Archive for the 'Structuralism' Category

Sartre and Contemporary Philosophy

Photo by James Andanson (Apis/Sygma/Corbis).

Christina Howell‘s writes about Sartre‘s place in contemporary philosophy:

Not only did Sartre’s critics of the sixties and seventies attempt, unwittingly perhaps, to fossilize him in the classical works he had himself by then outgrown, but they did not accord those works themselves a fair reading.  The decentered subject, the rejection of a metaphysics of presence, the critique of bourgeois humanism and individualism, the conception of the reader as producer of the text’s multiple meaning, the recognition of language and thought structures as masters rather than mastered in most acts of discourse and thinking, a materialist philosophy of history as detotalized and fragmented, these are not the inventions of Lacan, Foucault, Levi-Strauss and Derrida; nor are they to be found merely in Sartre’s latter works such as the Critique (1960), Words (1966) or the Idiot of the Family (1971-1972) where it could be argued that they should be attributed to his receptivity to the major trends of his age (though the Critique of Dialectical Reason would still predate most of the French Structuralists’ major works).  The notions are, rather, present from the outset: in the Transcendence of the Ego (1936), in Sketch for a Theory of the Emotions (1940), in Nausea (1941), in Being and Nothingness (1943), and even in his most polemical theoretical work, What is Literature? (1948).  This preoccupation with the deconstruction as well as the reconstruction of the human is also to be found in the posthumously published works…(Howells, 2)

I cover some of these early writings by Sartre in a podcast with xmabaitx.


Howells, Christina.  “Introdcution.”  In The Cambridge Companion to Sartre, edited by Christina Howells, 1-9.  New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

Sartrean Structuralism?

Sartre with Coffee

Peter Caws writes that Jean-Paul Sartre was not as opposed to structuralism as the media made him out to be:

Even in the Marxist period, though, the period of overt criticism, there is evidence of Sartre’s convergence with Structuralism.  Marxism, along with psychoanalysis, literary theory, history, and anthropology, was of course one of the recognized domains of Structuralism in its moment of glory, though, as we shall see, this is not as significant a fact as we might at first be tempted to think.  As far as that goes it should be noted that Sartre has some claim to contributions in each of these other fields as well: existential psychoanalysis; What Is Literature?; the long preoccupation with history in the Critique and the third volume of the Flaubert; the “structural anthropology” of Search for a Method.  This last looks like a clear candidate for a Structuralism of his own, and under some reserve I shall accept it as part of an eventual package.  The reserve derives from two observations: “anthropology” here does not mean Levi-Strauss’s discipline but rather what has come to be called “philosophical anthropology,” while “structural” turns out to be structurelle rather than structurale; if this contrast of suffixes is construed as parallel to Heidegger’s usage (of existentiell in opposition to existential) we would have to read Sartre’s “structural” as connoting activity rather than system. (Caws, 294-295)


Caws, Peter, “Sartrean Structuralism?” in The Cambridge Companion to Sartre edited by Christina Howells.  New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992.


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