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Being and Nothingness: An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology (Routledge Classics) [Paperback]

Jean-Paul Sartre
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
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Book Description

28 Aug 2003 Routledge Classics
Being and Nothingness is without doubt one of the most significant books of the twentieth century. The central work by one of the world's most influential thinkers, it altered the course of western philosophy. Its revolutionary approach challenged all previous assumptions about the individual's relationship with the world. Known as 'the Bible of existentialism', its impact on culture and literature was immediate and was felt worldwide, from the absurd drama of Samuel Beckett to the soul-searching cries of the Beat poets.
Being and Nothingness is one of those rare books whose influence has affected the mind-set of subsequent generations. Sixty years after its first publication, its message remains as potent as ever - challenging the reader to confront the fundamental dilemmas of human freedom, responsibility and action.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 688 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 2 edition (28 Aug 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415278481
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415278485
  • Product Dimensions: 13.9 x 21.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 70,847 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


'A fascinating and intriguing work providing a full-blown metaphysic backed by, and at the same time providing the basis for, a complete theory of man' - Times Literary Supplement

About the Author

Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-80). The foremost French thinker and writer of the early post-war years. His books have exerted enormous influence in philosophy, literature, art and politics.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
103 of 109 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A long haul, but brilliant 1 May 2005
Probably the best description of what this book is about comes from the subtitle, 'An essay on phenomenological ontology'- its a thorough analysis of the nature of existence from the point of view of human consciousness. Sartre begins with our most basic knowledge and works his way up to the complexities of human relationships, leaving nothing out. The first Part (of four) of the book centres around the two fundamental components of consciousness. Being is what we are aware of as existing; and Nothingness signifies any kind of negation, such as what we identify as missing, or even the giving of boundaries to an object. Consciousness is shown to be the agency responsible for introducing nothingness into the world: it is we who decide where the boundaries lie or who notice a component missing from the whole. Hence Sartre distinguishes two species of being: in-itself, i.e. a fixed, definable object in the normal understanding of the word; and for-itself, something with free will and which, therefore, is constantly moving beyond what it is was towards something new. Part II deals in-depth with the for-itself, Parts III & IV move on to relationships between for-itselves. One of the other reviews condemns Sartre for lack of argument. In fact, there is nothing to argue for, this book is a description, Sartre regards knowledge derived from closer scrutiny of the subject matter as superior to that elicited by chain of reason. Actually, the misunderstanding here is fundamental, and boils down to the conflict between the analytic and continental schools of philosophy.

This book is anti-religious, anti-scientific and anti-analytic. These three facts are the reason for a lot of general abuse that is hurled at the book, Sartre, and continental philosophy as a whole.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Now.....where was I? 15 Aug 2011
By Dr. Delvis Memphistopheles TOP 100 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Written in that obtuse verabage beloved of philosophers this when stripped to its essence creates a whirlwind of ideas when finally laid on the table. "Bad Faith" is the pressure to act within an alienated role, something that exists as an alien concept imposed from without. Meanwhile few people achieve the being for itself, a rejection of all imposed values as someone who creates the world around them rather than is created by the structures.

This book is based on Marx's theory of alienation as much as it is Kierkergaard or Heidegger. It aims to find the essence of "I" by a philosophical dig to recover the self. Similar to Stirner in many respects as it eradicates all outside meaning and looks for the truth within. It dissolves god, morality and the other structures and then tries to rebuild a social world from an inner core.

An important project within therapy. I doubt few but the bravest of soul can read this in one sitting. It is a book I dip in and out over the years. A few pages in one sitting before the mind wanders, not through boredome but trying to concretise the pictures in the mind of what is being said. Then it is a drift into a reverie as images flash by.

Therefore it achieves its purpose as a stimulation to change rather than providing a programme.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
By calmly
Sartre builds up a big, abstract, speculative system, apparently as a framework for his belief in human freedom, choice, and responsibility. What does this construction accomplish that simple assertions wouldn't of our freedom, our not being determined, our defining ourself via our yet-to-be-accomplished projects, our responsibility rooted in our unavoidable need to make choices? Perhaps both emphasis (you'll be less likely to forget you are free), elaboration (you'll learn more what being free as well as trying not to be implies), and examples (you'll learn more of the ways in which people try to avoid the weight of their freedom).

Even if the experts tell you they have you all figured out, you'll have decide whether to buy that or not. Even if you want to be all figured out and delivered from uncertainty, they (and you) may be wrong. If Sartre only argued for our individual freedoms, he wouldn't be so important. It is in his exploration of the ways in which we cringe from our freedom, of our "bad faith", that he connects and makes what seems a speculative, abstract system instead a powerful emotional truth.

If all this philosophy has captured you, Satre's novels and plays are no less powerful in presenting his themes: the novel "Nausea", the 3-volume "The Roads to Freedom", the play "No Exit", and more. Or if "Being and Nothingness" seems a bit much, try "Existential Psychoanalysis" which consists of two more grounded excerpts from "Being and Nothingness".
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28 of 34 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Parts of this book deserve 5 stars. Much of what Sartre has to say in it is cuttingly insightful, indeed life-changing. His writing is lucid (perhaps too lucid for philosophy - this was Merleau-Ponty's opinion) and the book is a great read. But underlying everything, with huge passages directed exclusively to it, is Sartre's own ontology, mish-mash of Descartes (via Husserl), Hegel and Heidegger, which falls well short of Heidegger's own subtlety. This has led to a certain contempt among serious continental philosophers for Sartre's work. Ironically, for all that, he has had an obvious powerful influence on many of them. This is not a book to be ignored by ANYONE.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars a book to be apprehended not comprehended
This work seems to deliberately evade definition...definiteness..as such demands a response from the whole body not merely the mind. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Julian Ingham
1.0 out of 5 stars Beware of the accent
This audio book is read by a woman with a thick American accent which some British listeners may find distracting. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Mr. Adrian Searle
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
As an accompanying piece to RDLangs divided Self it helps set a lot of things in perspective, a great read
Published 17 months ago by betenoir
5.0 out of 5 stars Best edition of this work available in English.
Again, the best edition of this work available in English, the Barnes translation unabridged.

So far as format is concerned, best paperback binding that I know off, far... Read more
Published 20 months ago by Michael P. Moran
5.0 out of 5 stars Everything as expected
I just bought this amazing book with great price and the service shows very good. Keep up with the good work.
Published on 3 Aug 2012 by Joćo Miguel Sousa
5.0 out of 5 stars Good book. Very impressed
Good book. Very impressed. Many thanks
Published on 12 Jun 2012 by Phil
5.0 out of 5 stars Sartre
The book came in perfect condition, and without a mark on it- something that hasn't always happened with me from Amazon. Read more
Published on 19 April 2012 by Miss Alex
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Delivery time was good; quality of product was excellent! Now lets just see if I have time to read it!
Published on 29 Mar 2011 by L. Bell
3.0 out of 5 stars To be . . . or not to be, that is the question
Being and Nothingness by Jean-Paul Sartre, 1943; translated by Hazel E. Barnes, Methuen, London, 1958; Routledge, London, 2003, 688 ff.

To be . . . Read more
Published on 26 Nov 2010 by Dr. H. A. Jones
4.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly fresh and re-readable. A bargain.
I have to admit that I was astonished to find myself reading and enjoying this book after a gap of more that 20 years. Read more
Published on 28 Sep 2009 by windwheel
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