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Philosophy Research Archives

Volume 11, 1985

Sander H. Lee
Pages 513-519

The Failure of Love and Sexual Desire in the Philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre

For Jean-Paul Sartre, both love and sexual desire are necessarily doomed to failure. In this paper, I wish to briefly explain why Sartre takes this position. Both love and sexual desire fail, as do all patterns to conduct towards the other, because they involve an attempt to simultaneously capture the other-as-subject and as-object. This, for Sartre, involves an ontological contradiction which I demonstrate. Furthermore, I wish to offer the outline of a criticism of this position, a criticism made from the perspective of an acceptance of the basic Sartrian approach taken in Being and Nothingness. Sartre’s description of love implies an attempt to overcome ontological aspects of the human condition which are fundamentally insurmountable. I will show that this description is flawed even within the confines of a Sartrian ontology by pointing out unwarranted assumptions on Sartre’s part as to the goals of these activities and their worth, as well as the worth of the emotional consciousness itself.

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