Critique of Archaeological Reason
5. Excerpts and summaries

Jean-Paul Sartre

Giorgio Buccellati - February 2014

Excerpts from 1960 Critique de la raison dialectique

The English translation is by Alan Sheridan-Smith in the Verso 2004 edition

The notion of "critique"
The notion of "dialectical reason"

The notion of "critique"

A critique aims at identifying the conditions through which events are integrated into a larger whole
Volume I of the Critique of Dialectical Reason stops as soon as we reach the 'locus of history'; it is solely concerned with finding the intelligible foundations for a structural anthropology – to the extent, of course, that these synthetic structures are the condition of a directed, developing totalisation. Volume II, which will follow shortly [it was in fact not published], will retrace the stages of the critical progression: it will attempt to establish that there is one human history, with one truth and one intelligibility – not by considering the material content of this history, but by demonstrating that a practical multiplicity, whatever it may be, must unceasingly totalise itself through interiorising its multiplicity at all levels.
[p. 69]
A critique aims at identifying the validity and the limits of dialectical reason
Our approach will therefore be critical in that it will be an attempt to determine the validity and the limits of dialectical Reason, and this will mean identifying both the oppositions and the connections between this Reason and positivist, analytical Reason. But it must also be dialectical, since dialectic is necessary for dealing with dialectical problems. This is not a tautology, as I shall show later.
[p. 823, from the 1960 preface]
Kantian nature of this Critique
We cannot deny that a Critique (in the Kantian sense of the term) of dialectical Reason can be made only by dialectical Reason itself; and indeed it must be allowed to ground itself and to develop itself as a free critique of itself, at the same time as being the movement of History and of knowledge. This is precisely what has not been done until now: dialectical Reason has been walled up in dogmatism.
[p. 21]
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The notion of "dialectical reason"

through dialectical reason, the event transcends itself towards totality ... anthropology will continue to be a mere confusion of empirical data, positivistic inductions and totalising interpretations, until the legitimacy of dialectical Reason has been established, that is to say, until we have earned the right to study a person, a human group or a human object in the synthetic reality of their significations and of their relations to the developing totalisation; in other words, until we have proved that any isolated knowledge of men or their products must either transcend itself towards the totality or reduce to an error of incompleteness. [p. 823, from the 1960 preface]
dialectical reason is the "intelligibility of positivist Reason";
parallel to Kant
If ... we were to ground our dialectical categories on the impossibility of experience without them, as Kant did for positivist Reason, then we would indeed attain necessity, but we would have contaminated it with the opacity of facts. Indeed, to say, 'If there is to be any such thing as experience, the human mind must be able to unify sensuous diversity through synthetic judgements', is, ultimately, to base the whole critical edifice on the unintelligible judgement (a judgement of fact), 'But experience does occur.' And we shall see later that dialectical Reason is itself the intelligibility of positivist Reason; and this is precisely why positivist Reason presents itself at first as the unintelligible law of empirical intelligibility.
[p. 43]
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