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I am reading Sartre's Transcendence of the ego and was wondering if someone could explain to me what is concretely different between Husserl's Transcendent ego and Sartre's. When I raised this question to my professor, he responded that Husserl claims that the ego is outside of the consciousness whereas for Sartre, it is the consciousness that resides outside of the ego. I can sort of understand what he is trying to tell me based on the Cartesian "cogito ergo sum" and phenomenological reduction ideas but the core of this idea remains vague to me! Can someone refer me to a text that explains Sartre's idea with a simple language for a novice as myself? I have researched a lot on the web and it seems to me that, the more I read about "The Transcendence of the Ego", the more confused I become. I have to say though that my confusion is not the result of a lack in motivation or interest in the subject but rather from contradictory and rather vague opinions on the subject. Any help would be appreciated!

  • Notice also that word transcendence does not imply easiness. Quite the contrary. It implies everything from disguise, paradox, error and so on. Think on your own. Are you less mighty than those two gentlemen? OOO i do not think so. – Asphir Dom Oct 3 '14 at 0:18
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    When I raised this question to my professor, he responded that Husserl claims that the ego is outside of the consciousness whereas for Sartre, it is the consciousness that resides outside of the ego. Question: Is this a semantic game? Or does anyone really think these concepts can possibly have any spacial relationship to one another at all? Do "inside" and "outside" have some technical meaning that I'm unaware of? – user4894 Oct 3 '14 at 0:57
  • @user4894: I think this is where the mobius strip comes in: in=out. – Mozibur Ullah Oct 3 '14 at 4:44
  • "The stream of conscious life is not a sum or aggregate; nor is it a generalization. That is, it exhibits a unity unlike either the sachverhaltig unity of a factual case or the eidetisch unity of an essence. Husserl must account for that unity, which he calls an ego, Ich" iep.utm.edu/husserl/#H5 Sounds like Husserl's ego is very much "inside" consciousness. I suppose it is outside for Sartre because "existence preceeds essence". – Conifold Oct 3 '14 at 22:09
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I think this exegesis by Williams and Kirkpatrick is useful.

The transcendental ego is introduced by Kant & adopted by Husserl, it lies 'above' or 'behind' consciousness.

Sartre argues that the 'ego is for consciousness. The ego is "out there" in the world'.

By this tactic he avoids the 'representational' epistemology of Kant.

Its interesting (at least for me) whether Lacans use of topology can be usefully utilised here; this may be grounded if one can show that Lacan used existentialism in his own thinking, this being likely as he was an eclectic thinker.

Given one says that the ego is 'behind' consciousness one cam visualise this as a plane behind which stands the ego, and because which ever way we look this is true, it is better modelled by a band or a sphere.

Putting a twist into this band or sphere turns it into a mobius strip or klien bottle, and turns inside and outside into one smooth space: the ego is deposited outside, or the outside comes inside.

  • Strictly speaking, in terms Sartre's transcendental ego, could we say that the psycho-physical mind is the unreflective and pure consciousness or 'noesis' in phenomenological terms? and the psychical mind is the impure, reflective consciousness or 'noema' in phenomenological terms? – O.A. Oct 7 '14 at 23:48

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