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Sartre used to say that there is no difference between imaginary love and true love because the subject, being a thinking subject, is by definition what he thinks he is. He could say then that a historically “true” politics is always an invented one, that only by a retrospective illusion is this politics seen to be prepared within a history where it intervenes, and that, in a society, revolution is self-imagination. According to Sartre, praxis is thus the vertiginous freedom, the magic power that is ours to act and to make ourselves whatever we want, so that the formula “everything which is reali is praxis, everything which is praxis is real — in itself an excellent way of specifying the relations between Marx and Hegel — ends up meaning that we are what we contrive to be and, as for everything else, we are as responsible for it as if we had done it. Merleau-Ponty, Adventures of the Dialectic p 132

You have to wonder if M-P and Sartre were on speaking terms after M-P trashes him in this book. Sartre’s absolutist, rarefied idealism comes away looking, ahem, absurd. If I knew a bit more about his political situation I would feel comfortable comparing him to some of our more absolutist, rarefied thinkers who attempt to collapse the World into the subject and make comparably absurd statements after similar efforts at abstract reasoning.

Categories: Notes.

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2 Responses

  1. I don’t know if I agree with you, but you might enjoy Lukacs’ attack on the existentialists:

    Is there any room for a “third way” besides idealism and materialism? If we consider this question seriously, as the great philosophers of the past did, and not with fashionable phrases, there can be only one answer, “No.” For when we look at the relations which can exist between being and consciousness we see clearly that only two positions are possible: either being is primary (materialism), or consciousness is primary (idealism). Or, to put it another way, the fundamental principle of materialism is the independence of being from consciousness; of idealism, the dependence of being on consciousness. The fashionable philosophers of today establish a correlation between being and consciousness as a basis for their “third way”: there is no being without consciousness and no consciousness without being. But the first assertion produces only a variant of idealism: the acknowledgment of the dependence of being on consciousness.

  2. Good old Lukács. I haven’t read that essay, but I’ll look at it. His position in the “Reification” essay, though, is very similar to the one M-P lays out throughout the length of Adventures of the Dialectic: subjective and objective properties are mutually mediating, and so on.

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