Being and Nothingness / The Look / Sartre By: Gabriel Moreno

When does an individual figure out he or she is not alone in the world? It is when a person realizes the reality of other minds. It is important for that individual to first realize their own existence to understand that there are others in the world. Sartre acknowledges this by writing “I am in a public park.” This park has benches, grass, and Sartre sees a man. This man at first for Sartre is seen as another object just like the lawn and benches. There develops if this man is a “puppet,” then he will give him “temporal-spatial things” qualities, that is the distance from the lawn, in this case “two yards and twenty inches from the lawn.” There is a realization of the environment one is living in at the moment. Sartre is in a public park with benches along the lawn and there is this object. Orientation of all the objects is then described. Sartre sees himself as the center of his universe. Sartre sees the probability that the object might be a man acknowledging the same lawn he is looking at. Sartre includes that the man could even be imagining or thinking about something else or even being blind. We can never know what another individual is experiencing. We constantly will ask the question of what another is thinking but can we ever know? Probably not but it should be accepted that we think of things differently in so far as everyone experience of life is different. Everyone’s experience is different because they see the world from a different aspect. A blind man will experience the world different from another person with the sense of sight. If the blind man is given an operation to be able to see he will still experience the world differently from that a person that has been able to see their whole life. Sartre believes his world is beginning to escape him because this object-man and object-lawn are no longer his experience but that of the man on the bench. What is known as my universe quickly becomes his universe. The man on the bench becomes the middle while Sartre becomes a temporal-spatial object, something not in the middle anymore. It is my consciousness which creates the world I live in,

and the appearance of the Other’s consciousness only takes my world away. There is a loss of my world and the loss of my freedom to structure my world and consciousness. The Other has stolen the world from me and left me as a mere object, the very same type Sartre saw when first acknowledging the Other object on the bench across from him. This loss of me as for-itself is not a total loss. As long as I am at least an object in the world, I stay away from being nothing. How can I recover my world and consciousness when my existence has begun dependable upon the Other? What I am for-myself, my nature, my essence, and everything that is in the “I” is dependent on the Other, but the Other’s experience of me is my responsibility, my freedom. I create what the Other sees of me, my facticity. Sartre makes eye contact with the Other as a common stare down that occurs in everyday life. Why does someone become startled when making direct eye contact with another? There develops the reality there are Others in the world. In the context of a rebellion we try to gain control of the world taken from us and not let ourselves be held down by our own self-victimization. Sartre writes that we are “condemned to be free.” The anguish lived drives us to gain control of our world. It is almost like we desire to become God but are stopped by the realization of someone else in the universe. Who is this Other sitting on the bench? Is that Other trying to be God? Our minds are created to work the same way. Some people are smarter than others but that is not what is trying to be said. We all seek an ultimate perfection that is like that of God. And there is a certain alienation that is felt when we recognize that we are being recognized through eye contact with another person. Sartre enforces that the Other cannot look at him as he looks at the lawn. Being-seen-byothers creates a hell for us. The famous “hell is other people” takes place. Something so simple as making eye contact creates all these thoughts within our consciousness.

Shame can be seen closer in Sartre’s example of looking through a keyhole. Sartre stares through the keyhole as to create the illusion that no one can acknowledge him and take his world away from him. But all of a sudden there is a sense that someone is watching him, the consciousness of another presence, we become being-for-others. The very moment between watching the keyhole and reflecting on his world escaping him is what is known as shame. From this shame I fall into fear. I become aware of the possibility of my destruction in the world by something outside of me. “I am ashamed of myself,” and in more detail “I am ashamed of myself before the Other.” We can drop the idea of our goal of perfection because shame is shame before God because we do not really accept the Other as a person but as an object. Thus it is only I and God and only I care what God thinks. But then again we still carry the hell is other people and still continue to go through the shame and fear. I anger at the thought that the Other takes my world away but am comforted by anxiety, the freedom of consciousness to do what I want in retaliation against the Other. I am responsible for my future and fear is only my finding that I am an object transcended by possibilities that are not my possibilities. I come to recognize the Other as a subject beyond my reach through fear, shame, and pride. These are all reactions to my action of “regaining my subjectivity by objectifying others— making them into beings-for-others.”

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