Sartre on slime (1943)

The For-Itself is suddenly compromised. I open my hands, I want to let go of the slimy, and it sticks to me, it draws me, it sucks at me. Its mode of being is neither the reassuring inertia of the solid nor a dynamism like that in water which is exhausted in fleeing from me. It is a soft, yielding action, a moist and feminine sucking…. Slime is the revenge of the in-itself. A sickly-sweet, feminine revenge which will be symbolized on another level by the quality “sugary.” … A sugary-sliminess is the ideal of the slimy; it symbolizes the sugary death of the For-itself (like that of the wasp which sinks into the jam and drowns in it)… But at the same time the slimy is myself, by the very fact that I outline an appropriation of the slimy substance. That sucking of the slimy which I feel on my hands outlines a kind of continuity of the slimy substance in myself. These long, soft strings of substance which fall from me to the slimy body (when, for example, I plunge my hand into it and then pull it out again) symbolize a rolling off of myself in the slime… [Slime] transcends all distincions betwen psychic and physical, between the brute existent and the meanings of the world; it is a possible meaning of being. The first experience which the infant can have with the slimy enriches him psychologically and morally; he will not need to reach adulthood to discover the kind of sticky baseness which we figuratively name “slimy”; it is there near him in the very sliminess of honey or of glue.

Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness: An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology (London: Routledge, 1969), pp. 610-12.

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