Summary (Ethics (Ready Reference series))
For Sartre, human existence is conscious being, “being-for-itself” (pour-soi). Human existence as “being-for-itself” is temporal—always in some present, always on the way from some past toward some future. Another characteristic of human existence is its dependence on things. Things have a fundamentally different mode of existence: “being-in-itself” (en-soi). They have no consciousness, no possibilities, no freedom. Their being is complete as it is.
One danger for human existence is that it may be falsely reduced from free “being-for-itself” to unfree “being-in-itself.” This threat may come from others or from oneself. One may intentionally avoid freedom and the anxiety of conscious decision making by convincing oneself that one has no options, but this is to reduce oneself to an object, to use freedom to deny freedom, to live in “bad faith” (mauvaise foi).
The existence of “the others” (autrui) is a fundamental fact of human existence. In Sartre’s view, however, the constant factor in interpersonal relationships is not potential harmony, but inevitable alienation. Lovers, in his analysis, cannot avoid the objectifying will to possess, which denies freedom and reduces the loved one from “being-for-itself” to “being-in-itself.”
(The entire section is 187 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
The French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre has become widely identified with twentieth century existentialism as its most popular and well-known proponent and as a lucid and gifted writer of both philosophy and literature. Although existentialist tenets had been expressed in the thought of such previous philosophers as Søren Kierkegaard and Martin Heidegger, the mood of alienation and despair evoked by existentialism found its greatest response in the post-World War II circumstances in which Sartre lived and worked. As the leading French intellectual movement of the era, Sartrean existentialism infiltrated virtually every form of thought and artistic achievement, including literature, the theater, the visual arts, and theology. Being and Nothingness, Sartre’s major philosophical work, is considered to be one of the most influential texts of this movement, as well as being an important work in the history of philosophy as a whole.
Born in Paris in 1905, Sartre was educated at the École Normale Supérieure, where he graduated at the age of twenty-two with a degree in philosophy. “Philosophy is absolutely terrific,” he said later of his early educational experience. “You can learn the truth through it.” In 1929, having completed his studies, Sartre began teaching in French secondary schools. Throughout this period (1929-1934), Sartre also traveled extensively in Greece, Italy, Egypt, and especially Germany, where he studied under the German...
(The entire section is 1735 words.)