Go to the Index of 120 Philosophers Squared
Jean-Paul Sartre (1905 – 1980) was a French existentialist philosopher, Marxist, anarchist. Life has no meaning a priori… It is up to you to give it a meaning, and value is nothing but the meaning that you choose.
We must act out passion before we can feel it.
There is no reality except in action.
It is only in our decisions that we are important.
Your judgment judges you and defines you.
His judgment went through me like a sword and questioned my very right to exist. And it was true, I had always realized it; I hadn’t the right to exist.
It was odd, he thought, that a man could hate himself as though he were someone else.
So this is hell. I’d never have believed it. You remember all we were told about the torture-chambers, the fire and brimstone, the “burning marl.” Old wives’ tales! There’s no need for red-hot pokers. Hell is—other people!
Why do you keep maintaining your ideas are right if you can’t prove them?
Like all dreamers, I mistook disenchantment for truth.
The worst part about being lied to is knowing you weren’t worth the truth.
I felt myself in a solitude so frightful that I contemplated suicide. What held me back was the idea that no one, absolutely no one, would be moved by my death, that I would be even more alone in death than in life.
There may be more beautiful times, but this one is ours.
Life has no meaning a priori… It is up to you to give it a meaning, and value is nothing but the meaning that you choose.
To give is to enjoy possessively the object which one gives.
What is important is not what happens to us, but how we respond to what happens to us.
It is senseless to think of complaining since nothing foreign has decided what we feel, what we live, or what we are.
Man is what he wills himself to be.
Man is nothing else but what he makes of himself.
Nothing has changed and yet everything is different.
We do not know what we want and yet we are responsible for what we are – that is the fact.
I carry the weight of the world by myself alone without help, engaged in a world for which I bear the whole responsibility without being able, whatever I do, to tear myself away from this responsibility for an instant.
Man is responsible for his passion.
One always dies too soon — or too late. And yet one’s whole life is complete at that moment, with a line drawn neatly under it, ready for the summing up. You are — your life, and nothing else.
If you’re lonely when you’re alone, you’re in bad company.
He was free, free in every way, free to behave like a fool or a machine, free to accept, free to refuse, free to equivocate; to marry, to give up the game, to drag this death weight about with him for years to come. He could do what he liked, no one had the right to advise him, there would be for him no Good or Evil unless he thought them into being.
The individual’s duty is to do what he wants to do, to think whatever he likes, to be accountable to no one but himself, to challenge every idea and every person.
Man is condemned to be free. Condemned because he did not create himself, yet is nevertheless at liberty, and from the moment he is thrown into this world he is responsible for everything he does.
I am the architect of my own self, my own character and destiny. It is no use whingeing about what I might have been, I am the things I have done and nothing more. We are all free, completely free. We can each do any damn thing we want. Which is more than most of us dare to imagine.
Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.
It helps people to understand that reality alone counts, and that dreams, expectations and hopes only serve to define a man as a broken dream, aborted hopes, and futile expectations.
I am myself and I am here.
The consciousness that says ‘I am’ is not the consciousness that thinks.
I am. I am, I exist, I think, therefore I am; I am because I think, why do I think? I don’t want to think any more, I am because I think that I don’t want to be, I think that I . . . because . . . ugh!
I need the suffering of others to exist. A flame. A flame in their hearts. When I am all alone, I am extinguished.
I want to leave, to go somewhere where I should be really in my place, where I would fit in . . . but my place is nowhere; I am unwanted.
Being is. Being is in-itself. Being is what it is.
Little flashes of sun on the surface of a cold, dark sea.
This moment. It is round, it hangs in empty space like a little diamond; I am eternal.
Life has no meaning, the moment you lose the illusion of being eternal.
I exist, that is all, and I find it nauseating.
The hatred, the disgust of existing, there are as many ways to make myself exist, to thrust myself into existence.
I exist. How serpentine is this feeling of existing, I unwind it, slowly. … If I could keep myself from thinking! I try, and succeed: my head seems to fill with smoke. . . and then it starts again: “Smoke . . . not to think . . . don’t want to think … I think I don’t want to think. I mustn’t think that I don’t want to think. Because that’s still a thought.” Will there never be an end to it?
Thoughts are born at the back of me, like sudden giddiness, I feel them being born behind my head … if I yield, they’re going to come round in front of me, between my eyes— and I always yield, the thought grows and grows and there it is, immense, filling me completely and renewing my existence.
For an occurrence to become an adventure, it is necessary and sufficient for one to recount it.
Now I knew: things are entirely what they appear to be-and behind them… there is nothing.
It is up to you to give meaning.
Words are loaded pistols.
I confused things with their names: that is belief.
Most of the time, because of their failure to fasten on to words, my thoughts remain misty and nebulous. They assume vague, amusing shapes and are then swallowed up: I promptly forget them.
I could never turn back any more than a record can spin
in reverse. And all that was leading me where ?
To this very moment…
Philosophers such as Sartre make a big fuss over Existence preceding Essence or its supposed opposite Essence preceding Existence. This is a meaningless distinction, a play with words; they add up to the same thing, we are here now, and now it is a blend of both. The most popular philosophers of that 1940s era had such an undertone of suicide, homicide and all the other “-cides” that would make a naive modern person hesitate to follow in their path. More than a hundred million people getting killed over their various “ideas” during the 20th century would imply they were thinking some wrong thoughts.
Words are loaded pistols. That’s a potent thought, but it is when they are fired into a person’s head that they become deadly bullets.
I have been watching these philosophers’ opinions on learning, books, philosophizing and other internal things compared to external and public actions. It seems reasonable that the goal of philosophizing, indeed of all life is positive action in the external world. The collecting of ideas, knowledge and wisdom is for the purpose of acting more effectively. Thus when Sartre writes, There is no reality except in action, it appears he is obeying the call of worldly wisdom. Counter to this thought there are an abundance of doubting ones. I felt myself in a solitude so frightful that I contemplated suicide. That is a strange statement for a person who also wrote, Hell is—other people! And then his worst self-condemnation, a condemnation of the whole universe, And it was true, I had always realized it; I hadn’t the right to exist. This note of despair is risen above with statements of bravado and self-proclaimed willpower. Man is what he wills himself to be. But then he reminisces with the thought that all of it is little more than … Little flashes of sun on the surface of a cold, dark sea.