Volume 16, 1998
The Self, the Other, the Self as An/other
A Reading of Early Sartre
This article critically examines the way in which Sartre dealt with the problem of alterity in his early works, proposing that Sartre presented an unsatisfactory account of alterity in his first philosophical work entitled The Transcendence of the Ego, though his study of imagination offers ample opportunities to re-examine the question of alterity and to arrive at a more adequate formulation of the way in which the self relates to the other. I therefore begin by demonstrating that the Transcendence of the Ego perpetuates the Cartesian tradition where the self is defined primarily in terms of thinking-that is, self-consciousness and immanence. Next, I turn to the Sartrean Psychology of Imagination to find another way of conceptualizing the problem. I inquire into his general theory of the imaginary consciousness defined as a 'picture consciousness' and argue that it reduces the alterity of the imaginary object to sheer absence. As such, the theory of imagination does not allow us to bring the fundamental character of alterity to light. Still, we uncover a more adequate way of dealing with alterity in the context of the imaginary life. I show that the notion of the 'picture itself' allows us to conceptualize alterity as the radical withdrawal of the other. Finally, I make evident that the imaginary subject is necessarily divided between itself and itself as another and due to that internal split, can grasp the alterity of another person.