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Being and Nothingness

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  26,992 ratings  ·  426 reviews
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', i ...more
Paperback, 688 pages
Published August 28th 2003 by Routledge (first published 1943)
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Kent Manthie I guess many intellectuals manqués feign an understanding or familiarity with NAUSEA; who knows for what reason that may be: perhaps someone within th…moreI guess many intellectuals manqués feign an understanding or familiarity with NAUSEA; who knows for what reason that may be: perhaps someone within their circle of friends read it and has been making references to it, attempting to discuss it in, what may be a sincere manner, although, as sincere as he may be, he may or may not truly understand the existential preludes, between the lines, so to speak, describing certain "scenes"/dialogue from the book, attempting to deconstruct NAUSEA; noting that the description of this or that incident or pontificating on possible metaphors, claiming to "know" what this or that might symbolize, etc. (though the "deconstruction" or the "knowing" that this or that is symbolic of "A" or "Z" is almost always THEIR interpretations of whatever work about which they happen to be expostulating; even in cases where (and here I'm speaking about certain books in general, not specifically NAUSEA) the text that the author wrote had no such symbology or undertones of "x" or "y"; what's truly ironic is when someone looks really deeply into a work & "discovers" that 'a'='b', or that δ is symbolic of ψ, when in reality the author had no such idea when writing it or was even trying to be allegorical or metaphorical. This type of "psychoanalysis" of books, essays, monographs, etc. a fervent reader may attribute to such a work is, more - or even mostly - off-the-mark, thus it becomes mostly a projection of one's own psychology & any baggage that might carry. As for the work in question, NAUSEA, it can be seen as a great" application of Sartre's brand of (as he called it) "French, atheistic existentialism". As wonderful a story as it is (I've read it, at this point, about 4 times or so & plan on reading it many more times), e.g., Sartre's novel which is a kind of practical application of his brand of existentialism: the more one reads it, the closer one reads it, one becomes more and more absorbed into Sartre's concepts of life, the oppressiveness of life, the ennui which is anyone's typical day-to-day routine(s), as well as Sartre's vehement insistence that the lone, mind-as-being, his exultation of the individual as against the madding crowd, the sycophants, cronies, indoctrinated from a young age, via school, shows us that to love solitude is not, as any who feel the need to fit in with the masses merely solipsistic and certainly not narcissistic, In myriad passages, "scenes" or soliloquies by a character, be he protagonist or peripheral character, the words which make up said passages, are used like a great painter's color wheel or the sculptor's use of clay or stone, whatever the medium, to lament man's alienation from the world, though most people mindlessly go about their daily rituals with no self-awareness of the bad or good among the society in which he exists, but now & then a unique character shows up & is not only quite self-aware, or "self-conscious" of his own existence, but is able to extrapolate many things from the words and/or deeds of others. Although NAUSEA is a brilliant work, a book which any person who yearns to find some connection with the alienation he feels may find a kindred spirit, viz. Antoine Roquentin, the protagonist in NAUSEA; I would be the 1st to admit that, although it is a novel, a work of fiction with didactic overtones and characters who put in practice Sartre's existentialism, it isn't and I don't believe was, written with the intent of creating a novel qua novel, e.g., Ulysses, Crime & Punishment, The Trial, Remembrance of Things Past or The Dead Souls, which are examples of the novel at its acme. However, if one wishes to learn or understand the singularly breathtaking philosophy of Sartre, NAUSEA would be a great starting point, followed by a reading (or, if a you're lucky enough to be in or near a city where they happen to be staging them) any or all of his plays, e.g., NO EXIT or THE FLIES just to name two; then, after going through his longer novel, The Age of Reason, if you have a burning desire to read the unmasked, existentialist bible, BEING AND NOTHINGNESS, and you are willing to read every sentence, every page, you will be left as an, if not satisfied in terms of a philosophical "epiphany", you will at least come away with a better understanding of the man, his thinking, his philosophy and his sensitive, expressionistic, albeit occasionally a bit abstract. Jean-Paul Sartre was a genius. If only more Americans weren't addicted to mass commercialistic media and the whole cult of celebrity, maybe we'd be better able to stop the worsening of our society by realizing the hypocrisy within in order to be better able to spot it from without. KM. (less)

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Ahmad Sharabiani
‭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 (1
Apr 18, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Every Thinker
Shelves: philosophy
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 i
May 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
In my more jejune years, in the seventies and eighties, Jean-Paul Sartre played Pied Piper to my bemused Flower Child of Hamelin!

It was that bad.

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.

Why did I have two minds?

Because Sartre had two minds on it himself: on one side, his more cerebral braininess, and the o
Ian "Marvin" Graye

"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, fi
Roy Lotz
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 attra
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Feb 10, 2012 marked it as partial-credit  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
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 ...more
Chris Shank
Jan 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 What they say about B&N is true. It was VERY difficult. Sartre uses ideas and langu ...more
Robert Riley
Jun 23, 2012 rated it did not like it
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 ...more
Sep 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: teens
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,
What is essential in the context of the phenomenology of being? Being and Existing, the memorable and subtle space that separates being from non-being, the possibility of non-existence constitutes a phenomenon essentially distinct from death? These are some of the countless questions that Sartre addresses uniquely in "Being and Nothingness", in an exercise of intelligence that sometimes touches the absurdity of the denials of the apparent evidence. According to Sartre, the subject-object relatio ...more
(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 Fr
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 th
Aug 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: someone who has extra time to read.
Recommended to Charmless by: Some chain-smoking Euro-wannabe
Shelves: classics
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
Jun 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Gary  Beauregard Bottomley
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 t
May 31, 2019 rated it liked it
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 philosophe ...more
Kelly H. (Maybedog)
I want to make clear that my rating only expresses my enjoyment of the book and not my respect for the impact it had on Western Thought.
Mar 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Only for the committed
Shelves: existentialism
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.
Isla McKetta
Sep 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
David Withun
Jun 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
Oct 12, 2007 rated it liked it
In Sartre’s Being and Nothingness, he promotes the existentialist outlook that existence precedes essence. It’s a view that opposes the Aristotelian quest for the meaning of something by asking after its function, and defining its virtue based on how well it performs that function. Sartre argues that although the function of something can be used to define an object, it does not define a Being in that a Being is not an object, but a subject. Unlike inanimate objects Beings are in constant flux, ...more
May 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
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
Nov 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Every ten or so pages I had to stop and do "The Chicken Dance", U know, where U flap your arms like a silly chicken at Oktoberfest and then shimmy on down!

If U want to play a fun drinking game with the book have a drink every time ol' Jean-Paul uses the word "conscious" 'cuz he is waaaayyyy into consciousness!

Mais le livre est superieure en francais, je pense!
Nathan Perry
Aug 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
"Being and Nothingness" is the principle existential text of philosophy written by Jean-Paul Sartre'. It seems to serve more as a phenomenological extension of Martin Heidegger's text on Ontology (Being and Time) rather than the common belief that it is a profound misunderstanding of Heidegger's idea's. Which ever the case may be, Sartre' produced a text which landed the philosophical lineage of existentialism on the academic map; complete with a strange train of logic, for which might not be gr ...more
Amirtha Shri
Jul 21, 2018 rated it it was ok
This is one of those books I'd not regret not striving to get through! I dropped this book almost in the very beginning because: a. The man drones where he can simply put a point, rephrasing, paraphrasing, and what not, which is fine as long as it remains entertaining / valuable, I do not know whether it is Satre or the translator who makes the writing absolutely dreary. b. A lot of jargon and references I could not follow, which was understandable, given that is an essay on ontology. Also, I di ...more
Feb 25, 2011 rated it it was ok Seriously? Over 600 pages to describe the phenomenology of "being" and "nothingness" (okay, I know he covers other concepts)? What Sartre should have done, in my opinion, is publish the book with only one empty page in it - this would have probably gotten his point across. To be fair, I dig Sartre as a writer and I appreciate his contributions to philosophy and literature, but I have a hard time stomaching this stuff. For my money, Sartre's concept of "bad faith" is probably the most ...more
Pyramids Ubiquitous
Being and Nothingness represents all that I dislike in Philosophy. It is an overlong and repetitive rendering of simple ideas, which shrouds edifice to the point of not having any practical application. Let me get it straight: nearly none of the ideas presented here are difficult concepts to grasp. Sartre's genius lies in his ability to reword and reappropriate the same basic idea in a multitude of ways, often using purposely misleading and confusing language. The only positives in this tome are ...more
Oct 17, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2014, philosophy
The problem i have with Sartre is he have conclusion before even exploring the topic. He only explore it to affirm his conclusion.Whether it be nausea or no exit whatever his idea(conclusion) he only explore it to conclude an imaginary cul-de-sac!
Jul 25, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: the brave
I was 11 the first time I read Sartre. The theory of existentialism in his words made me wiser and more afraid. I am still terrified but would rather be that than oblivious.
Aya Habib
Mar 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Do you like to read words? This book has alot.
Maybe Sartre and I have a connection beyond the limits of consciousness.
This took me a very long time to digest.
What a book!
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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 ex

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“It is therefore senseless to think of complaining since nothing foreign has decided what we feel, what we live, or what we are.” 390 likes
“I exist, that is all, and I find it nauseating.” 315 likes
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