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Being and Nothingness: An Essay in Phenomenological Ontology - PDF Download


Being and Nothingness: A Phenomenological Ontology by Jean-Paul Sartre




Being and Nothingness is one of the most famous and influential philosophical works of the 20th century. It was written by Jean-Paul Sartre, a French existentialist philosopher, novelist, playwright, and Nobel laureate. In this book, Sartre offers a radical account of the human condition, based on his phenomenological analysis of being and nothingness.




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Phenomenology is a branch of philosophy that studies the structures of human experience, such as perception, emotion, memory, imagination, etc. Sartre uses phenomenology to explore the nature and meaning of human existence, freedom, responsibility, choice, action, value, relation to others, etc. He argues that human beings are not fixed or determined by any external essence or nature, but are constantly creating themselves through their choices and actions. He also argues that human beings are always in a state of conflict with themselves and with others, because they are both being (in-itself) and nothingness (for-itself).


The book is divided into four parts, each consisting of several chapters. Each part deals with a different aspect of being and nothingness, and how they relate to human reality. The book is not easy to read, as it is very dense, abstract, and complex. However, it is also very rich, profound, and original, and it has inspired many thinkers and writers in various fields and disciplines. In this article, we will provide a brief summary of each part of the book, and highlight some of the main ideas and concepts that Sartre develops.


Part One: The Problem of Nothingness




In this part, Sartre introduces the problem of nothingness, which is the central theme of his ontology. He defines ontology as the study of being, or what it means to be. He distinguishes between two modes of being: being-in-itself and being-for-itself. Being-in-itself is the mode of being of things that exist independently of human consciousness, such as rocks, trees, animals, etc. Being-in-itself is characterized by identity, fullness, positivity, and necessity. Being-for-itself is the mode of being of human consciousness, or the self. Being-for-itself is characterized by non-identity, lack, negativity, and contingency.


Sartre argues that nothingness is not a mere absence or negation of being, but a positive reality that arises from human consciousness. Nothingness is what makes human consciousness different from being-in-itself, and what makes human freedom possible. Nothingness is also what creates anxiety, anguish, bad faith, and other existential phenomena that Sartre explores in this part.


The Origin of Negation




In this chapter, Sartre examines the question of how nothingness comes into being. He rejects the traditional answers given by dialectical logic and phenomenology, which either reduce nothingness to a logical contradiction or a subjective phenomenon. He proposes his own answer, based on his analysis of negation.


Negation is the act of denying or rejecting something that is given or affirmed by being-in-itself. For example, when we say "this table is not red", we negate the quality of redness that is given by the table as being-in-itself. Negation implies a relation between two terms: the negated term (redness) and the negating term (consciousness). Negation also implies a third term: the background or context in which the negation takes place (the table).


Sartre argues that negation is not a property or function of consciousness, but a result of its relation to being-in-itself. Consciousness is not a thing or a substance that can be defined by its attributes or operations. Consciousness is nothing but a pure activity of revealing or disclosing being-in-itself. Consciousness does not have any content or identity of its own; it is always directed toward something other than itself. Consciousness is what Sartre calls a for-itself: a being that is not what it is, and is what it is not.


Being-in-itself, on the other hand, is not an activity or a relation; it is a pure presence or facticity that does not depend on anything else for its existence. Being-in-itself does not reveal or disclose anything; it simply is what it is. Being-in-itself does not have any possibility or potentiality; it is always identical to itself. Being-in-itself is what Sartre calls an in-itself: a being that is what it is, and is not what it is not.


The origin of nothingness lies in the difference between being-for-itself and being-in-itself. Nothingness is the result of the for-itself's relation to the in-itself. Nothingness is what separates the for-itself from the in-itself, and what allows the for-itself to negate or modify the in-itself. Nothingness is also what makes the for-itself aware of its own lack or deficiency compared to the in-itself. Nothingness is what makes the for-itself desire to be like the in-itself: a full, positive, necessary being.


Bad Faith




In this chapter, Sartre explores one of the most famous and controversial concepts in his philosophy: bad faith. Bad faith is a form of self-deception or dishonesty that arises from human freedom and nothingness.


Bad faith occurs when the for-itself tries to escape from its freedom and responsibility by denying or ignoring its own nothingness. Bad faith involves adopting a false or inconsistent attitude toward oneself or one's situation, by either pretending to be more or less than what one really is.


Bad faith can take many forms and patterns, depending on the context and motive of the for-itself. Some examples are:


  • Pretending to be ignorant or innocent of something that one knows or did.



  • Pretending to have a fixed or predetermined nature or essence that determines one's actions or choices.



  • Pretending to be bound by external rules or norms that limit one's freedom or responsibility.



  • Pretending to be unaware or indifferent to the presence or influence of others on one's self or situation.



  • Pretending to be certain or confident of something that is doubtful or uncertain.



Bad faith is not the same as falsehood or lying, because it does not involve a conscious intention to deceive others. Bad faith is a self-deception that involves a split or division within the for-itself. The for-itself is both the deceiver and the deceived, the one who knows and the one who does not know, the one who affirms and the one who negates. Bad faith is possible because the for-itself is both a being-in-itself and a being-for-itself, a facticity and a transcendence, a being and a nothingness.


Bad faith is also not a mere error or mistake, because it does not involve a lack or absence of knowledge or reason. Bad faith is a deliberate choice or attitude that involves a misuse or abuse of freedom and nothingness. Bad faith is an attempt to flee from the anguish or anxiety that comes from facing one's freedom and responsibility. Bad faith is a way of denying or avoiding the truth of one's situation and condition.


Part Two: Being-For-Itself




In this part, Sartre examines the mode of being of human consciousness, or the for-itself. He analyzes the immediate structures and features of the for-itself, such as presence to self, facticity, value, possibility, selfness, etc. He also explores the temporal and transcendental dimensions of the for-itself, such as temporality, knowledge, negation, quality, quantity, etc.


Immediate Structures of the For-Itself




In this chapter, Sartre describes the basic characteristics and properties of the for-itself as a mode of being. He argues that the for-itself is not a thing or a substance that can be defined by its attributes or operations. The for-itself is nothing but a pure activity of revealing or disclosing being-in-itself. The for-itself does not have any content or identity of its own; it is always directed toward something other than itself. The for-itself is what Sartre calls a for-itself: a being that is not what it is, and is what it is not.


The for-itself has four immediate structures that define its relation to itself and to being-in-itself:


  • Presence to self: The for-itself is always aware of itself as existing and acting in the world. The for-itself has a prereflective consciousness that accompanies every act or state of consciousness. The for-itself is always present to itself as a question or a problem that needs to be solved or answered.



  • The facticity of the for-itself: The for-itself is always situated in a concrete and specific context that limits and conditions its existence and action. The for-itself has a past history, a present situation, and a future projection that define its possibilities and values. The for-itself is always in relation to being-in-itself as its material and objective reality.



  • The for-itself and the being of value: The for-itself is always engaged in a project or an intention that gives meaning and direction to its existence and action. The for-itself has a freedom and a responsibility that allow it to create and choose its own values and ends. The for-itself is always in relation to being-in-itself as its source and goal of value.



  • The for-itself and the being of possibilities: The for-itself is always transcending its facticity and value by imagining and pursuing new possibilities and alternatives. The for-itself has a nothingness and a negation that enable it to modify and transform being-in-itself according to its project and intention. The for-itself is always in relation to being-in-itself as its field and instrument of possibility.



The for-itself also has a selfness or an identity that results from its relation to itself and to being-in-itself. However, the selfness of the for-itself is not fixed or stable; it is constantly changing and evolving according to its choices and actions. The selfness of the for-itself is not a being-in-itself; it is a being-for-itself. The selfness of the for-itself is not what it is; it is what it is not.


Temporality




In this chapter, Sartre explores the temporal dimension of the for-itself. He argues that the for-itself is not a being that exists in time; it is a being that makes time. The for-itself is not a being that has a past, a present, and a future; it is a being that is its past, its present, and its future. The for-itself is not a being that is in time; it is a being that is time.


Sartre distinguishes between two types of temporality: original temporality and psychic temporality. Original temporality is the mode of temporality of the for-itself as a pure activity of revealing or disclosing being-in-itself. Psychic temporality is the mode of temporality of the for-itself as a reflective consciousness that represents or interprets being-in-itself.


Original temporality has three dimensions that correspond to the three structures of the for-itself: presence to self, facticity, and possibility. These dimensions are:


  • The past: The past is the dimension of original temporality that corresponds to the facticity of the for-itself. The past is the being-in-itself that the for-itself has been and that it cannot change or erase. The past is the source and limit of the for-itself's situation and condition.



  • The present: The present is the dimension of original temporality that corresponds to the presence to self of the for-itself. The present is the being-for-itself that the for-itself is and that it can always modify or transform. The present is the activity and choice of the for-itself's existence and action.



  • The future: The future is the dimension of original temporality that corresponds to the possibility of the for-itself. The future is the being-for-itself that the for-itself will be and that it can always imagine or pursue. The future is the project and intention of the for-itself's meaning and direction.



Psychic temporality has three dimensions that correspond to the three modes of reflective consciousness: memory, perception, and imagination. These dimensions are:


the being-in-itself that the for-itself has been in the past. Memory is the source and limit of the for-itself's knowledge and understanding.


  • The present: The present is the dimension of psychic temporality that corresponds to perception. Perception is the reflective consciousness that represents or interprets the being-in-itself that the for-itself is in the present. Perception is the activity and choice of the for-itself's awareness and attention.



  • The future: The future is the dimension of psychic temporality that corresponds to imagination. Imagination is the reflective consciousness that represents or interprets the being-in-itself that the for-itself will be in the future. Imagination is the project and intention of the for-itself's desire and expectation.



Sartre argues that original temporality and psychic temporality are not separate or independent; they are interrelated and interdependent. Original temporality is the condition and foundation of psychic temporality; psychic temporality is the expression and manifestation of original temporality. Original temporality is the ontological temporality; psychic temporality is the phenomenological temporality.


Transcendence




In this chapter, Sartre examines the transcendental dimension of the for-itself. He argues that the for-itself is not a being that is confined or restricted by its situation or condition; it is a being that transcends or surpasses its situation or condition. The for-itself is not a being that is determined or defined by its relation to being-in-itself; it is a being that determines or defines its relation to being-in-itself. The for-itself is not a being that is in being-in-itself; it is a being that is for being-in-itself.


Sartre distinguishes between two types of transcendence: knowledge and negation. Knowledge is the mode of transcendence of the for-itself as a pure activity of revealing or disclosing being-in-itself. Negation is the mode of transcendence of the for-itself as a reflective consciousness that modifies or transforms being-in-itself.


Knowledge has four aspects that correspond to the four structures of being-in-itself: quality, quantity, potentiality, and instrumentality. These aspects are:


  • Quality: Quality is the aspect of knowledge that corresponds to the quality of being-in-itself. Quality is the mode of being-in-itself that determines its essence or nature. Quality is what makes being-in-itself what it is.



  • Quantity: Quantity is the aspect of knowledge that corresponds to the quantity of being-in-itself. Quantity is the mode of being-in-itself that determines its extension or magnitude. Quantity is what makes being-in-itself how much it is.



  • Potentiality: Potentiality is the aspect of knowledge that corresponds to the potentiality of being-in-itself. Potentiality is the mode of being-in-itself that determines its possibility or contingency. Potentiality is what makes being-in-itself what it can be.



  • Instrumentality: Instrumentality is the aspect of knowledge that corresponds to the instrumentality of being-in-itself. Instrumentality is the mode of being-in-itself that determines its utility or value. Instrumentality is what makes being-in-itself what it can do.



Negation has four aspects that correspond to the four structures of being-for-itself: presence to self, facticity, value, possibility. These aspects are:


the presence to self of the for-itself. Presence to self is the mode of negation that allows the for-itself to deny or reject its own being-in-itself. Presence to self is what makes the for-itself not what it is.


  • Facticity: Facticity is the aspect of negation that corresponds to the facticity of the for-itself. Facticity is the mode of negation that allows the for-itself to deny or reject its own being-for-itself. Facticity is what makes the for-itself not what it is not.



  • Value: Value is the aspect of negation that corresponds to the value of the for-itself. Value is the mode of negation that allows the for-itself to create or choose its own values and ends. Value is what makes the for-itself what it wants to be.



  • Possibility: Possibility is the aspect of negation that corresponds to the possibility of the for-itself. Possibility is the mode of negation that allows the for-itself to imagine or pursue new possibilities and alternatives. Possibility is what makes the for-itself what it can be.



Sartre argues that knowledge and negation are not separate or independent; they are interrelated and interdependent. Knowledge is the condition and foundation of negation; negation is the expression and manifestation of knowledge. Knowledge is the ontological transcendence; negation is the phenomenological transcendence.


Part Three: Being-For-Others




In this part, Sartre examines the mode of being of human relations, or being-for-others. He analyzes how human beings encounter and interact with each other, and how this affects their self and situation. He also explores how human beings create and sustain social and ethical phenomena, such as love, language, masochism, indifference, desire, hate, sadism, being-with, and the we.


The Existence of Others




In this chapter, Sartre addresses the problem of how human beings can know and relate to other human beings. He rejects the traditional answers given by solipsism, realism, idealism, and phenomenology, which either deny or presuppose the existence of others. He proposes his own answer, based on his analysis of the look.


The look is the act or phenomenon of perceiving or being perceived by another human being as a conscious and free subject. The look implies a relation between two terms: the one who looks (the subject) and the one who is looked at (the object). The look also implies a third term: the world or context in which the look takes place.


Sartre argues that the look is not a property or function of consciousness, but a result of its relation to being-in-itself. Consciousness is not a thing or a substance that can be seen or touched by another consciousness. Consciousness is nothing but a pure activity of revealing or disclosing being-in-itself. Consciousness does not have any content or identity of its own; it is always directed toward something other than itself. Consciousness is what Sartre calls a for-itself: a being that is not what it is, and is what it is not.


Being-in-itself, on the other hand, is not an activity or a relation; it is a pure presence or facticity that does not depend on anything else for its existence. Being-in-itself does not reveal or disclose anything; it simply is what it is. Being-in-itself does not have any possibility or potentiality; it is always identical to itself. Being-in-itself is what Sartre calls an in-itself: a being that is what it is, and is not what it is not.


The existence of others lies in the difference between being-for-itself and being-in-itself. Others are not given or affirmed by being-in-itself; they are revealed or disclosed by consciousness. Others are not things or objects that can be known or manipulated by consciousness; they are subjects that can know or manipulate consciousness. Others are not beings-in-themselves; they are beings-for-themselves.


The Body




the nature and role of the human body in relation to being-for-others. He argues that the human body is not a mere thing or object that belongs to being-in-itself; it is a complex and ambiguous reality that belongs to both being-for-itself and being-for-others. The hum


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