BSP Podcast: Mary Edwards – on Sartre’s ‘Human-World Realism’

podcast update

Season two of our podcast continues with another presentation from the British Society for Phenomenology Annual Conference 2017 in Brighton.

Season 2 episode 27: 5 February 2018

This recording is of Mary Edwards’ presentation ‘The Phenomenological Foundations of Sartre’s “Human-World Realism”’. You can listen to this episode on the BSP’s Podbean site, and you can also find it on iTunes and all good podcasting apps by searching ‘BSP Podcast’.

Abstract: “Drawing upon the work of John Duncan (2005), Thomas R. Flynn (2014), and upon Frederick A. Olafson’s (1967) classic text, Principles and Persons: An Ethical Interpretation of Existentialism, this paper argues that the development of Jean-Paul Sartre’s phenomenology is guided by his commitment to providing a robust foundation for philosophical realism. Its aim is to illuminate how, rather than merely enriching our knowledge of experience itself, Sartre’s mature phenomenology seeks to transcend experience toward the concrete realm of worldly being by affirming that human experience provides the basis for a ‘realistic materialism’. This paper proceeds by first discussing how, despite his initial, enthusiastic engagement with the phenomenology of Edmund Husserl, Sartre departs from Husserl in his efforts to turn his phenomenology outward – towards deepening our understanding of others and things in the world – rather than inward – toward the self – which is how he interprets Husserl’s work. Then, it traces the development of Sartre’s phenomenological thought from Being and Nothingness through to the Critique of Dialectical Reason and argues that Sartre progressed from using the tools of ‘pure’ phenomenology as a means of examining consciousness, to developing a realist phenomenology that is committed to describing human experience as concrete experience of an embodied self, the world, and others. Finally, this paper highlights some idealist tendencies that persist in Sartre’s thought and poses the question of whether his mature phenomenology can support a defence of ‘realism-proper’. It concludes by gesturing towards an answer in the negative, but which defends Sartre’s choice not to isolate metaphysics from politics in his later work.”

The British Society for Phenomenology’s Annual Conference took place at the University of Brighton, UK during September, 2017. It gathered together philosophers, literary scholars, phenomenologists, and practitioners exploring phenomenological theory and its practical application. It covered a broad range of areas and issues including the arts, ethics, medical humanities, mental health, education, technology, feminism, politics and political governance, with contributions throwing a new light on both traditional phenomenological thinkers and the themes associated with classical phenomenology. More information about the conference can be found here.