In 1964, Jean Paul Sartre was designated to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature



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Les philosophies de l'existence (1954), among other works.

15 Jaspers gives the name “existence” to this quality which is at once immanent (since it extends throughout our lived subjectivity) and transcendent (since it remains beyond our reach). (JPS)

16 This explains why intellectual Marxists of my age (whether Communists or note) are such poor dialecticians; they have returned, without knowing it, to mechanistic materialism. (JPS)

17 [Jean-Yves] Calvez: La Pensée de Karl Marx (Le Seuil)[1970]. (JPS)

18 This phrase was made popular by the Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno [1864-1936]. Of course, this tragic sense had nothing in common with the true conflicts of our period. (JPS)

19 Georg Lucács, (below pp. ).

20 Mátyás Rákosi (1892-1971), Communist party chief, secretary, and sometime prime minister of Hungary from 1945-56, when he fled to the U.S.S.R. at the outbreak of the Budapest uprising.

21 Maintained by former Trotskyites. (JPS)

22 Louis Napoleon Bonaparte (1808-73), son of Louis Bonaparte, nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte. In 1851, he led a coup, disbanded the Legislative Assembly, and was named Emperor Napoleon III.

23 The Republic of 1848, the Second Republic, came to power following a worker led revolt, one of several throughout Europe in 1848, but the only one to succeed—but only briefly, until the 1851 with the coup of Louis Napoleon Bonaparte.

24 The concept of “the petite bourgeoisie” exists in Marxist philosophy, of course, well before the study of Louis Napoleon’s coup d’état. But this is because the petite bourgeoisie itself had already existed as a class for a long time. What is important is the fact that it evolves with history and that in 1848 it presents unique characteristics which the concept cannot derives from itself. We will see that Marx goes back to the general traits which defined it as a class and at the same time –in those terms and in the light of experience—he determines the specific traits which determined it as a unique reality in 1848. To take another example, see how he tries in 1853, in a series of articles (The British Rule in India), to portray the peculiar quality of Hindustand. Maximilien Rubel in his excellent book quotes this curious passage (so shocking to our contemporary Marxists). “This strange combination of Italy and Ireland, of a world of pleasure and a world of suffering, is anticipated in the old religious traditions of Hindustan, in that religion of sensual exuberance and savage asceticism. . .”(Rubel: Karl Marx, p. 302. The quotation from Marx appeared June 25, 1853, under the title On India.) Certainly we can find behind these words the true concepts and method: the social structure and the geographical aspect—that is what recalls Italy; English colonization—that is what recalls Ireland; etc. No matter. He gives a reality to these words—pleasure, suffering, sensual exuberance, and savage asceticism. Better yet, he shows the actual situation of Hindustan “anticipated” (before the English) by its old religious traditions. Whether Hindustan is actually this or something else matters little to us; what counts here is the synthetic view which gives life to the objects of the analysis. (JPS)

25 At one time this intellectual terror corresponded to “the physical liquidation” of particular peoples. (JPS)

26 I have already expressed my opinion on the Hungarian tragedy, and I shall not discuss the matter again. From the point of view of what concerns us here, it matters little a priori that the Communist commentators believed that they had to justify the Soviet intervention. What is really heart-breaking is the fact that their “analyses” doubt that an insurrection at Budapest a dozen years after the war, less than five years after the death of Stalin, must present very particular characteristics. What do our “schematizers” do? They lay stress on the faults of the Party but without defining them. These indeterminate faults assume an abstract and eternal character which wrenches them from the historical context so as to make of them a universal entity; it is “human error.” The writers indicate the presence of reactionary elements, but without showing their Hungarian reality. Suddenly these reactionaries pass over into eternal Reaction; they are brothers of the counter-revolutionaries of 1793, and their only distinctive trait is the will to injure. Finally, those commentators present world imperialism as an inexhaustible, formless force, whose essence does not vary regardless of its point of application. They construct an interpretation which serves as a skeleton key to everything from popular discontent, and the exploitation-of-this-situation-by-world-imperialism. This interpretation can be applied as well or as badly to all insurrections, including the disturbances in Vendée or at Lyon in 1793, by merely putting “aristocracy” in place of “imperialism.” In short, nothing new has happened. That is what had to be demonstrated.

27 Roger Garaudy (? ), French philosopher, and writer; see his Perspectives de l'homme: Existentialisme, Pensée Catholique, Marxisme (1961).

28 The methodological principle which holds that certitude begins with reflection in no way contradicts the anthropological principle which defines the concrete person by his materiality. For us, reflection is not reduced to the simple immanence of idealist subjectivism, it is a point of departure only if it throws us back immediately among things and men, in the world. The only theory of knowledge which can be valid today is one which is founded on that truth of microphysics: the experimenter is a part of the experimental system. This is the only position which allows us to get rid of all idealist illusion, the only one which shows the real man in the midst of the real world. But this realism necessarily implies a reflective point of departure; that is, the revelation of a situation is effected in and through the praxis which changes it. We do not hold that this first act of becoming conscious of the situation is the originating source of an action; we see in it a necessary moment of the action itself-the action, in the course of its accomplishment, provides its own clarification. That does not prevent this clarification from appearing in and by means of the attainment of awareness on the part of the agents; and this in turn necessarily implies that one must develop a theory of consciousness. Yet the theory of knowledge continues — to be the weak point of Marxism. When Marx writes: “The materialist conception of the world signifies simply the conception of nature as it is without any foreign addition,” he makes himself into an objective observation and claims to contemplate nature as it is absolutely. Having stripped away all subjectivity and having assimilated himself into pure objective truth he walks in a world of objects inhabited by object-men. By contrast, when Lenin speaks of our consciousness, he writes: “Consciousness is only the reflection of being, at best am approximately accurate reflection”; and by a single stroke he removes from himself the right to write what he is writing. In both cases it is a matter of suppressing subjectivity: with Marx, we are placed beyond it; with Lenin, on this side of it.

These two positions contradict each other. How can the “approximately accurate reflection” become the source of materialistic rationalism? The game is played on two levels: there is in Marxism a constituting consciousness which asserts a priori the rationality of the world (and which, consequently, falls into idealism); this constituting consciousness determines the constituted consciousness of particular men as a simple reflection (which ends up in a sceptical idealism). Both of these conceptions amount to breaking man's real relation with history, since in the first, knowing is pure theory, a non-situated observing, and in the second, it is a simple passivity. In the latter there is no longer any experimenting, there is only a sceptical empiricism; man vanishes and Hume's challenge is not taken up. In the former the experimenter transcends the experimental system. And let no one try to tie one to the other by a “dialectical theory of the reflection” the two concepts are essentially anti-dialectical. When knowing is made apodictic, and when it is constituted against all possible questioning without ever defining its scope or its rights, then it is cut off from the world and becomes a formal system. When it is reduced to a pure psycho-physiological determination, it loses its primary quality, which is its relation to the object, in order to become itself a pure object of knowing. No mediation can link Marxism as a declaration of principles and apodictic truths to psycho-physiological reflection (or dialectic). These two conceptions of knowing (dogmatism and the knowing-dyad) are both of them pre-Marxist. In the movement of Marxist “analyses” and especially in the process of totalisation, just as in Marx's remarks on the practical aspect of truth and on the general relations of theory and praxis it would be easy to discover the rudiments of a realistic epistemology ;which has never been developed. But what we can and ought to construct on the basis of these scattered observations is a theory which situates knowing in the world (as the theory of the reflection attempts awkwardly to do) and which determines it in its negativity (that negativity which Stalinist dogmatism pushes to the absolute and which it transforms into a negation). Only then will it be understood that knowing is not a knowing of ideas but a practical knowing of things; then it will be possible to suppress the reflection as a useless and misleading intermediary. Then we will be able to account for the thought which is lost and alienated in the course of action so that it may be rediscovered by and in the action itself. But what are we to call this situated negativity, as a moment of praxis and as a pure relation to things themselves, if not exactly “consciousness”?



There are two ways to fall into idealism: The one consists of dissolving the real in subjectivity; the other in denying all real subjectivity in the interests of objectivity. The truth is that subjectivity is neither everything nor nothing; it represents a moment in the objective process (that in which externality is internalised), and this moment is perpetually eliminated only to be perpetually reborn. Now, each of these ephemeral moments- which rise up in the course of human history and which are never either the first or the last-is lived as a point of departure by the subject of history. “Class-consciousness” is not the simple lived contradiction which objectively characterises the class considered, it is that contradiction already surpassed by praxis and thereby preserved and denied all at once. But it is precisely this revealing negativity, this distance within immediate proximity, which simultaneously constitutes what existentialism calls “consciousness of the object” and “non-thetic selfconsciousness.”

29 Maximilien Rubel (? ), French biographer and historian of Marx and Marxism; see, for example, Rubel on Marx: Five Essays, edited by Joseph O'Malley and Keith Algozin (1971).

30 “Matérialism et revolution,” Les Temps modernes, Vol. I, Nos. 9 and 10 (June-July 1946). The article has been translated into English by Annette Michelson and is included in Jean-Paul Sartre’s Literary and Philosophical Essays (New York: Criterion Books, 1955). (HB)

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