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The Transcendence of the Ego: An Existentialist Theory of Consciousness
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The Transcendence of the Ego: An Existentialist Theory of Consciousness

3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  372 ratings  ·  21 reviews
First published in France in 1937, this important essay marked a turning point in Sartre’s philosophical development. Before writing it, he had been closely allied with phenomenologists such as Husserl and Heidegger. Here, however, Sartre attacked Husserl’s notion of a transcendental ego. The break with Husserl, in turn, facilitated Sartre’s transition from phenomenology t ...more
Paperback, 120 pages
Published 1991 by Hill and Wang (first published 1937)
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Xiaomin Zu
Sartre's take on the consciousness as purely spontaneous and without any trace of I or I-concept is suspiciously similar to some of the Buddhist rendering of consciousness: the ego as the transcendent unity of all psychic states and actions "constructed" by the reflecting consciousness and located only in the reflected consciousness; sth outside the pure spontaneous autonomic consciousness.
Nevertheless, Sartre's theory of the ego is one step further than Husserl's transcendental ego and the for
Matthew Ciaramella
Someone just got a little based.
From a phenomenological point of view this is by far, the most original work of Sartre.
Definitely a book that shows that Sartre owes a debt to Husserl, Descartes, and Kant. It is intended to show how he carves out a place for the active unity of the ego, but that underlying its synthetic unity is absolute nothingness. He even says, foreshadowing Being and Nothingness that once the ego begins to consciously reflect inward upon itself the mind realizes that the 'me' (or the self beyond the mere ego as it is represented) comes ex nihilo, or exists out of nothing. To me that is the mo ...more
George Spirakis
Σημαντικό βιβλίο για την αντίληψη απόψεων και θεωριών που αφορούν το "εγώ" μας. Ακόμα και να κάποια στοιχεία του ξεπερνούν τυχόν προσδοκίες ή υπάρχουν για να καλύπτουν τα κενά στη γνώση, ο Σαρτρ επιτίθεται σε όλους και σε ολα. Διαμορφώνει άποψη για το θέμα, δημιουργεί καταστάσεις και καταλήγει σε λογικά συμπεράσματα σχετικά με το ζητούμενο. Κάπου ανάμεσα σε ολα αυτά, υπάρχουν και στοιχεία που ο καθένας μας θα έπρεπε να αναλογιστεί, οχι απαραίτητα για να αναθεωρήσει τα κεκτημένα, αλλά για να αντι ...more
Peter Owens
One of the more approachable texts in my philosophy program. I guess French writers just know how to make themselves understood better than those verbose Germans.
John Wilson
Short but a difficult read. Espouses Sartre's conviction that the ego, or our sense of self, is not a constant and only appears through reflection after an event.
Jun 21, 2007 Chris rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people asking questions too big for themselves
I don't know why I read this all the way to the end. All I proved to myself is that I don't care whether things really exist or not. I also found that I don't believe that philosophers should ever use the terms "obviously" or "it follows that" because no, they don't necessarily follow at all. Whether anything objectively exists or not might be important if I didn't actually have to live in the world, but I think in reality, if I thought about that all of the time, I would get sick.
Aug 03, 2013 Pk added it
It's interesting to me that Sartre comes to a similar conclusion about the lack of subject/object duality in consciousness as Hindu thought, wherein samadhi grants this experience. In the meditative tradition, it's a mystical experience, the result of accomplished meditation; in Sartre, it's the search for a phemenologically-based formulation of the ego.
This book was a little over my head. Also, Sartre has the annoying habit of using "obviously" or "clearly" in lieu of a more lucid explanation. Maybe some of the ideas he explores are "obvious" to other philosophers and maybe they're the intended audience of this book, but I felt the explanations were a little thin at points.
Adam Floridia
As much as it pains me to admit it, this one was over my head. I trudged through over half of it but finally decided that the little bit I was getting wasn't worth the effort of continuing. Hopefully, in a few years I'll be able to return to this and read it like it's a Harry Potter novel.
Thomas Chong
I loved this book. Sartre's explanation of non-positional consciousness really challenged my thought that inherent in every conscious act is an "I", which synthesizes and processes phenomenal information. I think this could be applied to Eastern philosophy quite easily.
I have a lot of thoughts on this book, and would like to write a response that would seek to describe the way improvisation relates to "action" in the existentialist tradition. As soon as I get my thoughts straight on this subject, I'll post the writing on my blog.
Amazing book, though not for the light philosophy reader. Definitely need a little Kant and Descartes and Husserl under your belt. I struggled through this in my undergrad, but re-read a few months ago with little effort.
current "externalist" position in the philosophy of mind doesn't mention sartre much, but this continental philosopher's perspective makes better readings than his anglo-american analytic counterparts.
Oct 14, 2009 Jeremy marked it as gave-up
I distinctly recall tackling this book between my sophomore and junior year of college and coming to the revelation that my vocabulary wasn't nearly as large as I thought it was.
Existentialist heavy hitter.
JP is very technical, and makes some people drink lots of black coffee and smoke unfiltered cigarettes.

I find his work uplifting.

Vague interpretation of Husserl, coupled with vague new 'phenomenological' approaches, resulting in a surprisingly thought-provoking piece on subjectivity.
Simon Vigneault
A good place to start with his philosophy.
Important book.
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Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre, normally known simply as Jean-Paul Sartre, was a French existentialist philosopher and pioneer, dramatist and screenwriter, novelist and critic. He was a leading figure in 20th century French philosophy.

He declined the award of the 1964 Nobel Prize in Literature "for his work which, rich in ideas and filled with the spirit of freedom and the quest for truth, has ex
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