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  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: December 2014

8 - Bad faith in human life: Being and Nothingness


Temporality: the phenomenology

Sartre conceives of time as an original synthesis, a totality with secondary structures and not a series of “instances” that Merleau-Ponty ascribes to him as a kind of “pointillism” of temporality. These secondary structures, the past, present and future, must be considered in light of the synthetic whole of which they are parts. So begins his reflections with a phenomenology of these three temporal dimensions. These descriptive analyses are pursued under the totalizing eye of the ontology of world and circle of self just considered. So the past is initially “mine”; it presents itself as the past of my present and my future. This “myness” “is not a subjective nuance that would shatter the memory; it is an ontological relation which unites the past to the present” (BN 110). That relation is not external, it is internal and constitutive. I “am” my past, I don’t simply have it. But this past has an identity and a permanence that is ever increasing as I continue to live. Its ontology is factical; it assumes the features of being-in-itself. So I am my past in the manner of not-being it. This is the temporal dimension of the facticity of my being-in-situation. “Facticity” and “Past,” Sartre assures us, are two words to indicate one and the same thing (BN 118). But, unlike other aspects of my facticity, I am my past under the aspect of “having been” it. As Sartre explains: “If already I am no longer what I was, it is still necessary that I have to be so in the unity of a nihilating synthesis which I myself sustain in being” (BN 117).

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Natanson, Maurice renders it “is-was” (A Critique of Jean-Paul Sartre’s Ontology [The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1973], 59)
Caws, Peter offers us “is been,” explaining that this turning of “to be” into a reflexive verb captures Sartre’s nuance that the for-itself is “a self-sustaining reflection of Being upon itself” (Sartre [London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979], 82)
Anderson, Thomas, Sartre’s Two Ethics: From Authenticity to Integral Humanity (Chicago, IL: Open Court, 1993), 53
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Schumacher, Bernard N., Death and Mortality in Contemporary Philosophy (Cambridge University Press, 2011)
Benoist, Jean-Marie, La Revolution structurale (Paris: Grasset, 1975), 11.
Sartre, Jean-Paul, Sartre on Theater, ed. Contat, Michel and Rybalka, Michel, trans. Jellinek, Frank (New York: Pantheon , 1976), 190
Sartre, Jean-Paul, Typhus (Paris: Gallimard, 2007), 9