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2.33 Jean Paul Sartre

An interesting aspect of Sartre’s philosophy (Paris, 1905 – 1980) is that which focuses attention on the other’s point of view towards me. Sartre notes that when another person stands in front of me, that other person is not experienced simply as any object, but as one who in turn sees me, considers me, evaluates me, assigns me a position at the inside of his horizons and his look. In other words, I can consider that there are so many objects around me, but, when I consider that there is also another person, I cannot help but notice that I, in turn, am for that person an object, I am “objectified”. Consequently, from that moment I am forced to acknowledge that my being is no longer only what I think of myself, but is conditioned by what the other decides to think of myself. To this we must add that all men tend to enslave the world around them, including other people. Consequently, I, who fall under the look of the other, cannot help but perceive this tendency to the enslavement that comes to me from that look: the other, whether he wants it or not, while he looks at me, tends automatically to enslave me and I cannot avoid feeling it. In this context of ideas we understand the expression of Sartre: hell is other people. We can also understand how in Sartre’s thought the I is not in consciousness, but it is an object like many others, which is outside of ourselves, there, in the midst of the other objects that are seen, among which there are also the “Is” (meant as plural of I) of other people. Because of this strong limitation of our own perspective, the I, placed in the midst of other objects, loses all its meaning and its motive to exist, in the same way that people had the feeling that the world lost its sense of existence when Copernicus (1473-1543) discovered that it was the earth that revolved around the sun and not vice versa; this absolute lack of motives turns even into feeling not wanted in the world, in short, like a guest who has not been invited, given that the I makes no sense, nor does receive it from objects or other Is. This feeling of disharmony with the world and others is called by Sartre, with a term now become famous, nausea; that is to say that the I is nothing, but obviously others as well, both people and objects, don’t have for the I any reason to be received, appreciated, to receive interest.
In this context of non-sense, for Sartre we are totally free beings, but of such a vast freedom that we cannot find any reason to do one thing rather than another; therefore, according to Sartre, our freedom is like a clash with the void, we are condemned to be free.
Also the character of Sartre was consistent with this form of nihilism: he could not fit into any system, any order, any framed lifestyle; he could be defined as an anarchist without goals, if anything to enjoy life, a rebel who, however, knowingly refused to have alternatives to propose. This evidently has similarities with Nietzsche and also with Heidegger, whose anguish and being toward death are concepts close to Sartre’s nausea.

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