Sartre’s Case for Nonthetic Consciousness: The Ground of the Cartesian Cogito’s Certainty and the Methodological Basis for Phenomenological Ontology

Curtis Sommerlatte 1
  • 1 Department of Philosophy, Concordia University, 1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W., Montreal, Canada
Curtis Sommerlatte
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  • Department of Philosophy, Concordia University, 1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W., Montreal, QC H3G 1M8, Montreal, Canada
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Sartre’s phenomenological view of consciousness gives primacy to the thesis that all consciousness is nonthetically aware of itself, i. e. pre-reflectively aware of itself but not as an object. Few commentators, however, have explained Sartre’s grounds for holding this thesis, despite his view that the thesis’s truth underwrites the certainty of the Cartesian cogito and thereby the method of Sartre’s own phenomenological ontology. I document three lines of support for the thesis, the most promising of which consists in a proof by cases. Namely, Sartre’s texts contain the argument that the existence of nonthetic consciousness is the only satisfactory explanation of the Cartesian cogito’s certainty. The paper concludes with an examination of whether and how nonthetic consciousness can serve as a foundation for Sartre’s method of phenomenological ontology.

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