CFS Lecture by Nicolas de Warren: "From the Illusion of Immanence to the Immanence of Illusion"

Lecture by Nicolas de Warren, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium.

From the Illusion of Immanence to the Immanence of Illusion


My aim is to develop three theses regarding what I consider novel and significant in Sartre's conception of the imaginary. After a brief presentation of the basic trajectory of Sartre's argument in L'imaginaire (which I shall characterize as a passage from the illusion of immanence to the immanence of illusion), I shall argue: First: central to Sartre's conception of the imagination as a "degraded form of knowing" is an insight into how thinking becomes caught in an image. In this manner, the reliance on metaphors for thinking turns in on itself and against itself--we become mislead by the metaphor into what Sartre calls a "thinking according to things." I will illustrate this idea with an analysis of Sartre's own critique of the illusion of immanence as a theory of the imagination beholden to the image of spatial inside and outside. Second: this capacity for thinking to become degraded into an image becomes even more pronounced in Sartre's analysis of dreaming. This analysis of dreaming-consciousness reveals a perfected form of immanence in which consciousness becomes entirely fascinated by its own self-produced images. I will here be especially interested in discussing how dreaming-consciousness is understood by Sartre as comparable to a form of temporary psychosis. Third: on the basis of my two previous themes, I shall turn to Sartre's famous analysis of bad faith in Being and Nothing and critically explore how Sartre characterizes falling into bad faith as akin to falling asleep. As with dreaming, bad faith represents a kind of dream in which the self, internally divorced from itself, becomes alienated from its own self-alienation while remaining active (awake) in the world (ie. the waiter acts in the world in order to realize an image of himself to the extent that he is not that image).