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Being and Nothingness: An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology (1943)

by Jean-Paul Sartre

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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4,481152,150 (3.67)46
Being and Nothingness is without doubt one of the most significant books of the twentieth century. The central work by one of the world'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 and literature was immediate and was felt worldwide, from the absurd drama of Samuel Beckett to the soul-searching cries of the Beat poets. Being and Nothingness is one of those rare books whose influence has affected the mind-set of subsequent generations. Sixty years after its first publication, its message remains as potent as ever - challenging the reader to confront the fundamental dilemmas of human freedom, responsibility and action.… (more)
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» See also 46 mentions

English (14)  Spanish (2)  French (1)  All languages (17)
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
12/11/21
  laplantelibrary | Dec 11, 2021 |
12/11/21
  laplantelibrary | Dec 11, 2021 |
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. ( )
  23Goatboy23 | Jan 17, 2020 |
It goes without saying that Being and Nothingness is a quintessential book in regards to studying existentialism. Nevertheless one must keep in mind that Sartre is the only philosopher to have claimed to be an “existentialist.” Existentialism is not a system, and it is not going to be found solely in Sartre’s Opus. The range of writers – from those that were dead before the thread was acknowledged to those who denounced the classification of their own work as such but are nevertheless considered to be so – is astronomical. And for those who sympathize with these ideas it should come as little surprise, for personally I feel that all humanism has an existentialist foundation.

It is a wonder though how far we have moved away from those ideas. The radically growing cult of the self that has been snowballing for at least the past decade and which has in my eyes lead us to so much of the world crises that we see today (ironically which were similar social elements that inspired such writers as Sartre, Camus, Heidegger, Ortega, etc. to flourish with these very ideas), portrays a very grim future and a lamentable entrenchment into a solipsism that is so consumed with itself that it can’t even recognize itself as such – a condition which these writers primarily set out to prevent. Even in France today you find novelists such as Michel Houellebecq meeting universal approbation for portraying these very themes in contemporary culture (I guess as a historical moment in European philosophy the case is considered to be settled and left alone; yet another grim estimation of contemporary society).

As for the book in question though, it is a trial to read. Ontology is definitely not Sartre’s strong point, and if the beginning is difficult to get through it’s not just because of its weighty content, but because Sartre himself stumbles through it all quite a bit himself. The primary writers who contribute to Sartre’s thought are Hegel, Husserl, and Heidegger – all of which it helps to have a decent understanding of in order to follow where he is going.

Of greatest interest to me in reading Being and Nothingness was Sartre’s essential continuation of Heidegger’s existential analytic. The majority of Sartre’s set-up, despite his repeated “critiques” of Heidegger’s thought (his stumbling through ontology I feel is a direct result of his not fully comprehending him), is in fact derived straight out of Being and Time. It is even rumored that, for what it’s worth, Sartre continually tried to prevent Being and Time from being translated into French.

Either way I was most disappointed with Heidegger for never having broached a social/pragmatic interpretation of Dasein in regards to others and our complex reciprocal relationships – and this is of course just what Sartre picks up and does. This for me is the great wealth to be found in Being and Nothingness. Sartre was one of the first to not be afraid to use literary references in his philosophical writings outside of aesthetics, and his contribution to the arts alone for opening up phenomenological cross-roads between life as it is lived and as it is experienced in art is something that has given me much consolation and inspiration.

As with any work of this scope and magnitude, it would be silly to sit here and try to write a thesis as a review. As such I will leave it at saying, whatever way you may feel about Sartre’s philosophy (or believe you feel from only minor association with his ideas as is the case with most philosophers), it really is an essential read these days. Not everything is a gem, but that does not mean that there are not significant humanistic critiques which transcend the book itself for their ability to make us re-evaluate our relationship is to each other as individuals. The role we play in constructing and understanding ourselves through those around us is an idea that, for as simple and foundational as it is, somehow has almost entirely disappeared from the culture that I at least find myself in. I find myself surrounded by primarily three types of people; 1) Radical egoists, 2) Traditional religious people with their various interpretations thereof, and 3) New agers who like the religious hand over their identity to whatever higher power of their choice is. All of these remove freedom from themselves or others, as well as pass off the responsibility for their own becoming.

Please! We need people to wake back up. I feel sometimes as if culture stopped assimilating philosophy after Kant : (

No one ever said life was supposed to feel good. I see more people suffer from collapses in their egoistic/idealistic bubbles (and I’m not even using those two terms pejoratively) than I care to. It’s a different kind of smile that I bear…
( )
  PhilSroka | Apr 12, 2016 |
wanky. ( )
  behemothing | Oct 25, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jean-Paul Sartreprimary authorall editionscalculated
Barnes, Hazel E.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Del Bo, GiuseppeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Modern thought has realized considerable progress by reducing the existent to the series of appearances which manifest it.
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Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Bearbeitet, herausgegeben und übersetzt von Justus Streller
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Being and Nothingness is without doubt one of the most significant books of the twentieth century. The central work by one of the world'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 and literature was immediate and was felt worldwide, from the absurd drama of Samuel Beckett to the soul-searching cries of the Beat poets. Being and Nothingness is one of those rare books whose influence has affected the mind-set of subsequent generations. Sixty years after its first publication, its message remains as potent as ever - challenging the reader to confront the fundamental dilemmas of human freedom, responsibility and action.

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Apparso nel 1943, L'essere e il nulla prende origine dai primi saggi su Husserl, dove Sartre scopriva che il soggetto nega il mondo, in quanto ne sconfina, in particolare con l'immaginazione, la quale è appunto un'attività negativa. Tale principio dà vita a una fenomenologia delle situazioni negative dell'uomo. Il libro descrive il fallimento dell'uomo che pretende di idealizzare l'assoluto.
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