the consequence of an obvious fact: 'Every disciple takes away something from his master' (AI 6). This appropriation 'involves the immense anxiety of influence, for what strong maker desires the realisation that he has failed to create himself?' (AI 5). (53) At first sight, the anxiety of influence and Sartrean anxiety are two conflicting reactions: the first is brought about by a suspected lack of creative freedom, and the second by a suspected excess of freedom. However, at a closer look the anxiety of influence proves to be a peculiar form of the Sartrean anxiety: insofar as the 'strong maker' tries to determine the extent of the predecessor's influence, insofar as he tries to narrow down the range of his possible inheritance, he strives to make freedom possible by determining its limits and extent.
(*) Special thanks to Christina Howells for her suggestions and support. I would also like to thank Ursula Vogel and lames Williams for helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper.
(1.) Howells, C., Sartre: the Necessity of Freedom, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989, p. 204 n. 21.
(2.) Bloom, H., The Anxiety of Influence. A Theory of Poetry, New York: Oxford University Press, 1973. [Hereafter AI]
(3.) The reason why in what follows I shall only use the masculine forms of the third person singular personal pronoun is not because I should think, together with several feminist critics, that any of Kant's or Sartre's views presented here were male-centred, whether in an implicit or in an explicit form. But, given that, in places, both Sartre and Kant formulate sexist comments, I think that simply to presuppose, by alternating between masculine and feminine pronominal forms, that their views were gender-neutral may seem unwarranted and perhaps even inappropriate.
(4.) By a moral system I mean an ethics that claims to be able to guide a person in his prescriptive attitudes, that is, in his attempts to act morally. This presupposes a criterion of morality, on the basis of which the moral worth of an action can be judged. For Kant this criterion is, of course, the moral law. But other moral systems, like that of Mill or Aristotle, will have other moral criteria. I contrast a moral system primarily with an ethics understood as a reflection on the nature of moral terms, of moral virtues, of freedom, of personal identity, or of any other aspects related to an ethical system. Such a reflection is presupposed by any ethical system and may even have implications for the way a person ought to act, but the implications are only indirect.
(5.) Both Kant's and Sartre's uses of this expression are misleading. By employing it, they refer in the same breath to maxims or principles of action which are morally valid, and to the criterion of morality on the basis of which the validity of maxims or principles is tested. Kant seems to be more consistent in using 'categorical imperative' to refer to the three formulations of the criterion of morality, and Sartre employs it more often to refer to particular principles of action. In what follows, I will capitalise the expression when it refers to the criterion of morality and keep it in small letters when it stands for morally valid principles of action.
(6.) Examples of such an approach can be found in: Baldwin, T., 'The Original Choice in Sartre and Kant', Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 1979-1980, 41-42: 80, 31-44; Jopling, D., 'Kant and Sartre on Self-knowledge', Man and World, 1986, 1: 19, 79-93; Beavers, A., 'Freedom and Autonomy: the Kantian Analytic and a Sartrean Critique', Philosophy and Theology, 1990, 2: 5, 151-68, [Hereafter FA]; Lieberman, M., 'The Limits of Comparison: Kant and Sartre on the Fundamental Project', History of Philosophy Quarterly, 1997, 2: 14, 207-17. [Hereafter LC]
(7.) An exception may seem to be found in Grant Gillett's "The Subject of Experience', Logos, 1990, 2: 11, 93-109. He draws several parallels between Sartre's and Kant's accounts of personal identity, but subsequently does not try to offer an account of the differences between them. However, this is mainly because the purpose of his paper is not primarily that of providing a comparative analysis of the relationship between Kant's and Sartre's philosophies; he attempts to use Sartre's and Kant's arguments in order to defend a certain position in metaphysics.
(8.) The same approach is employed by Juliette Simont in her 'La problematique de "l'idee regulatrice" de Kant chez Sartre' (in Sur les ecrits posthumes de Sartre, Bruxelles: Editions de l'Universite de Bruxelles, 1987, pp. 131-53); however, she adds an interesting preliminary stage, where she highlights several superficially contrasting aspects of Sartre's and Kant's views (on regulative ideas) (pp. 131-33). But then she shows that they are underpinned by 'argumentative similarities' (pp. 133-37). A similar version of the standard approach is used also by Pierre Verstraeten in his 'Le mythe d'Er (du platonisme de Sartre a son kantisme)', (in G. Idt (ed.) Etudes sartriennes VI, Paris: RITM, Universite de Paris X, 1995, pp. 193-224). Nevertheless, once the argumentative similarities are surveyed, it becomes necessary to account for dissimilarities, and both Simont and Verstraeten conclude their studies with remarks on the divergences between the two philosophers. Verstraeten's final conclusion is that Sartre moved from Platonism to a Kantian position, but by 'Kantian' he does not mean 'Kant's'.
(9.) Other reasons for this lack of interest in the comparison of Sartre's and Kant's works, in particular their moral and political writings, include the link between Kant's philosophy and Rawls's 'Kantian' constructivism, which tends to emphasise the opposition between a politics of principles (i.e. of justice), on the one hand, and Sartre's seemingly 'postmodern', radical scepticism about universal norms, on the other; or the Fact that Habermas's 'Hegelian' discourse ethics adopts the constructivist criticism of metaphysics and moral scepticism, and combines it with an attack on 'individualism'--perhaps the only label that Sartre's and Kant's works share in the huge non-comparative secondary literature; or the disagreement between some of their views on political morality, a disagreement which is so stark that any likeness tends to dwindle into insignificance.
(10.) See, for instance, M. Warnock, Existentialist Ethics, London: Macmillan, 1970; H. Spiegelberg, 'Sartre's Last Word on Ethics in Phenomenological Perspective', in S. Glynn, (ed.) Sartre: An Introduction of some Major Themes, Aldershot: Avebury, 1987, pp. 37-53; R. Misrahi, 'L'inachevement pratique de la philosophic de Sartre', in G. Idt, (ed.) Etudes sartriennes IV, Paris: Centre de Semiotique Textuelle, Universite de Paris X,1990, pp. 9-24; L. Fretz, 'Individuality in Sartre's Philosophy', and D. Jopling, 'Sartre's Moral Psychology', both in C. Howells, (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to Sartre, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992, pp. 67-99 and pp. 103-39; A. Dobson, Jean-Paul Sartre and the Politics of Reason: A Theory of History, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993. Those who claim that the ethics that can be found in Sartre is not an ethical system refer to some sort of meta-ethical reflection of the type presented in n. 4 above.
(11.) See n. 8 above.
(12.) I have examined several significant differences between Sartre's and Kant's ethics in 'Persians and Politics in Kant and Sartre', Unpublished PhD thesis, 2001, University of Manchester, Manchester [Hereafter KS].
(13.) There are several other advantages that this method has over the standard comparative approach, but I cannot elaborate on this here. What I take to be a very significant result in employing this method is that the study of the structural similarities between two authors' works can be continued, without the need to point out difference and dissimilarities, until the latter reveal themselves to the investigator. Once some of these are formulated, the investigator can go back to the standard method and employ it in a systematic manner.
(14.) I present several respects in which Kant's and Sartre's positions differ with regard to the issues of personal identity, moral action and political legitimacy in my KS.
(15.) For instance, in Ethique, coexistence et sens, Paris: Desclee de Brouwer, 1999, starting from Alfred Schutz's phenomenological sociology, Charles Taylor's expressionist theory of language, and later Sartre's conception of subjectivity, Alfredo Gomez-Muller articulates an interdisciplinary research programme of rethinking the conditions in which the question of a common value can meaningfully be asked. In Equality and Diversity. Phenomenological Investigations of Prejudice and Discrimination, Amherst N.Y.: Humanity Books, 2001, starting from Karl-Otto Apel's transcendental pragmatics and Emmanuel Levinas's phenomenology of alterity, Michael D. Barber projects a philosophical architectonic which would be able to deal ethically with the problem that differences pose for the equality between persons.
(16.) I have explored the possibility of such a reconciliation in the case of a contemporary version of the classical dilemma between the liberties of the ancients and the liberties of the modems in nay KS.
(17.) Jean-Paul Sartre, Notebooks for an Ethics, D. Pellauer (tr.), Chicago/London: The University of Chicago Press, 1992 [Hereafter NE], p. 46; Cahiers pour une morale, Paris: Gallimard, 1983, [Hereafter CM], p. 52.
(18.) Here Sartre adds that even Kantian ethics asks questions in this manner.
(19.) One could add to these critiques Sartre's version of the classical accusation of emptiness that, among others, Hegel and Mill formulated. Thus, since individual freedom becomes actual by positing the purpose of the demand as essential, and since this purpose can only be freedom, all the rest being destroyed, existence, as being-for-itself, becomes a demand for freedom (NE 138-39; CM 146). Insofar as any demand has as its purpose the affirmation of freedom and leads to a recognition of an abstract and universal freedom, the Categorical Imperative, as a general condition for demands, cannot exclude any purpose, and cannot suggest any as more worthy of being pursued: 'By itself the categorical imperative does not indicate any means whatsoever of carrying it out. Nor does it exclude any' (NE 238; CM 248). I think this will turn out to be another form of the manifestation of Sastre's anxiety of influence, but here I cannot pursue this argument further. I have offered a brief defence of Kant against a more recent version of the classical 'emptiness' argument in 'Kant's Practical Reason: the Possibility of Action-guiding Principles', in B. Brogaard, (ed.) Contributions of the Austrian Ludwig Wittgenstein Society, Vol. VIII (1), Kirchberg am Wechsel: Osterreichische Ludwig Wittgenstein Gesellschaft, 2000, pp. 42-47.
(20.) Here and in what follows, I use 'paraphrase' and not 'quote' since I slightly alter Bloom's text: I replace 'poetic" with 'philosophical', 'poetry' and "poem' with 'philosophy', and 'poet' with 'philosopher'.
(21.) Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness. An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology, H.E. Barnes (tr.), New York: Philosophical Library, 1956 [Hereafter BN], p. 431; L'Etre et le neant. Essai d'ontologie phenomenologique, Paris: Gallimard, 1973 [Hereafter EN], p. 507.
(22.) Immanuel Kant, 'Critique of Practical Reason', in M.J. Gregor, (ed.) Practical Philosophy, M.J. Gregor (tr.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996, [Hereafter CPrR] pp. 137-271, 232; 'Kritik der praktischen Vernunft', in W. Weischedel (ed.) Werkausgabe, Band VII, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1993, pp. 103-302 [Hereafter KPV], p. 244; A 207. The abbreviations 'A' and 'B' refer to the first and second editions of Kant's works published during his lifetime. This is standard in Kantian literature, especially for the Critique of Pure Reason.
(23.) Sartre gives this example of a principle, though not in this imperatival form, in NE 7; CM 14.
(24.) Of course, Sartre has reasons to endorse this interpretation. Kant's Metaphysics of Morals, for instance, displays his confidence in the possibility of deriving the main principles of ethics and political morality from the moral law. However, for Kant this work does not being among his 'critical' writings, but is a 'doctrinal' text, and its aim is to 'expand the cognitions' provided by the 'Critiques'--Critique of Pure Reason, W.S. Pluhar (tr.), Cambridge/Indianapolis: Hackett, 1996 [Hereafter CPR], p. 64; Kritik der reinen Vernunft, I. Heidemann (ed.), Stuttgart: Philipp Reclam Jun., 1966 [Hereafter KRV], pp. 74-75; A12/B26. The 'unconditionality' of the principles thus derived by Kant is relative to the situations he considers in the Metaphysics of Morals.
(25.) O. Hoffe, 'Kants kategorischer Imperativ als Kriterium des Sittlichen', in Zeitschrift fur Philosophische Forschung, 3: 31, 1977, 354-84, [Hereafter KKI].
(26.) O. Hoffe, Immanuel Kant, M. Farrier (tr.), Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994, p. 150.
(27.) The process by which one passes from maxims to particular actions is mediated in Hoffe's view by a process of outline-, or contour-knowledge [Umriss- oder Grundriss-Wissen]. Thus, this notion of outline-knowledge incorporates both the conceptually precisely determined structure of moral action and the historical and individual particularities. The first element is compared by Hoffe with the Aristotelian virtues, whereas the second is supposed to take into account various changes of ethos or of circumstances and conditions of lift: (KKI 364).
(28.) Some illuminating examples are presented in CPrR.
(29.) It should be noted here that, in fact, Sartre does not criticise abstraction per se. Any concept is in fact an abstraction, in the sense that it refers to only some (the significant) characteristics of a thing. Sartre's critique cannot be simply aimed at whatever is abstract, unless he advocates the exclusive use of proper names. So, in fact, the abstraction that is being criticised by Sartre is one which is arrived at without a prior study of the features from which something is to be abstracted. In other words, Sartre's critique of abstraction refers to potentially distorting abstract principles and rules.
(30.) For instance, still in Hoffe's example, different maxims are relevant depending on where the person lives, and different imperatival rules of action result depending on the capacity of the person to sing.
(31.) That Kant's moral theory is sometimes perceived (without sufficiently good reasons) as a morality of imperatives, in the manner in which Sartre sees it, may also be one of the reasons why comparative analyses of Kant's and Sartre's practical philosophies are not undertaken, or are concluded with the claim that despite some similarities, the difference between Kant and Sartre is that Kant hopes to provide a code of imperatives, whereas Satire rejects a morality of imperatives--for instance, Beavers says: 'Kant is much more of a moralist than Sartre and, consequently, needs to bring the possibility of ethics into a prescriptive domain and formulate a code of action. At the same time, however, he would never want to maintain that a moral code is the source of moral action; and that the satisfaction of such a code cannot [sic] be the sole cause of the moral life. The code is a necessary but not sufficient condition of morality. Sartre, on the other band, is unable and unwilling to present a moral code...' (FA 166). However, not only does Kant not advance a morality of imperatives, but in fact Sartre is the one who hopes to provide an ethics of values, a hierarchic code of values, in the Notebooks for an Ethics--see NE 12; CM 16; see also Juliette Simont, 'Sartrean Ethics', in C. Howells (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to Sartre, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992, pp. 178-210, esp. pp. 191-93.
(32.) 'Apparently, in a demand there is some information from one free consciousness to another free consciousness touching upon a duty. I communicate a categorical imperative to the Other'. (NE 237; CM 248). Sartre aims to show that, in fact, a morally valid imperative expressing a duty or an obligation is grounded in a demand, and not the demand in an imperative.
(33.) The distinction is drawn in the 'Critique of Practical Reason' (e.g., CPrR 174-75; KPV 156-57; A74-75), but commentators generally agree that it no longer plays the important justificatory role that Kant intended for it in the 'Groundwork of The Metaphysics of Morals'. See, for instance, H. Allison, Kant's Theory of Freedom, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990, esp. pp. 221-31.
(34.) Immanuel Kant, 'Groundwork of The Metaphysics of Morals', in M.J Gregor (ed.), Practical Philosophy, M.J. Gregor, (tr.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996, pp. 41-108 [Hereafter GMM], p. 99; 'Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten', in W. Weischedel (ed.), Werkausgabe, Band VII, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1993, pp. 7-102 [Hereafter GMS], p. 88; BA 108-9.
(35.) This means that, in their temporality, the subjective changes in a person (changes in desires, feelings, inclinations) cannot affect the validity of a moral principle, which is a law of freedom.
(36.) The same scenario is at work in Sartre's redefinition of the Kantian distinction between autonomy and heteronomy. For instance, he says: 'We need to invert the terms of the Kantian problem and say that there is never heteronomy when one is on the plane of psychological determinism. If this determinism were to exist, there would be neither heteronomy nor autonomy but only the necessary unity of interconnected processes'. (NE 255; CM 266)
(37.) The further distinguishing characteristic (an imperative transforms me into a means to an other's end, whereas the value transforms the world into a means to my end) is a consequence of this difference of normative force. The opening sentence of this paragraph might suggest that Sartre's inaccurate reading of Kant is a cause of his anxiety of influence. This would be to mistake both my understanding of Bloom and my intention in this article. I am not seeking to demonstrate that, in his reading of Kant, Sartre was affected, consciously or unconsciously, by some psychological factor. I claim only that Sartre's texts reveal a textual anxiety of influence; in other words, that the reader of Sartre and Kant can clearly perceive that Sartre's reading of Kant conflicts with Kant's own claims, and that this conflict follows certain patterns, namely those identified by Bloom as 'revisionary ratios'.
(38.) The other dualities Sartre refers to here are those generated by the divide between freedom and desires. According to Sartre, at the basis of the distinction between freedom and desire lies the distinction between the normativity of the value and that of the imperative.
(39.) Here I am making appeal to Kant's notion of a person (the main features of which are shared, I think, by Sartre's conception of a person) according to which a person is 'what is conscious of the numerical identity of itself in different times' (CPR 396; KRV 918; A361). In this sense we could claim that the same person can be divided into more individuals. Of course, simply to make use of the term 'individual' in this sense would not respond to Sartre's objection, since he criticises Kant's reduction of an allegedly interpersonal relationship to a intra-personal one.
(40.) Kant says that, even if I knew that for the type of person I am, in situation S, a purpose P is the right one, I could still not be sure that my action is morally right: 'It is indeed sometimes the case that with the keenest self-examination we find nothing besides the moral ground of duty that could have been powerful enough to move us to this or that good action and to so great a sacrifice; but from this it cannot be inferred with certainty that no covert impulse of self-love, under the mere pretence of that idea, was not actually the determining cause of the will' (GMM 61; GMS 34; BA26). Even if we took Sartre to claim that an appropriate ethics does not allow me to determine with certainty even whether the purpose of my choice is right, Kant could still agree. In this respect, I think that Onora O'Neill's interpretation of Kant's categorical imperative is accurate: 'Once all reasonable care has been taken to avoid ignorance, bias, or self-deception, an agent can do nothing more to determine that his maxim does not match his situation. Once an agent has acted on his maxim attentively, he can do no more to ensure that his act lives up to his maxim. We cannot choose to succeed, but only to strive' (Acting on Principle. An Essay on Kantian Ethics, New York: Columbia University Press, 1975, p. 127).
(41.) F. Jeanson, Le probleme moral et la pensee de Sartre, Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1965, p. 259. (My translation.)
(42.) This ambiguity implied in Kant's conception of the person is, in fact, at the basis of Sartre's account of personal identity. Thus Sartre rejects the notion of self: identity precisely because of the ambiguous character of the self, which at the same time refers to itself and to something else. (BN 76-77; EN 119)
(43.) One may wonder how Sartre's critique of the alleged incompatibility between the unconditional and universal character of the Categorical Imperative, on the one hand, and the freedom of the person who is under the obligation formulated by the Categorical Imperative, on the other, can lead to a questioning of Kant's entire thought. But Sartre is right to include here Kant's theoretical philosophy or epistemology, since for Kant practical reason has priority over theoretical reason. See, for instance, CPrR 236-38; KPV 249-53; A215-19.
(44.) I call them 'constructivist' since I think they are echoed by some contemporary constructivist theories of" moral and political normativity, like those of John Rawls and Jurgen Habermas. I have shown that Kant's and Sartre's ethics are not constructivist in this sense in KS.
(45.) Thus, he says: 'A practical rule is always a product of reason because it prescribes action as a means to an effect, which is its purpose... [Practical laws or moral imperatives] must sufficiently determine the will as will even before I ask whether I have the ability required tier the desired effect or what I am to do in order to produce it' (CPrR 154; KPV 126; A36-37). Also he asserts that 'it is indeed undeniable that every volition must also have an object and hence a matter; but the matter is not, just because of this, the determining ground and condition of the maxim' (CPrR 167; KPV 145; A60). From these two claims a distinction between the object of volition (the purpose of a practical principle) and the determining ground of the will emerges. This suggests that the moral imperative does posit a purpose, but this is not the determining ground of the will.
(46.) See the first quotation in the previous note.
(47.) This is what Kant means by the claim that 'pure reason is practical' (CPrR 148; KPV 120; A29-30).
(48.) As Henry Allison notes, the appeal to this 'fact" 'has struck the many students of Kant as all act of desperation, a lapse into a dogmatism that is hopelessly at odds with the whole spirit of the "critical" philosophy.' ('Justification and Freedom in the Critique of Practical Reason', in E. Forster (ed.), Kant's Transcendental Deductions. The three 'Critiques' and the 'Opus Postumum; Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1989, pp. 114-30 [Hereafter JF], p. 116. It is worth noting, however, that Sartre himself refers to a 'fact of mind [esprit]' as 'an original fact of wrenching away from self' in Being and Nothingness (BN 301; EN 362). In a still-unpublished paper, 'From Self to Other: Kant's Fact of Reason and Sartre's Fact of Mind', I have explored the relationship between these facts.
(49.) As far as I can see, there is a distinction between an argument which shows that the Categorical Imperative exists and one which shows that pure reason is practical. To demonstrate that the Categorical Imperative exists is to show that it is morally valid, hence it ought to be followed by all (limited) rational beings. However, that it ought to be followed by all does not mean that pure reason is practical, that is, that pure reason doer indeed command actions only on the basis of the Categorical Imperative. Here I am interested only in the first argument, since this is the focus of Sartre's criticism.
(50.) Here it is worth highlighting an aspect of Kant's moral theory which can also be found in Sartre's ethical thought, and which is sometimes misunderstood by commentators. This is what might be called the 'democratic' character of Kant's ethics, for which any rational person has the authority to judge morally a situation and act on his judgement. This is reiterated, for instance, in the second 'Critique' at CPrR 169; KPV 149; A64, and CPrR 175; KPV 157; A75. In Being and Nothingness, Sartre makes a similar point when he presents the 'Ethical implications' of his phenomenological ontology; shortly after having claimed that 'existential psychoanalysis is moral description', Sartre says: 'In truth there are many men who have practised this psychoanalysis on themselves and who have not waited to learn its principles in order to make use of them as a means of deliverance and salvation' (BN 627-28; EN 720-21). However, it is precisely on account of a difference in this respect that they are sometimes contrasted. For instance, Lieberman says: 'Kant thus differs from Sartre in at least two important aspects: first, Sartre lacks the world view that accepts common (and perhaps unquestionable) knowledge of the moral law; and second, Sartre lacks the theoretical orientation in which an a priori awareness of the moral law is possible--in which a fact about our essence as rational beings precedes, or is at least independent of; our existence--thereby reversing the existentialist canon that existence precedes essence' (LC 215). As we have seen, the moral law is only an implication of the difference between a descriptive and a prescriptive approach to action; as we will see, the fact of reason is 'a fact about our essence as rational beings' only if by 'essence' one understands with Sartre a mode of being, and in that case this fact by no means goes against the 'existentialist canon'.
(51.) This analysis was suggested to me by Allison's discussion of the fact of reason in his JF. However, I think that Allison tries to prove too much there and, as a result, he inappropriately criticises Lewis White Beck's interpretation of the fact of reason. Thus, for Kant the consciousness of the moral law, front the perspective of which the question concerning the ethical character of a person's actions arises, is sufficient to prove the existence (validity) of the Categorical Imperative. Hence, by assuming 'all a priori concept of normativity', we can prove the Categorical Imperative (L.W. Beck, A Commentary on Kant's 'Critique of Practical Reason; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960, p. 169. Allison takes the fact of reason to be more than the consciousness of this difference between a descriptive and a prescriptive approach to action; he thinks that it can be used to convince even an rational amoralist (a character similar to the Sartrean follower of valuable ends, who is not aware of any differences between the two approaches) of the existence of the moral law. Here the root of the problem is, I think, that neither Beck, nor Allison take into account a distinction which is central for Sartre, namely that between a positional but non-reflecting consciousness and a reflecting consciousness. This is why they take an agent's believing that something is valid for him unreflectively as equivalent with a reflective stance in which a concept of normativity is presupposed - see, for instance, JF 118.
(52.) In the text prepared for the planned, but never delivered, 1965 lecture at Cornell University, Sartre stresses the mutual dependency of imperatives and values. The text is still unpublished. My claim is based on the presentations of this text that Juliette Simont and Pierre Verstraeten provided after a study of the manuscript. See her 'Autour des conferences de Sartre a Cornell', in Sur les ecrits posthumes de Sartre. Annales de l'Institut de Philosophie et de Sciences morales, Bruxelles: Editions de l'Universite de Bruxelles, 1987, pp. 35-54), and his 'Imperatifs et valeurs' (idem., pp. 55-75).
(53.) However, for Bloom 'every major aesthetic consciousness seems peculiarly gifted at denying obligation' and even the view that influence scarcely exists is 'an illustration of the way in which poetic influence is an anxiety principle' (AI 6-7).
Sorin Baiasu is based in the Centre for Philosophy at Manchester University. His doctoral dissertation on "Persons and Politics in Kant and Sartre" won the Ernest Barker Prize for the best dissertation in political theory, a prize awarded by the UK Political Studies Association.…