1.02.2016

Jean-Paul Sartre’s Notebooks for an Ethics: The Ontology of the Gift

Zojuist verschenen in
Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory http://www.jcrt.org/
Themanummer:
Violence and the Gift
Challenging Continental
Philosophy of Religion

Guest Editors:

Ludger Hagedorn
Michael Staudigl
Jason W. Alvis

Ruud Welten - Jean-Paul Sartre’s Notebooks for an Ethics: The Ontology of the Gift

Jean-Paul Sartre’s Notebooks for an Ethics: The Ontology of the Gift

In his 1943 Being and Nothingness, Jean-Paul Sartre concludes that the relationship with the other is always characterized by conflict. No need to be a Sartre scholar to be familiar with the quote L'enfer, c'est les autres or Hell is: Other People. In his 1960 Critique of Dialectical Reason, the other is understood as the realm of alienation: the other is that which can take hold of, control, our freedom. Like in Being and Nothingness, the existence of the other results in a struggle for freedom; this implies that the relationship with the other is always characterized by conflict. In the following, I will focus on a text Sartre wrote in the period between the publications of the two above-mentioned works, more precisely on his exploration of the gift in his posthumous Notebooks for an Ethics. Sartre’s interest in the debate on the gift was triggered by Marcel Mauss, who inspired him to rethink the theme of the other—Sartre was at that time looking for a way to think about the other as the other, a path, to be sure, that he abandoned later on. I propose to follow this alternative route by re-reading some passages on the gift as they appear in Notebooks for an Ethics. Notebooks was written in 1947 and 1948 as an attempt to redeem a promise formulated near the end of Being and Nothingness, namely to elaborate on the ethical implications of the work and to publish an ethics in the future. However Sartre left that project, and the texts remained unpublished until 1983, three years after his death.