Sartre and Sensus Divinitatis

Jean Paul Sartre: Even if one does not believe in God, there are elements of the idea of God that remain in us.... As for me, I don’t see myself as so much dust that has appeared in the world but as a being that was expected, prefigured, called forth. In short, as a being that could, it seems, come only from a creator; and this idea of a creating hand that created me refers me back to God. Naturally this is not a clear, exact idea that I set in motion every time I think of myself. It contradicts many of my other ideas; but it is there, floating vaguely. And when I think of myself I often think rather in this way, for wont of being able to think otherwise.

Simone de Beauvoir, "A Conversation About Death and God," Harper’s magazine, February 1984

This is not an admission of a belief in God by Sartre, as some people mistakenly believe, but it is an admission of possessing some sort of a sensus divinitatis. I don't think this discredits Sartre's philosophical position of atheism in any way; this honest confession, in fact, reflects his intellectual integrity. What interests me is how Sartre maintained his philosophical stance despite an internal pull to the contrary: to proclaim that existence precedes essence, and yet constantly view oneself as 'a being that was expected, prefigured, called forth'. 


Komal said…
If only he let go of his philosophical commitments, which are worth nothing in themselves. Western philosophers really need to learn that the heart sometimes has a wisdom that the head does not.