Sartre on authentic and inauthentic love.
Abstract: This paper shows that while Sartre's account of love relations in Being and Nothingness is famously conflictual, his Notebooks for an Ethics offers a far more positive account. It pays particular attention to the role that each lover's pre-reflective fundamental project plays in shaping the content of their love relationship.

Key words

Sartre, love, conversion, social relations, the Other
Article Type: Report
Subject: Intimacy (Psychology) (Psychological aspects)
Existential psychology (Research)
Philosophy of mind (Research)
Author: Rae, Gavin
Pub Date: 01/01/2012
Publication: Name: Existential Analysis Publisher: Society for Existential Analysis Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Psychology and mental health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2012 Society for Existential Analysis ISSN: 1752-5616
Issue: Date: Jan, 2012 Source Volume: 23 Source Issue: 1
Topic: Event Code: 310 Science & research
Geographic: Geographic Scope: Egypt Geographic Code: 7EGYP Egypt
Accession Number: 288874175
Full Text: Introduction

This paper explores Jean-Paul Sartre's thoughts on sexual love. The general argument developed builds on Jean Wyatt's argument that while Sartre's account of love relations in Being and Nothingness is (in)famously conflictual, his fictional works 'expand the analysis of love [and] complicate and critique the ontological categories of Being and Nothingness by revealing the complex, paradoxical, and often fruitful dialectical between being-for-others and being-for-itself (Wyatt, 2006: pi). While Wyatt appeals to Sartre's fictional work to demonstrate that his account of love relations is not simply the one-dimensional relations of conflict outlined in Being and Nothingness, I complement this by showing that his philosophical works, especially the Notebooks for an Ethics, also demonstrate this. In particular, Sartre notes that if both consciousnesses choose to undergo a process called 'conversion,' a different non-conflictual, authentic love relation, where both lovers reflectively recognise, care for and affirm each other's freedom, is possible.

Love in Being and Nothingness (1)

In Being and Nothingness, Sartre starts his discussion of love with the question: Why does the lover want to be loved? (Sartre, 2003: p388). For Sartre, the lover is not simply concerned with establishing a physical sexual relation with his beloved. Sexual desire may be crucial in distinguishing the love relationship from friendship, but it is not what defines the love relation. If it were, love could be easily achieved through purchase; paying for sex would be love. Yet we know this is not the case. Rather than desiring a physical relation with his beloved, Sartre holds that the lover desires his beloved's free spontaneity; it is this that forms the object of his love (ibid).

However, the lover does not desire a passive object or a formal pledge, nor does he want to think that his love is deterministically ordained, sent from heaven, and/or the result of fate or a love potion. These devalue his love to a form of determinism. While the lover wants to become '"the whole world" for [his] beloved' (ibid: p389), he wants to do so in a way that preserves his beloved's independence and freedom. There are two related aspects to this: firstly, if he does, in fact, become the 'ground' for his beloved's existence, he will no longer be plagued by insecurity, doubt, misery, and anxiety over what his beloved is thinking about. He will know that his beloved is thinking of him in each and every moment of his being; her entire existence will be focused around him (ibid: p391).

Secondly, while it is true that the lover wants to become the anchor for his beloved's existence, he still wants his beloved to maintain her spontaneity and freedom (ibid: p390). This is because he desires both the certainty of knowing that his beloved loves him and the excitement gained from having to constantly discover and win this.

The latter point is crucial for Sartre: the lover does not desire a passive object; it is because the other challenges us and opens us to alternative perspectives and experiences that we find them interesting and want to interact with them. For Sartre, love relationships are supposed to open us to new alternatives and perspectives; it is this that keeps the relationship interesting and 'fresh'. If this difference and challenge does not exist and/or is allowed to flounder, the lovers can drift apart culminating in the end of their relationship.

I will return to this issue in subsequent sections; however, at this stage, it is important to note that, if the beloved gives herself to him, the lover experiences a profound alteration in his being: his life gains meaning. By gaining a sense of existential importance, love makes the lover happy and is one of the main reasons why he, and we in general, seek the experience of love on a continuous basis. In love, we are not lost in existence devoid of an anchor but suddenly become that anchor for another; suddenly we matter. 'This is the basis for the joy of love when there is joy: we feel that our existence is justified' (ibid: p390).

This is one aspect of Sartre's account that is illuminating, insofar as it highlights the profound effect that being loved by another has on our being. The world suddenly feels different; we engage with things differently. Suddenly we matter and this attitude reflects through all of our actions. This is one reason for the profound sadness that can occur when we are rejected by another, and our beloved decides to take his/her love back. We no longer feel this feeling of importance, worth, value, and meaning. We are once again thrown back into the anxiety of our contingent situation. When once we mattered, rejection highlights that for our former lover we are once again nothing.

But because the lover desires his beloved's freedom he cannot simply appropriate her freedom; he must win it by seducing it. The game between potential lovers begins at this point as they try to outplay each other. The seducer aims to obtain his beloved's freedom while not giving her anything of his freedom.

But the question remains: when will the lover's seduction succeed, 'when ... will the beloved become ... the lover?' (ibid: p396). Sartre answers: 'when the beloved projects being loved' (ibid: p96). The beloved can be independently appropriated by the lover as an object, but this objectification is not what is desired by the lover. It is only if the beloved gives herself to the lover that the lover can gain what he desires: his beloved as a free being. But the beloved will only engage in the love relationship if she herself wants to be loved. For Sartre, love is an openness to an other that indicates a willingness to give oneself to the other. We can never make the other person love us on our own; they must always give themselves to us as free subjects. 'Love is in essence the project of making oneself be loved' (ibid: p397).

Put differently, love is not a random occurrence, nor is it determined; it is a pre-reflective project that aims to realise the particular end of wanting to be in love. There are two aspects to Sartre's notion of the pre-reflective project: first, while unified, consciousness is 'composed' of two aspects, a reflective aspect and, more primordially, a pre-reflective aspect. While the former is a conceptual, spatio-temporally orientated, judgemental, explicit understanding, the latter is a non-conceptual, non-objective, general awareness or 'feel' (Zheng, 2001; pp20-21). Prior to conceptually understanding something, Sartre holds that we are non-conceptually aware of it. As such, and rather than fully and explicitly understanding everything we are doing, much of what constitutes human activity occurs at the pre-reflective, non-conceptual level of awareness.

Secondly, while consciousness is ontologically nothing and so free, it does not simply randomly choose how to 'use' this freedom to express itself. Each consciousness pre-reflectively chooses a general project that orientates its reflective existence. Some will choose to be writers, others doctors, others teachers, others criminals and so on. While shaped by others in childhood, Sartre holds that, ultimately, its ontological freedom means that it is consciousness's choice as to which project it chooses. Once consciousness has chosen its fundamental project, the norms of this fundamental project become consciousness's pre-reflective norms and values, which shape consciousness's reflective decisions and activities, which in turn re-enforce its pre-reflective project. Thus, if consciousness's fundamental project is to be a writer, consciousness pre-reflectively adopts the actions, values, and norms associated with being a writer.

For Sartre, love is a pre-reflective project. We create a love relationship with another because we want to be in a relationship. This act does not occur at the reflective level, but at the pre-reflective level. We pre-reflectively decide that we want to be in a love relationship and so, rather than close ourselves off to others, pre-reflectively open ourselves to the possibility of being in a love relationship with another. This does not guarantee that each will find another, but it is the first step. For Sartre, therefore, there is no romantic love; we do not simply and magically find our other half. Whether two people fall in love and create a life with one another depends on whether they are prepared to give themselves to each other. (2)

However, in wanting to possess his beloved's freedom, the lover loses his freedom because by demanding that his beloved make him the ground of her existence, his true position emerges: he is dependent on her. The lover of Being and Nothingness maintains that this dependency alienates him from his essential freedom because, by orientating his being around his beloved, her existence becomes necessary to his existence. For this reason, Sartre explains that 'it is the one who wants to be loved who by the mere fact of wanting someone to love him alienates his freedom' (2003: p397). Sartrean love appears to be a game of 'winner loses'.

But while Sartre maintains that the love relation he outlines in Being and Nothingness describes 'the commonest and strongest' form of love relation (Sartre 1999: p258), he does recognise that 'there are other ways of loving' (ibid). The problem with the love relation described in Being and Nothingness is that it assumes that: 1) the lovers are pure subjects existing in opposition to each other; and 2) the goal of love is to possess the other's freedom. Sartre argues that a different form of love relation is possible if both consciousnesses alter their pre-reflective fundamental projects. This, however, requires that both consciousnesses undergo a difficult and painful conversion.


While Sartre maintains that consciousness is always pre-reflectively aware of its ontological freedom, he thinks that consciousness's 'natural attitude' (Sartre, 1992: p6) is to try to overcome the insecurity and anxiety that accompanies this absolute freedom by synthesising with its objective other to become a being that has a fixed, yet free, ontological identity. Consciousness is destined to fail in this endeavour, however, because a condition of its ontological freedom is that it nihilates its objective other, which prevents it from synthesising with its other in the way necessary to attain the fixed, yet free, ontological identity it desires (Sartre, 2003: pi 14; Sartre 1992: p498).

The experience of constantly failing to attain this fixed, yet free, ontological identity may, but does not necessarily have to, bring consciousness to question this end (Sartre 1992: p472). In turn, this questioning may lead it to: a) recognise that it does not have to try to fulfil this futile end; and b) alter its pre-reflective fundamental project away from this futile end.

While Sartre maintains that 'there are no reasons within this world for changing one's point of view' (ibid: p357), which indicates that the reasons for choosing to undergo the conversion are mysterious and individual, he does point out that the consciousness that chooses to convert: 1) adopts a new pre-reflective fundamental project that has the affirmation of freedom as its highest ethical end; and 2) alters its reflective self-understanding to reflectively grasp its ontological freedom (ibid: p474). Because conversion brings consciousness to reflectively understand what it truly is (ontologically nothing), Sartre explains that it entails the 'rejection of alienation' (ibid: p470) and the movement towards authentic being.

But Sartre is explicit that the conversion process is not a one-off event (ibid: p37). In line with his insistence that consciousness is a constant process of becoming, Sartre maintains that consciousness must constantly choose to re-affirm its pre-reflective fundamental project. If it chooses the pre-reflective fundamental project of bad faith, it can always escape this by undergoing the conversion to one that affirms freedom; if it chooses to undergo the conversion, the anxiety that results from its reflective knowledge of its absolute freedom may push it back into the pre-reflective fundamental project of bad faith. Consciousness is constantly faced with this fundamental choice and must decide, for itself, which one to follow.

But at the same time as conversion allows consciousness to reflectively understand that it is ontologically nothing, conversion also alters consciousness's understanding of its relation to objects and objectivity. As Being and Nothingnesses discussion of love discloses, the self-understanding of the pre-converted consciousness pits a privileged pure subject against a pure object. For this reason, the lovers seek to objectify their beloved rather than be objectified themselves. But the converted consciousness adopts an alternative understanding of its relationship to objectivity that overcomes the subject/object dichotomy. Conversion 'provoke[s] a transformation' (Sartre 1992: p12) in consciousness's view of and relation to the objectivity of its body, world and 'other people' (ibid: p12).

Sartre contends that conversion brings consciousness to accept that objectivity is an aspect of its existence (ibid: p20). There are two complementary consequences of this: 1) consciousness recognises and accepts that it is not a pure subject confronting an objective world; its existence is dependent on its objective world; and 2) because the converted consciousness reflectively understands that it is through the other's look that it becomes reflectively aware of its objective facticity, the converted consciousness comes to reflectively understand that the objectification it experiences as a result of the other's look is not a threat to its freedom, but rather discloses an aspect of itself that it alone is not pre-reflectively aware of: its facticity. This brings the converted consciousness to recognise that the other plays a crucial role in disclosing that it is really a subjectivity that lives an objective body in an objective situation, rather than the pure subjectivity it pre-reflectively understands itself to be prior to conversion. With this realisation, the converted consciousness no longer sees the other as a threat to its pure subjectivity and, as such, no longer seeks to defend its subjectivity by objectifying the other. The converted consciousness learns to accept that a certain relation to objectivity and its other discloses what it truly is and can enhance, rather than constrain, its practical freedom.

But conversion does not simply entail an alteration in consciousness's reflective self-understanding; conversion is a more traumatic event for consciousness. The alteration in consciousness's reflective self-understanding is grounded in an alteration in its pre-reflective fundamental project (ibid: p479). This ensures that an alteration in its fundamental project leads the converted consciousness to a radically different way of being; it has different goals, ends, values and also instantiates a new form of social relation (on this point, see Sartre, 1973: p52; Darnell, 2004).

Authentic social relations

The converted consciousness's recognition and acceptance of objectivity as a necessary and complementary aspect of its subjective existence leads it to view the other differently. As noted, conversion brings consciousness to reflectively understand that it is only through the other's look that its objective facticity is disclosed to it. Dan Zahavi (2008: pp157-158) points out that this ensures that consciousness comes to recognise and appreciate that the other is not simply a threat to its subjective freedom; the other is a necessary and potentially positive aspect of its concrete existence.

But this is not a one-way process; the creation of an authentic social relation requires that the other also undergoes conversion so that it alters its perception of and comportment towards consciousness. Sartre is aware that the converted other still sees consciousness as an object, but he thinks that conversion allows the other to recognise and appreciate that while consciousness appears to be an object, it is also 'an existing freedom' (Sartre, 1992: p500). In other words, conversion allows the other to reflectively understand that consciousness is a free being with its own independent project(s), even though it appears to be an object.

But the creation of an authentic social relation is not simply dependent on each consciousness independently effecting a self-conversion. When consciousness effects the conversion that leads it to reflectively recognise and understand the other's freedom, Sartre maintains that consciousness can 'appeal' (ibid: p274) to the other to engage in a 'common operation' (ibid). This appeal is not a demand; it is a 'firm but not immutable' (ibid) invitation to 'the other's will to what want it wants' (ibid). The appeal reaches out to the other and invites it to: 1) reflectively recognise its freedom; 2) reflectively recognise consciousness's freedom; and 3) engage in a mutual activity based on trust and 'solidarity' (ibid: p479) rather than fear and conflict. Sartre recognises that the other may reject this appeal (ibid: p279), but he notes that even if its appeal is rejected, consciousness still recognises and respects the other's freedom. If, however, the other does positively respond to consciousness's appeal, the two can co-operate on a practical activity and, possibly, develop a standing social relation based on respect, care for, and recognition of each other's freedom (ibid: p330).

Consciousness's comprehension of the other's freedom ensures that post-conversion social relations overcome the subject/object dichotomy of pre-conversion social relations by establishing a social relation based on the principles of the 'we'. Sartre explains that 'in the "we", nobody is the object. The "we" includes a plurality of subjectives which recognise one another as subjectivities' (Sartre, 2003: p435). While in Being and Nothingness Sartre is disparaging of the we-relation, in his Notebooks for an Ethics he is far more optimistic about the possibility and indeed the reality of the we-relation. But this positive social relation is only a possibility once both consciousnesses have undergone conversion. Only then will each consciousness recognise and respect the other's subjective freedom.

However, Sartre insists that simply reflectively recognising and respecting the other's freedom is not sufficient. It is necessary that consciousness affirms the other's freedom. Unfortunately, at this point, Sartre's account becomes somewhat ambiguous.

This is because there are two general senses of freedom in Sartre's thought: ontological freedom and practical freedom (Detmer, 1988: p60). Ontological freedom is the defining ontological characteristic of consciousness. Practical freedom has two related aspects: 1) the degree to which consciousness's actual conduct is free from limitations; and 2) whether consciousness is able to creatively and freely express itself in the actual world. Importantly, ontological freedom is primary; in other words, consciousness is always ontologically free, despite not always being practically free. In light of this distinction and in terms of my discussion of consciousness's affirmation of the other's freedom, the question becomes:

Do the consciousnesses of authentic social relations affirm the other's ontological or practical freedom?

Following T. Storm Heter (2006) and Michelle Darnell (2004), I understand that Sartre's statements on this issue only make sense if the freedom consciousness must affirm is the other's practical freedom, because consciousness's ontological freedom does not need to be affirmed; a condition of consciousness's existence is that it is always ontologically free. Thus, the consciousnesses of authentic post-conversion social relations not only reflectively recognise and respect each other's ontological freedom; they reflectively affirm each other's practical freedom. This refines and re-affirms the point I made earlier: the converted consciousness comes to see that its other is not a threat to its subjective freedom; it learns that the other can not only safeguard its practical freedom, but can also extend it by positively contributing to consciousness's practical activity.

Authentic post-conversion social relations are, therefore, fundamentally different to pre-conversion social relations. Rather than seek to annihilate the other's subjective freedom, the converted consciousnesses reflectively recognise and work to affirm each other's practical freedom. This has radical implications for the love relation. (3)

Authentic love

It must be noted, however, that outlining Sartre's post-conversion account of the love relation is somewhat difficult. The Notebooks for an Ethics (1992) only discuss it in a few places, each of which is confined to a few sentences at most. It is safe to say that Sartre did not fully develop his account of the post-conversion love relation in the way that he did the pre-conversion love relation described in Being and Nothingness (2003). Nevertheless, I think it is possible to identify certain general themes of Sartre's conception of an authentic love relation especially when Sartre's fragmentary comments on the post-conversion love relation are combined with his general comments on post-conversion social relations.

In the same way that conversion allows consciousnesses to create an alternative social relation, so too conversion allows two lovers to create an alternative love relation from the one possible pre-conversion. While the lovers of a pre-conversion love relation attempt to usurp their beloved's freedom by making it subservient to their freedom, Sartre explains that the consciousnesses of authentic love relations no longer try to usurp their beloved's freedom. The lovers recognise, respect, and care for their beloved's freedom. Through this recognition and respect the beloved is no longer made to feel threatened by her lover's freedom. Each can simply be with their beloved and enjoy their freedom.

But Sartre goes further. The lovers do not simply exist in mutual indifference to one another; they take an interest in each other's existence. While the pre-conversion lovers take an interest in each other so as to usurp, and so capture, the other's freedom, the interest of post-conversion lovers is due to a desire for intimacy on the part of each individual; where intimacy means both a sense of closeness and, more primordially, the feeling that their beloved will support them in their attempts to achieve their independent projects. This brings the lovers not only to 'rejoice' (Sartre, 1992: p508) in their beloved's freedom, but also to: 1) alter their comportment towards the other so that, rather than seek to usurp it, they each become 'the guardian' (ibid: p508) of their beloved's freedom; and 2) affirm their beloved's ends. In short, the lovers seek 'to give [their beloved's freedom] safety in terms of [their] freedom, and to surpass [their beloved's freedom] only in the direction of the other's ends' (ibid). Each lover recognises and respects that their beloved has independent interests and rather than try to usurp or constrain this independence to capture their beloved's freedom, each respects their beloved's independence and seeks to contribute to the realisation of their beloved's independent projects.

But Sartre warns that this does not mean that the lover's freedom is usurped by his beloved, nor that the lover becomes an instrument for the realisation of his beloved's freedom. By voluntarily helping his beloved achieve her ends, the lover that has undergone conversion simultaneously retains his own free projects while also contributing to the realisation of his beloved's free projects (ibid: p280). The love relations of two lovers that have undergone conversion are not simply conflictual battles for subjective supremacy; they are relations where two subjects reflectively support, respect, and affirm one another's freedom.

But while to my knowledge Sartre never says this, I want to suggest that this only holds if the beloved's independent project does not usurp their love relation. In general, it is not usual for a lover to support his beloved if she desires to be with another lover; lovers usually only support one another if their beloved's independent project does not annihilate or injure their love relationship. Thus, to refine Sartre's argument somewhat, as long as the beloved's independent project does not threaten to annihilate their love relationship, the lovers of an authentic love relation will support one another and seek to allow their beloved to 'grow' socially, culturally, economically, or educationally. (4)

Authentic love relations are, therefore, more like partnerships than battles; each lover attempts to realise his own and his beloved's projects. Indeed, in many ways, such is the bond created in an authentic love relation that it is only when his beloved achieves her independent project that the lover can be happy. To this end, the lover that has undergone conversion may choose to temporarily forego his own independent project to allow his beloved to achieve hers. Crucially, however, while the pre conversion lover holds that this action imposes on his subjective freedom, the sense of care for his beloved that conversion instantiates in the lover ensures that voluntarily foregoing his own project to allow his beloved to achieve hers actually brings him some form of existential satisfaction. This is because lovers that have undergone conversion understand that their beloved's achievements and independent projects are an extension of, rather than a constraint on, their own freedom. By understanding that their beloved's projects are an extension of their own freedom, each lover takes an interest in and cares for their lover's existential projects.

But Sartre recognises that while authentic love relations overcome the sheer conflict of pre-converted love relations, his analysis is tempered with a realism that recognises that lovers always face inherent difficulties. Sartre identifies at least three potential difficulties that each love relation must constantly battle against.

In the first instance, Adrian Mirvish explains that for Sartre 'conflict of a positive sort is crucial for friendship and authentic relations in general' (Mirvish, 2002: p267). Authentic social relations require some sort of 'tension' (Sartre, 1992: p415), with this requirement mirrored in authentic love relations. This is because 'conflict in a positive sense gives rise to the excitement and challenge necessary for dealing with a real, loved person' (Mirvish, 2002: p266). Through this positive tension, each lover challenges the other and so opens him/her up to new experiences and perspectives on the world.

However, this challenge cannot go so far as to nihilate either lover, belittle him/her, or generally usurp the beloved's freedom. The tension of love relations must be such that it coaxes the beloved to challenge her own assumptions and world-view. This is part of the process whereby each lover contributes to their beloved's 'growth'.

Secondly, Sartre notes that there is an 'anxiety' inherent to the structure of all love relationships. There are, of course, degrees to which this anxiety will be explicit in each particular love relation, but the point Sartre is making is that the lover is, to a degree, aware that he is at the mercy of his beloved. He cannot escape the possibility that the relationship may be terminated by his beloved at any moment and that this is something beyond his control (Sartre, 1992: p477).

Thirdly, Sartre returns to a point made in Being and Nothingness: the two lovers do not exist in a social vacuum; their relation is subject to the actions and activities of others (Sartre, 2003: p399). While the two lovers may support and affirm each other's freedom, their relation 'is always in the presence of a third observer and under the sign of oppression' (Sartre, 1992: p9). Sartre says no more than this but I think his point is that the lovers' relation to other consciousnesses means that no matter how hard the two lovers try to prevent this, their joint love project and each lover's independent projects can be, but do not necessarily have to be, thwarted by the activities and attention of others. The activity of others may prevent each lover from affirming or successfully undertaking their independent project; it may mean that, for one reason or another they have to move away, thereby putting strain on the viability of the relation; or it may be that another individual interferes in their relation by attempting to seduce one of the lovers.

The important point, however, is that while their relation may face difficulties, the lovers of a post-conversion love relation are a source of support, partnership, and growth for each other. Indeed, the extent to which the lovers' relationship can deal with these contingent difficulties and continue will depend on the bond of partnership they have created between themselves.

However, it is important to note that Sartre's account does lead to a number of questions, questions that, by way of conclusion, I will simply posit rather than engage with further, including: is Sartre correct to insist that pre- and post-conversion love relations, which in many ways are so radically different, actually describe the same phenomenon? Do we need to undergo such a radical conversion to realise the authentic form of love described by Sartre? And, importantly, given that they appear to share so many commonalities, including mutual respect, co-operation, partnership, and a certain positive form of tension, do Sartre's analyses sufficiently distinguish between authentic forms of love and authentic social relations in general? (5)

Despite these questions, however, I think Sartre's account continues to speak to us for three different, but related, reasons: first, in line with his philosophical project, it reveals that we are far from helpless; our freedom to choose is greater than we often acknowledge and, indeed, has got us to the situation we are now in. As such, Sartre exhorts us to face up to the choices we have made and take responsibility for their consequences.

Secondly, when taken in its entirety, Sartre's analysis of love offers us an innovative perspective on an important existential issue that reminds us that who we fall in love with is not destined, nor does it entail us 'finding our perfect soul mate' that will enable us to 'live happily ever after.' Love relationships are difficult, open-ended processes defined by the actions, interactions, points of view, attitudes, and general comportment of the individuals involved. As such, they should be understood in terms of the self-understanding and general orientation of the individuals involved.

Finally, Sartre reveals that: 1) while much of human activity occurs at the pre-reflective, non-conceptual level of consciousness, this does not mean that it is arbitrary, random, or imposed on consciousness from an external source; and 2) because all of consciousness's reflective activity, including how it comports itself towards its beloved, emanates from choices made at the pre-reflective, non-conceptual level, any attempt to understand human being in general and love relationships specifically must question each individual's reflective self-understanding to uncover their often unexamined pre-reflective assumptions and ends. Making explicit what is implicit to an individual's actions and understanding will allow him to better understand his existential situation and so enable him to come to reasoned conclusions regarding his future activity.


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(1) In order to simplify the dynamics of the relation between the two parties, throughout this essay the lover will be characterised as masculine and the beloved as feminine. However, Sartre's description is equally applicable if the sexuality of the lover and beloved is reversed and/or if the sex of the lovers is the same.

(2) Interestingly, and while I can only point towards it here, this explanation is applicable to issues of emotional dependence. Feeling emotionally dependent on the other arises, for Sartre, because the individual holds strongly to his/her pre-reflective desire of wanting to be in a love relationship. As such, he/she (pre-reflectively) feels compelled to orientate his/her being around his/her beloved despite what the other may ask or demand. Far from being compelled to do so, however, the individual's emotional dependence arises because he/she has chosen to adopt the pre-reflective project of being in a love relationship with that person and prioritises this project above all else. In line with the conclusion of this paper, the goal of treatment, therefore, would be to bring this pre-reflective choice to the reflective level of consciousness to allow the individual to see that this is a choice that he/she has made. Sartre appears to think that this brings the individual to question and, ultimately, alter his/her comportment towards the other.

(3) For a more detailed discussion of conversion and its implications for Sartrean social relations see Rae (2009).

(4) It could be objected that Sartre's long-standing, open relationship with Simone de Beauvoir disproves this argument. However, I would suggest that, for these two lovers, the other's separate relationships were part of the way in which each: 1) maintained the independence that was the source of the other's desire; and 2) helped the other to 'grow' socially, culturally, economically, and/or educationally. This supportive openness was part of the unique arrangement of their particular love relationship; it is not and, in general, will not be part of the overwhelming majority of love relationships. Indeed, in many ways, this re-enforces the concluding argument of this paper: for Sartre, love relationships are not defined by some universal rule of thumb; they are defined by the actions and interactions of the individuals involved. For a description of Sartre's and De Beauvoir's relationship see Fullbrook & Fullbrook (2008).

(5) Sex would be one of the features of a love relationship that distinguishes it from other social relations, such as family-relations or friendships. Unfortunately, further elaboration on this is beyond the scope of this paper.

Dr Gavin Rae teaches philosophy at the American University in Cairo, Egypt. He is the author of Realizing Freedom: Hegel, Sartre, and the Alienation of Human Being, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2011.

Contact: Department of Philosophy, American University in Cairo, AUC Avenue, PO Box 74, New Cairo, Egypt.

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