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Jean-Paul Sartre. By Dennis Stapleton. Sartre, the Father of Existentialism.

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Jean paul sartre

Jean-Paul Sartre

By Dennis Stapleton

Sartre the father of existentialism
Sartre, the Father of Existentialism

  • Existentialism-A philosophy that emphasizes the uniqueness and isolation of the individual experience in a hostile or indifferent universe, regards human existence as unexplainable, and stresses freedom of choice and responsibility for the consequences of one's acts.

  • Sartre's introduction to his philosophy is his work Existentialism is a Humanism (1946).

  • Sartre finds the essence of human existence in freedom — in the duty of self-determination and the freedom of choice — and therefore spends much time describing the human tendency toward "bad faith," reflected in humanity's perverse attempts to deny its own responsibility and flee from the truth of its inescapable freedom.


  • Besides existentialism writings, Sartre also wrote about Marxism.

  • Marxism-the synthesis of philosophy and political action.

  • Any political practice or theory that is based on an interpretation of the works of Marx and Engels may be termed Marxism.

Sartre s philosophical view
Sartre’s Philosophical View

  • In his philosophical view atheism is taken for granted; the "loss of God" is not mourned. Man is condemned to freedom, a freedom from all authority, which he may seek to evade, distort, and deny but which he will have to face if he is to become a moral being. The meaning of man's life is not established before his existence. Once the terrible freedom is acknowledged, man has to make this meaning himself, has to commit himself to a role in this world, has to commit his freedom. And this attempt to make oneself is futile without the "solidarity" of others.


  • Jean Paul Sartre was born in Paris on June 21, 1905.

  • He was a dramatist and screenwriter, novelist and critic.

  • Sartre entered the École Normale Supérieure in 1924 received first place in the agrégation of philosophy in 1929.

  • There, he met Simone de Beauvoir, who studied at the Sorbonne and later went on to become a noted thinker, writer, and feminist. They became inseparable and lifelong companions.

  • Sartre took a teaching job at a Lycée in Le Havre. There he wrote his first novel, Nausea in 1938.

  • In 1939 Sartre was drafted into the French army, where he served as a meteorologist. German troops captured him in 1940 in Padoux, and he spent nine months as a prisoner of war.

  • While a prisoner of war, his first theater piece: Barionà, fils du tonnerre, a drama concerning Christmas.

  • After the war Sartre abandoned teaching, determined to support himself by writing. He was also determined that his writing and thinking should be engagé.

  • Sartre suffered from detrimental health throughout the 1970s. He died of a lung ailment in April 15, 1980.


  • His first novel, Nausea (1938), narrates the feeling of revulsion that a young man experiences when confronted with the contingency of existence.

Being and nothingness
Being And Nothingness

  • In Being and Nothingness (1943), he places human consciousness in opposition to being; consciousness is nonmatter and thus escapes all determinism.

The roads to freedom
The Roads to Freedom

  • Besides the obvious impact of Nausea, Sartre's major contribution to literature was the The Roads to Freedom trilogy which charts the progression of how World War II affected Sartre's ideas. In this way, Roads to Freedom presents a less theoretical and more practical approach to existentialism.

Simone de beauvoir
Simone de Beauvoir

  • Jean and Beauvoir challenged the cultural and social assumptions and expectations of their upbringings.

  • Beauvoir wrote about him in her autobiography, The Prime of Life (tr. 1962).

  • She is best known for her two feminist books, The Second Sex and Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter.

  • In 1929, Beauvoir also became the youngest person ever to obtain the agrégation in philosophy. Sartre was first that year, but she was a close second.

  • After Sartre died, Beauvoir published his letters to her with edits to spare the feelings of some people in their circle who were still living. After Beauvoir's death, Sartre's adopted daughter and literary heir Arlette Elkaïm would not let many of Sartre's letters be published in unedited form.

Sartre s works
Sartre’s Works

  • Baudelaire, 1947

  • Situations, 1947 –1965

  • Les mains sales (Dirty Hands), 1948

  • "Orphée Noir" (Black Orpheus), introduction to Anthologie de la nouvelle poésie nègre et malgache. edited by Léopold Sédar Senghor, 1948

  • Le diable et le bon dieu (The Devil and the Good Lord), 1951

  • Les jeux sont faits (The Game is Up), 1952

  • Saint Genet, Actor and Martyr, 1952

  • Nekrassov, 1955

  • Existentialism and Human Emotions, 1957

  • The Problem of Method, 1957

  • Les séquestrés d'Altona (The Condemned of Altona), 1959

  • Critique de la raison dialectique (Critique of Dialectical Reason), 1960

  • "Preface" to Frantz Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth, 1961

  • Search for a Method (English translation of preface to Critique, Vol. I) 1962

  • Les mots (The Words), 1964 - autobiographical

  • L'idiot de la famille (The Family Idiot), 1971–1972 - on Gustave Flaubert

  • L'imagination (), 1936

  • La transcendance de l'égo (The Transcendence of the Ego) 1937

  • La nausée (Nausea), 1938

  • Le mur (The Wall), 1939

  • Esquisse d'une théorie des émotions (Sketch for a Theory of the Emotions), 1939

  • L'imaginaire (The Imaginary), 1940, lit. "The Unconscious"

  • Les mouches (The Flies), 1943 - a modern version of the Oresteia

  • L'être et le néant (Being and Nothingness), 1943

  • Réflexions sur la question juive (Anti-Semite and Jew; literally, Reflections on the Jewish Question), 1943

  • Huis-clos (No Exit), 1944

  • Les Chemins de la liberté (The Roads to Freedom) trilogy, comprising:

  • L'âge de raison (The Age of Reason), 1945

  • Le sursis (The Reprieve), 1947

  • La mort dans l'Âme (Troubled Sleep, title formerly translated as Iron in the Soul, literally "Death in Spirit"), 1949

  • Morts sans sépulture (Deaths without burial; aka The Victors), 1946

  • L'Existentialisme est un humanisme (Existentialism is a Humanism), 1946

  • La putain respectueuse (The Respectful Prostitute) 1946

  • Qu'est ce que la littérature? (What is literature?), 1947


  • Sartre was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1964, but he declined it.

  • He refused the Legion of Honor awarded him by the government.

  • Participated in the founding of the Rassemblement Democratique Revolutionnaire (RDR), but he later on became disaffected with the group and left it the following year.

  • Served in the French army during World War II.