Sartre’s Search For A Method
John Paul Sartre was one of the most important radical intellectuals of the 20th century yet he is largely forgotten or ignored by most Marxists and others on “the left.” This, despite the fact that as a philosopher, playwright, novelist, essayist and political activist Sartre’s primary concerns surrounded questions of individual freedom, choice and action (in his early career) and the relationship between individual freedom and collective good (in his later career) and developing a method for understanding history, the structure of class struggle and the fate of mass movements and popular revolt. Ronald Hayman, one of Sartre’s biographers, summarizes Sartre’s intellectual project as follows:
“As a Marxist he wanted to believe that dialectical materialism offered a complete interpretation of history – that all the contradictions, conflicts, heterogeneities, anomalies could be subsumed in a single totalization. Sartre is simultaneously concerned to provide Marxism with an adequate theory of knowledge, both Marx and Lenin had worked without one – and to combat the Heideggarian existentialism which consistently makes Being its point of departure. Sartre insists that history is the history of human initiatives. What emerges as the crucial problem is how to map the jungle of obscure connections between historical movements and individual actions.”
This class will focus on Sartre’s 1957 text, Search For A Method, which reflects his growth from existentialist philosopher concerned with individual freedom to an anti-authoritarian existential Marxist who believed that individual freedom can only come about via one’s commitment to the collective good. Search for a Method consists of three major parts: The first part discusses Marxist and existentialist views of the world; the second, how the individual relates to structures; and, the third develops a methodology for understanding the individual, history and structures.
Dan Karan has been studying Marxism for 40 years and was a student of John Gerassi, Sartre’s official biographer.
These sessions are a component of The Emergence of A New Left Series that began in the winter and will continue into 2018.
Sliding Scale: $55 / $65 / $75
no one turned away for inability to pay
388 Atlantic Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11217