Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Richard Aquila


Commentators interested in applying Sartre's work to topics currently discussed in analytic philosophy of mind have missed some crucial distinctions and relations. Most notably, they have paid no attention to the relationship between the apprehension of a kind of Cartesian ego in "impure reflection" and the apprehension of oneself as a physical object. My dissertation examines Sartre's analyses in Being and Nothingness in relation to more familiar approaches to the mind-body problem, the problem of other minds, and the problem of personal identity over time. Crucial to Sartre's analyses are distinctions between several types and levels of reflection or selfawareness. Corresponding to these are various dimensions of seltbood and bodily existence ignored by more familiar approaches. The "constitution" of a Cartesian ego in impure reflection is the issue to which The Transcendence of the Ego is primarily devoted. However, Sartre also notes in that work that one's body, as an object of one's own consciousness, is a "synthetic enrichment" of this ego. This is taken up in detail in Being and Nothingness when, after examining "the look," i.e., the experience of apprehending oneself as an object for another consciousness, Sartre distinguishes three "ontological dimensions" of the body: the body-for-itself, the body-for-others, and the body as it is experienced by oneself as an instrument or object for others. What commentators seem to miss is that the last of these is the Cartesian ego, now "enriched" by the sense of oneself-as-another which has been gained through the look. In addition to providing material for the apprehension of one's own body, the Look is also essential to apprehension of other persons. In fact, apprehension of another person is apprehension of one's body for others, now in tum enriched by apprehension of certain observable physical features. Sartre's account of what is involved in the various levels of apprehension of oneself and others invites comparison with Strawson' s analysis of the person as a "basic particular" to which "M-predicates" and "P-predicates" equally apply. While Sartre could agree that on the level at which one can think of a person as a subject to which both sorts of predicates apply, these predicates do apply equally, he would insist that in some sense a person is necessarily apprehended as a consciousness "before" being apprehended as a material object. This is true both of another person, who is first apprehended as a Look, and of oneself, whom one first apprehends as purely a relation to the world. That there are different types of awareness, and different levels of awareness, both of oneself and of other persons, is relevant to the question of what is involved in experiencing a person as extended in time. For instance, since the Look is involved in the experience of one's body as an object, it is also involved in the experience of oneself as temporally extended. Prior to being apprehended as one's body, however, the ego is experienced as temporally extended, although not in an entirely consistent manner. Finally, and more generally, I attempt to relate the "constitutional" relation that Sartre seems to intend with his talk about "enrichment" to more familiar talk about a possible variety of "senses" or "references" for the word "I."

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