LISA ANN HERMES, Marquette University


The French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre is well-known for a philosophy of human relations which seems to assert that conflict is an inherent feature of any social encounter. In a major philosophical work, Being and Nothingness, Sartre argues that human relations alienate the self. Yet in a later work, his Critique of Dialectical Reason, he claims to be inspired by Marxist philosophy, and a central tenet of Marx's thought is that conflict and alienation can be eliminated through a transformation of economic and social conditions. Thus one might expect the Critique's theory of human relations to differ significantly from the earlier view. In this investigation, I compare and contrast Sartre's philosophy of human relations in these two major philosophical works. Through a careful explication of these texts, I compare his views on several major themes--human multiplicity, the theory of groups, and the roles of objectification and the project-to-be-God in human relations. I conclude that although many basic principles enunciated in Being and Nothingness' theory of interpersonal relations survive in the Critique of Dialectical Reason, there are indeed significant changes. I contend that in Being and Nothingness, Sartre argues that conflict is inherent in any plurality of human subjects, but that he posits certain conflict-free pluralities in the Critique. I also show that in Being and Nothingness, Sartre views all objectification of the self by the other as alienating and reifying, but that in the later work he analyzes certain non-reifying and freedom-enhancing forms of objectification. I also argue--contrary to what many critics contend--that neither work contains the view that we necessarily seek to dominate one another. Rather, such attempts at domination are contingent on pursuing a project Sartre terms the "project-to-be-God," an inauthentic endeavor in which we try to be completely self-justified in our existence. And although neither work unqualifiably asserts that we can avoid pursuing this project, there are enough references to a possibility of choosing an authentic mode of existence to warrant the assertion that Sartrean ontology leaves this door open.

Recommended Citation

HERMES, LISA ANN, "SARTRE'S THEORY OF HUMAN RELATIONS IN "BEING AND NOTHINGNESS" AND THE "CRITIQUE OF DIALECTICAL REASON" (FRANCE)" (1984). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI8422821.