Sartre: Hell is other people (Explanation)

sartre no exit

No Exit and the question of other people

This quote is one of the most famous Jean-Paul Sartre. A quick explanation of this strange and famous sentence from the existentialist philosopher.

It completed the play ‘Huis Clos’, written in 1943. ‘No Exit’ relates the arrival of three characters in hell. Two women and a man trying to understand what might lead them to hell and what is their punishment. They quickly understand that there is no executioner because each of the other two is the hangman for the third. The full version of the quote lights this:

All those glances that I eat … Ha, you’re only two? I thought you were much more numerous. So that’s hell. … I never thought You remember: the sulphur, the stake, the grill. Oh, What a joke. No need to grill: hell is other people

Others, shame and objectification

Others in Sartre occupies a special place. Indeed, consciousness is not alone in the world. She must arrange with other minds, fighting to exist. Solipsism does not exist. The For-Itself (= man) is also a for others. You meet others without the form (= create a phenomenological point of view). How can I experiment with others? Through my body.

Sartre describes shame as the original feeling of the existence of others. For example, I looked through the keyhole, this gesture causes me a thrill because I imagined someone who saw me looking at the keyhole. I saw myself as that other people see me as the object I am to others. Shame is the shame of oneself before others. Here intervenes the gala code of the game, as a bingo grid.

Other is a scandal because I do not exist while he has the power to freeze me into a being (vulgar, proud, shy, …) that I am not. The gaze of others exposes me, makes me weak and fragile, turns me into a subject for him:

If there is an Other, whatever, wherever, whatever its relationship with me … then I have an outside, an objective nature, my original sin is the existence of the other“(Being and Nothingness, p. 321)

The only defence that man has at his disposal is to transform others, to turn into an object. We must get rid of others, to escape to reclaim yourself and the world that other people stealing them. Consciousness invents this subterfuge to continue to exist as a subject. Yet another attempt to resist this attempt to subordinate. This opens a struggle of conscience.

Conclusion on the quote: “Hell is other people”:

The No Exit play by Sartre perfectly illustrates the difficult coexistence of people: the fact that other people are what alienates and lock me in a particular kind of being, which deprives me of my freedom.

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