Volume 45, 2020
An Interpretation of Sartre’s Phenomenology of the Image as a Phenomenology of the Sign
Sartre’s phenomenology of the image in L’Imaginaire includes analytical distinctions between the mind’s comportments towards perceptual objects, images, and signs, which he refers to as different forms of consciousness. Sartre denies any possible convergence between imaging and sign consciousness, arguing that there are essential differences in the way they relate to the notions of resemblance, positionality, and affect. This essay argues against his phenomenological distinctions by stressing the continuity of imaging with sign consciousness: between images and words. In particular, it argues that his understanding of the sign as affectless is questionable and that there is no reason to believe that images and signs cannot elicit similar affects or perform the same functions. Consequently, it is possible to interpret Sartre’s physical images or “analoga” as pictorial signs: his phenomenological descriptions of physical images may indeed be recast in the language of the sign and reformulated as acts of consciousness that involve pictorial signs.