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Relationship Between Body and Consciousness by Jean-Paul Sartre Response Essay

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Updated: Dec 27th, 2019

Introduction

According to Jean-Paul Sartre, understanding of the body is obscured by many factors. Moreover, its relation to consciousness is masked. In addition, its problems are concealed. He argues that this is attributed to the complexities surrounding consciousness. For instance, the body has laws that govern it.

Moreover, it is observable as matter. Furthermore, the body can be defined from the outside. However, this is not the same as with consciousness. Consciousness is reached by peculiar intuitions, which are inside the body.

This complicates its understanding since one has to relate it to the body organs. Sartre claims that after internal intuitions, one can then unite consciousness to the various body organs for action.

Therefore, Sartre tries to define the relationship between body and consciousness. In addition, he tries to explore the problems of the body. This paper will review Sartre’s theories on the body as well as its relation to consciousness.

The Body

Jean-Paul argues that consciousness is quite complex to understand. However, he finds it quite easy to cognize the body. Interestingly, once consciousness has been achieved, then its unity to the various body organs such as the nervous system becomes increasingly complex to analyze.

However, he argues that the difficulties arise from trying to connect one’s conscience with other people’s bodies. Interestingly, he notes that no one has ever seen or will ever see his/her brain.

That is, people look to others for explanation about their bodies. In that sense, he sees one’s body organs as his/her property than as his/her being. Through this, he notes that observable body organs such as the eye, the legs, and the ears, among others can only be seen in a single perception, which does not involve itself.

In essence, Sartre argues that people see their organs as the other in relation to themselves because they cannot comprehend how they function to communicate sense.

Therefore, he claims that people deal with different orders of reality. In this regard, he rejects the notion of double sensation because these two orders of reality are in incommunicable levels. In essence, he claims that the orders of reality are radically distinct.

Sartre also agrees with other theorists that the discovery of the body as being is real. However, he claims that the body is indeed a being for others. On this, he argues that people usually link their consciousness of objects on the body of others.

Sartre gives an example of an inverted image seen from the lens to show that conscience can refuse to be bound by the laws of objects so that it conveys an upright image. In this regard, he posits that it is only possible to reflect on the nature of the body by first establishing the order of reflection.

This should conform to the order of being which states that people cannot keep confusing the levels of ontology.

Moreover, they must first look at the body as being-for-itself then as being-for-others. In addition, he argues that the two orders of the body are in both incommunicable and different levels so that they cannot be unified.

In this regard, he continues that being-for-itself has to be wholly consciousness and wholly body. Moreover, it should be noted that the two (consciousness and body) cannot be unified. Similarly, he posits that being-for-others should also be wholly body and the body wholly psychic.

Being-for-itself: Facticity

From the discussion above, Sartre rejects Descartes’s theory that knowing the soul is easy as compared to knowing the body. In essence, it rejects the observations in the “Cartesian cogito.” Sartre argues that the facts of the body are completely different from the facts of thought.

To prove this, he says that facts of the body are accessible through divide providence while facts of thought can be accessed through reflection. That is, the facts of consciousness manifest in signs, which drives the body out of conscience. This makes it difficult to reunite the two since the body has become a body-of-others.

He commends the idea that idealism was right in positing that the world is made out of relation. However, he believes that idealism is not entirely true because it was taken from Newtonian science, which conceived relation from another relation known as relation of reciprocity.

That is, idealism succeeded only in making the point of absolute objectivity. Moreover, Absolute objectivity made it possible for the world to exist without people thereby nullifying its effect.

He therefore claims that the body is in the order of for-itself. In this regard, the body must be defined with the world. He therefore concludes that the body is one’s motivation without being its foundation.

Sartre agrees with Plato on the fact that the body individualizes one’s soul. However, he does not agree with some theorists that it was made because of a demiurge. Moreover, he faults Plato in his belief that soul can be separated from the body at death.

That is, he believes that one’s soul cannot detach itself from individualization because soul is the body as far as Sartre is concerned. To prove this, he gives an example of a sense, which he believes cannot be given before or after the sensible object.

He also commends Bachelard for reproaching phenomenology for inadequacy in coefficient of adversity. However, he faults him partly on the fact that instrumentality is primary. Moreover, he claims that one’s body extends through the tool that it utilizes. In this regard, he joins action and sensation as one.

Moreover, he states that the body is a conscious structure of its own consciousness. Sartre believes that body organs give the body as it is acted upon as opposed to giving as it acts.

Since he believes that the appearance of the body is not capable of giving rise to new complications, he concludes by stating that the body is one’s facticity of being. Moreover, since on one aspect the body appears as being for itself, on the other aspect it appears as an object, which is visible in one’s body organs.

This shows that in accordance with the former level, the body has no physiology but on the latter level, it has physiology due to the presence of organs.

In essence, Jean-Paul Sartre believes that the body is being-for-itself as well as being an object. In accordance with the former, he claims that the body has several aspects while one lives. One of the aspects includes consciousness, in which he considers the body as being a matter being-for-itself.

The second aspect is perception. In this regard, he argues that when people perceive other bodies, they do so in a special manner. This kind of perception is completely different from the perceptions of lifeless things.

Thirdly, Sartre believes that one can perceive his/her own body under particular circumstances. One therefore sees himself/herself as an object even without involvement of other people (being-in-itself).

He utilizes numerous examples and arguments from theorists such as Plato, and Bachelard, among others to prove his arguments. Moreover, he draws information from many sources with an in depth analysis of information for the audience. It can be said the Sartre tries to define the body and consciousness.

Moreover, he tries to relate them with a view to establishing a common description and cognition of both. This is quite difficult considering the complexities involved. However, it should be noted that he rightly rejects theories that suggest that understanding the soul is easy as compared to understanding the body.

Conclusion

Jean-Paul Sartre tries to define the human body. He also tries to define consciousness. In both cases, he agrees that human body can be defined in different levels. For instance, he defines it as a being-for-itself and as an object.

In the process, he disputes many theories including those posited by Plato, Descartes, and Bachelard, among others. However, it is important to note that he does not dispute their theories entirely but borrows from them to support his theories.

Nonetheless, his understanding of the body and soul is quite apprehensive given that he rejects almost all theories posited by others. Moreover, he claims that one’s soul cannot be detached from his/her body even in death.

This brings controversies especially with religious people who believe in the separation of soul from body as well as in their distinctiveness. In addition, his arguments are largely theoretical as well as philosophical. This makes it difficult to defend his theories.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Relationship Between Body and Consciousness by Jean-Paul Sartre." December 27, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/relationship-between-body-and-consciousness-by-jean-paul-sartre/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Relationship Between Body and Consciousness by Jean-Paul Sartre'. 27 December.

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