chapter  2
Transcendence. The pursuit of meaning as a necessary but ‘useless passion’. Sartre
Pages 14

Camus conceives the absurd in predominantly spatial terms, that is to say, the evil outside man can invade and corrupt him, and is to be thought of as an alien force intruding upon human nature. Sartre’s contingency is, in one important respect, even more irremediable, in that it is almost always lost to any human power of modification. He calls it being initself,1 which is primarily the condition of anything inanimate; anything which, in Sartre’s language, coincides completely with itself,2 is a plenum, all of one piece,3 with no disposition to become other than it is, no potentiality.4 But the term is not reserved exclusively for things, it designates also a constituent of ‘human reality’. In order to make clear precisely what is the human in-itself, we must turn our attention to its complementary element, being for-itself. This is exclusively human, and is an aspect of consciousness which is defined as une decompression d’être. (The in-itself has been shown to be a plenum devoid of any principle of change.) The self cannot be grasped as a true existent, the subject cannot be himself, for coincidence with the self reduces it to a bare in-itself and de-humanizes it. The self is a kind of separation of the subject from himself, a kind of non-coincidence with himself, a constant escaping from his own identity, a constant pursuit of an unstable inner equilibrium. The for-itself, we may say, is the dynamic aspect of the self, poised in the present and solicited by a future which constantly reshapes the self. The reshaped self is thrown back into the past and becomes henceforth unavailable, a dead weight, the in-itself of the self.