Essay 11: Sartre Gives Us a Clue About a Kind of Holism

In his book chapter, “Existentialist Psychoanalysis,” Sartre (1905-1980), the French thinker, offers us a “flashlight” of understanding when he writes:

“The principle of this psychoanalysis is that man is a totality and not a collection. Consequently he expresses himself as a whole in even his most insignificant and his most superficial behavior. In other words, there is not a taste, a mannerism, or a human act which is not revealing.

“The goal of psychoanalysis is to decipher the empirical behavior patterns of man. The essential task is an hermeneutic; that is a deciphering…”

(Existentialism and Human Emotions, Citadel Press, 1985, page 68)

In other words, if you think of a person as an unofficial novelist (i.e., storyteller) of his or her own life, with a philosophical commentary that accompanies the novel, you have not a laundry list of attributes, but a meaning interpreter on a short physiological leash of food, rest, headaches, skin rashes, sprained ankles and all the other bodily reminders of the biomedical pressures that accompany the person-as-novelist situation.