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The Paideia Archive: Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 6, 1998

Contemporary Philosophy

W. M. Alexander
Pages 1-6

Sartre and the Rationalization of Human Sexuality

Sartre rationalizes sexuality much like Plato. Rationalization here refers to the way Sartre tries to facilitate explanation by changing the terms of the discussion from sexual to nonsexual concepts. As a philosophy which, above all, highlights those features of human existence which seem most resistant to explanation, one would expect existentialism to highlight sexuality as a category that is crucial for considering human existence. Descartes comes immediately to mind when one focuses on Sartre's major categories. In Sartre's case however, it is not mind and matter but consciousness and its opposite: "nothingness" and "being." This irreducible dualism is the key to the trouble human beings have with existence. Humans try to deal with the tensions implied by this dualism by trying to pretend people are not subjects but objects. Sartre calls this "bad faith." He begins by attempting to take human sexuality seriously as a fundamental category, but ends by abandoning the effort in favor of other substitutes.

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