The Look as a Call to Freedom: On the Possibility of Sartrean Grace

Sartre Studies International 28 (2):77-97 (2022)
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While the traditional understanding of the look views it in terms of shame and oppression, I read Sartre’s Notebooks for an Ethics with Beauvoir’s Ethics of Ambiguity to argue that the look always gives me the world and inaugurates my freedom. Even the oppressor’s look reveals that I am free and that my existence is conditioned by the existence of other free beings. Because the look gives me the world as the arena within which I act freely, it is a means of grace, and receiving it only in shame is bad faith. Although my existence remains unjustifiable and this grace cannot promise salvation, the look calls me out of shame to the pursuit of my and others’ freedom, and this call is a gift.

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Sarah Horton
institut catholique de Paris


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