Saturday, January 20, 2007

Ownership of Consciousness

"The ego is not the owner of consciousness;
it is the object of consciousness."

- JP Satre

Sartre like Heidegger uses phenomenology to attack the Cartesian ergo sum. There is no "I" that thinks, but only thought and reflection upon this thought. With Sartre the dissolution of the Cartesian egological self initiated by Nietzsche reaches its climax. There is no entity that is original, no basis for a reality of ego. Indeed the self only succeeds in reaching authenticity through the act of evacuating into the world. Solipsism becomes unthinkable from the moment that the "I" no longer has a privileged status. Philosophically Sartre stands in opposition to Hegel's absolute idealism, but the ego follows again the same path in the process of exposition. Having established an understanding within holistic practice their thesis suffers complication via the reintroduction of the will. First Sartre contends that "there is no 'I'" on the unreflected level. The act of directing ones consciousness towards the world of objects Sartre describes as intentional but is itself an unreflective noetic act. Reflection upon it produces a new object which did not exist before the act was grasped - the ego. Hence this reflected consciousness generates the "I". This becomes the transcendent object of the reflective act but is not in itself a part of that act. Thus this reflection not only discloses objects, but produces and constitutes them. Sartre goes on to state that we have no privileged access to our own ego over and above "the ego of another". The ego cannot belong exclusively to itself. Sartre refers instead to consciousness to instigate beings freedom because the ego's relation to the world is patently a fabrication. For Sartre, the self is an object constituted within the phenomenal field. "The ego is not the owner of consciousness; it is the object of consciousness". Consciousness is a kind of pure transparency, a mere openness to a world to which it adds nothing of its own. Against this Sartre conceives the character of "authenticity" whereby consciousness is able to make itself free because every intentional act is self-originating, self-determining and "absolutely free". His only reconciliation with holistic meaning rests in his joining Marx, for he says the whole problem of recognising ones own, and others, authenticity, must be shifted to the domain of concrete social and political action.

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