The ambiguity of the self and the construction of human identity in the early Sartre

Abstract
In his reflections on action in Being and Nothingness, Sartre goes to the heart of what it is to be human. Our free actions are not the consequence of ouridentity, they are its foundation. As human beings we go beyond who we are towards a freely chosen future self. Human identity is ambiguous because consciousness simultaneously accepts and sees beyond the identity it discovers; there is an internal disintegration which distances us from ourselves. The intentionality of consciousness means that we are constituted not by an objective presence but by a “presence to” our identity. Personhood is established only when we select certain values and allow them to shape our identity and guide our actions. As “being-for-itself” we go beyond the present and project ourselves towards an identity that does not yet exist, thus creating ourselves through our freedom, through our concrete choices. This article pays careful attention to Sartre’s understanding of consciousness, selfconsciousness, and “selfness,” before drawing some conclusions about the role of human freedom in the construction of identity
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