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Being and Nothingness

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Being & Nothingness is without doubt one of the most significant philosophical books of the 20th century. The central work by one of the century's most influential thinkers, it altered the course of western philosophy. Its revolutionary approach challenged all previous assumptions about the individual's relationship with the world. Known as 'the Bible of existentialism', its impact on culture & literature was immediate & was felt worldwide, from the absurdist drama of Samuel Beckett to the soul-searching cries of the Beat poets.
Being & Nothingness is one of those rare books whose influence has affected the mindset of subsequent generations. Seventy years after its 1st publication, its message remains as potent as ever--challenging readers to confront the fundamental dilemmas of human freedom, choice, responsibility & action.

688 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1943

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Jean-Paul Sartre

698 books10.3k followers
Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre, normally known simply as Jean-Paul Sartre, was a French existentialist philosopher and pioneer, dramatist and screenwriter, novelist and critic. He was a leading figure in 20th century French philosophy.

He declined the award of the 1964 Nobel Prize in Literature "for his work which, rich in ideas and filled with the spirit of freedom and the quest for truth, has exerted a far-reaching influence on our age."

In the years around the time of his death, however, existentialism declined in French philosophy and was overtaken by structuralism, represented by Levi-Strauss and, one of Sartre's detractors, Michel Foucault.

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Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56k followers
October 22, 2021
‭L'etre et le neant, essai d'ontologie phenomenologique‬ = Being and Nothingness, Jean-Paul Sartre

Being and Nothingness: An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology, sometimes subtitled A Phenomenological Essay on Ontology, is a 1943 book by the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, in which the author asserts the individual's existence as prior to the individual's essence and seeks to demonstrate that free will exists.

While a prisoner of war in 1940 and 1941, Sartre read Martin Heidegger's Being and Time (1927).

Heidegger's work, an ontological investigation through the lens and method of Husserlian phenomenology (Edmund Husserl was Heidegger's teacher), initiated Sartre's own philosophical inquiry. ...

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز نخست ماه فوریه سال 2010میلادی

عنوان: هستی و نیستی: پدیده شناسی عالم هستی؛ اثر: ژان پل سارتر؛ مترجم: عنایت الله شکیباپور؛ مشخصات نشر تهران، دنیای کتاب، چاپ نخست ؟؟؟ تجدید چاپ پس از سی و چند سال در سال1389، در432ص، شابک9789643460532؛ موضوع اگزیستانسیالیسم از نویسندگان فرانسه - سده 20م

عنوان: هستی و نیستی: جستاری در هستی شناسی پدیدار شناختی؛ نویسنده: ژان پل سارتر؛ برگردان: مهستی بحرینی؛ تهران، نیلوفر، سال1394؛ در856ص؛ شابک9789644486456؛

کتاب با ترجمه ابراهیم صدقیانی نیز در تهران، جامی، سال1389 در دو جلد منتشر شده است

‮هستی و نیستی یک پیش گفتار است و چهار بخش، یک اثر فلسفی تمام عیار از سده بیستم میلادی ...؛ نقش بازی کردن پیشخدمت کافه، و یا «تصادف موتورسیکلت»، زنی که وانمود می‌کند متوجه نیست که مردی دستش را گرفته، همه انگار مثالهایی از همین زندگی روز، رقصی میانه ی میدان، بین هستن و نیستن...؛

در این کتاب، «ژان پل سارتر» به بررسی فلسفه بنیادی، با عنوان «فلسفه هستی و نیستی»، پرداخته است؛ «سارتر» در این کتاب، ضمن یک بیان کامل، از اثبات «هستی و نیستی»، و رابطه ای که میان آنان وجود دارد، به ذکر تمام مقولات عالم هستی پرداخته، و عواطف انسانی نظری همچون «وجدان»، «عشق»، «نفرت»، «هوس» و سایر «تضادهای درونی»، و «تعارض نفسانی» را، به صورت آشکار و مستدل، شرح داده است، که در فلسفه ی او روح «کانت» و «هگل»، توامان مشاهده میشود؛ «سارتر» برای انسان، دو هستی قائل شده، یکی هستی برای خود، و آن یکی دیگر، هستی برای دیگری. ایشان این هستی دوم را، جزء جدا نشدنی هستی، برای خود میدانند، و باور دارند که هر انسان زنده، با هستی دیگری که در وجود او فعالیت دارد، زندگی میکند، و رابطه ی میان این دو هستی، یک هستی دیگر، به نام «هستی در درون» را ارائه میکنند؛ چرا که ایشان باور دارند عواطف انسانی ذکر شده، به هم پیوسته نیستند، و خوانشگر باید مفهوم هر کدام را به صورت جداگانه، درک کند؛ همچنین در این کتاب آراء و باورهای «سارتر»، درباره ی مکتب «اگزیستانسیالیسم (اصالت انسان)» به اختصار آورده شده است

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 23/09/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 29/07/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Fergus, Quondam Happy Face.
947 reviews17.6k followers
February 16, 2023
Q: Why do we elderly folks SLEEP so much?

A: It's because Being and Nothingness, those constantly bickering Gemini Contenders, are constantly at our heels!

Sartre felt their presence young, and drank and smoked too much, leading to an early demise.

I too, felt the proximity of their jarring conflict when I was young, so was given pills for it. So In my elderly years - for which I'm grateful - SLEEP is my constant remedy!

You know, because of my empathy for him, in my more jejune years back in the seventies and eighties, Jean-Paul Sartre played Pied Piper to my bemused Flower Child of Hamelin.

It was that bad.

I clearly saw the Establishment smoothing things over, and didn't like it. But others in their perpetual gloom despise our Others. So I avoided that attitude, and have borne these Others. Unlike Sartre.

Because I know the law is the Law - as Plato did.

You see, I was of two minds on this ill-advised book - the first part of it was well spoken - but the second was distinctly dangerous for the ingénu I was.

But it’s mere gibberish, I’m afraid, to most of the rest of us. So harmless.

So why did I have two minds?

Because Sartre had two minds on it himself: on one side, his more cerebral braininess hated it, and the other, his fallen body-mind - the way of all flesh - LOVED it.

He had fallen into what he would call factitious habits in the post-war years and in consequence buried his hopes and dreams. All that remained of them was his desire to write greatly. Ego.

And thus fittingly, he divides the book into two main parts, one dealing with the constricted moral freedom of pure being, and the other, with the bondage of amoral facticity.

But guess what? Each is mutually exclusive in the real world. Hence for him it was all endless slough because he sided with the world.

The better to gain a wider readership. And propagate his embittered dissidence.

But as Chogyam Trungoa says in his little bestseller Shambhala, one of our worlds is the hopeful world of sunrise, Shambhala - and the other is the samsaric world of sunset, with all its outré accoutrements and subsequent shame.

You pays your money and you takes your chances!

Says it all, don’t it? If you fall and remain between the cracks without joining the human race again you live in that perpetual sunset. As it was for Sartre after his series of strokes.

You see, the world is still run by Night-Dwellers, as it was in Ancient Palestine. Folks are still mocked for infinitely less than Jesus accomplished.

That's why I'm on His side now. You’ve got to pick up every stitch!

For black night invariably falls if you lose your joy...

Yes, friends, if you go out on life’s limb, make darned sure you’re close enough to the trunk to clamber right back down again.

But staying in line is hard when the Night-Dwelling world screams foul at you, I know.

Martin Luther points out that the Way of Faith is murder when, like Paul to the Galatians, you assert the Primacy of Love over the Law.

You attract attacks by the same kinda Trolls as Pope Francis daily faces in the Curia. Wimps need not apply to become a Christian. It’ll make you - or break you. So it'll probably break me. So what? - I've lived a good long life.

You know, I had a wise mentor back in those same 1980’s when I read Sartre - old Bob Mitchell. Bob always use to say, “A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do!”

Life stinks, but we’ve got our marching orders! The mere prerequisites for being a Christian are an insurmountable wall in our worst moments.

It’s just too bad Jean-Paul Sartre thought he could make the obduracy of life easier by bucking the system.

By all means, let the half-in/ half-out night dwellers like Sartre and me refuse to go with the flow, friends.

But bear your own Cross with Fortitude. Pay no mind to the bollocks.

Full speed ahead.
Profile Image for Tyler .
323 reviews307 followers
April 28, 2020
One of the more cold-serious works I've read, this treatise exerts a strange power that forces readers onward despite the dense subject matter and clunky English translation.

The subject is man's experience of reality. Here you have a rigorous scouring of the subject resulting in a proof of human freedom so thorough you'll never fool with hard determinism again. Every aspect of consciousness is traced in all its implications. After reading this there seems little more to be said about the basis in reality of human thought. The unique effect of reading the book, for me, came from exploring my own mind and thoughts for insight as I followed what Sartre said.

The scope of the book treats conscious thought in isolation. You need a fairly good philosophical vocabulary to read it, as well as a highlighter. Even then, some of the points are so abstruse you have to pause and think, often on each paragraph. Joseph Catalano's A Commentary on Jean-Paul Sartre's Being and Nothingness is a valuable companion. Those considering reading this book may want to read Catalano alongside it.

As with many existential works, this study tends to ignore external influences on thought. Sartre does pose the problem of the "situation limit" to human freedom, but without exploring it in any detail. As a result, the outward, natural necessity that provides the context for human freedom receives scant attention. Thence comes the sense of a human consciousness unbounded in its freedom.

Sartre's characterization of the human mind possessing "absolute freedom and absolute responsibility" takes on a metaphysical aura; this, as much as anything, accounts for the book's ability to engage one's feelings. The reading of this work is actually more rewarding than what one might learn from it. What an intriguing effect for such an academic work.
Profile Image for Luís.
1,826 reviews478 followers
August 7, 2022
What is essential in the context of the phenomenology of being? Being & Existing, the memorable and subtle space separating being from non-being, the possibility of non-existence constitutes a distinct phenomenon from death. These are some of the countless questions that Sartre addresses uniquely in "Being and Nothingness", in an intellectual exercise that sometimes touches on the absurdity of the denials of the apparent evidence. According to Sartre, the subject-object relationship inevitably passes through the conception of the self and the self's consciousness so that knowledge can assume compelling cognition perspectives. The object is perceptible if the consciousness of the being situates and references itself outside the item, and, in turn, it exists independently of the being. "Before any comparison, before any construction, the thing is what is present in the conscience as not being the conscience" (SARTRE, 1997). When objects exist, they imply an order of things independent of being and knowledge itself. Likewise, the Sartrian exists before self-awareness, and when he refuses, he assumes a negative characteristic that only realizes it as a non-substantial structure. Being is before thinking because it (pre) exists for self-awareness. Although for Sartre, consciousness constitutes the original absolute, insubstantial and external to all reality, it exists when being and self-awareness meet in thought and prove an ability to integrate and perceive the existence of being. The Sartrian problem of being part of and not being for the other's knowledge is the same phenomenological problem. And between being and non-being, there is nothing, the non-existence that shapes death, as a negation of the existing and self-conscious being. This fact refers to another order of questions: the value of conscience as a normative reference for perceiving reality and convergence with a world defined according to previously elaborated categories. It will end up assuming conventions and prejudices from proof to proof. In other words, madness and death would, to be so, be equal concerning the ontological question of being and nothingness. The fundamental thing is to mention that through this superior work, it will be possible to raise numerous questions of existential content that will take us further in the knowledge of ourselves and others. And isn't this the primary role of Philosophy?
Profile Image for فرشاد.
150 reviews302 followers
February 23, 2019
قهرمان کتاب هستی و نیستی سارتر، یک شخصیت خیالی بنام پیِر است که در آثار فلسفی دهه سی سارتر ظاهر میشد و البته از این کتاب ببعد، هیچ اطلاعی از سرنوشت او در دست نیست. کتاب هستی و نیستی، رساله‌ای درباره‌ی هستی‌شناسی پدیدارشناسانه، و به گواهی منتقدان، مهم‌ترین کار فلسفی سارتر است که شهرتش را وام‌دار نثر ادبی زیبا و استفاده از مثال‌هایی از زندگی روزمره است. هرچند گیرایی نثر، در ترجمه‌ی فارسی این اثر، به دست ویرانی سپرده شده است. هستی و نیستی، که نامش، گویی ادای دینی به اثر شکوهمند مارتین هايدگر، هستی و زمان است، از نظر محتوایی نیز نسبت بینامتنی محکمی با اثر هایدگر ایجاد کرده است. هستی و نیستی از یک پیش‌گفتار و چهار فصل اصلی تشکیل شده ا��ت. در پیش‌گفتار، سارتر به طرح پرسش‌هایی درباره‌ی معنای نهایی دو نوع هستنده، انسان و چیزها پرداخته است و می‌گوید بخاطر پاسخ دادن به این پرسش‌هاست که من کتاب حاضر را نوشته‌ام. عنوان بخش اول، مساله ن��ستی است. نگارنده، در این بخش در پی روشن ساختن معنای هستی و معنای نیستی است. بخش دوم کتاب با عنوان برای خود بودن، در توضیح وضعیت هستنده‌ای خاص به نام انسان است، که آگاه می‌شود و به چیزها معنا می‌دهد. فصل سوم، برای دیگری بودن، جستاری درباره‌ی وجود دیگری‌ست. و در بخش پایانی، سارتر درباره آزادی و نسبت آن با هستی و زمان سخن می‌گوید. در پایان، سارتر وعده‌ی کتابی درباره‌ی استلزام اخلاقی معناهای متافیزیکی انسان و چیزها را می‌دهد، کاری که البته هرگز به پایان نمی‌رسد.
Profile Image for Roy Lotz.
Author 1 book8,128 followers
June 26, 2019
Here is this review in podcast form:

Slime is the agony of water.

I first heard of this book from my dad. “I had to read this in college,” he told me. “We looked at every type of being. Being-in-myself, being-for-myself, being-of-myself, being-across-myself, being-by-myself. I went crazy trying to read that thing.” Ever since that memorable description, this book has held a special allure for me. It has everything to attract a self-styled intellectual: a reputation for difficulty, a hefty bulk, a pompous title, and the imprimatur of a famous name. Clearly I had to read it.

Jean-Paul Sartre was the defining intellectual of his time, at least on the European continent. He did everything: writing novels and plays, founding and editing a journal, engaging in political activism, and pioneering a philosophical school: existentialism. This book is the defining monument of that school. An eight-hundred-page treatise on ontology which, somehow, became widely read—or at least widely talked about. Nearly eighty years later, we are still talking about this book. In 2016 Sarah Bakewell released a best-selling book about Sartre’s movement; and a new translation of Being and Nothingness will be released next year. Interest in existentialism has not abated.

Yet what is existentialism? And how has it weathered the passing years? This is what I set out to determine, and this review will show whether my attempt bore fruit.

One should begin by examining the subtitle of this book: “A Phenomenological Essay on Ontology.” Already we have a contradiction. Phenomenology is a philosophical school founded by Edmund Husserl, which attempted to direct philosophers’ attention back “to the things themselves”—that is, to their own experience of the world. One of Husserl’s most insistent commandments was that the philosopher should “bracket,” or set aside, the old Cartesian question of the reality of these experiences (is the world truly as I perceive it?); rather, the philosopher should simply examine the qualities of the experience itself. Thus, Sartre’s promise of a phenomenological ontology (ontology being the investigation of the fundamental nature of reality) is a flagrant violation of Husserl’s principles.

Still, it does have a lot to tell us about Sartre’s method. This book is an attempt to deduce the fundamental categories of being from everyday experience. And this attempt leads Sartre to the two most basic categories of all: being and nothingness. Being is all around us; it is manifest in every object we experience. Sartre defines existing objects as those which are self-identical—that is, objects which simply are what they are—and he dubs this type of being the “in-itself.” Humans, by contrast, cannot be so defined; they are constantly shifting, projecting themselves into an uncertain future. Rather than simply existing, they observe their own existence. Sartre calls this type of human existence the “for-itself.”

Already we see the old Cartesian dualism reappearing in these categories. Are we not confronted, once again, with the paradoxes of matter and mind? Not exactly. For Sartre does not consider the in-itself and the for-itself to be two different types of substances. In fact, the for-itself has no existence at all: it is a nothingness. To use Sartre’s expressions, human consciousness can be compared to “little pools of non-being that we encounter in the heart of being,” or elsewhere he says that the for-itself “is like a hole in being at the heart of Being.” The for-itself (a consciousness) is a particular privation of a specific in-itself (a human body), which functions as a nihilation that makes the world appear: for there would not be a “world” as we know it without perception, and perception is, for Sartre, a type of nihilation.

Putting aside all of the difficulties with this view, we can examine the consequences which Sartre draws from these two sorts of being. If the for-itself is a nothingness, then it is forever removed from the world around it. That is, it cannot be determined, either by its past or by its environment. In short, it is free—inescapably free. Human behavior can thus never be adequately explained or even excused, since all explanations or excuses presuppose that humans are not fundamentally self-determining. But of course we explain and excuse all the time. We point to economic class, occupation, culture, gender, race, sexuality, upbringing, genetic background, mood—to a thousand different factors in order to understand why people act the way they do.

This attempt to treat humans as things rather than free beings Sartre calls “bad faith.” This constitutes the fundamental sin of existentialism. He gives the example of a waiter who so embraces his role as a waiter that his motions become calculated and mechanical; the waiter tries to embody himself in his role to the extent that he gives up his individual freedom and becomes a kind of automaton whose every movement is predictable. But of course life is full of examples of bad faith. I excuse my mistake by saying I hadn’t had my coffee yet; my friend cheats on his girlfriend, but it was because his father cheated on his mother; and so on.

This is the basic situation of the for-itself. Yet there is another type of being which Sartre later introduces us to: the for-others. Sartre introduces this category with a characteristically vivid example: Imagine a peeping Tom is looking through a keyhole into a room. His attention is completely fixed on what he sees. Then, suddenly, he hears footsteps coming down the hall; and he immediately becomes aware of himself as a body, as a thing. Sartre considers experiences like this to prove that we cannot doubt the existence of others, since being perceived by others totally changes how we experience ourselves.

This allows Sartre to launch into an analysis of human interaction, and particularly into love and sexuality. This analysis bears the obvious influence of Hegel’s famous Master-Slave dialectic, and it centers on the same sorts of paradoxes: the contradictory urges to subjugate and be subjugated, to be embodied and desired, to be free and to be freely chosen, and so on. However, Sartre’s best writing in this vein is not to be found here, but in his great play No Exit, where each character exhibits a particular type of bad faith. All three of the characters wish to be looked at in a particular way, yet each of them is stuck with others whose own particular sort of bad faith renders them unable to look in the “right” way.

Sartre concludes from all this that our most fervent desire, and the reason we so often slip into bad faith, is that we wish to be an impossible combination of the in-itself and the for-itself. We want to be the foundation of our own being, a perfect self-identical creature, and yet absolutely free. We want to become gods. But, for Sartre, this is self-contradictory: the in-itself and the for-itself can never coexist. Thus, the idea of God arises as a sort of wish-fulfillment; but God is impossible by definition. As a result, human life “is a useless passion”—a relentless striving to be something which cannot exist.

All this may be clearer if we avoid Sartre’s terminology and, instead, compare his philosophy to that of Buddhism (at least, the type of Western Buddhism I’m acquainted with). The mind is constantly searching for a sense of permanent identity. Though the mind is, by nature, groundless, we are uncomfortable with this; we want put ground under our feet. So we seek to identify ourselves with our jobs, our families, our marriages, our hobbies, our success, our money—with any external good that lets us forget that our consciousness is constantly shifting and flowing, and that our identities can never be absolutely determined. So far, Buddhism and Sartrean existentialism have similar diagnoses of our problems. But Buddhism prescribes detachment, while Sartre prescribes the embrace of absolute freedom and the adoption of complete responsibility of our actions.

No summary of the book would be complete without Sartre’s critique of Freud. Sartre was clearly intrigued by Freud’s theories and wanted to use them in some way. However, Freud’s unconscious motivations and superconscious censorship is clearly incompatible with Sartre’s philosophy of freedom. In particular, Sartre found it self-contradictory to say that there could be a part of the mind which “wants” without us knowing it, or a part that is able to hide information from our awareness. For Sartre, all consciousness is self-consciousness, and it therefore does not make sense to “want” or “know” something unconsciously.

In place of Freud’s psychoanalysis, then, Sartre proposes an existential psychoanalysis. For Sartre, every person is defined by a sort of fundamental choice that determines their stance towards the world (though, strangely, it seems that most people are not aware of having made this choice). It is the task of the existential psychoanalyst is to uncover this fundamental choice by a close examination of everyday actions. Indeed, Sartre believes that everything from one’s preference for onions to one’s aversion to cold water is a consequence of this fundamental choice. Sartre even goes so far as to insist that some things, by virtue of being so clearly suggestive of metaphor, have a universal meaning for the for-itself. As an example of this, he gives “slime”—viscous liquid which Sartre thinks inspires a universal horror of the weight of existence.

This fairly well rounds out a summary of the book. So what are we to make of this?

The comparison with Heidegger is unavoidable. Sartre himself seems to have encouraged the comparison by giving his metaphysical tome a title redolent of the German professor’s magnum opus. The influence is clear: Sartre wrote Being and Nothingness after reading Being and Time during his brief imprisonment in a prisoner-of-war camp; and Heidegger is referenced throughout the book. Nevertheless, I think it would be inaccurate to describe Sartre as a follower of Heidegger, or his philosophy merely as an interpretation of Heidegger’s. Indeed, I think that the superficial similarities between the two thinkers (stylistic obscurity, disregard of religion and ethics, a focus on human experience, a concern with “being”) mask far more important differences.

Heidegger’s project, insofar as I understand it, is radically anti-Cartesian. He sought to replace the thinking and observing ego with the Dasein, a being thrown into the world, a being fundamentally ensconced in a community and surrounded by tools ready-to-hand. For Heidegger, the Cartesian perspective—of withdrawing from the world and deliberately reflecting and reasoning—is derivative of, and inferior to, this far more fundamental relationship to being. Sartre could not be further from this. Sartre’s perspective, to the contrary, is insistently Cartesian and subjectivist; it is the philosophy of a single mind urgently investigating its experience. Further, the concept of “freedom” plays almost no role in Heidegger’s philosophy; indeed, I believe he would criticize the very idea of free choice as enmeshed in the Cartesian framework he hoped to destroy.

In method, then, Sartre is far closer to Husserl—another professed Cartesian—than to Heidegger. However, as we observed above, Sartre breaks Husserl’s most fundamental tenet by using subjective experiences to investigate being; and this was done clearly under the influence of Heidegger. These two, along with Freud, and Hegel, constitute the major intellectual influences on Sartre.

It should be no surprise, then, that Sartre’s style often verges on the obscure. Many passages in this book are comparable in ugliness and density to those German masters of opacity (Freud excluded). Heidegger is the most obvious influence here: for Sartre, like Heidegger, enjoys using clunky hyphenated terms and repurposing quotidian words in order to give them a special meaning. There is an important difference, however. When I did decipher Sartre’s more difficult passages, I usually found that the inky murkiness was rather unnecessary.

Believe me when I say that I am no lover of Heidegger’s writing. Nevertheless, I think Heidegger’s tortured locutions are more justifiable than Sartre’s, for Heidegger was attempting to express something that is truly counter-intuitive, at least in the Western philosophical tradition; whereas Sartre’s philosophy, whatever novelties it possesses, is far more clearly in the mainline of Cartesian thinking. As a result, Sartre’s adventures in jargon come across as mere displays of pomp—a bejewelled robe he dons in order to appear more weighty—and, occasionally, as mere abuses of language, concealing simple points in false paradoxes.

This is a shame, for when Sartre wished he could be quite a powerful writer. And, indeed, the best sections of this book are when Sartre switches from his psuedo-Heideggerian tone to that of the French novelist. The most memorable passages in this book are Sartre’s illustrations of his theories: the aforementioned waiter, or the Peeping Tom, or the passage on skiing. Whatever merit Sartre had as a philosopher, he was undoubtedly a genius in capturing the intricacies of subjective experience—the turns of thought and twinges of emotion that rush through the mind in everyday situations.

But what are we to make of his system? To my mind, the most immediately objectionable aspect is his idea of nothingness. Nothing is just that—nothing: a complete lack of qualities, attributes, or activity of any kind. Indeed, if a nothingness can be defined at all, it must be via elimination: by excluding every existing thing. It seems incoherent, then, to say that the human mind is a nothingness, and is therefore condemned to be free. Consciousness has many definite qualities and, besides that, is constantly active and (in Sartre’s opinion at least) able to choose itself and change the world. How can a nothingness do that? And this is putting to the side the striking question of how the human brain can produce a complete absence of being. Maybe I am taking Sartre’s point too literally; but it is fair to say that he provides no account of how this nothingness came into being.

Once this idea of nothingness is called into question, the rest of Sartre’s conclusions are on extremely shaky ground. Sartre’s idea of freedom is especially suspect. If human consciousness is not separated from the world and from its past by a nothingness, then Sartre’s grand pronouncements of total freedom and total responsibility become dubious. To me it seems unlikely to the highest degree that, of all the known objects in the universe, including all of the animals (some of which are closely related to us), humans are the only things that are exempt from the chain of causality that binds everything together.

Besides finding it implausible, I also cannot help finding Sartre’s idea of total freedom and responsibility to be morally dubious. He himself, so far as I know, never managed to make his system compatible with a system of ethics. In any case, an emphasis on total responsibility can easily lead to a punitive mentality. According to Sartre, everyone deserves their fate.

Admittedly I do think his conception of “bad faith” is useful. Whether or not we are metaphysically “free,” we often have more power over a situation than we admit. Denying our responsibility can lead to inauthenticity and immorality. And Sartre’s embrace of freedom can be a healthy antidote to an apathetic despair. Still, I do not think an elaborate ontological system is necessary in order to make this point.

Reading Sartre nowadays, I admit that it is difficult to take his conclusions seriously. For one, the next generation of French intellectuals set to work demonstrating that our freedom is constrained by society (Bourdeiu), psychology (Lacan), language (Derrida), and history (Foucault), among other factors. (Of course, these intellectual projects were not necessarily any more solid than Sartre’s.) More importantly, Sartre’s system seems to be so completely bound up in both his times and his own psychology—two things which he denied could determine human behavior—that it ironically belies his conclusions. (As an example of the latter influence, Sartre’s revulsion and even horror of sex is apparent throughout the book, especially in the strange section on “slime.”)

In the end I was somewhat disappointed by this work. And I think my disappointment is ultimately a consequence of Sartre’s method: phenomenological ontology. It is simply incorrect to believe that we can closely interrogate our own experiences to determine the fundamental categories of being. Admittedly, Sartre is not entirely averse to making logical argument; but too many of his conclusions rest on the shaky ground of these narrations of subjective experience. Sartre is, indeed, a brilliant observer of this experience, and his descriptions are worth reading for their psychological insight alone. Nevertheless, as a system of ontology, I do not think it can stand on its own two feet.
Profile Image for Ian "Marvin" Graye.
855 reviews2,130 followers
November 10, 2015

"This is the one!"

[The Stone Roses]

It helps to have read Heidegger's "Being and Time" before this volume that some describe as a companion, others as a critique (it's both, actually).

Heidegger writes like someone who is a reader; Sartre like someone who is both a reader and a writer. This is not to deny that Heidegger is a good writer. Just that Sartre is a better one.

Sartre wrote while Heidegger's ideas were still fresh. He agreed with many, disagreed with some, fine-tuned others, and finished the project that Heidegger set himself, but failed to complete. Naturally, Sartre accomplished something that was different from what Heidegger had intended at any stage of his career. Two philosophers, at least two opinions.

Sartre described his work as "an essay on phenomenological ontology," its goal to set down "the basis for a general theory of being."

It is a systematic, analytical work. It has the hallmarks of the type of system that Heidegger envisaged but failed to achieve, because he segmented his project, stopped at the first phase (which was enough to gain him a professorial post), started to question and doubt subsequently, revised, and went on to other interests (including the reconciliation of his philosophy with National Socialism).

Ontology is an extremely speculative, subjective, arbitrary and even metaphorical study.

Sartre doesn't accord Heidegger any particular privileged status. He is simply one more philosopher trying to address issues posed by philosophy in general and Husserl in particular. Both are trying to feel their way in the dark, recording their perspectives and impressions as they progress.

You might not agree with everything that Sartre (or Heidegger, for that matter) wrote. At least, unlike "Being and Time", you can tell from the text of "Being and Nothingness" itself, what ideas and arguments belong to Sartre, what he has adopted from his predecessors (who are acknowledged), and what his differences and disagreements are. This is an argumentative work which tries to tease out the truth, rather than one that simply proclaims its truth imperiously and ex cathedra.

Ultimately, I found Sartre's work to be a more honest and accountable study than "Being and Time".

Notwithstanding its length, it is also a more engaging literary experience for a reader, once (if at all) you become comfortable with the terminology of phenomenology and ontology.

"Being and Nothingness" works hard to be both a philosophical and a literary experience. As a result, it is a source of greater illumination.

[A Subjective Précis]:

Consciousness is what negates, differentiates, separates, determines, designates. It differentiates the Subject from the Object, and the Self from the Other. In order to identify itself, consciousness in the form of Being-for-itself turns inward and negates the Being-in-itself. Yet, Being-for-itself is nothing other than Being-in-itself. It is one and the same thing. Being is separated by nothingness. Consciousness identifies and chooses possibilities for being. Freedom is action in pursuit of possibilities. Freedom is the burden or responsibility of making our own choices. Freedom is the recognition and embrace of the possibilities of our own being. Bad faith occurs when consciousness eschews its responsibility to itself.

AT 38:

Heidegger and Sartre were both 38 at the time of publication of their respective works, "Being and Time" and "Being and Nothingness".


Meredith Joy Ostrom (Miriam) in "The Ninth Cloud"


The Extreme Radicalisation of a Potentiality

"...Sartre's convictions are really closer to Heidegger's than to anyone else's. Indeed, the least inadequate capsule classification is to make of him the extreme radicalisation of a potentiality inherent in Heidegger's 'Sein und Zeit'.

"The passion with which he has expressed his convictions has given his philosophy a hard-hitting tone and has tended to spill over into the most exciting literature written by any philosopher since 'Zarathustra'."

Thomas Langan

The Post-structuralist Project

"It has been an unspoken goal of the post-structuralist project to render Sartre history -- and thereby to free itself from the weight of his thinking. Yet, to leave Sartre unspeakable through silence is silently to call attention to him as somehow fundamental; it is to suggest his having been given a reading, and call for a rereading."

Steve Martinot


Making An Instrument for His Own Project

"In sharp contrast to Heidegger, then, Sartre has no interest in conferring a meaning on (or otherwise deifying) being at the expense of the meaning conferring subject, for he believes (and not without good reason) that the individual’s conscious experience of the world is at the heart of the phenomenological impulse.

"Accordingly, Heideggerians such as Hubert Dreyfus, who believe that the “theory of consciousness” offered in Being and Nothingness is only a “misguided reformulation of Being and Time,” miss the point.

"Sartre does not aim to reformulate Being and Time any more than Heidegger aimed to reformulate Husserl’s phenomenology.

"Like all philosophers, he only aims to take from his predecessors what is useful for his own project, which, in Sartre’s case, revolves around the phenomenological freedom of the subject."

David Sherman

Understood for the First Time

"In 1946 in 'Letter on Humanism' Heidegger presented what is sometimes thought of as a devastating critique of Sartre, but only a year earlier in a note to himself he endorsed Sartre's reading of 'Being and Time'.

"Heidegger wrote in relation to Corbin's translation of 'What is Metaphysics?': 'Decisive effect on Sartre: from there 'Being and Time' understood for the first time.'

"Indeed on October 28, 1945 Heidegger wrote to Sartre, not only acknowledging that in 'Being and Nothingness' Sartre had shown a level of understanding of 'Being and Time' that he had not found elsewhere, but also recognising him as an independent thinker in his own right.

"Acting completely out of character, Heidegger told Sartre that he accepted Sartre's critique of the account of 'Mitsein' in 'Being and Time' and he acknowledged the legitimacy of Sartre's insistence on being-for-others...

"It was a remarkably conciliatory letter, even if one cannot avoid the suspicion that Heidegger was soliciting Sartre's help during what after Germany's defeat was a difficult time for him."

Robert Bernasconi

[Mostly in the Words of Sartre]:

Profile Image for Peiman E iran.
1,394 reviews683 followers
October 10, 2016
‎دوستانِ گرانقدر، این کتاب از 400 صفحه و 5 فصل مختلف تشکیل شده است و بخشهای اصلی که در این کتاب به آن پرداخته شده است، از قرار زی�� است
‎هستی و نیستی- پدیده شناسی- ایمان و بی ایمانی- واقعیت هستی- زمان حال و آینده- جسم و روان- عشق- زبان- اشتیاق- هوس و نفرت- سادیسم و مازوخیسم
‎دوستانِ عزیزم، «سارتر» موضوع سنگین و پیچیده ای را برای شرح دادن در این کتاب برگزیده است و پی در پی از جایی به جای دیگر پریده است... لذا برای آنکه شما با چکیده نظریات او آشنا شوید.. سعی کردم به بهترین شکل ممکن این کتاب را در چند خط برای شما دوستان خردگرا، خلاصه نویسی کنم
‎عزیزانم، سمت و سوی عقیدهٔ «سارتر» بر این اساس است که نیستی به طور کامل نیستی نخواهد بود، یعنی نیستی ها نیز برای خود حقایق روشن و قابل فهم دارند
‎به طور مثال: مسافت برای ما چیزیست که باید کوشش در آن بکار رود تا این مسافت پیموده شود و به عبارت دیگر این کوشش شامل حرکت ما میباشد که مسافت را از نیستی به هستی تبدیل میکند، در حالیکه میدانیم قبل از حرکتِ ما این مسافت در حالت نیستی وجود داشته است، بنابراین هر حقیقت مسلّم برای خود وضع خاصی دارد و تمامی اینها به هستی انسان مربوط میشود
‎سارتر «وجدانِ انسان» را نماینده هستی در نظر گرفته است، و سپس هستی را به دو قسمت تقسیم کرده است: هستی مطلق و هستی معمولی... و برای اینکه بین این دو هستی ارتباطی برقرار کرده باشد، مینویسد که : امر هستی از نابودی هستی مطلق ایجاد شده است و مثل این است که یکی وارد دیگری شده است... و البته «سارتر» با زیرکی در آخر بیان میکند که اگر نیستی وجود نداشت هستی نیز به وجود نمی آمد... نیستی وجود داشته که جای خود را به هستی داده است... یعنی هستی و نیستی اساس یکسان و واحدی دارند، به این معنا که: وقتی نیستی پایان یافت، هستی آغاز میشود و نیستی نیز در پایان هستی دوباره آغاز میشود
‎دوستانِ خوبم این موضوع را در نظر بگیرید که تمامی مسائلی که بیان شده است، زمانی ارزش فکر کردن و یا به آزمایش گذاشتن را پیدا میکند که طبق بیانِ «سارتر» و کسانی که از آنها نقل قول کرده است، دنیا و تمامی این جهان برای ما انسان ها خلق شده باشد و ما تعیین کننده <هستی> و <نیستی> باشیم و وجدان ما و خرد ما انسانها نمایندهٔ هستی باشد
‎که خوب میدانیم که این درست نیست... ما انسانها در این جهان هیچ نبوده ایم و هیچ نیستیم
‎دوستان بزرگوار و نور چشمانم، این را بدانید که هیچ برتریّتی در آفرینش میانِ من و شما و یک پشه ، در این هستی وجود ندارد. هیچ موجودی اشرف بر مخلوقات دیگر نیست. این که انسان ها اشرف مخلوقات هستند، زاییدۀ ذهن انسانهای بیمار و متوهم بوده است که خودتان بهتر میدانید... دانش امروزی نیز از وجودِ جهان و به وجود آمدن ما انسانها و کره زمین اطلاعات کافی بدست داده است که بدانیم ما انسانها به قول خدای تازیان و خدایِ ادیان ابراهیمی، اشرف مخلوقات نیستیم
‎همانقدر که من و شما به مقیاس شعور خویش، حقِّ زندگی کردن داریم، پشه ای نیز در مقیاس شعور خویش، حق زندگی دارد. که همۀ ما زاییدهٔ ذرّاتی هستیم که هستی را احاطه کرده است
‎عزیزانِ من، بارها گفته ام و باز میگویم: تازیان را چون فضیلتی نیست، تا حضورشان را در هستی موجّه جلوه دهد، این چنین خود را اشرف مخلوقات قلمداد میکنند، تا عقده های ناتمام خود را تمام کنند، و مجوزی داشته باشند تا در پرتو آن جواز، به غارت مال و جان دیگران قد عَلَم کنند
‎دوستانِ من، به جای تفکر در <هستی> و <نیستی>، به وجود خود و فهم درونتان بیاندیشید، در این هستی بزرگترین پیامبر آفرینش، خود انسان و خود شما هستید، اگر که خِرد توأم با دلِ خود را و دلِ توأم با خِردِ خود را، آموزگار جانِ خود کنید... عزیزانم، هیچیک از خدایانِ مخلوقِ ذهن آدمیان، یههوه و الله و مزدا و غیره و غیره... بر کرسی کهکشان تکیه نداده اند، تا برای ما کتابی به رسم تعلیمی برای حیاتمان، تدوین کنند، آن هم برای این حیات میکروسکپی که در این هستی لایتناهی، به هیچ شمرده نمیشود... البته اگر عده ای اصرار دارند که بتِ «اللهِ اکبر» این جهان را آفریده است و اداره میکند، پس من باید بگویم که این بتِ «اللهِ اکبر»، در این عظمتِ بیکرانِ لایتنهاهی در هستی، که برشروع پایانش مجالی نیست، به ادارۀ هیچ اموری مشغول نیست الّا، تدارکِ خوراک، برای آلت تناسلیِ جماعت مسلمان و تدارک فاحشه خانه ای بسیار بزرگ که مملو از حوری و غلمان است... و جزء این کاری از او ندیده ام و نشنیده ام
‎پس ایرانیان باشعور، دقت کنید که هویّتِ شعور هر خدایی، مطابق با سرزمینی است که در آن متولّد شده است... عزیزانم، بدانید که نیش سَمّی حشرات شنزار را، به فهم شادیهای انسانی، ذوقی نیست

‎امیدوارم این ریویو برایِ فرزندانِ خردگرایِ سرزمینم، مفید بوده باشه
‎«پیروز باشید و ایرانی»
Profile Image for Saleh MoonWalker.
1,801 reviews269 followers
September 10, 2017
به نظرم مهم ترین اثر فلسفی سارتر هستی و به جرئت میشه گفت که یکی از برجسته ترین آثار فلسفی قرن بیستم هستش. من وقتی اولین بار این کتاب رو خریدم و میخواستم شروع به خوندنش بکنم، یکم ترسیدم، هم از حجمش و هم از متنش، اما بعد از خوندن چند صفحه به طور کامل در متن قرار گرفتم و مساله برام روشن شد. به نکات عالی ای اشاره میکنه توی این اثر و نه تنها به بررسی هستی‌شناسی پدیدارشناختی می پردازه، بلکه به مسائل روزمره انسان ها و فلسفه عملی و روزمره و کاربردی نیز به نحو احسن میپردازه. نثرش دقیقا مثل نثر سایر اثار سارتر میمونه و مثال های ذکر شده برای هر مساله به روشن شدن بهتر مساله کمک میکنه. برخلاف حجم و ظاهر ترسناکش اصلا مساله سختی در خودش نداره و با این حال کامل، جامع و شامل هستش در زمینه تحقیقاتی خودش. فلسفه کامل ساتر که در تمام اثرهای دیگرش به کار رفته رو میشه داخل این اثر دید و در واقع با خوندن این اثر تمام اثار دیگه ساتر رو میخونین. خوندنش مسلما به صرف هزینه و زمانی که براش گذاشته شده می ارزه.

“It is therefore senseless to think of complaining since nothing foreign has decided what we feel, what we live, or what we are.”
Profile Image for Nathan "N.R." Gaddis.
1,342 reviews1,322 followers
Shelved as 'partial-credit'
May 21, 2017
A few years ago I read about half of Being and Nothingness (finally!). Back in school days I thought I was cutting my philosophical teeth on Sartre and the others known as existentialists. I’m quite certain I was making most of it up. It was time to play catch-up and read Sartre’s work which I believed to have already assimilated. It evolves that I had moved quite a distance beyond Sartre’s “existentialism.” But I did not finish my reading for external reasons and it remains on my shelf for that eventual return.

But mostly I’m posting this note in order to remove a chip from my shoulder. My claim here is that Sartre is the only existentialist; and his existentialism is merely a portion of his work; and that it is the least important of his work. What I mean is that Sartre was a phenomenologist. His contribution to twentieth century philosophy was not the development of “the philosophy of existentialism” but rather his continuance of and contributions to the phenomenological researches begun by Husserl, carried further by Heidegger, contributions by Merleau-Ponty, Gadamer, Ricoeur, ETC. Sartre is perhaps the lesser philosopher. But as intellectual he was indubitably a giant on the French landscape. But, see, my claim is that he was more “intellectual” than “philosopher.” And his existentialism had more to do with his status as intellectual than as philosopher; don’t hold too tight to that distinction.

But, let it be said, Sartre is perhaps the noblest figure of the twentieth century in regard to the question of atheism in so far as he was the only thinker to that time who fully realized the consequences brought on by the death/disappearance of a transcendental guarantee frequently known as “God”; existentialism was perhaps nothing more than a response to this question.

Let it be further said, that I don’t have too much to say about the literary grouping known as “existentialist,” for writing such Sartre was also rather well known, along with de Beauvoir, Sarraute, and someone named Camus. I quit reading these things about the time I began to understand philosophy.

So then as to Sartre being the only existentialist. Here’s what I think happened, and which has caused more than two centuries of the history of philosophy to be misunderstood by the popular mind. A popularizer of philosophy, or a few, but mostly Walter Kaufman, read Sartre. His reading of Sartre allowed him to see similar themes and issues and orientations in philosophers from earlier eras; but without having read Sartre he would not have seen these things in other thinkers. This is a case similar to Kafka’s writing causing us to retrospectively find kafka-esque elements in writers who preceded Kafka, although we had never seen those things before or taken them as kafka-esque; and we find a whole series of kafka-ism preceding the thing itself. With a popular book or two; overnight we suddenly had an entire history of existentialist thinkers--Heidegger became one, so did Nietzsche and Kierkegaard, even back to Shakespeare and Pascal. Reading Sartre certainly causes us to read these thinkers in a new light, but to assimilate them to something like “existentialism” is simply uninformative at best, misleading at worst. Depend upon it--anyone calling Heidegger an existentialist does not know the first thing (they are learning! patience!) about twentieth century philosophy. Anyone who believes that Kierkegaard or Nietzsche were existentialists!!! (and they absolutely were not and never could be “postmodernists”) --they were Hegelians, as is Sartre in his better moments.

This is really the only thing I want to say. Sartre is the only existentialist. Existentialism is and never was a very important part of twentieth century philosophy. What was important and still is, is phenomenology. Forget the existentialist reading of the history of philosophy. It causes more confusion than understanding.
Profile Image for Chris Shank.
162 reviews130 followers
January 10, 2013
I’ve taken time on ideologically heavy books before, spending sometimes an hour on a single page to make sure I really understood, but I took 5 months on this 800 page beaut. I read Being And Nothingness in conjunction with an incredibly enlightening and comprehensible book of course notes by Paul Vincent Spade from Indiana University on the subject of Sartre and B&N. See http://pvspade.com/Sartre/pdf/sartre1.... What they say about B&N is true. It was VERY difficult. Sartre uses ideas and language that have long been used and specialized by many other philosophers in history—philosophers who Sartre often just assumes his readers are read-up on—and if these obscure allusions and nomenclature weren’t a big enough hurdle, Sartre also speaks with neologisms and turned-on-head phrases to introduce original ideas that he was trying to break out of conventional modes of understanding. Someone recently asked me about what I was reading, and after I told them, they took out a piece of paper to write it down, and asked me if I thought the library carries it. I warned them not to even look in its direction until they read a few smaller works by Sartre that convinced them they can’t NOT read it. It’s a monumental task.

So, why did I read it, assuming I’m not a total a-hole and wanted just to brag that I read it? Well, I wanted to read this book because I had started to read more and more by Sartre that I liked; works such as Existentialism Is a Humanism, 2 plays—No Exit and The Flies, and excerpts from B&N in Existentialism edited by Robert Solomon. I was immediately attracted to how Sartre places a large emphasis on freedom and responsibility—no regrets and no excuses—and seems to recognize much unrealized potential in people. I know many consider him to be an intellectual tour de force, and I agree, but I find his bravery to be most inspiring. He starts from the beginning, poring over the nature of being (ontology) and thought, and attempts to set forth a new theory of consciousness and reality that seriously challenges in imagination and utility the best systems I have ever heard of; and he may have come as close as anyone yet to understanding the nape of the infinitely-regressive cogito. More to the point, after reading it, I feel I better understand my world to a degree that I feel much more optimistic, appreciative of my life with its good or bad, and better able to see that I am capable to meet its challenges, identify opportunities, and make progress.

There were many moments in the book in which I truly felt I was understanding for the first time what’s going on. In life. In general. Imagine that. That’s my honest-to-God reaction. We (I) often attempt to forfeit our understanding of the world and our responsibility in it to a religious resignation, or we distract ourselves with busy-ness, blithe indifference, or destructive rage; but a better framework for understanding the world and myself in it—not to be confused with a complete, or perfect understanding—is often uplifting and advantageous. Some may say Sartre’s philosophy is superfluous and ineffective. I’ll be the judge of that for my own life anyway, and I say that Sartre’s views have positively impacted my life.

Let it be noted at the outset that the real Sartre, or who I understand to be the more authentic Sartre as I have come to know him through reading some of his writings, cannot be tainted by the grossly exaggerated and largely misunderstood appellation—and what has become a hackneyed epithet towards postmodern thinkers— nihilism. I used to think 'nothingness' in Sartre’s philosophy, and especially in the title of this book, was a reflection on a sort of metaphysical ‘dead-space’, crushing meaninglessness, the impossibility of certainty, and a kind of moral about how the world, our hopes, and our dreams all come to naught. Complete misunderstanding. The opposite seems to be true actually. Nothingness and non-being exist only on the surface of being, as Sartre pointed out, “Being secretes nothingness.” In other words, what is not can only be supported and defined by what IS; so the emphasis and foundation of nothingness is ‘something-ness’.

Throughout the book one must also keep in mind, and Sartre insists on this again and again, that the author is not setting forth a theory of why being is or how it came to be, which Sartre reserves the term metaphysics for; but rather he is offering an explanation of what is and how it appears to work—what he delineates as ontology. I’m not sure he is entirely successful in teasing out the differences between the two terms, and there appears to be quite a bit of overlap. However, this doesn’t bother me a bit, because we’re all out in deeper water here, and the ultimate test for an idea is not how cleanly it squeezes into a dictionary definition, but how helpful it is in thought experiments and, of course, real living.

He starts the book by establishing a simple duality of the finite and the infinite, which he argues offers more illumination than the antiquated dualities of matter and idea, flesh and spirit. This ‘finite and infinite’ duality slowly morphs into a ‘mind and world’ sort of pairing, and he eventually dubs them Being-In-Itself, and Being-For-Itself. These terms are throwbacks to other philosophers, viz. Heideggar and Kant, but of course Sartre is doing something new here which takes quite a bit of back-story and poetic intuition to keep up with.

Freedom is the crux of Sartre’s philosophy. It is not something we have, rather it is our nature. We are able to ‘secrete a nothingness’, or separate ourselves from the tidal flow of the world or reality in such a way that our isolation protects us from determinism in the material world. Our separateness, our ability to look from a distance onto the world, is our ability to keep our shoestrings out of its gears. We reflect on it, and our objectified self in it, without being ground up in it. In this sense, we are free from the world. And we are this freedom, we are this separation. Freedom is not a thing or quality in the world, it is the transphenomenal being of the For-Itself (human beings).

The beauty of this (and the anguish, as I will mention momentarily) is that I—the ‘I’ transcending the objectified ‘self’—choose without being coerced or programmed. My choices are beyond any known source. This may not be appealing for some, but what this ultimately means for Sartre, is that I can live knowing that nobody is making me do anything. My life is my choice. Choosing oneself is a HUGE theme in B&N, and this means that we, at the core of who we are, want to be who we are, or we would not be who we are. Sartre builds the case that the For-Itself is essentially the universe become conscious of itself (though he never says it in those words), and now nothing determines it but itself. Now, that does not mean that we chose to be—that is our “facticity”, the only thing we haven’t chosen—but now that we are, we choose to be every second we live.

Now, this power of freedom lies deep, and all this talk of ownership and responsibility for the best and worst in life, as many will chafe at hearing, lends to our feelings of anxiety (“anguish”) because it scares us that some part of us is this much in control, and we are, as Sartre puts it, “afraid of our own spontaneity.” From the translator, Barnes, in his introduction, “We feel vertigo or anguish before our recognition that nothing in our own acts or discernible personality ensures our following of any of our usual patterns of conduct. There is nothing to prevent consciousness from making a wholly new choice of its way of being.” Sartre’s famous expression, we are “condemned to be free” has a certain ring of despair. “All the barriers, all the guard rails collapse…I do not have, nor can I have, recourse to any value against the fact that it is I who sustains values in being. Nothing can ensure [protect] me against myself.” It’s not as if the For-Itself is sabotaging itself, but the point here is that one’s life is ultimately lived beyond the ability to pinpoint concrete, objectified motives, which could only succeed the creating subject.

Sartre soon gets to the meaning of our relationship in the world with other people. To begin with, the Other exists. Or rather, we act as though he does. In life, “we encounter the other; we do not constitute him [mentally]”. Something in us accepts the Other’s existence, not only as an external, objective reality; but we encounter him with an internal, subjective necessity for his existence. We only doubt his existence to the same extent as we may doubt our own existence, which we can’t really seriously. Psychologists have shown for quite some time that self-awareness develops in the presence of others as one learns to distinguish one’s self from other selves, and Sartre would go a step further in adducing that “the cogito of the Other’s existence is merged with my cogito” and therefore “the Other penetrates me to the heart. I can not doubt him without doubting myself since [as Hegel put it,] ‘self-consciousness is real only in so far as it recognizes its echo (and its reflection) in another.’” Ultimately our self-awareness cannot be dissociated from our awareness of others, and this is what Sartre elsewhere (most notably in Existentialism Is A Humanism) expands in his idea of ‘intersubjectivity’ (and I’m actually surprised I didn’t meet up with this term in this book, as it would have been helpful.)

One of the most important contributions of Sartre’s philosophy is his proclamation that we choose our lives. Every moment we live is a chosen moment. To live is to realize oneself in situation, inseparable from a physical/social environment that is as real and necessary as our original inheritance of our own bodies. “To live this [situation] is to choose myself through it and to choose it through my choice of myself.” It is ours, and no one else’s. No one but us can be blamed. We may want to change things in our lives, but everything that is in our life is material (our ‘situation’ or ‘facticity’) which may be used by us to create something better. We are the architects, and to work with what has been given to us is to, in some sense, accept what has been given to us, which is to accept our self that has been revealed through this situation.

Now, if I may be so bold so as to rephrase another major premise of what I think Sartre is getting at in his writings, it’s this: we all live 'in story'. At no point are we ‘out of story’. There is always a beginning and an ending (which posts are constantly being adjusted by ourselves), obstacles in between, joy of progress, and awareness (even if it is indirect awareness, or, what Sartre terms ‘non-positional awareness’) that all this is happening. It’s not possible to live outside of story. Sartre’s 'projects', or what you and I call stories, determine the meaning of everything we do and say and think, and if we suppose we are able to think or live outside of story, we are simply looking for a way into the next chapter. Sartre thinks that being honest with ourselves about our projects (and our ‘original project’ as he calls the primary thrust of manifesting our self in the universe) can help us to better adjust to different settings, or situations. Furthermore, we will know how to respond when someone else attempts to foist their stories or religion on us as if we have no right to be creators of our own story; for though we are caught up in ‘story’ together (intersubjectivity), we can’t coerce each other’s stories to conform to our own without objectifying the Other.

Oddly enough, though to some it may seem that Sartre is attempting to divest the world of meaning and magic, the opposite is actually true. He is helping us see that meaning is not so far removed from us that we must wait with saintly patience to one day see the veneer of this world peeled back to reveal the ‘truest truth’—the real meaning of the universe. This is the essential meaning of his duality of finite/infinite: everything we see is a REAL manifestation of the infinite. As a matter of fact, all we do, or say, or see IS the infinite, at least in part. Meaning is HERE, everywhere. And the universe is not one big, impersonal machine that plows blindly ahead without rhyme or reason. He blows mechanamorphism—an attempt to explain the meaning of the universe in purely mechanistic terms—out of the water. “The world is human” he states, and nothing is so completely inhuman so as not to be penetrated through and through with our meanings and…personality. Measurement can’t even begin in science without human scale and location. “The real is realization [by a person].” The real is here. Not a bad place to start.

Well, I loved it all. I loved my ideological gleanings, as well as the challenge of trying to ‘break my eye open’ with complex logic and innovative thought and language. I’m actually interested in reading more from Sartre, if that says anything. I think he cares about others, I think his ideas are courageous, and I think he helped to topple pedantic and petrified academic philosophy that looked down loftily from the height of detached, anemic ideals onto the world of living, bleeding, thinking folk every bit as ‘real’ and valid as the pale-faced intelligentsia. Sartre affirmed that each of our stories are existential centers of the universe, and we affect each other no matter how seemingly insignificant one feels themselves to be. I hope I never forget what I read. I truly think Sartre’s ideas are a contribution and advancement to philosophy, and help to iron out some of the wrinkles in the way we think about ourselves and the world. I have a notebook full of 11 pages of quotations and notes from B&N, Barnes introduction to B&N, and Spade’s course notes available for anyone who may be interested in receiving a copy of them. Chew before swallowing.

This is an abbreviated version of my review of Being And Nothingness. For the complete review, check to see if you inadvertently skipped your meds, get caught up, then visit: http://bookburningservice.blogspot.co...
Profile Image for Ryan.
13 reviews80 followers
September 20, 2007
dear reader,

character limit!


where do you even begin?
first of all: the common subtitle "a phenomenological essay on ontology" is incorrectly translated from the french, and should read "an essay on phenomenological ontology."
undoubtedly one of the most significant books of the 20th century, and of modern history itself.
significant ideas:
1. being-in-itself: matter, existence, the world, the chair, the table, the tree. undifferentiated in itself, without essence, naked, stark, overwhelming, forcing itself into every crevice. without consciousness.
2. being-for-itself: conscious. human existence. gives essence to the world, to being-in-itself. also without essence, but allowed to define its own essense. lots more. wants to be god, can't.
3. bad faith: a lack of authenticity, the most central, perhaps only, existential "moral." being what one is not. famous example: the waiter: playing at being a waiter: too friendly, too quick, too eager: all traits he would not have were he to truly be himself. for sartre, action is the only measure of value or worth, and so only opinions or feelings that are acted upon are valid. so if one thinks, "well, i was going to fight for my fellow man's rights, but i didn't have the money" and still holds themself in high regard for at least having a good intent, they are acting in bad faith. no exit is all about this, esp. garcin: he holds himself to be a hero, even though his heroic intentions were thwarted and he was executed. he (and common morality) think that since he had the right intentions, he is still heroic, yet sartre says that he instead is acting in bad faith and is actually a coward. yeah bad faith is really central for sartre, and is a very noble standard of living. one does not make a moral choice in one's head, but with one's actions.
4. the other: fascinating concept, largely if not entirely borrowed from husserl (see: logische Uuntersuchunge and die krisis der europaischen wissenschaften...). subjectivity is central to sartrean existentialism (and almost all other forms). it is our experience of the world. i am the subject, all else is object to me. yet there are other consciousnesses, who are also subjects, and to them, *gasp*, i am the object. the look of the other attempts to objectify my (and to the other, does), while the look of the subject attempts to objectify the other. this creates, in a word, tension. this is another great example of how what begins as a phenomenological discover bleeds into already obvious conclusions elsewhere: psychology, sociology, romance, even theology (wanting to be ultimate subject). we try to import others into our subjective value system, and are terrified (well, 99.9% of people are just in denial (bad faith)) that others are importing us into their subjective value system.

yep. that's it i guess. sartre went on to write the critique of dialectical reason, which reconciles (very poorly, actually, it fails) the ontological system developed here with marxism.

more importantly, sartre, as promised at the end of being and nothingness, went on to attempt to develop an ethical system, or at least explore the ethical implications of the system developed here. the result of this is perhaps one of the most underrated works of philosophy: two notebooks in which he tries to work out a system of ethics. he never finished - it's been argued, for obvious reasons, that an ethics of his existentialism is impossible - and these notebooks weren't published until after his death.


you're reading a review of "being and nothingness." seriously.
Profile Image for Marius.
233 reviews
June 14, 2020
Iadul este... Introducerea la Ființa și Neantul :)

Adică am studiat 3 cărți doar pentru a înțelege Introducerea de 30 de pagini. Restul până la pagina 850 este relativ comprehensibil.

Foarte de ajutor mi-a fost cursul profesorului Paul Vincent Spade http://pvspade.com/Sartre/sartre.html Mi-a explicat toate conceptele și ideile de la Descartes până la Husserl, de la raționalism și idealism până la fenomenologie.

O carte ca asta citesc o dată la 5 ani.
Profile Image for Robert Riley.
9 reviews2 followers
June 24, 2012
Well, really, Being and Nothingness is a literary tract disguised as philosophy. The many metaphors he uses to illustrate his points are not philosophical in nature, but imagistic and suggestive. There is a certain wholeness to the book, but it reminds me more of Ulysses than Heidegger. The one real philosophical idea is that of Bad Faith, which is just his super super ego working overtime. Although an important landmark for 20th century literature, it is an unpleasant book to read, and the pain is not worth the insular, faux insights. He tries to create a philosophical no exit, but it really is more of an imagistic cul de sac.
Profile Image for Carlo Mascellani.
Author 15 books259 followers
February 12, 2021
Testo indubbiamente denso e complesso, sul quale certamente tornerò in futuro. Una vera e propria "bibbia" del movimento filosofico esistenzialista. L'esistenza umana, la sua divisione tra per sé cosciente e in sé incosciente, la vita intesa come progetto libero e possibile, la capacità propria dell'uomo di nullificare il mondo circostante per attribuirvi un proprio significato, il concetto di responsabilità sono solo alcuni dei grandi temi che il celebre filosofo francese sviluppa con incredibile lucidità in quest'opera, sino a condurci quasi a dubitar delle nostre più salde certezze.
Profile Image for Phillip.
673 reviews49 followers
February 19, 2016
(Update Jan. 2015) I am beginning 2015 by rereading one of my all time favorite books for the 15th time, this time in the original language. It is about time.

When I say read it in the original language it is more like a first- or third-grader sort of doping out a newspaper article that is too advanced for him. I know some of the words. I know the English translation so well that I have a good Idea of what is passing before my eyes. But it isn't really reading in the usual sense.

I am studying French for the second time. The first time was a disaster. I don't know what to say. Right now I am making progress. I thought it would be good to read a couple of pages per day as a form of immersion as part of the process. And in the end, the primary reason I am studying French is because I want to be able to read the book in its original language.

I have been through this before. It is about like 30 years ago when I reread the book all of those times in English. Sometimes it really was just the words passing over my eyes. But I would understand a little and then a little more until I came to be able to read it like any other book. So, I am optimistic. My goal is to have gotten through the French course by the end of the first week in September. My expectation is that I will pick up more and more as I learn more about the language and maybe have the reading comprehension of a 4th or 5th grader by the end of the calendar year.

I picked up this book in the summer of 1985. Over the next three years I read and reread it seven times. Once I realized it was going to be a multiple reading event I started varying my approach with each pass by dividing the book up into chunks and reading them in different orders. During my sixth run-through I did it backwards. I started with the last page of the book and read each page until I got to the title page. After that, I really had the content down and during the seventh I was able to comprehend everything like I would any other book during the first read through.

Why would a 21 to 24 year-old be motivated to do such a thing? Because it intrigued me. During each reread I picked up a little more. I liked what I saw, and during each pass I held more of the over-all picture in my mind. What he wrote was and is important to me. Because in the end, I believe Sartre was right more often than not.

He characterized us with the phrase "Man is the being who is what he is not and is not what he is." I think the way he worked that out in theme after theme explains a lot about what humans are, our behavior, and the reason we do the things we do. The last major section is easy to read. It outlines a new psychology based upon his phenomenological existentialism. I have always wished I could find such a thing.

In the decades since, I have returned to the book when my inner compulsion reaches a tipping point. I believe the last time was within the last two or three years. It will probably always be my number one favorite book.
Profile Image for Charmless.
16 reviews19 followers
August 8, 2008
You have to deal with existentialism at some point and this book essentially gives you one of the best starts on the subject. Some people think that you'll feel like killing yourself after reading Sartre but honestly, this book had the opposite effect on me. I took it more as if Sartre was telling me that human life still has value even if there's no point in having a life.

Read it and you'll see what I mean. It takes a while to plow through it but it's worth the wait. Even before fully reading it, you'll be blabbing about the transcendence of consciousness to all your friends. . .
Profile Image for E. G..
1,112 reviews669 followers
February 15, 2022
Preface to the Routledge Classics Edition
Translator's Preface

--Being and Nothingness

Key to Special Terminology
Name Index
Profile Image for Alina.
257 reviews147 followers
October 19, 2021
Sartre's a pretty terrible writer. This is a 900 page book, but its substantial points could be explained and defended in full detail in probably no more than 100 pages. Sartre likes repeating his points again and again, and rarely in the form of illuminating or helpful examples; there are a few such examples which have made it into the popular literature (Pierre in the cafe, the voyeur at the keyhole), but these are few and in between. Fortunately, the substantial parts of the book are very good and well-argued for; this is the only reason why I'm not giving this a lower rating. Let me summarize what I take to be the substantial parts below.

Sartre grounds freedom in the fact that there are two fundamentally distinct aspects of conscious experience. He calls these positional consciousness and non-positional consciousness. Positional consciousness refers to our awareness of the intentional objects of experience. When we look upon the world, think about an idea, or introspect on a past experience, we become aware of the objects around us, the thought, and the past experience—the presentation of each of these intentional objects to our awareness in each of these experiences constitutes the positional consciousness of these experiences.

Non-positional consciousness refers to our awareness of ourselves as subjects having experiences, or encountering the contents of positional consciousness. Whether I am looking upon the world, thinking about an idea, or introspecting on a past experience, I am aware that this experience is had by me. If non-positional consciousness didn’t exist, the contents of my experience would show up to me as standing as absolute reality itself, as non-negotiable facts, given that there is no subject that these contents are conditioned by. The way by which my being is presented to myself in non-positional consciousness is very different from the way by which that intentional objects are presented in positional consciousness. It is neither that my embodied person shows up in my perceptual field alongside the other objects of experience; nor that a thought about myself accompanies every experience. Sartre doesn’t seem to explicitly characterize the phenomenology of this way by which my being shows up to me; but he details the causal consequences of this fact, or what this awareness allows us to do, which I will explain below.

According to Sartre, every conscious experience necessarily involves both positional and non-positional consciousness. I cannot have an experience without being aware of myself as the subject of that experience. This fact makes our freedom possible. On Sartre’s metaphysics, every object as we experience it is necessarily non-identical to the object as it stands independently of our experience of it; and our non-positional consciousness enables us to be aware of this fact when we apprehend objects of positional consciousness. Every object as we positionally experience it is, rather, is partial, incomplete, and dependent on our subjectivity that partially constitutes it. Objects show up as manifesting values and significances, for example, and these depend on our projects and commitments.

In contrast, the sense of self which is presented in non-positional consciousness is not incomplete in this same way. Sartre seems to presuppose that the exact way the self is presented in this consciousness does not reveal the self in any determinate form; for example, the self as we experience it non-positionally does not possess characteristics like being shy or warm-hearted. Sartre identifies this self with nothingness; it metaphysically lacks any determinate or essential characteristics, unlike the objects of positional consciousness. (Sartre may also get to this conclusion with committing to that, phenomenologically, the self presented in non-positional consciousness possesses determinate characteristics; he could add the premise that this self as presented is non-identical to the self as it stands independently of our experiencing it, and then argue that the latter is metaphysically indeterminate, and we can be aware of that fact while encountering a determinate sense of self in non-positional consciousness. I am not familiar enough with the text and secondary literature to know with certainty which of these positions Sartre takes).

Sartre ascribes to the self of non-positional consciousness the power to negotiate with any object of positional consciousness. In other words, we are always and necessarily able to remove the significance that a particular object possesses in our experience and replace it with new significance. Even emotions do not necessarily possess that which we typically take to be their essential significances. We typically think that is we are in a blind rage, this rage makes us act aggressively or violently, and lose any desire to care or protect the creature that instigated our rage. Sartre would argue that such rage does not necessarily have this significance for us. We can choose its significance. We could choose that this rage won’t lead to our aggression; perhaps we choose that is rather a purely physiological state, just as feeling warm and cold are purely physiological states. Without the significance of indicating our compulsion towards violence, the feeling of rage may be compatible with our standing still peacefully.

What is the relationship between the fact that the self is nothingness with this power that this self possesses? What about the self being nothingness could enable it to possess this power of transforming any significance in the world, or conversely, what about the self possessing this power would make it ontologically consist in nothingness? My understanding is that if the self didn’t possess any essential or determinate characteristics, and so is nothingness, it could temporarily adopt any indeterminate and non-essential dispositions, values, or other kinds of “mental” characteristics. These mental characteristics, in turn, would make possible new significances that objects of positional consciousness may manifest. The significance of an object depends on a prior mental characteristic, such as a disposition or value. For example, the disposition to use spoons to eat soup may lead to the perception of a bowl of soup served without a spoon on the side to manifest the significance of a missing spoon, so that one gets up to look for a spoon.

The idea that we are nothingness amounts to that we are constantly changing and recreating ourselves, whether this recreation is the renewal of a previously temporary characteristic, or is the rejection of one and the adaption of a new temporary characteristic. These changes in the self correspond with changes in the significances of objects of experience; so we may constantly free ourselves from previous meanings, and the emotions, thoughts, or behaviors those encourage. Moreover, such changes could happen in any direction whatsoever; there are no previous experiences or causal conditions that determine the directions into which we change.

I think one could get away with reading only the chapters "The origin of negation," "Bad faith," and "Being and doing" and grasp all that's substantial about this book. All the other chapters seem to involve Sartre just going through the same exercise of showing how some traditional philosophical phenomenon in fact may be reduced to or is adequately explained by his view on freedom.
Profile Image for Michael.
Author 2 books336 followers
March 2, 2022
201122: i had thought to read this again before writing about it, as it has been years (decades...) since i first read this as an eager twenty three year-old. i do have a new copy. but there are other books to read and my interests in philosophy have moved from sartre through heidegger through merleau-ponty etc... so much of sartrean existentialism is now embedded i am unsure what came from this book. i can certainly agree bergson is easier to read. it is a long, long, intricate essay that resists review so i will simply recall how it affected me then...

and as this was my first serious philosophy text i was blown away. only in recognition of all the later philosophy i read, much that critiques this, is this four and not five. i had read some of the introduction, thought i understood, embarked on the rest. without any guidance, any net, any idea. it was great: here was a philosophy that i could agree with, that promised absolute responsibility and freedom, that suggested it was all down to me how i would live authentically in the world. i loved that it had nothing to do with science. i loved that the mind was focus. i could grasp everything from bad faith to authenticity to the gaze of the other. mostly i was intoxicated with the idea of freedom. i was young. i have only over the years (decades...) learned to respect that ‘situation’ which so affects freedom...

i have read that the ideal form for continental philosophy is a novel: well that is what this is. i found it absorbing as narrative perhaps because i was not reading it as ‘philosophy’ and trying to parse, argue, affirm ideas he presents in vignettes such as the girl who ‘forgets’ her hand when approached, the eye looking through a keyhole seen in turn, and of course that waiter who decides he is no more than ‘waiter’... i have heard it seen as heidegger’s being and time simplified, but what i have read of that is far from a novel...

and then there is the total ‘cultural’ effect of existentialism which is difficult to separate from this book. sometimes i wish i had started with merleau-ponty in philosophy but i might not have persisted, and certainly by now i have read a lot of various phenomenonologists and philosophy in general, and as mentioned sartre is often reasonably critiqued. the ambition he had, from the history of european philosophy, still impresses me. and from what i read, he did follow his convictions, including his relationship with de beauvoir...

i do not know if i actually want to read it again: it might break the spell of pleasant memories, aside from reminding me of my age. if there is a major, significant philosophy text you want to read to understand much of the 20th century, this is it... ah, to be young and eager again!

Jean-Paul Sartre: Basic Writings
The Wall and Other Stories
Nothingness and Emptiness: A Buddhist Engagement with the Ontology of Jean-Paul Sartre
Existentialism is a Humanism
Essays in Existentialism
The Transcendence of the Ego: An Existentialist Theory of Consciousness
We Have Only This Life to Live: The Selected Essays of Jean-Paul Sartre, 1939-1975
Sartre's Ethics of Engagement
Sartres Second Century
Jean-Paul Sartre: Key Concepts
The Existentialism of Jean-Paul Sartre
Sartre: A Guide for the Perplexed
The Imaginary
Buddhist Existentialism: From Anxiety to Authenticity to Freedom
Profile Image for Μαρία.
206 reviews31 followers
December 12, 2019
《Τη στιγμή του βλέμματος του άλλου κατανοώ πως ο εαυτός μου είναι ορατός και το να κατανοώ τον εαυτό μου πως είναι ορατός είναι, στην πραγματικότητα, το να κατανοώ το ότι φαίνομαι στον κόσμο.》
Profile Image for Jimmy.
Author 6 books203 followers
February 12, 2017
I honestly believe that not even Sartre could explain some of these passages. In other words, I think they are pure nonsense. But he has written a complete philosophical system, such as it is, and that is worthy of reading. Just keep in mind the extreme difficulty. I would recommend reading his novel Nausea. It's far more interesting. But I give this five stars because it is in parts quite brilliant. And it is a necessary for any amateur philosopher.

"The reality of that cup is that it is there and that it is not me." That's always a key point in Sartre. I'm here and all of you and everything else is out there. It kind of makes me a bit different. How do I make anything out of all that stuff out there?

The idea of "appearance." "There arises a legitimate problem concerning the being of this appearing." When we look at anything that appears before us, how do we know of its actual being? "Absence" can also determine being. When something is no longer there, we notice that it is missing. This, of course, also applies to missing people. Or as in Bishop Berkeley's great motto: "Esse est percipi." To be is to be perceived.

"All consciousness is consciousness of something."

"Nevertheless the primary characteristic of the being of an existent is never to reveal itself completely to consciousness."

The idea of "creationism" allowed people "to suppose that God had given being to the world, being always appeared tainted with a certain passivity. But a creation ex nihilo can not explain the coming to pass of being . . . " But being does not create itself. Being is itself.

With nothingness, "it is necessary to recognize that destruction is essentially a human thing . . . "

Sartre has "an appointment with Pierre at four o'clock." But Pierre is not there. "The cafe is a fullness of being." But no Pierre. I guess I would say that Pierre has entered into nothingness. Hegel says about being and nothingness that "the one is as empty as the other." But "he forgets that emptiness is emptiness of something. Being is empty of all other determination than identity with itself, but non-being is empty of being. In a word, we must recall here against Hegel that being is and nothingness is not."

"Nothingness haunts being. . . . Non-being exists only on the surface of being."

Heidegger uses the famous expression: "Das Nichts nichtet." Or "Nothing nothings."

"Dasein manages to realize the contingency of the world; that is, to raise the question, 'How does it happen that there is something rather than nothing?'"

"Nothingness [surrounds] being on every side and at the same time [is] expelled from being."

Heidegger: "human reality" is "remote from itself."

Sartre: "Nothingness lies coiled in the heart of being--like a worm." Compare William Blake poem about the rose.

"Where does nothingness come from? . . . Nothingness is not, Nothingness 'is made-to-be,' Nothingness does not nihilate itself; Nothingness is 'nihilated.' . . . Man presents himself . . . as a being who causes Nothingness to arise in the world, inasmuch as he himself is affected with non-being to this end."

"What is human freedom if through it nothingness comes into the world?"

Kierkegaard describes anguish in the face of freedom. Heidegger instead considers anguish as apprehension in the face of nothingness. One implies the other.

Artillery preparation invokes fear in a soldier, but anguish is born when he asks himself if will be able to "hold up." And "a new recruit can be afraid of being afraid."

When our alarm clock rings, "it is I who confer on the alarm clock its exigency--I and I alone."

"In anguish I apprehend myself at once as totally free and as not being able to derive the meaning of the world except as coming from myself."

Sartre criticizes determinists--of which I am one--because it reduces us to "never being anything but what we are, it reintroduces in us the absolute positivity of being-in-itself and thereby reinstates us as the heart of being."

"Bad faith" is a lying to oneself. It can be a degree of good faith to be aware of bad faith. How can I be true to myself when there is no such thing as "self"?

Now Sartre does give an example of a homosexual getting over feelings of guilt. I can understand that point he makes there.

"I posit my freedom in respect to it; my future is virgin; everything is allowed to me."

Really? Everything? Sounds like one of those self-help gurus. If you haven't made it out of poverty, then it's your fault. Bullshit. Sartre seems to me to be ignoring heredity, environment, and chance. He seems to be talking as a nice and comfortable middle-class Frenchman. Bully for him. Not everyone has his advantages.

"In the final analysis the goal of sincerity and the goal of bad faith are not so different." Sounds like a contradiction to me. He appears to mean it as a paradox. Both are denials of who you are.

"Every belief is a belief that falls short; one never wholly believes what one believes."

"One does not find, one does not disclose nothingness in the manner in which one can find, disclose being. Nothingness is always an elsewhere."

"Thus nothingness is this hole in being."

"In fact since possibility precedes existence, it can be possibility only with respect to our thought."

"Desire is a lack of being."

"To borrow Heidegger's definition, the world is 'that in terms of which human reality makes known to itself what it is.'"

"Once and for all we must raise the question: what is the being of a past being?"

"The past is not nothing; neither is it the present; but at its very source it is bound to a certain present and a certain future, to both of which it belongs."

Andre Malraux: "The terrible thing about Death is that it transforms life into Destiny."

"Today I alone am responsible for the being of the dead Pierre, I in my freedom. Those dead who have not been able to be saved and transported to the boundaries of the concrete past of a survivor are not past; they along with their pasts are annihilated."

"In this sense the Cartesian cogito ought to be formulated rather: 'I think; therefore I was.'"

"Once we have confined the Present to the Present, it is evident that we will never get out of it. It would be of no use to describe the Present as 'pregnant with the future.'"

"Our body has for its peculiar characteristic the fact that it is essentially that which is known by the Other."

". . . through the world I make known to myself what I am." Which is it then: We create the world, or does the world create us? Or both?

"The Look." How the Other looks at me, defines me. I can be ashamed in front of the Other. I can be elated. Maybe we all need the Look to be one that makes us feel--what?--optimistic? positive? The Other can make "all my schemes collapse."

". . . my body is constituted exactly like all those which have been shown to me on the dissection table or of which I have seen colored drawings in books. . . . My body as it is for me does not appear to me in the midst of the world. . . . it was much more my property than my being. . . . I am the other in relation to my eye. . . . I cannot 'see the seeing' . . . Similarly I see my hand touching objects, but I do not know it in its act of touching them."

". . . then we must of necessity admit that paradox of a physical instrument handled by a soul, which, as we know, causes us to fall into inextricable aporias."

"The Other looks at me and as such he holds the secret of my being, he knows what I am. Thus the profound meaning of my being is outside of me, imprisoned in an absence. The Other has the advantage over me. . . . I can turn my back upon the Other so as to make an object out of him in turn . . . ."

"Everything which may be said of me in my relations with the Other applies to him as well. While I attempt to free myself from the hold of the Other, the Other is trying to free himself from mine; while I seek to enslave the Other, the Other seeks to enslave me."

"Thus to want to be loved is to invest the Other with one's own facticity . . . "

"Heidegger is right in declaring that I am what I say."

"Without the Other I apprehend fully and nakedly this terrible necessity of being free which is my lot; that is, the fact that I can not put the responsibility for making-myself-be off to anyone but myself even though I have not chosen to be and although I have been born."

"The Other is on principle inapprehensible; he flees me when I seek him and possesses me when I flee him."

"It is before the Other that I am guilty. I am guilty first when beneath the Other's look I experience my alienation and my nakedness as a fall from grace which I must assume. This is the meaning of the famous line from Scripture: 'They knew that they were naked.'"

"This petrifaction in in-itself by the Other's look is the profound meaning of the myth of Medusa."

"Having, doing, and being are the cardinal categories of human reality." Denis de Rougemont said of Don Juan: "He was not capable of having."

". . . to act is to modify the shape of the world . . . . We should observe first that an action is intentional." But we cannot foresee all of its consequences.

"Existence precedes and commands essence." The main principle of existentialism.

"I am condemned to be free."

"Man cannot be sometimes slave and sometimes free; he is wholly and forever free or he is not free at all."

"Only two solutions are possible: either man is wholly determined . . . or he is wholly free." There is just too much scientific evidence for me to go with Sartre on the free side, so if I have to choose, I go with wholly determined.
Profile Image for Gary  Beauregard Bottomley.
957 reviews567 followers
August 4, 2017
Instead of reading this book I would strongly suggest watching the "No Exit" with Harold Pinter available on youtube written by Sartre. It illustrates a large part of his philosophy of the Other, the Look and the self. And, you'll get a hint on why Sartre doesn't work today. In addition, my favorite phrase ever and the one that I make as my own comes from that play "l'enfer c'est les autres" (hell, is others), and my second favorite is "vous ete mon bourreau" (you are my torturer).

I think the three ugliest words in the English Language are "be a man" (or equivalent statements such as don't be a sissy, act like a man, you're weak, be tough, stop being a woman, and so on). Books likes these are what allows that kind of thinking to take place. Matter of fact, he uses that framing in one of his examples about being too tired to climb a hill and the fear of "being a sissy" is what motivates him to keep hiking. Yes, I realized it was just an example he uses but he really goes to pains to defend it. (Even in today's New York Times (February 6, 2016), I saw a story on how China thinks they need more men teachers because the male students are "timid, self centered and weak" like girls and need to be taught to be men. I'm not making this up. That kind of thinking just permeates even today).

This book is completely passe today. Time has past it by. I'm so glad the 1950s through the 80s are behind us. This book's popularity during that time period is clearly because the way it tied itself to the various schools of psychoanalysis (Gestalt, Adler, experimental psychoanalysis, and even Freudian but with twists) and they could use Sartre's argument to re-enforce their psychoanalytical paradigms. Sartre ends the book by trying to change the paradigm slightly to what he calls "existentialism psychoanalysis". I don't think it ever caught on.

He tweaks the Freudian approach of where behavior is explained by "libido and will to power" to a paradigm that considers the 'choice of being' from the freedom the individual posseses acting for the project (the future). In my opinion, all he is doing is saying instead of blaming the mother (or father), he's going to blame the person (victim). He never really gets the fact that the mind and body are different and some of our behavior is caused by our genetics (being born that way). He's really falling further down the rabbit hole and wants to blame the victim for lacking culture, community and the proper values. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (and other such techniques) and effective drugs came along in the 80s and started making a difference because they were so much more effective than "talking therapy".

His real fundamental error about seeing the world is along the lines of when he says "Pierre is not a waiter he is only acting as a waiter' and "there is no such thing as homosexuals, there are just homosexual acts".

The author really has a warped view about love with his concept of possessing and possessed and domination, and appropriation (taking). He thinks other people take away from our freedom by existing, we are always becoming, and our choices are always are own (you choose to be homosexual, or neurodiverse, or OCD, or any behavior you have). The only thing we are not free to be is not free.

Even with all my negativism expressed above, I can still recommend this book. It only cost me $2.05 and credit at my favorite used book store and I'll get credit when I most certainly return it. It's a perfect example on how we got off track as a society, but managed to move past woo from books like this one. The author is not hard to follow. (He's not really a philosopher in my opinion). Never trust other peoples opinions about someones philosophy until you've read it yourself.
May 25, 2018
هذا النتاج الفكري هو بمثابة - وضع النقط على الحروف - للفلسفة الوجودية، التي قام بتأسيسها هوسرل وصقلها من بعده هايدگر ورسم ملامحها النهائية هو سارتر.
في البداية؛ تنقسم الفلسفة الوجودية الى قسمان:
أ- الوجودية المؤمنة.
ب- الوجودية الملحدة.
وسارتر تبنى الفلسفة الملحدة وخصص كل معرفته لها، فقد كتب مسرحياته ومن اهمها بالنسبة لي هي (المومس الفاضلة) ورواياته واهمها (الغثيان) ونصوصه الادبية الاخرى بل وحتى مقالاته السياسية لهذه الفلسفة.
ترتكز الفلسفة الوجودية على الفينومولوجيا - اي تفسير الضواهر لرائدها هوسرل ومنهى تتجلى هذه الفلسفة، والدازين الذي يوضحه بإسهاب مارتن هايدگر، ومن ثم الذاتية التي ابدع بها سارتر.
ينقسم الكتاب الى خمسة اقسام وهي:
المقدمة وفيها يتحدث المؤلف عن الظاهرةوموضوع الادراك الحسي والبرهان الانطولوجي وذات الكينونة.
بعد المقدمة يقسّم كتابة الى اربعة اقسام ويتناول في،
الباب الاول السلب والتساؤل والعدم واصله.
وكما يتناول به الخداع والخداع النفسي والتصرفات الخداعية والايمان بهما.
الباب الثاني يناقش به الذات والزمنية والتعالي.
الباب الثالث يتحدث به عن الكينونة للاخر ويناقش مسألة وجود الآخر والجسذ والعلاقة بالاخر .
الباب الرابع والاخير يناقش به مفهوم الحرية بكل تجلياتها.
يتعمق ويسهب الكاتب في الحرية والآخر ومسألة الموت والوجود والزمان والذاتية ومشكلات فلسفية اخرى متشعبة وعميقة.
ما يميز الكتاب انه بالرغم من كونه يقارب الالف صفحة الا انه عبارة عن نتاج فلسفي واضح المعالم ودامغ الادلة وسلس التناول.
اشجع كل من يرغب بالحصول على اجابة للسؤال الفلسفي: "هل الوجود يسبق الماهية، ام ان الماهية تسبق الوجود؟" سيجد ضالته هنا حتما.
كنت قد قررت ان اشرح اكثر عن الكتاب الا انني قررت ان اختصر واختم تقيمي بهذه العبارة لسارتر في هذا الكتاب قد تحمل الوجه الاوضح لهذا الكتاب والتي تقول:
((إنّ الإنسان الذي هو محكومٌ بأن يكون حرّاً، يحمل على عاتقه ثقل العالم بأكمله، إنه مسؤول عن العالم وعن نفسه من حيث كونه طريقة وجود.))
Profile Image for Edmond.
Author 11 books3 followers
December 10, 2022
Reading “being and nothingness”, I got the sense Jean-Paul Sartre was trying to impress everybody by writing an unreadable book. He could sum up the entire book in three pages, an empty page on being and nothingness, one page on bad faith, and one page on the look. 800 pages, the guy had a huge ego. I understand why philosophers consider jean-Paul Sartre overrated, some call him an asshole, I agree. I could say Jean-Paul Sartre is in bad faith, trying to be a philosopher, he was not a philosopher. Most philosophers consider his ideas passé, I agree. He is completely over rated as a philosopher, “being and nothingness” is gibberish nonsense. It is considered the principle text of existentialism, we philosophers need a new principle text for existentialism. Jean-Paul Sartre is a sophist engaging in sophistry, he may sound clever but there is nothing to Sartre’s writings. He copy and paste all his ideas from real philosophers, the guy is an empty suit.

After re-reading “Being and Nothingness”, it is like “Waiting for Godot”, Sartre is saying life is like “Being and Nothingness”, long, gibberish nonsense with no meaning. There is no purpose to life without God’s providence’s. Life is an endless set of meaningless words.
Profile Image for Goatboy.
174 reviews62 followers
May 27, 2019
I wish Goodreads had another main category for books for when you abandon them yet still intend one day to come back and finish them. Don't want it cluttering up my Currently Reading list and yet cannot tag as read or remove entirely. Oh well...

If I was going to be completely honest I think from what I read of this I would probably rate it closer to 3.5 stars (for whatever that's worth). Recently learning more about Kojeve and his lectures on Hegel, it's easy to see how Sartre took what he might have learned in those lessons and used it to add his own thoughts to phenomenology.

My main gripe if I have one is that I can't help feeling that Sartre makes all of this much more complicated than it has to be. I realize that some of these concepts are incredibly abstract, yet Sartre seems to revel in his over-complicated language and descriptions when I think the meat of what he was trying to say could probably be broken down and disseminated much more simply.
Profile Image for Mathias.
9 reviews1 follower
March 24, 2007
The only time I ever passed out in my life was during the reading of this book. I actually felt and heard my brain pop and awoke on the floor next to the couch.

This is an extremely difficult text. I recall spending an entire week on just one paragraph. I still do not fully understand this work but will eventually have to revisit it to complete something I am writing on Free Will.
Profile Image for James Klagge.
Author 14 books80 followers
October 26, 2021
First of all I'll admit I didn't read every page. Has anyone?
I'm an analytic philosopher, but about 30 years ago I decided I wanted to broaden my classes a bit. I decided to teach a senior/MA level course in Metaphysics using The Philosophy of Logical Atomism, this book, and The View from Nowhere or Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature. This gives a survey of 3 significant works in the 20th century. It also modeled for my students the experience of working with a text that is not easy or familiar. I have now taught that class that way 10 times, and I think it works.
The reader can easily get lost in Sartre's prose and lingo. And long passages are (for me) impenetrable. (I would give it 1 star on this basis.) But there are so many nuggets along the way and deeply interesting ideas that it is worth the effort to find them. (With some guidance! I don't make my students read the whole thing, but extensive selections that I mark.) (I would give it 5 stars on this basis--so the 1 and 5 average out to my 3-star rating.)
Among the nuggets that I enjoy (though I can't hope to explain them here):
-The distinction between being-in-itself and being-for-itself.
-His discussion of Pierre NOT being in the cafe (p. 40ff). This makes for an interesting contrast with Russell's view of negative facts. The most charming thing about Sartre is his vignettes, such as this. They have real depth to them, and offer a way of doing philosophy that largely contrasts with the analytic tradition. (However, I try to bring this approach on stage, with Wittgenstein's assistance, in my Wittgenstein's Artillery: Philosophy as Poetry.
-His distinction between fear and anguish (p. 60).
-His radical conception of freedom (throughout the book), in which the for-itself has the inalienable capacity to nihilate influences of any sort.
-His notion of bad faith (p. 83), in which people are constantly tempted to fool themselves into thinking they are not constantly free. Think how often we say "I can't do that tonight, I have to..." instead of "I choose not to do that tonight, I choose to..."
-Authenticity (p. 128) becomes perhaps the only real virtue for him, and what makes us truly human; yet we are constantly tempted to bad faith. He defines God as the being-in-itself-for-itself, and sees the human project as the desire to be god (p. 140). He is an atheist b/c such a synthesis is not possible, and he sees the human project as fundamentally impossible. We are inevitably in an "unhappy state."
-The appeal to reasons and values in decision-making is a manifestation of bad faith (p. 143). Things are reasons or values for us only insofar as we choose them. If we think we are weighing factors in a decision, it is only we who weighted the factors to start with.
-He solves the problem of other minds by reminding us of the experience of shame in the presence of another--the Look. His account of being caught in the act, peeking through a keyhole, is another great vignette (p. 347).
-He does not think 2 for-itselfs can encounter one another and both remain for-itselfs. One or the other becomes an in-itself. He illustrates this with the marvelous account of walking through the park (p. 341). My account of this: If you can imagine a polar coordinate system overlaid in the park, with me at the center, the discovery of another in the park creates a metaphysical battle over who will be the center of the coordinate system.
-Love, or rather, sex, then becomes a battleground of a similar sort (p. 475), in which the for-itself dominates another--sadism, or is dominated by the other--masochism. Late in life Sartre's long-time partner, Simone de Beauvoir, interviewed him about a wide range of things in Adieux: A Farewell to Sartre. Amazingly, his answers about his own sex life fit perfectly with his metaphysical views between the sheets.
-I love his discussion of hiking and giving up (p. 584). It is a perfect analogy to running a marathon, of which I have lots of experience. He says it is wrong and bad faith to think you "have" to stop, though he admits that to do otherwise might require a fundamental modification of "my original choice of myself." My own experience of long-distance running is that I never ask myself whether I should stop--for fear of what the answer will be. So, by Sartre's lights, my strategy is to run in bad faith. Once I decide to run, I let that earlier decision ride and govern my actions, and I never raise it again. Always reaffirming your choices could end up being somewhat tiring itself, in addition to being dangerous.
-You might think that many of your choices are guided by your character. In fact Aristotle recommended inculcating the virtues precisely so you would have a character that led to the best choices. But Sartre would say that is relying on bad faith. For Sartre, character is a vow, or a project (p. 705).
-Sartre says man is condemned to be free (p. 707), and he is responsible for everything that happens to him! He chose it, for lack of having gotten out of it--by suicide if not by some other means (p. 710). He even goes so far as to say that "in a certain sense I choose to be born"--for not having committed suicide.
-Sartre has an extended critique of Freudian psychoanalysis. Freud treats the person as a collection of forces--i.e., as an in-itself. Sartre endorses what he calls existential psychoanalysis (p. 726). The goal of that is to help a person to discern their original choice of themselves, with the idea that they can see how that plays out and how a different choice could be made.
Let no one suppose I like the book b/c I agree with it. In fact I disagree with a lot, though there are many grains of truth. But its value, as philosophy, is its provocation. And also its determination that philosophy impacts life. Too often analytic philosophy is quite separate from (the rest of) life. But I'm interested in the connections. That has motivated my work on Wittgenstein--to see how his life and his work connect. And that makes Sartre's work especially interesting to me. I don't want to allow that only "continental" philosophy connects with life, but it does at least have that value.
Profile Image for Ali.
Author 17 books618 followers
February 20, 2016
One of the most sufficient book of 20th. century. One can not think about 20th. century without naming Sartre. He had influence on very many social concepts and institutions such as human rights and freedom. His ideas changed human life in many aspects.
در سال های انتهایی جنگ دوم، وقتی سارتر در جنبش مقاومت فرانسه علیه اشغال نازی ها فعالیت داشت، این اثر را نوشت، که به عنوان مهم ترین اثر فلسفی قرن بیستم شناخته می شود. متاسفانه این اثر مهم توسط عنایت الله شکیباپور به فارسی برگردانده شده، مترجمی که نه فلسفه می دانست، و نه فرانسه و فارسی اش چندان چنگی به دل می زد. مشهور است که برخی از کتاب ها با نام شکیباپور بعنوان مترجم، توسط هیچ نویسنده ای نوشته نشده اند.

در مورد ژان پل سارتر، مطلبی جداگانه نوشته ام؛
Profile Image for Isla McKetta.
Author 6 books50 followers
December 11, 2012
Verbose yet profound, I went through a myriad of emotions while reading this book. To find out how Sartre made me reconsider everything from my friendships to my relationship with truth, read a full-length essay on my blog.
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