Being and Nothingness.

In that work, Jean-Paul Sartre
attempts to straighten out a question that had eluded Descartes, Kant and Leibniz, and to a lesser extent Heidegger and Bergson: What is the relation of being to its nothingness? Bergson, for example' posited the act of duration, in which organization is melodic, involving a multiplicity of interpretations. Anyone who has been in a meetings, knows there are always competing perspectives and interpretations of events. Sartre, however, points out that if we talk of "temporality" then duration, as a multiplicity of interpretations, must presuppose "an organizing act" (Sartre, 1956: 135). Kant, in contrast to Bergson, did not see a synthesis in a multiplicity and the organizing act. At issue, for organization theory, is the terrain of "collective memory." For Bergson, the past interpretations cling to those of the present, penetrating the present in the form of memory, which is "ekstatically in the Past." What is ekstatic? For, Sartre's theory of temporality and organizing, ekstatic is not one, but three dimensions. And this is one of many contributions he makes in Being and Nothingness. To understand ekstatic, you will need a bit of vocabulary. I will work through an example of being David, not being Dave, and the nothingness of Dave and David. Believe it or not, Sartre speaks to the soul of human beings, to our habits of drinking, work, and dress, to the fashioning of our life style. Anyone who has experienced divorce, alcoholism, or workaholism can understand Sartre without translation. In the following vocabulary, I will point this out, and end with organizing and managing examples, for what is said about Being and Nothingness for Dave and David, can also be said of organizing and managing, and organization studies.

Sartre - Being and Nothingness -VOCABULARY
Affirmation - "Affirmation is always affirmation of something" (Sartre, 1956: lxv). When I say "I David, am happy" I am affirming something, and my act of saying my affirmation can be distinguished from the person (I reflect upon) that I am affirming. At the same time, an affirmation is always a negation of something, to be what it is not. For example, in my first marriage I was called "Dave." In my second, marriage, to reflect, upon the new person, I am becoming, I changed my name to "David." I do not turn around or respond, when someone yells, "Dave." Because, "Dave" is not the beingfor-itself, I intend to be in my second marriage. I want to free my self with my daily affirmations, to becoming "David" which here and there is really "nothingness" for I am not yet all of David that I want to be. David asserts he can no longer be the Dave that he was, and can be the David that he is not yet being. Still David, can also be in denial, not seeing the Dave he still is. Being-For-Itself - Being has several dimensions. Being-for-itself is defined "as being what it is not and not being what it is" (Sartre, 1956: lxv). It is our potentiality to be more than we are being. The For-Itself is perpetually designing itself not to be the InItself. If Dave is In-Itself, and David is For-Itself, we can say the following: Dave is being David, which Dave is not, and at the same time Dave what Dave is. I am a plurality: Dave is part of my being, and David is part of my being, and so is the nothingness that I have negated in both Dave and David. I see a certain lack in David, but a number of lacks no longer available to David. David is a line of flight away from Dave; fleeing the being David was, and fleeing the being which David is not. David is not a meat-eater, not an alcohol consumer, and not a Harley owner. Can I be joyful without Harley> I am the being David, along with the being Dave which I am denying in acts of nihilation. Being-For-Itself is an act of my self reflection of David making a

Being-In-Itself is full of itself (Sartre. workaholic. When I write and work beyond certain limits. Sartre was a workaholic. such as finding balance. David still has to work to feel good about himself as a human. Dave is a workaholic (and write-a-holic) who is in David about to become balanced (in work." then I switch from Being-In-Itself (workaholic) to Being-For-Itself (affirmation of being balanced. It is engaged in the world. Still a workaholic has to be what they are. spirit. writing past the point where his health would fail him. 1956: lxv). being what it is. David-ForItself reflect upon parts of David. 1956: 74). Post-Harley is a line of flight by Being-For-Itself. There are several types of being. we have to be what we are being. I sold the Hawg. I am working myself to death. . To become David. A Harley dude has to ride to live. David does not have to ride the Hawg. leisure. dress all in black. and ahead. too busy for self-reflection. As I reflect upon my workaholism. I had this wondrous Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Dave is completing himself in becoming David. will claim you. I am just being what David and Dave are. joy and passion). without Harley. come what may. stopped wearing all black clothes. In some cases. It takes total concentration to ride. When Dave wrote the Harley at 90 MPH along the LA freeways. For example. on the side. Being-in-itself is just being. and headed off to a new adventure. of our being (ontology). Beings have to be what they are (Sartre. wind change. declare an affirmation.We can be conscious of events. Sometimes being is what it is. black boots. While being Dave. "being happy is being balanced. reflecting upon a form of flight in the face of being (Sartre.conscious act to become what I am not yet being. and put on the shades to feel good about himself. feeling every bump. For-Itself is a witness of reflection. Being-For-Itself became redefined as post-Harley lifestyle. and live to ride. some pothole. and aware of traffic behind. Just a guy out for a ride on his Hawg. 1956: 1213). Photo 1: Dave's Electroglide Harley Being-In-Itself . Dave simply being who Dave is. or rut in the pavement. he was just being full of himself. or not being as balanced as I want to be). head out onto that road. is only one way of being David (In-Itself). that is not yet. The moment you stop to reflect upon the rider riding the Hawg.

3. To not-be what it is. it is always bearing witness to David non-being David.Ekstases . simply nothingness which "is made-to-be" as a separation (p. 3. even as Vegan. but that does not mean the other two will not be discovered in acts of self-reflection or some accident of discovery or encounter. to not be Dave drinking. being what It-Is. trying to not-be what Dave is. but David is always alcoholic. that is the question. "It is this game of musical chairs at the heart of the For-itself which is Presence to being" (Sartre." I have drunk the ensemble slips into the past (Sartre. 1956: 142). is never what David is. when "I have finished drinking. My distance from my "self" is nothing real.For-It-Self has to be its being. I may discover one first. 1. You see Dave is the unachieved totality of David.within the unity of a perpetual referring. and Future . David is still just being Dave. As Sartre says. David seeks to not be alcoholic. You do not escape the Past. 2. Consider each of the three dimensions. to be what it is not. nor merge with it. I am plurality and a unity of one.is my David =:= Dave perpetual game of reflected-reflecting. A nothingness of facticity separates Dave from David.There are three dimensions. To be what it is not . 2. To be what it is not and to not-be what it is -. 1956: 141). 1956: 137): 1. To be what it is not. to have still to be drinking beyond the drinking which I am (Sartre. David can neither get rid of Dave. I ponder.is the game of David reflecting on what he is not being. 1956: 141). Whenever I reflect upon both David and Dave. there are practices yet to be achieved. Past. To not-be what it is . David. These three ekstatic dimensions rest on the definition of "ekstasis" as the distance from self. David is not fully vegetarian. To be what it is not and to not-be what it is -. that prompts my desire to be what Dave is not. even with vegetarian practices. one comes to mine and the other escapes my grasp. haunted by a craving to taste the red wines of France. and it is this lacking. it is as Sartre says. and the lines of flight my selves are taking.within the unity of a perpetual referring . My Present. "To drink or to be drinking means never to have finished drinking. nothing In-Itself. 137). or ekstases to nihilation (Sartre. David is always apprehending himself as a certain lack. My Dave =:= David consciousness exists on these three dimensions.

or the trilogy of Being-For-Itself =:= Being-In-Itself =:= Nothingness. where I apprehend myself as not being what I want to be. our methodology for knowing what we are being and not being. For Dave to found David. and being what I did not want to be (each act is a reflective cogito). I know I am being perpetually renewed. The nihilation of Dave as my being is more than the duality of David =:= Dave or For-itself =:= In-itself. 142). and for Sartre an accent on the way Kant refuted Berkeley for his idealism in assuming humans are beings-in-itself. There came these moments in my life. and vice versa. This distance found in the act of nihilation.This is defined as how we know the world. It is an ontological act. and an epistemological act of self-reflection.The nihilating act of David erasing the "e" from Dave and replacing it it "id" is an example of nihilation. is more than a duality (either/or) and it is more . yet staying the same.are all at the same time. and also I am nothingness (all at the same time). One methodology is self-reflection. No one has ontological priority over the other except in the fictive imagination of the storyteller. and in acts of self-reflection I apprehend this plurality (Sartre. And David is a completion of Dave that haunts my For-Itself. Change is more in the eye of the witness than in the actions of the collective. Dave is a phantom presence that haunts David. and did lots of self-reflection (Will To Power is a collection of his notebooks). is Dave recovering the necessity of being David into his being through acts of reflexivity. in a nihilation of Dave. and I accuse Sartre of putting the accent on the present (here and now) one (p. me dispersing in three directions. Yet Sartre accuses Heidegger of putting the accept on the future ekstasis. a favorite argument of Leibniz change change also implies permanence (change and permanence interpenetrate). 1956: 80). Nihilation of Dave. 1956: 90). Nietzsche keep notebooks. (See Pistol Pete Example) Nihilation . Therapy is another method to know the being-in-itself (being what it is) and to know the being-for-itself (being all you can be). Epistemology . requires finding a certain distance from the self I am being and not being. Being is the foundation of nothingness as the nihilation of its own being (Sartre. The three ekstatic dimensions introduce a dynamic quality to temporality. and confronting our nothingness (I am not this inner or outer experience of self).

1956: 77). not drinking. and David is reflecting on Dave not being. Each moment has infinite possibility. would be the foundation of its own nothingness" (Sartre. I am not sure I must reunite Dave and David to be what I am. in acts of reflection. that toward the ForItself. and here and there reflect on the unity of the totality of Dave. and my reflecting on the reflection of this plurality. and a second "d" will be added. 1956: 79). I nihilate myself. and discovery of my human reality and the nihilation of Dave and David. suppressing. Ontology implies both being and not-being. In decompressing Dave =:= David. work. and For-Itself seeks some foundation in David. there is this hole in my being.than a dialectic in search of some new synthesis. 1956: 80). Our consciousness. Heidegger says we can have a pre-ontological comprehension of . David. and my reflection on my act of reflection. Nothingness . which includes reflection on the reflecting I do here and now. ate meat. precisely consciousness or for-self" (Sartre. do not drink alcohol. I am vegetarian (vegan). the Hawg is memory (though I rent one from time to time). the fall of Dave. and vice versa. where to begin? "Nothingness is the putting into question of being by being--that is. we are forced to admit it is nothing (Sartre. and can be being-in-itself and being-for-itself. and being who I am. to what is not being. David seeks to have a negating or nihilating power over Dave. and Hawg. But if we ask what it is that separates David from Dave. David is a negation of Dave. nothingness. and my reflection to the reflection. veganism. There is lack. and our nothingness. Dave is a fragment of David. a sort of methodology of investigation of the self. just my perpetual reference of self to self. the fall of being-in-itself toward being-for-itself. Dave is reflecting on being David. And it is not through a dialectic that David will merge with Dave and become some new synthesis of being. and on David is a mask or unconscious grimace of a sleeper who is dead to the desire for meat. Dave is a negation of David. don't smoke. every effort to conceive of the idea of a being which would be the foundation of its being results inevitably in forming that of a being which contingent as being-in-itself. toward being David. 1956: 79) Ontology . "Desire is a lack of being" (Sartre. Nothingness is always right there with being. As David. and both are me. "In short. But his is nothingness. Nihilation also means. and workaholism (still sits on my shoulder). unless I am conscious of Dave and David. I can play at being what I am not. for me to apprehend my own totality. Being cannot be annihilated." the "betweenness" can not be grasped or reflected upon. but sometimes I see Dave creep back in. David to Dave. At any moment the For-itself can become In-Itself. As Dave. Dave and David nihilate each other in acts of transformation and transcendence. I was born "David" and somehow got scripted into the role of "Dave" and it took divorce to set me free of that performance. it can be nihilated in acts of re-reflection and reflection. I can not conceive of the "separation. denial. and not being Harley-man. David has faith that the "e" will disappear. in any case. in the sense of In-Itself sees its nothingness. and just being nothing. alcohol. Playing at being Dave and at being David is methodology for nihilation. I drank. this is becoming nothingness to me. Dave and David are co-presents. I apprehend not being what David can be. On the face of David is a tragic mask of not becoming Dave. as it perpetually exists.Nothingness. 1956: 88). an "i" will replace it. rode my Hawg. and worked myself to the point of exhaustion and stupor each and every day of my life. is a "be-made-to-be" (Sartre. can pass beyond what exists in the world. not being workaholic. and I am teaching in a way that is more Dave than David. I am not another being. being can not escape nothingness. I must play at being David the university professor. As the "e" disappears in Dave. smoked.This is being in the world.

but Dave's existence continues to touch (and haunt) David. Dave. these presents. As soon as some CEO pronounces a vision. For Bergson. "We shall not succeed in constituting the dimension 'past' out of elements borrowed exclusively from the present any more than 'geneticists' have succeeded in constituting extension from unextended elements" (Sartre. For Sartre. Sartre goes beyond Bergson's idea of temporality as a multiplicity of interpretations that invade the present. and is being what it is now nothingness. Sartre's contribution was to move from the philosophy of "I think. My antenarrative was that I could become David. and what I am doing to my selves. What is down-sizing and reengineering. it ceases to act and remains "in its place" at its date for eternity (p. 1956: 119). The organization is not its past. to both of which it belongs" (Sartre.being. Organizing always involves historical revisionism. The past is no longer. it becomes false at the moment it is announced. therefore I was" (Sartre. as well as a thirst to nihilate Dave. restorying events. because they each isolate the present as apart from the past and future. Organization is related to its being by a bond to its non-being. that does not yet have concepts for explaining it. to be For-Itself. and part of our collective memory. therefore I am" to "I think. when I left my first marriage. accidents. or TQM. the organization is not being that. for I have these pasts. "Pre-reflective consciousness is self-consciousness" (Sartre. 1956: 109). present. that are the results of these prior events. present. and stop being Dave. All three are fiction images. Sartre uses the concept of "interpenetration" (also a favorite term of Mary Parker Follett). and reimagining some history as a pathway to a future that is not yet. Nihilation of past. The organization BeingFor-Itself enters into acts of reflection and nihilation to be aware of the co-present interpenetration of past. The problem for organization studies is to answer the question of how is it that organizations change and are interpenetrated by permanence (what does not change In-Itself). and future interpenetrate me. in time? Duration of organization presupposes an organizing act which is antenarrative. 1956: 76). present. Past. I think I felt this impression. a storyteller's fiction about the linearity of time. 1956: 100). and these possible futures. and future.Chronology is an illusion. and collective memory (that is being perpetually restoried). and future is the interpenetrating being of organizing. the foundation of all organizational change and transformation. if not acts of nihilation to birth some novel temporality. and stop being In-Itself. about the chronologically ordered succession of events to come. and to the bet that some being (story of being) can be fashioned and take hold in the collective mind and collective memory (I call this antenarrative). and choices. In Sum. an event goes into the past. for David is part of a past. and seeks to be answerable instead to a future that is for now nothingness. Temporality . in order to found itself in nothingness. but does not cease to be. 109). The past is restoried as the In-Itself the organization now seeks to surpass. all at once. the future is not yet. neither is it the present. one I could not put into words. and the instantaneous present does not exist (Sartre. for it is not being the performances it seeks to be. "the past is not nothing. present. In my pre-reflective cogito of the possibility and the ante (bet) that Dave could become David was an affirmation. are always reorganizing their past. I refer to this as pre-narration. And here and there is a pre-narrative of my consciousness of my own plurality. 1956: 107). but at its very source it is bound to a certain present and to a certain future. Organizations. when we look at managing and organizing. For example. and future. Organizing is forgetting events. foreshadowing the nihilation of In-Itself and the . Sartre moves beyond Bergson (and Descartes).

Take my favorite example. a shell game of hide the factory from the monitor (and the consumer). but fixated on its image-management. that are in turn." Still.000 of them (at last head count) working in 720 sweatshops. paying mega-millions to sports celebrities and principal owner. It is the death of the sweatshop that is the final victory for the antiglobalism movement. the Nike Corporation.becoming For-Itself. is still addicted to sweatshops. giving Nike its due. from Nike just doing and being Nike. and that which we are being is progress for us and them. Or as Argyris would say the "espoused theory" can not overtake the "theory in use. . being what it is not. ForIt-Self can not transform Nike-In-Itself. Nike is a split personality: The Present becomes by way of the PR Department the Former Future of the Past. a contractor to sweatshops. The perpetual renewal of Nike in the Present. and is having a good deal of difficulty transforming For-Itself post-sweatshop values into Nike-Being-In-Itself. while denying that Nike is this Future. But this flight establishes in contingency exactly what is fled: the for-itself which ahs been fled is left at its place (Sartre. Applying Sartre to Organization Studies: Nike . that is being the savior to the Third World. The activists pressure for a metamorphosis. Nike is the poster child of globalization. Organizing is the multiplicity and interpenetration of Being and Nothingness. The organization is a trilogy: not-being what it is. but Nike-In-Itself can not resist just being Nike. Past. Nike is in perpetual flight from Nike-In-Itself. no linearity here. and has spent a minor fortune on consulting firms. while paying pennies an hour to mostly women. Phil Knight. points to the interpenetrated co-presence of Present. Nike nihilates its own corporate conduct. Finally. is both change and not change. Nike is one of the best examples of the dynamic character of temporality. that is not yet. Nike the virtual corporation. Nike remains co-present with the Present sweatshop being. Nike is both of these ekstatic dimensions at once. and like it or not. and both (all three ekstatic dimensions co-present and interpenetrating). the post-sweatshop world. as promises unfulfilled. by invoking a new change that will be NikeFor-Itself in the Future. Nike is Being and Nothingness. subcontracting its body to the Third World. to grasp the totality of the game. the contingent quality of Nike storytelling. Nike continues to change without transforming the basic global commodity distribution and supply chain. The flight of the for-itself is the refusal of contingency by the very act which constitutes the for-itself as being the foundation of its nothingness. yet somehow confused. here and there Nike is raising a wage a penny or two. Then Nike is being what it is not. no longer employing children to make Soccer balls. There is a deep fissure in Nike. and the unrealized Future of the Past of this Present. merely a dream of sweatshop =:= post-sweatshop. the flight of Nike-For-Itself from Nike-InItself. for Sartre have a relative being. and Future. addicted to workthem-to-death and convinced that no other way is possible (denial). 1956: 149). each new exposé reveals Nike as Nothingness. as codes of conduct that are not enforced. 730. It is not-being what it is. to write monitoring reports. the promoter of codes of conduct. And in denial. unable to do reflectionreflecting. preventing change from existing as Being-In-Itself. and only stories of some new temporal corporate being.For-itself in the organization is its ekstatic being. to reform (and restory) the Past. Permanence and change. and is both Being and Nothingness. the Past exposé is restoried into Progress for Nike: "we are not being that. and investigator of subcontractor abuse." Yet. canceling a contract.

Nike seeks to nihilate itself. which is the foundation of its own nothingness. Nike wrenches against its own reforms in order to return to its sweatshop alliances. and grasp the possibility of a post-sweatshop capitalism. to end sweatshop. I dream that someday Nike can reflect upon itself reflecting. At the same time. but can not resist its addiction. .

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