Volume 58, Issue 3, Summer 2014
Sartre and Levinas as Phenomenologists
Almost from its origins, phenomenology has been modified in various ways by ‘phenomenologists’ who are inspired by Husserl but who deviate in significant ways from certain details of his approach. Jean-Paul Sartre and Emmanuel Levinas are two prime examples. While each is widely identified as a phenomenologist, each also departs from Husserl, the former by using phenomenology to pursue ontological questions and the latter by describing non-intentional modes of appearing. Here I argue that each is nevertheless rightly called a phenomenologist for at least two reasons. First, each undertakes a careful study of the structure and contents of conscious experience in order to describe the foundations of the subject-object correlation and identify its conditions. Secondly, each accomplishes this by developing the notion of intentionality, focusing on the ways in which the intentional character of consciousness enables its lived encounter with what is transcendent to it.