Jean-Paul Sartre

Jean-Paul Sartre

Jean-Paul Sartre

Jean-Paul Sartre


A critical figure in twentieth-century literature and philosophy, Jean-Paul Sartre changed the course of critical thought, and claimed a new, important role for the intellectual.

Christine Daigle sets Sartre's thought in context, and considers a number of key ideas in detail, charting their impact and continuing influence, including:

  • Sartre's theories of consciousness, being and freedom as outlined in Being and Nothingness and other texts
  • the ethics of authenticity and absolute responsibility
  • concrete relations, sexual relationships and gender difference, focusing on the significance of the alienating look of the Other
  • the social and political role of the author
  • the legacy of Sartre's theories and their relationship to structuralism and philosophy of mind.

Introducing both literary and philosophical texts by Sartre, this volume makes Sartre's ideas newly accessible to students of literary and cultural studies as well as to students of continental philosophy and French.


Sartre’s existentialism rests upon a theoretical view of consciousness that is crucial to understand. “Human subjectivity is our starting point,” says Sartre, and this subjectivity is to be conceived in a way that differs from classical rationalist views such as Descartes’. Where Descartes uncovered his first truth via the experience of the cogito, “I think, therefore I am,” Sartre digs further down in the depths of subjectivity and uncovers a multi-layered consciousness for which the cogito is just one facet. An important factor that led Sartre on this path was his discovery of the German phenomenological movement.


Sartre has acknowledged the influence of Descartes on his own approach
to philosophy. In his Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Phi
, Descartes sought a way to obtain certain absolute truths in order
to provide himself with an unshakable foundation for future knowledge.
Dismissing any idea that appeared unclear or questionable, he arrived at
the one fundamental truth that he could not possibly reject or doubt:
cogito, ergo sum” (or “I think, therefore I am”). This first truth—that he
exists as a thinking substance—served as a basis to admit other truths
and build his knowledge. This is deemed to be a rationalist view insofar

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