According to the Central Argument the relationship between consciousness and self bears the same structure as that between consciousness and world. The self and the world are thus linked together as “two objects for the absolute, impersonal consciousness” (Ibid, 57). As a philosophy of human experience7, this account of the relationship between self and world seems to leave out too many aspects of our actual experience to provide a satisfying theory. As we look at the counterexamples above – the reading example and the up-bringing example – it seems quite clear that consciousness is not a function disconnected from the rest of the person; and that the complexity of the human person cannot be reduced to the relation ‘consciousness of the self’. Rather than thus simplifying the interplay between consciousness, self and world into an intelligible geometric structure (Bachelard  1994, 215), let us have a look at an example which may further blur those distinctions.
1. The Poetry Example
Consider the following lines from Wallace Stevens’ poem “The Idea of Order at Key West” ( 1993, 62):
It was her voice that made
The sky acutest at its vanishing.
She measured to the hour its solitude.
She was the single artificer of the world
In which she sang.
We will look at two different agents that are involved here; the person in the poem, and the reader or recipient. But let us first analyze this example from the perspective of the Central Argument of Sartre’s theory. These lines, then, form an object in the world; call it x. Now consider a person A, who is confronted with x for the first time. In order to explain this through the Central Argument we would have to split A into the consciousness (C) and the self (a) of person A, and...
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...s choice, we must look at the human being in its entirety. Sartre’s theory of consciousness fails to recognize that, despite our similarities, we are all particular beings, and that circumstance shapes not merely an object which he calls the ‘self’, but the whole conscious person. This conscious person is what we typically refer to as our selves. As such we relate to the world in many different ways, but hardly as to an object without power to make its mark on us as conscious beings.
Bachelard, Gaston ( 1994), The Poetics of Space, Boston, Beacon Press.
Camus, Albert ( 1991), The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays, New York, Vintage International.
Sartre, Jean-Paul ( 2003), The Philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre, edited by Robert Denoon Cumming. New York, Vintage Books.
Stevens, Wallace ( 1993), Poems, New York, Alfred A. Knopf.
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