Jean-Paul Sartre - on others and being (2011)

There is no way of verifying if another person is thinking. The problem of “other minds” does not exist. Self-awareness is conditional on awareness of others. Evidence through shame. I cannot feel shame on my own. It has to be because of another. “Someone is there and has seen me, and I am shame.” Being aware of oneself through not being the other person.

Sartre disagrees with solipsism (that nothing exists outside of the self), and realism (the other person exists because of the confrontation with oneself and the other).

We only know others in our own subjectivity. We cannot prove the existence of others, only affirm it.

His phenomenological reasoning:

  • Awareness of people is different from the awareness of objects.

  • The difference being “I” can be the object for another, but not for an object. An object cannot be aware of me, another person can – to be conscious of being looked at.

  • When I am looked at, I recognise myself as being-in-the-world-for-the-other.

  • The other “steals” my world and is a threat to my freedom and subjectivity. My subjectivity arises from my experience on what other people think.

  • I can try to escape this threat by making the other an object. By not treating the other as a free subject.

  • I need the other to be a free subject for love relations.

  • Heidegger rejects view of “others”- we are already with “others”.