jean-paul sartre

jean paul sartre.png

adding page as reading – essays in existentialism


first intro that i remember – via maurice merleau-ponty .. intro’d to merleau-ponty via Hubert Dreyfus and embodiment ness


notes/quotes from essays (published 1995):



the vast ethical and political implications of the existential situation – the absurdity of human life, man’s gnawing anguish, his solitude, and his alienation – have dominated the thinking of jean-paul sartre for almost three decades.


a feeling that what he is reading is not something new but something long anticipated

intro – roots of existentialism (by jean wahl)


.. we are concerned w questions which, strictly speaking, belong to solitary meditation and cannot be subjects of discourse. and yet we are gathered here today to discuss these questions

a nother way2 convos.. as the day  [aka: not part\ial.. for (blank)’s sake…]

because individualism isn’t individual (leigh) if it’s authentic.. because at the root.. we are interconnected.. and when truly set free be.. we crave us as one

imagine imagination between two or more as reality – lennon imagine law


the notions of choice/decision have an importance of the first order in the philosophy of kierkegaard. each decision is a risk, for the existent feels himself surrounded by and filled w uncertainty; nevertheless, he decides… with such infinite passion.. one can only desire the infinite.. since we are in contact w this infinite, our decision will always be ..between the all and the nothing… under the influence of these passions/decisions, the existent will ceaselessly strive to simplify himself, to return to original and authhentic experience..


this existent individual then will be he who has this intensity of feeling because he is in contact w something outside himself.


communication, a struggling love with other persons, is at the core of his system (jaspers)

2 convos ness


other forms of being for heidegger.. there is what he calls ‘the being of things seen’ or scenes; there is the being of tols/instruments; bing of mathematical forms; being of animals; but only man truly exists. animals live, mathematical things subsist, implements remain at our disposal, and scenes manifest themselves; but none of these things exists.

in order that we ourselves may truly exist, rather than remain in the sphere of things-seen and things-used, we must quit the inauthentic sphere of existence.

ordinality, due to our own laziness and the pressure of society, we remain in an everyday world, where we are not really in contact w ourselves… an awareness of ourselves as existents is attainable only by traversing certain experiences, like that of anguish, which put us in the presence of the background of nothingness from which being erupts


this attempt to give reality to an absolute nothingness (even were we to consider it mistaken) is one of heidegger’s most interesting ventures

heideggger: what is there different from each ting that is, if not being?


3 movements of transcendence .. heidegger’s philosophy:

1\ outside ourselves – (toward world) the monads.. have neither doors/windows, each monad being entirely self enclosed.. according to heidegger, individuals are likewise doorless and windowless, but this si true not because individuals are isolated, but because they are outside, in direct relation with the world – in the street, so to speak. individuals are not ‘at home’ because there are no homes for them..


2\ in relation w/others – (toward others) even in our most individual and private consciousness, even when we think we are most alone, we are not separated from others.. ‘without others’ says heidegger, is another mode of ‘with others’

3\ beyond to future – (toward future) always in front of self.. always planning.. constantly oriented towards possibilities.. the existent isa being who has to exist… and thus it is that we are always filled w anxiety or care.. we are always concerned w something which is yet to com; and being, in so far as we seize it in existence, is care and temporality..

two more complete the list:

4\ from nothingness – (out of nothingness)

5\ from particular things which are towards being – (toward being)


via heidegger – philosophy is the wisdom of love – rather than love of wisdom


we must recognize the injustice of reproaching this philosophy for immuring us in ourself; on the contrary, it declares that there is no subject-object dichotomy and that the classical conception of the subject must be exploded to reveal us as always outside of ourself

in putting himself in danger, man endangers the whole universe which is bound to him

thurman interconnectedness law

thus we see the ideas of individuality and totality and we may even add the ideas of individuality and generality, constantly reuniting.. t

ni.. zoom dance..


which is primary, the ‘in-itself’ (realist – purely/uniquely itself.. reality independent of thought) or the ‘for-itself’ (idealist – a nothing ness)? this si one of the most difficult of all problems to resolve in the philosophy of sartre..


by his den of knowledge as a ‘not-being’ by his conception of a massive ‘in-itself’ to which consciousness opposes itself as a nothingness by his affirmation of a radical contingency and by his insistence on the failure inherent in love-relationships, he seems o summarize the frequently justifiable grounds for the modern world’s animadversion to idealism… perhaps the duality of sartre’s philosophy is one of its intrinsic characteristics and not to be disprized..a search for justification and the impossibility of justification are recurrent motifs in the philosophy of sartre


if we say: ‘man, by opposition to the in-itself’ is the ‘for-itself’ is never at rest, and strives in vain towards a union of the ‘in-itself’ and the ‘for-itself’; then we are speaking in the manner of sartrian existentialism. if we say: ‘i am a thinking thing’ as descartes said’; or, ‘the real things are ideas’ as plato said; or ‘the ego accompanies all our representation’ as kant said; then we are moving in a sphere which is no longer that of the philosophy of existence..

the philosophy of existence reminds us, once more, of what all great philosophy has tried to teach us: that there are views of reality which cannot be completely reduced to scientific formulations. naturally, those who are of the contrary opinion will still try to explain the philosophy of existence scientifically; for ie, by economics or historical reasons. such explanations often have some validity, but they are never completely satisfactory

thanks to existentialism, to be or not to be has again become the question..


it is for the existent to say that he exists? in short, is it, perhaps, necessary to choose between existentialism and existence? such is the dilemma of existentialism

at any rate, it is clear that one of the consequences of the existentialist movement and the philosophies of existence is that we have to destroy the majority of the ideas of so called ‘philosophical common-sense’ and of what has often been called ‘the eternal philosophy’ …. in particular, we have to destroy the ideas of essence and substance. philosophy – so goes the new affirmation – must cease to be philosophy of essence and must become philosophy of existence.


we are witnessing and participating in the beginning of a new mode of philosophizing (1995)

find ourselves time and again before impasses. in heidegger for ie we do not know if his system is an idealism or a realism; if the nothingness is nothing ness or being..


part 1 

the humanism of existentialism


the basic charge against us (existentialists) is that we put the emphasis on the dark side of human life


they say.. ‘it’s only human’ whenever a more/less repugnant act is pointed out

can it be that what really scares them in the doctrine i shall try to present here is that it leaves to man a possibility of choice..?


two kinds of existentialists: first.. those who are christian.. and.. the atheistic existentialists.. among who i class heidegger.. and myself.. what they have in common is that they think that existence precedes essence, or if you prefer, that subjectivity must be the starting point… production precedes existence..


ie: realization of  concept


man is nothing else but what he makes of himself. such is the first principle of existentialism. it is also what is called subjectivity, the name we are labeled with when charges are brought against us.

thus existentialism’s first move is to make every man aware of what he is and to make the full responsibility of his existence rest o him. and when we say that a man is responsible for himself, we do not only mean that he is responsible for his own individuality, but that he is responsible for all men.


subjectivism means, on the one hand, that an individual chooses and makes himself; and, on the other that it si impossible for man to transcend human subjectivity. the second of these is the essential meaning of existentialism.. when we say that man chooses his own self, we mean that every one of us does likewise; but we also mean by that that in making this choice he also chooses all men…. in fact, in creating the man that we want to be, there is not a single one of our acts which does not at the same time create an image of man as we think he ought to be.. to choose to be this or that is to affirm at the same time the value of what we choose, because we can never choose evil. he always chooses the good and nothing can be good for us without being good for all..


he (existentialist) thinks that man, whit no support and no aid, is condemned every moment to invent man


and in wanting freedom we discover that it depends entirely on the freedom of others.. and that freedom of others depends on ours..

bishop freedom law


life has no meaning a priori. before you come alive, life is nothing; it’s up to you to give it a meaning, ,and value is nothing else but the meaning that you choose. i that way, you see, there is a possibility of creating a human community


it is therefore senseless to think of complaining since nothing foreign has decided what we feel, what we live, or what we are..


part 2 

the problem of nothingness

got nothingness from this.. dang

nothingness can’t be but w/in framing of something.. sounds john cage ish


part 3 

the emotions: outline of a theory

short of this.. emotions can’t be defined..?


part 4

the role of the image in mental life


part 5

what is writing


we may conclude that he writer has chosen to reveal at he world and particularly to reveal man to other men so that the latter may assume full responsibility before the object which has been thus laid bare. it is assumed that no one is ignorant of the law because there is a code and because the law is written down; thereafter, you are free to violate it, but you know the risks you run. similarly, the function of the writer is to act in such a way that nobody can be ignorant of the world and that nobody may say that he is innocent of what it’s all about. and since he has once engage himself in the universe of language, he can never again pretend that he can not speak. once you enter the universe of significations, there is nothing you can do to get out of it. let words organize themselves freely and they will make sentences, and each sentence contains language in its entirety an refers back to he whole universe. silence itself is defined in relationship to words, and the pause in music receives its meaning from the group of notes around it. this silence is a moment


of language; being silent is not being dumb; it is to refuse to speak, and therefore to keep on speaking.


there is nothing to be said about form in advance, and we have said nothing. everyone invents his own, and one judges it afterward. it is true that the subjects suggest the style, but they do not order it..


it must be borne in mind that most critics are men who have not had much luck and who, just about the time they were growing desperate, found a quiet little job as cemetery watchmen. god know whether cemeteries are peaceful; none of them are more cheerful than a library.. the dead are there; the only thing they have done is write. they have long since been washed clean of he sin of living and besides, their lives are known only thru other books which other dead mean have written about them…


part 6

essays in aesthetics


wikipedia small

Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre (/ˈsɑːrtrə/French: [saʁtʁ]; 21 June 1905 – 15 April 1980) was a French philosopher, playwright, novelist, political activist, biographer, and literary critic. He was one of the key figures in the philosophy of existentialism and phenomenology, and one of the leading figures in 20th-century French philosophy and Marxism.

His work has also influenced sociology, critical theory, post-colonial theory, and literary studies, and continues to influence these disciplines.

Sartre was also noted for his open relationship with prominent feminist and fellow existentialist philosopher and writer Simone de Beauvoir. Together, Sartre and de Beauvoir challenged the cultural and social assumptions and expectations of their upbringings, which they considered bourgeois, in both lifestyle and thought. The conflict between oppressive, spiritually destructive conformity (mauvaise foi, literally, “bad faith”) and an “authentic” way of “being” became the dominant theme of Sartre’s early work, a theme embodied in his principal philosophical work Being and Nothingness (L’Être et le Néant, 1943). Sartre’s introduction to his philosophy is his work Existentialism and Humanism (L’existentialisme est un humanisme, 1946), originally presented as a lecture.

He was awarded the 1964 Nobel Prize in Literature but refused it, saying that he always declined official honours and that “a writer should not allow himself to be turned into an institution”.


Sartre’s primary idea is that people, as humans, are “condemned to be free”.

This theory relies upon his position that there is no creator, and is illustrated using the example of the paper cutter. Sartre says that if one considered a paper cutter, one would assume that the creator would have had a plan for it: an essence. Sartre said that human beings have no essence before their existence because there is no Creator. Thus: “existence precedes essence”. This forms the basis for his assertion that since one cannot explain one’s own actions and behaviour by referencing any specific human nature, they are necessarily fully responsible for those actions. “We are left alone, without excuse.” “We can act without being determined by our past which is always separated from us.”

Sartre maintained that the concepts of authenticity and individuality have to be earned but not learned. We need to experience “death consciousness” so as to wake up ourselves as to what is really important; the authentic in our lives which is life experience, not knowledge. Death draws the final point when we as beings cease to live for ourselves and permanently become objects that exist only for the outside world. In this way death emphasizes the burden of our free, individual existence.

As a junior lecturer at the Lycée du Havre in 1938, Sartre wrote the novel La Nausée (Nausea), which serves in some ways as a manifesto of existentialismand remains one of his most famous books. Taking a page from the German phenomenological movement, he believed that our ideas are the product of experiences of real-life situations, and that novels and plays can well describe such fundamental experiences, having equal value to discursive essays for the elaboration of philosophical theories such as existentialism. With such purpose, this novel concerns a dejected researcher (Roquentin) in a town similar to Le Havre who becomes starkly conscious of the fact that inanimate objects and situations remain absolutely indifferent to his existence. As such, they show themselves to be resistant to whatever significance human consciousness might perceive in them.

He also took inspiration from phenomenologist epistemology, explained by Franz Adler in this way: “Man chooses and makes himself by acting. Any action implies the judgment that he is right under the circumstances not only for the actor, but also for everybody else in similar circumstances.”

This indifference of “things in themselves” (closely linked with the later notion of “being-in-itself” in his Being and Nothingness) has the effect of highlighting all the more the freedom Roquentin has to perceive and act in the world; everywhere he looks, he finds situations imbued with meanings which bear the stamp of his existence. Hence the “nausea” referred to in the title of the book; all that he encounters in his everyday life is suffused with a pervasive, even horrible, taste—specifically, his freedom. The book takes the term from Friedrich Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra, where it is used in the context of the often nauseating quality of existence. No matter how much Roquentin longs for something else or something different, he cannot get away from this harrowing evidence of his engagement with the world.

The novel also acts as a terrifying realization of some of Immanuel Kant’s fundamental ideas about freedom; Sartre uses the idea of the autonomy of the will (that morality is derived from our ability to choose in reality; the ability to choose being derived from human freedom; embodied in the famous saying “Condemned to be free”) as a way to show the world’s indifference to the individual. The freedom that Kant exposed is here a strong burden, for the freedom to act towards objects is ultimately useless, and the practical application of Kant’s ideas proves to be bitterly rejected.

Also important is Sartre’s analysis of psychological concepts, including his suggestion that consciousness exists as something other than itself, and that the conscious awareness of things is not limited to their knowledge: for Sartre intentionality applies to the emotions as well as to cognitions, to desires as well as to perceptions. “When an external object is perceived, consciousness is also conscious of itself, even if consciousness is not its own object: it is a non-positional consciousness of itself.”

..Sartre and his lifelong companion, de Beauvoir, existed, in her words, where “the world about us was a mere backdrop against which our private lives were played out”.


Sartre’s philosophy lent itself to his being a public intellectual. He envisaged culture as a very fluid concept; neither pre-determined, nor definitely finished; instead, in true existential fashion, “culture was always conceived as a process of continual invention and re-invention.” This marks Sartre, the intellectual, as a pragmatist, willing to move and shift stance along with events. He did not dogmatically follow a cause other than the belief in human freedom, preferring to retain a pacifist’s objectivity. It is this overarching theme of freedom that means his work “subverts the bases for distinctions among the disciplines”. Therefore, he was able to hold knowledge across a vast array of subjects: “the international world order, the political and economic organisation of contemporary society, especially France, the institutional and legal frameworks that regulate the lives of ordinary citizens, the educational system, the media networks that control and disseminate information.

Sartre systematically refused to keep quiet about what he saw as inequalities and injustices in the world.”

…From 1956 onwards Sartre rejected the claims of the PCF to represent the French working classes, objecting to its “authoritarian tendencies”. In the late 1960s Sartre supported the Maoists, a movement that rejected the authority of established communist parties. However, despite aligning with the Maoists, Sartre said after the May events: “If one rereads all my books, one will realize that I have not changed profoundly, and that I have always remained an anarchist.” He would later explicitly allow himself to be called an anarchist.

In the aftermath of a war that had for the first time properly engaged Sartre in political matters, he set forth a body of work which “reflected on virtually every important theme of his early thought and began to explore alternative solutions to the problems posed there“.

The greatest difficulties that he and all public intellectuals of the time faced were the increasing technological aspects of the world that were outdating the printed word as a form of expression.

In Sartre’s opinion, the “traditional bourgeois literary forms remain innately superior”, but there is “a recognition that the new technological ‘mass media’ forms must be embraced” if Sartre’s ethical and political goals as an authentic, committed intellectual are to be achieved: the demystification of bourgeois political practices and the raising of the consciousness, both political and cultural, of the working class.


…Sartre’s literary work has been counterposed, often pejoratively, to that of Camus in the popular imagination…


Some philosophers argue that Sartre’s thought is contradictory. Specifically, they believe that Sartre makes metaphysical arguments despite his claim that his philosophical views ignore metaphysics. Herbert Marcuse criticized Being and Nothingness for projecting anxiety and meaninglessness onto the nature of existence itself: “Insofar as Existentialism is a philosophical doctrine, it remains an idealistic doctrine: it hypostatizes specific historical conditions of human existence into ontological and metaphysical characteristics. Existentialism thus becomes part of the very ideology which it attacks, and its radicalism is illusory.” In Letter on Humanism, Heidegger criticized Sartre’s existentialism:


Author Richard Webster considers Sartre one of many modern thinkers who have reconstructed Judaeo-Christian orthodoxies in secular form.


Historian Paul Johnson asserted that Sartre’s ideas had inspired the Khmer Rouge leadership: “The events in Cambodia in the 1970s, in which between one-fifth and one-third of the nation was starved to death or murdered, were entirely the work of a group of intellectuals, who were for the most part pupils and admirers of Jean-Paul Sartre – ‘Sartre’s Children’ as I call them.”


on the intellectual


Sartre via school of life


1\ life is strange

existence striped of any of the prejudices.. to show radical strangeness beneath

2\ free

can change things

3\ don’t live in bad faith (w/o taking freedom)

whenever we tell ourselves. we have to do things a certain way

supposed to’s

4\ free to dismantle capitalism

the one thing that keeps most unfree is money.. ie: that’s if i didn’t have to worry about money.. creates a feeling of necessity.. that’s not a reality

made up money

marxism seemed to enhance freedom.. by reducing material constraints..

fbi kept large file on him.. because of his philosophy..


fb share while reading sartre


eudaimonitative surplus ness


via Maria on refusing nobel peace prize

Maria Popova (@brainpicker) tweeted at 6:01 AM – 22 Oct 2017 :

This is the moral courage of conviction: On this day in 1964, Sartre became the first person to decline the Nobel (

Despite its surprisingly dark origin, the Nobel Prize is regarded as the highest honor bestowed upon a human being

In 1964, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature and became the first person to decline it. (The only other one to date is Lê Ðúc Tho, awarded the 1973 Peace Prize for his role in the Paris Peace Accords seeking to establish peace in Vietnam; he turned it down on the grounds that there was no actual peace in Vietnam — an admirable stance that calls to mind Marie Curie’s famous assertion that “one never notices what has been done; one can only see what remains to be done.”)

A writer who adopts political, social, or literary positions must act only with the means that are his own — that is, the written word. All the honors he may receive expose his readers to a pressure I do not consider desirable. If I sign myself Jean-Paul Sartre it is not the same thing as if I sign myself Jean-Paul Sartre, Nobel Prizewinner.

But in this short excerpt from BBC’s philosophy documentary Human, All Too Human, Sartre offers a far less politically correct explanation..

Because I was politically involved, the bourgeois establishment wanted to cover up my “past errors.” Now, there’s an admission! And so they gave me the Nobel Prize. They “pardoned” me and said I deserved it. It was monstrous!

physicist Richard Feynman — who won the Nobel Prize himself a year after Sartre — put it best in his eloquent denouncement of awards:

I don’t see that it makes any point that someone in the Swedish academy just decides that this work is noble enough to receive a prize — I’ve already gotten the prize. The prize is the pleasure of finding a thing out, the kick in the discovery, the observation that other people use it — those are the real things. The honors are unreal to me. I don’t believe in honors.

Making a fuss out of declining an award seems not much different from making a fuss over accepting it — both make the award more real than it need be if one were truly interested in breaking free from the system. Why can’t the private pleasure of finding things out be enough, award or no award?

award ness messes w us