Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Richard E. Aquila

Committee Members

John Nolt, James Bennett, Les Essif


Sartre’s claim in Being and Nothingness that consciousness is nothingness is typically understood as meaning either that consciousness is not itself, that it is not its objects, that it is not its past, or that it is some sort of state of affairs. Although these interpretations of Sartre are often presented independently of each other, I argue that one can combine several of them in order to arrive at the best understanding of Sartre’s treatment of consciousness. Such an understanding treats consciousness as the state of affairs that is its facticity transcending itself toward its objects. One could also combine the four typical interpretations of Sartre so that consciousness for him is a different state of affairs, specifically the state of affairs that is the appearance of objects along with their various indications. This second way of understanding Sartre’s treatment of consciousness seems inferior to the first way, though, since the former can account for what seemingly motivates the latter. In order to do so, one must utilize certain aspects of Husserl’s description of consciousness, a description that Sartre actually rejects.

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