Das Sein und das Nichts : Versuch einer phänomenologischen Ontologie : Philosophische Schriften Band 3

by Jean-Paul Sartre

Other authorsTraugott König (Translator), Hans Schöneberg (Translator)
Paperback, 1993



Call number

CI 6200 R884-3



Reinbek bei Hamburg : Rowohlt


"First published in French in 1943 Jean-Paul Sartre's L'tre et le Nant is one of the greatest philosophical works of the twentieth century. In it, Sartre offers nothing less than a brilliant and radical account of the human condition. The English philosopher and novelist Iris Murdoch wrote to a friend of "the excitement - I remember nothing like it since the days of discovering Keats and Shelley and Coleridge". What gives our lives significance, Sartre argues in Being and Nothingness, is not pre-established for us by God or nature but is something for which we ourselves are responsible. Combining this with the unsettling view that human existence is characterized by radical freedom and the inescapability of choice, Sartre introduces us to a cast of ideas and characters that are part of philosophical legend: anguish; the 'bad faith' of the memorable waiter in the caf; sexual desire; and the 'look' of the other, brought to life by Sartre's famous description of someone looking through a keyhole. Above all, by arguing that we alone create our values and that human relationships are characterized by hopeless conflict, Sartre paints a stark and controversial picture of our moral universe and one that resonates strongly today. This new translation includes a helpful Translator's Introduction, notes on the translation, a comprehensive index and a foreword by Richard Moran."--Book jacket.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member tkhanson
A long, hard slog. Much of the book is pretty opaque, though I remember the last third or so as having some very interesting insights. I especially liked the penultimate section, "Doing and Having", where he outlines his concept of existential psychoanalysis.
LibraryThing member WalkerMedia
I am friendly to an existentialist approach to life, so I began reading this book. Twice. Neither time did I get very far. It's simply not written very well. Everything I have read about Sartre's philosophy seems to point to insight on his part, but he doesn't seem to care very much about engaging
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the reader. Perhaps he is nauseated at the idea of putting effort in that direction? I will try again on this one, I'm sure, when I have an excess of will and energy. Just not soon.
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LibraryThing member sfisk
Re- read a few years ago

Very good, deep and slow reading, but worth it
LibraryThing member simondavies
All you could ever want to know about Sartre's thoughts on phenomenology and existentialism. Dictionary and Paracetemol handy extras.
LibraryThing member glitwack
Sixteen good pages in an 800 page bag. Read On Escape by Lévinas first or instead. Still, a cultural classic.
LibraryThing member P_S_Patrick
Here, Sartre follows in the tradition set by Kant, for Professors of Philosophy to set their philosophical systems forth in expansive and difficult works.
Being and Nothingness is 800 pages, and provides an existentialist theory of the self, others, freedom, time, ethics, and psychoanalysis.
In some
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places, this reads like a solvent poured upon a worn varnished surface, revealing the underlying truth of human being in splendid clarity. But more often than not, the meaning is obscure and the writing opaque.
Many of the statements seem to violate the law of non-contradiction, and it seems that Sartre has written it this way to give it the air of profundity that these contradictions seem to gain in mystic circles, or among those pretending to understand something they do not. However, if one perseveres, things can be usually reconciled with logic, if we understand these contradictory properties as being held at different times, or in different senses. What Sartre really means though is left to some extent to the guess work of the reader, and could be written in plainer and less ambiguous terms.

The two main concepts integral to this work are "being-in-itself" (borrowed from Heidegger), and "being-for-itself". The former is described as "being what it is" (and corresponds to the physical and unconscious part of us (though the existence of the unconscious is denied)), and the latter being described as "not being what it is, and being what it is not" (and corresponds to the conscious). It is around these two aspects of the self that whole work revolves.
Another recurring concept is the "figure and ground" of Gestalt psychology, which is used in conjunction with a variety of ideas. Unlike the concepts of "being-in-itself" and "being-for-itself", this serves as an aid to understanding things intuitively.

What then are the "Being and Nothingness" of which the title consists? The answer to this is not a single answer, as various things are stated as being and nothingness. The first answer appears to be that the material part of us "being-in-itself", is the being, while the consciousness "being-for-itself" is the nothingness. The appparent contradictions in this are presumably intentional, and, I think only apparent. A second sense in which the world is "Being and Nothingness" is identified in time. The instant itself is a temporal nothingess, due to its lack of temporal extension, while the measurable duration of time is being, due to its temporal extension. This of course has implications for human existence, and consciousness, as thought and ideas are processes that exist in the human mind with temporal extension, and not as point-like instants. Secondly, matter exists in the extension of time, with the revolving of electrons around their spheres and the effect of the exclusion principle, but in the temporal instant has no such materiality properties. Much of the profundity of this work is achieved by rewording quite obvious things like this so that they appear to be paradoxes. This isn't to say that the work is useless though, as it provokes thought and provides new vantage points on existence, however this could be done with plainer verbiage and in far fewer pages.

Among the influences that can be seen in this work are Henri Bergson, from whom Satre's upsurge of being seems to inspired, Heidegger (whose Being and Time Sartre's system builds upon), Freud, and variety of other thinkers.

I would not recommend this work as an introduction to Existentialism, due to its inaccessibility – Camus's essay on the Myth of Sisyphus would be more suitable for this purpose. However, for those with a sufficient interest in Existentialism to tolerate long, predominantly dry, systematical works, this book would be suitable. Before emabarking on this endeavour though, it would be worth noting that Sartre abandoned this system soon after composing it.
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