Reciprocal Movement—The Carrier Of Symbol-Generating Free Thought

The Human Spirit’s Pursuit Of Liberation Continued

Identifying Sartre’s philosophy as structuralism is, I am aware, pushing the envelope. However, an authority on structuralism has proposed this option
(without, I might add, elaborating on it.) “One might go as far as to say…that
structuralism is analogous to Sartre’s view of consciousness — it is what it is
not, and it is not what it is.” [Jean-Marie Benoist, A Structural Revolution,
1975, p. 1] In Sartre’s book Being And Nothingness, his chapter on
Being-For-Itself is subtitled “Immediate Structures of the For-Itself.”
[Jean-Paul Sartre, Being And Nothingness, 1966, p. 119] Structure is not hidden
in Sartre; it’s just that on the whole Sartre’s book is a polemic against
reading structure as anything more than appearance.

In the representation of Sartre’s thought as “consciousness is what it is not,
and it is not what it is,” we find reciprocal movement, the same reciprocal
movement encountered, in one form or another, in all the structuralists I have
discussed heretofore in this paper. Specifically, Sartre defines the consciousness
of the transcending For-itself (our self-space) as: “Consciousness is a being
such that in its being, its being is in question in so far as this being implies
a being other than itself.” [Being And Nothingness, p. 801] In an extrapolation from Sartre’s definition of the consciousness, Benoist describes this relationship as: “it is what it is not, and it is not what it is,” while I describe it as:
being-what-is-not-while-not-being-what-is. In both cases, however, we end up
with a definition for reciprocal movement.

This double movement is represented on many levels in Sartre’s exegesis on
being and nothingness. This double movement becomes very specific in Sartre’s
description of his pre-reflective Cogito. In so far as we find “nothingness” at
the center of Cogito, consciousness per se must be understood to be set apart
from itself, therefore, Sartre’s pre-reflective Cogito will always form one pole
of our conscious experience while the “objects of consciousness” will take their
place at the other pole of conscious experience. In this way, Sartre is able to
dispense with Descartes’ Cogito on the grounds that consciousness cannot be
separated from its object. This condition, where the pre-reflective Cogito
becomes a preexistent condition for the conscious awareness of objects,
establishes the double movement of conscious reflection—the object of
consciousness less the pre-reflective Cogito, and the pre-reflective Cogito less
the object of consciousness. Depending on where “you focus your concern,” the
content of consciousness is either pushed to the front of consciousness (the
unreflective consciousness), or, the object of consciousness is pushed into the
background, as the “negation of consciousness” is brought into the foreground
(the reflected upon object of consciousness).

Together, our pre-reflective Cogito and the object of consciousness form the
conscious experience of the knower-known dyad. In so far as this double movement
turns on the pivot point of pure negation, the known exists for the knower, but
the knower can never be fully known. As self-consciousness rises in consciousness, it is denied the possibility of becoming fully self-aware. This result, the incompleteness of self, brings us back to Sartre’s original definition of consciousness (structure of consciousness), or, “consciousness is such that in its being its being is in question in so far as this being implies a being other than itself.”

This movement, the symbol-generating movement of free thought—the movement that makes thinking possible—emancipates language, myth, science, ethics/morality, i.e., civilization. In the absence of this movement, “thinking is restricted to the manipulation of signs”—mere sensual indicators, minus the symbols that carry the significance of those same indicators.


About bwinwnbwi

About me: Marvin Gaye’s song, "What’s Going On" was playing on the jukebox when I went up to the counter and bought another cup of coffee. When I got back, the painting on the wall next to where I was sitting jumped out at me, the same way it had done many times before. On it was written a diatribe on creativity. It was the quote at the bottom, though, that brought me back to this seat time after time. The quote had to do with infinity; it went something like this: Think of yourself as being in that place where infinity comes together in a point; where the infinite past and the infinite future meet, where you are at right now. The quote was attributed to Hermann Hesse, but I didn’t remember reading it in any of the books that I had read by him, so I went out and bought Hesse’s last novel, Magister Ludi. I haven’t found the quote yet, but I haven't tired of looking for it either.
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10 Responses to Reciprocal Movement—The Carrier Of Symbol-Generating Free Thought

  1. eof737 says:

    I can’t believe it’s been so long. TY for your patience! 😉

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  8. bwinwnbwi says:

    The Human Spirit’s Pursuit Of Liberation–the series of posts under this designation–ends here. However, I continue to describe the process of The Human Spirit’s Pursuit Of Liberation in the structuralism posts that follow (beginning with the next post–The Why Questions….).

  9. bwinwnbwi says:

    Our mind connects to “the eternal within part of ourselves” vis-à-vis the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self (Sartre’s for-itself consciousness/the experience of self/other). Because the evolution of the universe, life, and mind connects to a similar space, i.e., the affirmative ideal (the ~~b structure), science—the confirmation or rejection of a scientific hypothesis is permitted. In so far as Sartre’s pre-reflective cogito is a product of freedom, i.e., a product of universe, life, and the symbol-generating movement of free thought, it reflects both the backside of God (the time of not being) and the “face of God” (our emotional experience of beliefs, concerns, intentions, and deeds). Absent the “face of God” knowledge—language with its lexical, syntactical, and contextual designations, science, ethical behavior, existential meaning, and religion(s) —would not/could not exist.

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