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My essay on Sartre for this week

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  • kebl0613@xxxxx.xx.xx.xx
    If anyone has any great ideas on improving this before tomorrow, let me know. Or things to raise in the class, seeing as it s one-on-one. jdcxxx What is the
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 2, 1999
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      If anyone has any great ideas on improving this before tomorrow, let me know. Or things to raise in the class, seeing as it's one-on-one.

      jdcxxx

      What is the body-for-itself? What is the body-for-others? Why is it important to distinguish between the two? Does Sartre go far enough?

      Catalano summarises the two distinct roles played by the body in this respect;

      1) The body, as our past, is the concrete way of existing our facticity. . The body as experiencing (as subject) is referred to as the first ontological dimension.

      2) Our attempts to objectify the Other, by treating his body as one object among many others, lead us to understand our body by analogy with the Other�s body. The body-for-others (as object) is the second ontological dimension.

      Descartes held that the soul is easier to know than the body, because the soul is accessible to reflection, whereas experience of the body is almost akin to experience of something else, so requires divine providence to be certain of it. Sartre replaces divine providence with inference from analogy with our experience of the body of the Other.

      The body-for-itself is the body as experienced, but it can also be argued that the body-for-itself is already reflective. Are physical pain and pleasure not partly consciousness and partly physical? We project pain from the brain to where the pain is. The for-itself is a relation to the world, to �thises�, not a separate entity. Sartre gives the example of a glass and a decanter distinguishing the in-itself and the for-me. The in-itself is a glass a certain distance from a decanter in a certain direction. For-me it is in front of the decanter on the left. For-the-Other it may be behind the decanter and to the right Sartre is talking along these lines when he says that There is no such thing as pure knowledge, only engaged knowledge;

      �Consequently the body-for-itself is never a given which I can know. It is there everywhere as the surpassed; it exists only in so far as I escape it by nihilating myself. The body is what I nihilate. It is the in-itself which is surpassed by the nihilating for-itself and which reappraises the for-itself in this very surpassing�.

      He has described, therefore, the body-for-itself. He goes on �but the body knows the same avatars as the for-itself; it has other planes of existence. It exists also for Others�. The Other�s body can be apprehended as an object, and the consciousness of it is therefore thetic. It therefore follows that another can apprehend my body in the same way, and therefore I have an experience of being objectified.

      It is important to bear in mind that the existence of Others� bodies is more an analogical device for Sartre than a major part of our relations with Others, since the existence of Others is revealed to us not through their bodies, but through �the look�, and our consciousness of being seen. He stresses that the importance of involvement in the world, rather than idealism and simple rules - for, as he puts it, �That my eye should see itself is by nature impossible.�

      Catalano denies that the Other�s body is wholly made into a thing for us, saying

      �Nevertheless, even in my reflective understanding of the Other as an object, his body never becomes for me a thing. The body is the Other�s past, and as such it becomes for me the facticity of his transcendence and the context of his freedom as objectivised by me. As the Other projects his body in terms of from his immediate past, I project his body in terms of the objective future of the world and in terms of my own future.�

      The distinction between these two forms of body above is a necessary one for Sartre, as pointed out by Dillon, because the body-for-itself is not the object of consciousness, whereas the body-for-others is. As the object of consciousness is not the consciousness which has it as an object, and so consciousness can know the body it inhabits only as the body of another. Consciousness is therefore coincident with the body-for iself, yet alienated from it. �The body-for-itself is sheer immanence and the body-for-others is sheer transcendence�. Despite this Sartre seems to have come to something of a paradox, polarising the views of the body rather than synthesising them. The problem bears some similarity to the traditional body / mind problem. Indeed this is focussed on by both Sartre and Merleau-Ponty when they talk about �double sensations� - that is to say, for instance, that when I shake hands with someone I have a double sensation; that of touching and of being touched. However Sartre things that the term �double sensation� implies something incorrect, since it is really two different sensations.

      �To touch and be touched � these are two species of phenomena which it is useless to try to reunite by the tem �double sensation�. In fact, they are radically distinct, and they exist on two incommunicable levels� (BN, 304).

      Zaner, quoted by Dillon, suggests that there is a problem in Sartre in that it seems clear from his dealing with the Other that the encounter with the Other must take place before the emergence of the body as being-for-itself. However Sartre characterises the body-for-itself as the for-itself�s consciousness of the embodiment in a world undisturbed by the intrusion of the Other. It may be that this is just a failure to distinguish the body-for-itself in the prereflective stage from the body-for-itself at a later stage.

      A sense in which it might be argued that Sartre does not go far enough is that he here equates the Body-for-others with �the Other�s body�, and argues that looking at each of these would amount to the same thing. In fact, however, the Other�s body is clearly accessible to me in a prereflective mode, since it is a relation to an entity. The body-for-others, however, is presented to me as an object of the Other�s consciousness following the look; thereby it would appear that it is presented to me reflectively, rather than unreflectively. Dillon argues that the analogy from my experience of the Other�s body to the Other�s experience of my body is not one that holds (or at least not one which can be verified from any standpoint, since the Other�s experience will remain hidden to me.

      Wider notes a synthesis between the two forms of body, using the Sartrean line that things can be manifested by their absence. She uses the analogy of the drawing that sometimes appears to be a rabbit and at other times appears to be a duck. She says that although we can sometimes see a rabbit, and sometimes a duck, we are happy to call it the duck/rabbit drawing. This can only be because, when we are seeing the duck, the rabbit is manifesting itself by its absence, and vice versa. Hence when I am experiencing the world, I am conscious of my body, but as a relational thing, thus;

      �The same is true in our awareness of the world; without bodily self-consciousness, consciousness of the world is impossible. Yet such self-consciousness must manifest itself as a kind of absence in order for consciousness of the world to be possible.�

      To address this problem Sartre examines the third ontological dimension of the body, termed �my being-there-for-others�. However he says

      �The Other looks at me and as such he holds the secret of my being, he knows what I am. Thus the profound meaning of my being is outside of me; imprisoned in an absence�.

      As Dillon says of this

      �Furthermore, one gets the strong impression from Sartre�s analysis of love and language that the Other could not divulge these secret, were he to try�.

      Nonetheless Sartre insists that there is a gradual awakening of self-consciousness formed by the consciousness of Others, when he says

      �Frequent observation has shown that the child of two months does not see his hand as his hand. He looks at it, and if it is outside his visual field, he turns his head and seeks his hand with his eyes as if it did not depend on him to pick up his hand and to look at it. It is by a series of psychological operations and of syntheses of identification and recognition that the child will succeed in establishing tables of reference between the body-existed and the body-seen. Again it is necessary that the child begin the learning process with the Other�s body. Thus the perception of my body is placed chronologically after the perception of the body of the Other.�
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