SARTRE’S ATHEISTIC EXISTENTIALISM IN THE NEXUS OF DESCARTES’ THEISTIC METAPHYSICS
Intellectual legacy of Descartes is still inexhaustible and one may find in it the meanings and concepts that may heuristically serve as tools to deal with the contemporary philosophies. This essay offers some reflections on the impact of Descartes on Sartre’s existentialism by focusing both similarities and differences between these two sets of philosophical themes. As a major exponent of an important twentieth-century philosophical trend, Sartrean brand of existentialism established itself as a model for the communication of ideas in several spheres of human intellect. Sharing the optimism of the age regarding the potential of existentialist philosophy, Sartre explicitly dictated the mobilization of opinions and propagation of thoughts with a variety of themes – everyday life, literature, art, religion, culture, ethics etc. Our aim in this essay is to make a small contribution to the interpretation of Sartre’s atheism in the nexus of the Cartesian theism, which is obviously not an unexplored territory; but still our analysis is important in that it draws least on Husserl’s and Heidegger’s brands of phenomenology which are more popular as philosophical frameworks to interpret Sartre.
The most pertinent background elements in studying Sartre’s existentialism are Husserl’s phenomenology, Heidegger’s phenomenological hermeneutics and Descartes’ ontological dualism. Although the focus of this paper is the latter one being the major nexus of illustrating Sartre’s existentialism it does refer to the former ones as well where it requires. So to be on the right track throughout this study of Sartre’s, this work does not attempt to deny the legitimacy or to belittle the importance of this philosophical nexus namely the Husserlian and the Heideggerian versions of phenomenology and it’s other well known originals.
Among the many ways in which the main tenets of Sartre’s existentialism can be illustrated in proportion, the nexus of Descartes’ ontological dualism deserves special attention. The Cogito argument namely “Cogito ergo sum”, if it is taken in phenomenological terms, manifests that consciousness is a substantial reality with an essentiality of thinking. World is also substantial as it exists its own being essentially extended. In contrast, Sartre’s notion of ‘être pour-soi’ (being for-itself) refers to consciousness which does not subsist its own rather it’s being is relative to the world that is a being in itself (être en-soi). That is to say, for Sartre, world is something being a being-in-itself whereas consciousness is detached from the world being not something or nothing.