Before it is possible to break down and analyse the way in which being dissociates from one’s own sense of existence, it is firstly essential to establish what, according to Sartre, existence of being is. The main concepts which surround his philosophy of being are the various modalities in which being-in-the-world exists, the anguish of the conscious being, nothingness and freedom – all of which are interrelated. There are two main modes of being-in-the-world, the being-in-itself (which is attributed to objects) and the being-for-itself (which is attributed to people); the being of the in-itself is one that is quite simple, because an object “…by itself, it cannot even be what it is not; we have seen indeed that it can encompass no negation. It is full positivity. It knows no otherness; it never posits itself as other-than-another-being.” (BN PG 22) The reason that these objects can know “no otherness” is because they are unconscious beings, they have no awareness of self and no means to re-create their being, they are a stagnation of being-in-the-world and their purpose (their essence) is pre-determined. The being-for-itself is less simplistic than the in-itself because, where the being of objects can only ever be what it is, the being-for-itself is always active and re-creating its essence:
“…man first of all exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world – and defines himself afterwards. If man… sees himself as not definable it is because to begin with he is nothing. He will not be anything until later, and then he will be what he makes of himself.” (E+H)
By this we can see that, unlike the essence of a ball, or chair, or table, the essence of a person is one that is not pre-determined. In other words, “…existence precedes essence.” (E+H) It is by this that consciousness is empty and the for-itself must be active in the world to create itself. The way in which the for-itself being accomplishes this is by that of negation and transcendence. Like the in-itself, the for-itself has facticity, for example; in the same way that you could describe a chair as being wooden, visibility light brown in colour, has hard right angles and a solid frame, you can describe a person as being short in stature, having blonde hair and pale skin. But it is through negation, the “…perpetual determining itself not to be the in-itself.” (BN pg109) which allows a person to transcend his or her facticity. The relationship between man and object is this act of negation, for the in-itself is the object of consciousness; a person creates their world much like a sculptor creates a work of art from marble. If the marble is the object of consciousness then our act of chiselling, and creating negative space, is the way in which we negate in the world. If the in-itself is positivity and wholeness then the act of negation is destruction, nihilation.