Reading Sartre: On Phenomenology and Existentialism

Reading Sartre: On Phenomenology and Existentialism

Reading Sartre: On Phenomenology and Existentialism

Reading Sartre: On Phenomenology and Existentialism


Jean-Paul Sartre was one of the most influential philosophers of the twentieth century. The fourteen original essays in this volume focus on the phenomenological and existentialist writings of the first major phase of his published career, arguing with scholarly precision for their continuing importance to philosophical debate.

Aspects of Sartre's philosophy under discussion in this volume include:

  • consciousness and self-consciousness
  • imagination and aesthetic experience
  • emotions and other feelings
  • embodiment
  • selfhood and the Other
  • freedom, bad faith, and authenticity
  • literary fiction as philosophical writing

Reading Sartre: on Phenomenology and Existentialism is an indispensable resource for understanding the nature and importance of Sartre's philosophy. It is essential reading for students of phenomenology, existentialism, ethics, or aesthetics, and for anyone interested in the roots of contemporary thought in twentieth century philosophy.


Reading Sartre is no easy task. Although much of his substantial oeuvre is characterised by a brisk lucidity, his philosophical writings tend to involve dense, entangled, abstruse passages at crucial moments and the gradual development of his own idiosyncratic terminology as he struggles to articulate his comprehensive and systematic account of our existence in all of its dimensions. Yet these writings have proved fertile ground for readers with a wide range of theoretical interests, yielding valuable insights and perspectives in return for exegetical and argumentative labour. This is especially true of his philosophical output of the 1930s and 1940s, his most clearly phenomenological and existentialist works which form the basis of the rest of his career. Part of the aim of this book is to provide a snapshot of current scholarly engagement with these works and the contribution this is making to various discussions and debates. In so doing, it documents inevitable interpretive disagreements among those currently working with Sartre alongside much agreement across their diverse intellectual styles and commitments.

The contributions to this book range across the breadth of Sartre’s philosophical concerns in the first decade or so of his published career, including the nature of mind and its relation to the rest of reality, the ways in which we understand ourselves and one another, the moral and political dimensions of interpersonal interaction, the nature of communication and aesthetic experience, and the nature of philosophy itself. Sartre’s thoughts on these topics are deeply interwoven to form a single fabric. As a result, they run through this book in such a way that the chapters cannot be categorised under general headings without breaking many of the threads that hold the book together and thereby misrepresenting Sartre’s thought as a mosaic of distinct ideas. This is why the chapters have been arranged by alphabetical order of author, an editorial decision that might at first seem simply lazy but is rather aimed at presenting a fair portrait of his work in this period and encouraging the various currents of contemporary thought represented here to influence and benefit from one another.

This book is the culmination of a series of workshops held at Cardiff University and the Institute of Philosophy in London during the summer . . .

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