The Transcendence of the Ego: An Existentialist Theory of Consciousness

The Transcendence of the Ego: An Existentialist Theory of Consciousness

The Transcendence of the Ego: An Existentialist Theory of Consciousness

The Transcendence of the Ego: An Existentialist Theory of Consciousness

Excerpt

La Transcendance de l'Ego, although a comparatively short work, may fairly be regarded as a turning-point in the philosophical development of Jean-Paul Sartre, the leader of French existentialism. Prior to the writing of this essay, published in 1937, Sartre had been intimately acquainted with the phenomenological movement which originated in Germany with Edmund Husserl. It is a fundamental tenet of the phenomenology of Husserl which is here attacked by Sartre. We should like to indicate briefly what is under attack by referring to the philosophy of Husserl, and to suggest how this disagreement with Husserl seems to have facilitated the transition from phenomenology to the existentialist doctrines of L'Etre et le Néant.

The phenomenology of Husserl was a reflexive inquiry, or a philosophy of consciousness. The name "phenomenology," indeed, means the "logos of phenomena," that is to say, the truth or rationale of immediate experience. Thus characterized, however, the phenomenology of Husserl would be difficult to distinguish from Kantian epistemology, which was also a philosophy of consciousness--more exactly, an account of the principles of the mind presupposed by science and mathematics. Naturally, in phenomenology everything turns on what one understands by "consciousness," which designates the subject matter of investigation. The particular attraction of phenomenology to its many disciples in Germany and elsewhere seems to have been the emphasis on the "intentionality" of consciousness.

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