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Main page / "Knowledge. Understanding. Skill" Journal / Contents / 2014 / No. 4

Vostrova G. A. The Minds Ability of Neantisation in Early Sartres Phenomenology of Creativity

The study was implemented in the framework of the Basic Research Program at the National Research University Higher School of Economics (HSE) in 2013 (project No. 56).

(National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow)

Abstract ♦ J.-P. Sartre’s philosophical inquiry of begins with the issue of imagination. One of the philosopher’s theoretical principles was the notion of the negativity of consciousness which is most fully embodied in creative work. In his early works, Sartre defines and studies creative imagination by means of a neologism he coined — “néantisation”. The very moment of denial embodied in neantisating ability of imagining consciousness is considered to be the source and foundation of the beautiful as a value of the unreal world.

The article’s objective is to analyze the creative constructiveness of the imagination act as the essential and transcendental condition of the consciousness in the phenomenology of early Sartre, including the discovery of historical and philosophical prerequisites of the specified position (in particular, Schopenhauer’s interpretation of aesthetic contemplation as a human ability) and the identification of analogies of the selected approach in 20th century theory of art (i.e., N. Evreinov’s transfiguration principle).

In his earlier works, Sartre noted the efficiency of the phenomenological theory in the study of image and investigation of emotions. He focused his interest on the analysis of the emotion, which constitutes the existential magical structure of the world. It is important that the sudden appearance of the magical world is preceded by the disappearance of the real world bound with cause-effect relationships. This moment can be regarded as a preliminary thesis in creating not only the phenomenological theory of imagination and imaginary philosopher, but also his later phenomenological concept of nothingness.

It seems that the study of creative imagination by means of Sartre’s neologism “neantisation” (néantisation) is deeply seated in the philosophical tradition. Thus, Schopenhauer notes the importance and necessity of change in the subject (the act of self-denial involving the withdrawal of consciousness from its own will), which precedes the artistic creativity and provides a unique aesthetic vision of the world. An analogical sequence is found in Sartre: the imaginary mindset of the consciousness arises only under “the conversion to non-existence” of the real world, in other words, the artistic creation begins with a phenomenological destruction of the world by the consciousness turning from it away. Having driven this negativity to the maximum in his reconstruction of archaeological biographies of the “cursed poets”, Sartre develops the theory of creation within the circle of non-freedom. Another analogy to Sartre’s treatment of the imaginative consciousness can be found in N. Evreinov’s transfiguration principle.

Hence, Sartre’s “act of imagination taken in its totality”, Schopenhauer’s “pure and will-less subject of knowledge”, and Evreinov’s “will to transfiguration” interpret the act of imagination as the simultaneously constituting, isolating and destroying act.

Keywords: J.-P. Sartre, creativity, freedom, negation, imagination, imaginary, neantisation, transformation, A. Schopenhauer, N. Evreinov.

Vostrova Galina Aleksandrovna, Candidate of Philosophy, Associate Professor, Department of Cultural Studies, Faculty of Philosophy, National Research University Higher School of Economics. Postal address: 20 Myasnitskaya St., Moscow, Russian Federation, 101000. Tel.: +7 (495) 772-95-90, int. 22694. E-mail:


Citation: Vostrova, G. A. (2014) Neantiziruiushchaia sposobnost' soznaniia v fenomenologii tvorchestva rannego Sartra [The Mind’s Ability of Neantisation in Early Sartre’s Phenomenology of Creativity]. Znanie. Ponimanie. Umenie, no. 4, pp. 63–71. (In Russ.).

Submission date: 30.08.2014.



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