Abstract
This thesis provides a comparative analysis of the different ways Hegel and Sartre understand that consciousness can be alienated. Because understanding the various ways Hegel and Sartre hold that consciousness can be alienated is not possible without first understanding what each thinker understands by consciousness, I first identify and outline the different ways Hegel and Sartre conceptualise consciousness’s ontological structure before identifying the various ways each thinker understands that consciousness can be alienated. The general argument developed shows that while Hegel and Sartre agree that alienation is a constitutive aspect of consciousness’s existence and are, therefore, allies in the battle against it, Sartre’s analysis of consciousness’s ontological structure is unable to provide the same depth of analysis as Hegel’s. Put differently, I believe it is Hegel’s analysis of consciousness’s ontological structure that provides an analysis of alienation that is more nuanced, subtle, complex, and multi-dimensional than the account Sartre’s provides. To support my argument, I first explore Sartre’s understanding of consciousness’s ontological structure. This discloses that, because Sartre defines consciousness as ontologically nothing, he holds that consciousness is defined in strict ontological opposition to objectivity. Consciousness’s ontological nothingness leads Sartre to hold that consciousness is free to choose its mode of being. This leads me to identify what Sartre holds to be constitutive of authentic and inauthentic modes of being. But while Sartre distinguishes between the ontological structure of consciousness and its experiences, I argue that Hegel: 1) does not introduce a distinction between consciousness’s ontological structure and its mode of being, but holds that consciousness’s self-understanding and ontological structure develop through its experiences; and 2) holds that consciousness is not ontologically opposed to objectivity, but is a spiritual synthesis of subjectivity and objectivity. I show that because Hegel holds that consciousness’s intentional object is an aspect of its ontological structure, rather than something simply opposed to itself, and because he recognises that consciousness must learn what it is ontologically by experiencing numerous different relations with its object, he is able to show that while the subject/object binary opposition of Sartre’s analysis of consciousness’s ontological structure describes one potential ontological relation consciousness can have to its object, it is not the only one. Indeed, Hegel’s analysis of consciousness’s ontological structure insists that consciousness will only truly understand its ontological structure if it learns to not think of itself in terms of the subject/object dichotomy and, instead, realises that it is a spiritual synthesis of subjectivity and objectivity. To show how this fundamental difference manifests itself throughout their thought, I identify and compare what each thinker’s understanding of consciousness’s ontological structure means in terms of consciousness’s relation to the world, alienation, authenticity, ethics, self-transformation, and social relations
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