Jean-Paul Sartre Philosophy Summary

sartre philosopher

Jean-Paul Sartre is the philosopher of human freedom. He build an existentialist philosophy, where man loneliness and responsibility is absolue. Despite this fragile condition, man has to invent his way to define who he is.

Among his philosophical works and literature, Jean-Paul Sartre wrote in particular:

– Imagination (1936)

– Nausea (1938)

– The Wall (1939)

– Being and Nothingness (1943)

– Existentialism and Humanism (1946)

– Baudelaire (1947)

– What is literature? (1947)

– Critique of Dialectical Reason (1960)

– The Words (1964)

– The Family Idiot (1971-1972)

Human consciousness, according to Sartre, is the power of nihilation (explanation to come) and freedom: it is opposed to the in-itself (explained below), a being full, solid and opaque. Thus, condemned to absolute freedom, the man should invent himself.

Sartre, Nausea and Contingency:

The starting point of Sartre’s philosophy does not it would fall in “Nausea”, feeling privileged and has a quasi-ontological significance?

– Antoine Roquentin, hero of the famous story Nausea, experiences himself as something unnecessary in the middle of the world (as a thing among things) is having “Nausea.”

– What I take, then, is the contingency of existence, deprived of reason and necessity, never by itself, its raison d’etre.

The world of existence is not the explanation and reasons.

– To exist is to be here, simply, without any necessity.

Sartre applies also to the existence unnecessary artificiality of the term: it means that things are there, as they are, unnecessarily and without reason.

– I am there among them, and discovers my original facticity.

But on the merits of this first experience, something else will emerge: the awareness of the human project, building freely the meaning and values ​​within the free and the absurd, the absurd defining itself as the which is beyond all reason, which can not be justified rationally.


Sartre and Freedom:

In Sartre’s thought, freedom is a both matter of morality and metaphysics.

Human creation is, indeed, free. Sartre, I exist and I am free, two proposals are rigorously synonymous and equivalent.

– What is that to exist in the vocabulary of Sartre?

► exist is to be there, and in an absurd universe and contingent, build and put his stamp on things.

► There is no human essence fixed and predetermined essence that precede existence.

► The man appeared in the world and there drew his face

– But how this equivalence of the existence and freedom is possible?

► Human freedom means, in Sartre, the opportunity given to us to remotely at any moment, the infinite chain of causes.

► Freedom is the power that is held continuously, the consciousness of annihilation, that is to say nothing of the show on any substantive reality, of breaking the various determinations, or mobile units to choose – the idea of ​​defining choice, basically, with him, by that of consciousness.

► The ability to say “yes” or “no” to choose, can hardly be distinguished under these conditions, consciousness, seizure of ourselves, beyond any reason and any mobile.

This freedom we all experience anxiety in a true metaphysical sense reveals our total freedom, where seizure reflexive consciousness is dizzy before she and her infinite powers.

– Anguish means so that the shock of consciousness to itself, this sense of giddy potential.

– Of course, consciousness can choose pretending not to be free: the lie to self and self, where I fight against anxiety, where I hide my freedom has a name is bad faith.

► Is bad faith, the consciousness that makes a lie to oneself, to escape the anxiety and the difficulty of freedom, who goes blind in his infinite freedom.

► The bad faith and the spirit of seriousness constantly threaten consciousness.

► If bad faith means, in effect, a lie to oneself, by which consciousness seeks to escape its freedom and anxiety, may the spirit of seriousness, too, we are “petrified”.

► What is he? in this attitude by which, banishing the anxiety and anguish, we prefer to set from the object:

→ The spirit of seriousness believes that values ​​are not created, they are independent of human subjectivity

→ Values ​​are in the world before man, it would only pick them.

→ Bad faith and spirit of seriousness: as many leaks in front of our infinite freedom.

► It is in this perspective that we must define the bastard, the Sartrean sense of the word, as one who, in bad faith, hiding the gratuitous and unjustifiable existence:

→ The bastard sees his existence as necessary so that all existence is unjustified and gratuitous

All these analysis on the anxiety, freedom and bad faith refers to the mode of being of the existing human, this for-itself which is opposed in every respect to the in-itself:

– While the in-itself is a fullness of being (it means that things are as they are devoid of conscience) …

– … The for-itself is the way to be an existing one which never coincides with itself.

► Exhaust permanent himself, he is never quite itself.

► Without stopping, he separates himself.

– While the in-itself is opaque to itself, full of himself …

– … The for-itself is the user be aware of a vanishing forever, simple movement of transcendence towards things.

Consciousness is nothing but the outside of itself and it is this absolute leak, this “refusal to be substance” which is as consciousness.

Thus, the for-itself is a being that is characterized as a movement and project to be. This project concept is, indeed, central

– We exist as projects;

– We, we cast perpetually ahead of ourselves, to the future, towards what is not.

– The project (the verb projicere, throw away) is the instrument by which we strive, with all our freedom, to the future and possibilities.

So are we totally free and totally responsible: the responsibility is, in Sartre, the full support of his fate by the existing human nature that creates and creates the world. But in this invention and that this outpouring is the permanent freedom of the for-itself, I seem constantly under threat, one that arises from the presence and emergence of others in the world.

Sartre, the Other and collective action:

That is, for me, others? It basically means, the Other, the different, that is to say, “a self that is not me.”

Another is, in fact anyone who is not me and I’m not. Is there not here the announcement of a threat, even an original fall? That’s what happens in reality according to Sartre.

– The very fact that I offer in the world as a “quasi-object” under the gaze of others, I “fall” truly at things, and this because of the freedom of the subject who looks at me and judge me … “Hell is other people”, according to the famous formula of the camera.

However, if our lives are often “twisted” and “flawed” because of “dual” of consciousness that arise, the man can always find reciprocal relationships with others, especially at the historical action.

– In the Critique of Dialectical Reason, Sartre focuses, in fact, common historical praxis, where the subjects come together and look alike.

– This means an excess free praxis collective material conditions and this, in the context of historical action.

► Sartre is indeed close to that time, the Marxist doctrine and praxis is in this perspective, a project organizer common where different minds are working together to achieve an end.

► Within this overall vision, Sartre attaches to the group, gathering unified by a common praxis, a community of action.

→ The crowd stormed the Bastille as a group.

→ On the contrary, social gatherings without true unity, without unifying under internal (eg a queue of passengers waiting for the bus), represent what Sartre calls the series, collections of separate individuals and atomized.

The group embodies the historical project free while the series is living under the sign of praxis mired in a world where freedom, without being lost, is still threatened.

The merit of Sartre is to have attached to historicity, defined as objective belonging to an era. The man is a history, which are temporally and collectively. This interest in human historicity, it appeared very early in the writings of Sartre, is particularly clear after 1960.

Any Sartre’s work revolves around the notion of freedom, described individually, but also in its collective dimension or historical.

Sartre is the philosopher of freedom at work in the world and things, responsibility constructing values ​​and human worlds.


Go Further on Sartre’s Philosophy:

Sartre’s morality : Choice and Responsability

Sartre : Existentialism and Humanism

Cite this article as: Tim, "Jean-Paul Sartre Philosophy Summary, April 27, 2012, " in Philosophy & Philosophers, April 27, 2012,

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