Critique of Dialectical ReasonJune 27, 2021
For Sartre, history has no necessary direction; In history, an idea of freedom cannot be realized by dialectical necessity, as Hegel claimed.
Marxism inherited a teleological understanding of history from Hegel, but removed this understanding from being idealistic and placed it within the framework of historical materialism. According to Marx, historical development occurs as a result of a dialectic based on the means of production and relations of production. History ends with a liberation where the working class realizes universal freedom by overthrowing capitalism based on the exploitation of labor through the common praxis. Sartre does not accept this teleological logic, but this refusal does not mean that he dismisses the fundamental question of Marxism. Sartre asks this question again in his Critique of Dialectical Reason, on which he grounded his political philosophy. The question in question was asked how common emancipation could be possible.
History is contingent, it can be multiple, the dates of societies may differ. But history is not incomprehensible, various histories can be understood by invoking the same a priori elements. The intelligibility of history is unique. Sartre thinks of it by invoking the maxim: “Men make history with their praxis, but this praxis always acts within given conditions.” The emphasis on the historicity of praxis, that is, the recognition that action always acts under given historical, social, economic, etc. conditions, saves freedom from appearing as a voluntary arbitrariness. However, Sartre said, “People make history with their praxis.” he rejects that historical or factual conditions constitute a determination that destroys the freedom of action. Thus, he attempts to ground Marxism in an existentialist anthropology. In Sartre’s thought, some propositions of Marxism are not treated as propositions that explain reality; they become the guiding, organizing ideas of political phenomenology. Thus, Sartre criticizes dogmatic Marxism, which reduces a policy or philosophy directly to economic reality, and its reductionist universalism, which ignores the specificity of the particular.
Marxism tries to fit the facts into pre-given schemes, whereas phenomenological analysis is needed to more elaborately consider how facts are given and what they mean. Political phenomenology proposed by Sartre in his Critique of Dialectical Reason analyzes the complexity of a singular phenomenon both horizontally and vertically: Horizontal analysis is the analysis of the conditions in which a phenomenon occurs. Sartre calls this “analysis regréssive”. On the other hand, there is a design to overcome the given conditions in the case. When we analyze this project, we are doing a vertical analysis, an analysis progréssive. As Marxism oscillates between a teleological form of explanation and a mechanical one, it runs the risk of reducing human action to a physical force. Of course, the action should be associated with the conditions, but the design dimension should not be neglected.
In the Critique of Dialectical Reason, Sartre places the relationship between freedom and reality within the problematic of the intelligibility of a historical world. So, what are the main structures of the practical field? Taken apart from the subject of praxis, the practical field is the field of an undifferentiated plurality. The acting subject is connected to this field by internal ties. In other words, all the interiority of this subject stems from its connection with this field. Here we can underline that Sartre bases the subject on praxis. Even if the subject has an inner world, experiences in this inner world result from the person’s external practical ties to the world. The inner world internalizes the external. For this reason, praxis can also be understood as the externalization of the interior. The basic act of praxis is to integrate the practical field. This integration removes the practical field from being a differentiated plurality and makes it meaningful towards a specific goal. What makes this possible is that praxis is a design, it looks at the practical field by selecting and evaluating some of its possibilities in accordance with a design. Let’s analyze the practical area now: According to Sartre, there is a negativity in the material nature when it is considered in relation to human beings. Matter in nature resists human praxis. People have started to live together in order to overcome the resistance of nature together and because of their needs. Man’s praxis negates the negativity of nature.
Man cannot meet his needs easily, without struggle, neither in nature nor in society. There is a shortage of practical space, resources are not enough for everyone. Sartre states that “Every society chooses its own dead.” says: The upper classes decide who will be malnourished and die from neglect. Scarcity is not always caused by shortage, and technological progress can also lead to scarcity. For example, technological development can create job shortages. To be seen as a surplus in a society is to become a risk for that society. Scarcity people mutually negate each other.