Search for a Method

Jean-Paul Sartre (1905 – 1980)

"What we call freedom is the irreducibility of the cultural order to the natural order." (p. vii)

"[A structural, historical anthropology] finds its place within Marxist philosophy because… I consider Marxism the one philosophy of our time which we cannot go beyond." (p. xxxiv)

"It is inside the movement of Marxist thought that we discover a flaw of such a sort that despite itself Marxism tends to eliminate the questioner from his investigation and to make of the questioned the object of an absolute Knowledge." (p. 175)

"For us man is characterized above all by his going beyond a situation, and by what he succeeds in making of what he has been made – even if he never recognizes himself in his objectification. This going beyond we find at the very root of the human – in need ." (p. 91)


NEGATIVITY = basis for project

SURPASSING = mediation between given and need

PROJECT = changing the basic situation by becoming aware of its contradictions

TRANSCENDENCE = existence outside-of-itself with the other-than-itself and other-than-man


"The object of existentialism – due to the default of the Marxists – is the particular man in the social field, in his class, in an environment of collective objects and of other particular men. It is the individual, alienated, reified, mystified, as he has been made to be by the division of labour and by exploitation, but struggling against alienation with the help of distorting instruments and, despite everything, patiently gaining ground. The dialectical totalization must include acts, passions, work, and need as well as economic categories; it must at once place the agent or the event back into the historical setting, define him in relation to the orientation of becoming, and determine exactly the meaning of the present as such." (p. 133)

"Whatever an ideological project may be in appearance, its ultimate goal is to change the basic situation by becoming aware of its contradictions. Sprung from a particular conflict which expresses the universality of class and condition, it aims at surpassing it in order to reveal it, to reveal it in order to make it manifest to all, to manifest it in order to resolve it. But between the simple revelation and the public manifestation, there is interposed a field restricted and defined by cultural instruments and by language." (p. 112)

"The world is outside; language and culture are not inside the individual like stamps registered by his nervous system. It is the individual who is inside culture and inside language." (p. 113)

"The movement of comprehension is simultaneously progressive (toward the objective result) and regressive (I go back toward the original condition)." (p. 154)

"Marxism in the nineteenth century is a gigantic attempt not only to make History but to get a grip on it…" (p. 89)