own experiences, his theory of freedom and responsibility would be untenable. It will be contendedthat critics, such as Morris, who argue that Sartre’s notion of the conscious body is sufficient to account for the unity of consciousness, are in error.In
The Transcendence of the Ego
Sartre renounces the traditional philosophical belief that ‘the Ego isan ‘inhabitant’ of consciousness’(Sartre, 2004, p.1). The ego
, Sartre argues, is neither ‘formally’ presentat the heart of our intentional experiences, as a meaningless principle of unification, in the way Kantmaintains nor, as the psychologist’s claim, is it materially present in consciousness as the nucleus of our desires and acts. Rather, the ego is outside of consciousness, ‘in the world’(Sartre, 2004, p.1). Sartreopens with Kant’s famous declaration that ‘it must be possible for the ‘I think’ to accompany all myrepresentations’ and proceeds to call this statement into question. Although it seems that we must agreewith Kant in this assertion, is it in fact true, he questions, that the ‘I think’ does ‘accompany them inactual fact?’(Sartre, 2004, p.3). What Sartre holds, contrary to Kant and the tradition, is that the ‘I think’does not create the unity of the world and that this ‘I think’ is simply unnecessary for the unification of experience, as experience itself is already unified. It is not the case that our experience of the world, our sense impressions, which are chaotic and jumbled, need to be structured by our minds in order to bemade meaningful. Sartre argues, thereby operating with a stronger notion of the traditional given, that asexperience is already structured, it is already meaningful
to us and, hence, what we need to do is todiscover the structures within experience itself. Sartre argues that it is not the ego which is responsiblefor the unity and coherence of my conscious acts, ‘but rather is itself brought about when consciousness,in one of the actions compromising its stream, recollects several of its past moments and synthesizesthem with its present one’(Detmer, 2008, p.20). Sartre writes that, Kant’s ‘I think’, therefore, ‘appearsagainst the background of a unity that it has not contributed to creating, and it is this pre-existing unitywhich, on the contrary, makes it possible’(Sartre, 2004, p.5). Sartre therefore maintains that the ‘I think’is redundant.Sartre draws a distinction between the empirical ego and the transcendental field
. He states thatunlike the empirical ego, which is an object of consciousness, ‘the transcendental field becomesimpersonal…it is
without an I
’(Sartre, 2004, p.5). This transcendental field of consciousness is a ‘non-I….(or)…nothing precisely because it is the consciousness of all things’(Moran, 2000, p.377). Sartre proceeds to argue against Kant and the tradition, who claim that when we think of something we are
As Morris,1985, p.180 notes, Sartre wishes to demonstrate that the non-egological concept of consciousness whichHusserl advanced in the
was correct and that he had fallen into error when, in
he moved to anegological one.
In this respect Sartre follows Husserl, who also argued that when we talk about experience what we find is that we are not just given raw and confused sense data, but rather that what is given already has a structure and is meaningful.
Moran, 200, p.377.