Minimal Sartre: Diagonalization and Pure Reflection

John Bova 1
  • 1 University of New Mexico and New Centre for Research & Practice, New, Mexico, United States of America


These remarks take up the reflexive problematics of Being and Nothingness and related texts from a metalogical perspective. A mutually illuminating translation is posited between, on the one hand, Sartre’s theory of pure reflection, the linchpin of the works of Sartre’s early period and the site of their greatest difficulties, and, on the other hand, the quasi-formalism of diagonalization, the engine of the classical theorems of Cantor, Godel, Tarski, Turing, etc. Surprisingly, the dialectic of mathematical logic from its inception through the discovery of the diagonal theorems can be recognized as a particularly clear instance of the drama of reflection according to Sartre, especially in the positing and overcoming of its proper valueideal, viz. the synthesis of consistency and completeness. Conversely, this translation solves a number of systematic problems about pure reflection’s relations to accessory reflection, phenomenological reflection, pre-reflective self-consciousness, conversion, and value. Negative foundations, the metaphysical position emerging from this translation between existential philosophy and metalogic, concurs by different paths with Badiou’s Being and Event in rejecting both ontotheological foundationalisms and constructivist antifoundationalisms.

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