UFO Conjectures

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Being and Nothingness: UFOs and Jean-Paul Sartre


Aside from Bruce Duensing, there is little point to suggesting visitors here read Jean-Paul Sartre’s monumental Being and Nothingness, the ne plus ultra of existentialism.

But we will suggest Joseph S. Catalano’s A Commentary on Jean-Paul Sartre’s “Being and Nothingness” [Harper & Row, NY, 1974].


Professor Catalano’s book provides a concise, lucid overview of Sartre’s book and philosophy. It also defines “phenomenon” – the definition of which (by Sartre and Husserl) is applicable and relevant to UFOs.


Reality is a complex thing, and not clarified by anyone, including philospophers. Jean-Paul Sartre is not an exception but his views are attuned, rather specifically, to the UFO phenomenon as it manifests itself in the modern era:

“As a phenomenologist, [Sartre] begins with a study of phenomenon – that very appearance that does not hide reality but reveals it.” [Catalano, Page 35]

Some UFO mavens – Duensing among them, if I understand his erudite writings – think that UFOs interact with human consciousness, and their [UFOs] existence dependent upon the human interaction.

Sartre says this:

“…the subsistence of a permanent element apart from something which changes can not allow change to be constituted as such except in the eyes of a witness who would be himself united with that which changes and with that which remains.” [Sartre, Being and Nonthingness, Philosophical Library, NY, 1956, Page 143]

That is to say that UFO witnesses are linked, transmentally, with the phenomenon, and become a part of it; an idea that meshes with quantum’s theory of the observer affecting that which it is observing (measuring).

For “nuts and bolts” ufologists, this is buggy and ignored. But should it be?

The superficial approach of mechanical ufologists hasn’t provided anything conclusive in the sixty-plus years of UFO scrutiny. Isn’t it time to give consideration to ideas steeped in such theorizing as that of Sartre or Bruce Duensing (at his blog, Intangible Materiality)?

Sartre, in his Conclusion to Being…,writes, “But here, as in Greek philosophy a question is raised: which shall we call real?” [Ibid, Page 622]

That is the same question that UFO aficionados have been asking for years.

We suggest that the mental gyrations required to understand Sartre can be employed to understand the UFO phenomenon.

But understanding the phenomenon doesn’t determine the essence of the phenomenon, and that still requires scrutiny of an evidentiary kind.

Ontology may be helpful as a methodology fro UFO study, but there still exists a need to touch and hold the phenomenon, which has a tangible reality, as far as the evidence thus far indicates, or does it?

That’s the question, after all, isn’t it?


  • This reminds me very much of the Jungian perspective on this - that the UFO phenomenon is simply a reflection of our collective subconscious. You're not saying that specifically, that's just the idea that the text conjured up for me. This explanation seems more plausible to me by the day, and that perhaps UFOs are just once facet of this phenomenon of "consciousness reflection." Good article.

    By Blogger Armakan, at Wednesday, February 16, 2011  

  • Armakan:

    Jung's treatise on flying saucers is interesting and can account, in my estimation, for some sightings.

    However, there does seem to be a non-psychical element in many UFO events; a physical presence as it were.

    I know of no pyschological construct -- not even Jung's archetypes -- that can be considered physical in essence.

    So some UFO manifestations have to be studied forensically, as if they are tangible -- touchable.

    Jung's thesis is just one of many possibilities for SOME UFO sightings, as I think you'd agree.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Wednesday, February 16, 2011  

  • A phenomenological approach would indeed be a fruitful approach to UFOs, but not because it is consistent with the observation or thesis that "UFOs interact with human consciousness, and their [UFOs] existence dependent upon the human interaction"(!), although a rigorous phenomenological description of a UFO sighting might reveal a perception of such an interaction, as some do. Phenomenology, by means of what Husserl called the Epoche, SUSPENDS the question of the ontological status of something experienced to better focus on the contents of that experience. Phenomenology works from the inside of experience out, not from an objective, impersonal, "view from nowhere" to separate out what reality would be independent of any possible observation. However whole heartedly I agree with your recommendation of the application of the phenomenlogical method, to put it bluntly, but respectfully (which I underline), you misunderstand Sartre and Husserl here.

    By Blogger Bryan Sentes, at Wednesday, February 16, 2011  

  • Bryan:

    I suggest you read Catalano's Commentary, which outlines Sartre's refutation of Husserl's position.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Wednesday, February 16, 2011  

  • OK, before we start dueling secondary sources here, let me focus and sharpen my point: to claim that Sartrean or Husserlian phenomenology (the latter was most protean) lends support to the view that "UFO witnesses are linked, transmentally, with the phenomenon, and become a part of it; an idea that meshes with quantum’s theory of the observer affecting that which it is observing (measuring)" is to misunderstand Sartre and Husserl (and I'm not gonna shake Heisenberg's catbox!). That UFO phenomena do appear to behave in an unsettling harmony with the witnesses' thought is well-documented, but phenomenology does not lend an epistemological or other legitimation to this experience. Phenomena are indeed "meshed" with experiencing consciousness because phenomena are defined as what appears to consciousness (and consciousness is in turn meshed with its objects because of its "intentionality", i.e., consciousness is always consciousness of something.

    By Blogger Bryan Sentes, at Wednesday, February 16, 2011  

  • Bryan:

    I appreciate the attempt to delve into the philosophical mire that epistomology presents, I truly do, but I get the feeling that you are not totally familiar with Sartre's position as enunciated in Being...

    That is why I suggested in the posting that readers get their hands on Catalano's exposition, wherein the vicissitudes of Sartre's thesis is cogent and succinct.

    The patina of Being and Nothingness is grist, in my estimation, for application to the UFO phenomenon, as a "phenonemon."

    That's all...


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Wednesday, February 16, 2011  

  • ''Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one''

    Albert Einstein

    Can reality be clarified by anyone? Is it possible that reality is beyond clarification? When ''reality'' suddenly comes into conversation, i feel the need to recommend those interested read Ramana Maharshi's writings. Perhaps going beyond the phenomenal world will stop such questions arising?

    By Blogger Adam, at Wednesday, February 16, 2011  

  • Adam:

    Reality is a mysterious, complex, iffy thing.

    Anything you can offer to clarify "reality" would be helpful.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Wednesday, February 16, 2011  

  • My apologies for going a little off topic here. It is said that the world and indeed the entire universe is an illusion. For thousands of years great thinkers and sages have said that man is an image. So what does this have to do with UFO's? If you subscribe to the enlightened ones description, then UFO's are just one more imaginary part of the illusion so the question of reality, and how these phenomena effect it is a rather tedious and unnecessary investigation. Those seeking the real would be better off cutting to the chase which is why i bring up Ramana Maharshi. It is said that the phenomenal world (UFO's included) are a projection of the mind, a projection which hinders ones ability to see that one true reality. If however the mind is made quiescent through contemplation, reality shines forth of its own accord. Or so say the sages.

    By Blogger Adam, at Thursday, February 17, 2011  

  • Adam:

    You are not off the mark.

    I might suggest you get your hands on Bucke's monumental work, Cosmic Consciousness, which brings to the Western mind what Eastern mystics have been preaching for millennia.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Thursday, February 17, 2011  

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