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This book will either make you want to read more about existentialism or it will lead you into making quite the opposite choice by leaving existentialism to others possibly more patient than yourself though not necessarily more intelligent.
Whatever your choice you will nonetheless be making a choice even if that choice is not to make a choice.
Or as Sartre would put it, in a far more philosophical manner, you can always choose but you must know that even if you do not choose that would still be a choice. For what is not possible is not to choose.
This is the first book I have read about existentialism so I cannot judge whether it is a good introduction to this philosophical movement yet the very fact that the purpose of the lecture delivered by Sartre is to offer a defence of existentialism against certain reproaches laid against it, seems by itself to shape the content of the lecture into an attempt by necessity to capture the essence of existentialism. In particular, in relation to the reactions existentialism has provoked.
There are certain key ideas that are very plainly put across to the reader which may well capture one's attention and actually lead to a further exploration of other books about existentialism.
For example, Sartre after referring to the two kinds of existentialists that there are and declaring that he is a representative of atheistic existentialism explains that if God does not exist there is at least one being whose existence comes before its essence, that is to say a being which exists before it can be defined by any conception of it.
That being, of course, is man.
Thus, existence precedes essence. Man first exists and then defines himself.
Basically, in conclusion to his reference to atheistic existentialism, Sartre adds that the first principle of existentialism is that man is nothing else but that which he makes of himself. Not as what he conceives himself to be after already existing but that which he wills himself to be subsequent to a necessary leap towards existence. Basically, man only attains existence when he is what he purposes to be. Whereas, before that projection of the self, nothing exists.
Doubtless this first principle of existentialism gave rise to a reproach against the subjectivity of existentialism. Other ideas and terms used are also examined always with reference made to the particular reproaches Sartre has to answer in relation to such ideas and terms.
All in all, he makes out quite a solid and intelligible defence of existentialism as he explains that the first effect of existentialism is to put every man in possession of himself with the entire responsibility of his existence being placed on his shoulders.
The emphasis in the doctrine presented by Sartre is that there is no reality except in action. Man is described as nothing else but what he purposes with his existence being attained only in so far as he realizes himself. Man is therefore, nothing else but the sum of his actions.
He clarifies further this basic idea by stating - rather poetically in fact - that for the existentialist (though also in reality) there is no love apart from the deeds of love, no potentiality of love other than that which is manifested in loving and no genius other than that which is expressed in works of art.
Throughout the lecture the basic theme delivered by Sartre is that reality alone is reliable and dreams, expectations and hopes serve only to define man negatively and not positively since man is nothing else but what he lives.
One can easily understand how a basic idea such as this could give rise to a reproach for the pessimism of existentialism. Yet, Sartre manages to turn around this reproach and to declare that what people reproach existentialists with is not their pessimism but the sternness of their optimism.
As to the structure of the book, this is divided into three parts each of which can be enjoyed in its own right even though the parts are actually interrelated. First, there is a rather helpful introduction, then the lecture itself and finally the actual discussion that followed the lecture.
An additional benefit to the newcomer to the study of existentialism is the slimness of the book. This means the entire book or any part of it can easily be read time and time again. No doubt each fresh reading will be to the advantage of the reader as it will add to his understanding of the ideas expressed while simultaneously increasing his appreciation of the manner of their expression.
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on 10 October 2014
Having read, and been intrigued by, several 'Existentialist' novels over the years, I decided finally to try and achieve a greater understanding of the subject. I must say that I found this book to be a fascinating read. It's divided into 3 parts: an introduction by translator Philip Mairet, followed by the transcribed lecture on Existentialism & Humanism given by Sartre, then lastly a brief Q&A section allowing detractors of the philosophy to voice their opinions. Despite Sartre's sporadic references to the likes of Kierkegaard, Kant, Descartes and Gide (none of whom I'm particularly familiar with) I found this book surprisingly easy-going. It's a fairly slim publication to begin with, so there's not too much to digest in one go, and I was actually able to dip in and out of it without having a problem re-grasping the thread as it were. It's a decent translation too, which helps. I thought Sartre defended Existentialism very well and this book has encouraged me to purchase further related literature. Recommended.
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on 3 December 1999
Here, Sartre explores the concept that God does not exist, thus we must face the consequences. He appears to paint a bleak picture, God's non existence means we must take full responibility for our actions. We are on our own in the world, we must comprehend what this fully means. Though, he does not advocate the school of thought which claims that God is dead so everything is permitted. We must always act and consider our values, quieitism is never a valid option. We must always act and from this freedom of action, Sartre claims his doctrine is one of optimism. This book is not very well written, largely due to the fat it was a lecture transcript though all his prevailent ideas are there. All in all, it is a very thought provoking read which advocates the value and worthiness of human beings.
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Takes his ideas from Nietzsche, Stirner and Adler to mix together to launch existentialism - a creed identified with his name and indelibly French but its roots are German or Austrian. This is an easy read and easy to comprehend. The intro takes you though a tour of Kirkegaard, Jaspers, Heidegger all easily digested after reading Wiki to get a snapshot for any newcomer.

Then it is Sartre delivering a 1946 lecture straight after the French had stopped collaborating with the Nazis to talk about freedom of being able to choose. Existentialism throws down a challenge to all over belief systems such as science, religion, communism, fascism, capitalism etc because Sartre drawing on Nietzsche's Truth and Lies in the Extra Moral Sense - states there is nothing but belief and those human connections you make along the way. Whilst Nietzsche hovers over a nihilistic power to self obliterate, Sartre offers hope. Many have not been able to comprehend the full blast of what he offers, still disinvesting themselves and believing that there is an essence which exists beyond human existence but it would be very hard to prove the world exists independently of our belief in it. Not that it can be wished away either - this is part of the human conundrum.

Human beings are trapped within themselves and their sense of time, connection and mind all take shape within communities who each believe they are the centre of the universe. Sartre takes this notion that they are embodied and asks how are you going to enact your will? By operating it over other people or in connection with others - this is the question.

In effect he debunks much of the behavioural psychology which people wish to believe in by positing the myriad possiblilies of being alive and the multiple choices people have. However if people do not make choices, this is not down to their badness, but down to their bad faith about themselves - lacking a sense of belief they deflate into nihilism and believe their life is not worth living. Sartre however states when people do that, it is because they have lost their elan and will - echoing Viktor Frankl's ideas about how the vision draws people to it. Instead of trying to describe people as fixed entities based upon pseudo scientific labels, existentialism looks at the world from the opposite spectrum - what makes life meaningful and worth living?

This is why it operates as a powerful force for biophilia.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 23 October 2015
The ideal short introduction to Existentialism, Sartre introduces its key themes and answers to common criticisms, FAQs really. One crucial feature is that humans have no essence: we are what we are thanks to the choices we make and those we cannot avoid, since even passivity is a choice. It is our fate, as existent beings made by our choosing, to make our own essence, "existence before essence"; we have no inherent nature, we make it. Also, Sartre distinguishes what might be called subjects and objects: the former are exemplary "beings FOR themselves" the latter are "beings IN themselves", so we have the dizzying sense well captured in his brilliant first novel, 'Nausea', of a sickness constitutive of our lives, free to choose, all of life made from the choices we make and the existence we have which then is our essence, it is created. Clearly Sartre was used to objections, Communists though this philosophy too individualistic, many thought it too bleak, the Church that it was arbitrary, irresponsible (assuredly not in the Sartrean sense: he was notably engage while recognising we are de trop, gratuitous, 'useless'). In answering these common objections the main themes are clarified, the individuality is us and we make ourselves[ the world is not bleak it is all there is; and as for Existentialism being arbitrary, it is a brute fact that we make of our lives through a choice we must embrace.
An ideal complement to 'Nausea' and giving a flavour of the movement, 'Six Existentialist Thinkers' by H.J. Blackham, is a tricky but profound introduction comprising Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre, Marcel and others that is an exciting, rich read enabling you to learn about other versions of a once fashionable philosophical school perennially attractive especially to the young.
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on 2 October 2013
if you are a beginner like myself, this book can be a good start. The book itself is actually a speech delivered in Paris in 1945. Its language is very clear and readable. The basic concepts of existentialism and the criticisms leveled at this doctrine are expressed in a lucid way.

The book consists of three sections. The first 20 page is introduction by Philip Mairet. The introduction provides readers with some backgrounds about existentialism, which i believe does a good job. The second section, from 23 to 70 pages, Sartre lays out the basic concepts of existentialism and differentiates atheist existentialism (advocated by Sartre, Heidegger etc) and religious existentialism ( advocated by Kierkegaard and Karl Jasper etc). In this section, Sartre also addresses to the major criticisms leveled at his philosophy. The final chapter, from 71 to 95 pages, is basically the Question&Answer section after the speech,some people ask questions to Sartre to clarify his position further. Apart from the last 15 pages, it is not difficult the follow the book. But in this section, the discussion between Sartre and a guy called M Naville is getting more and more abstract and make that part of the book hard to comprehend.

My overall impression is that it is a good beginning both to Sartre and Existentialism. Particularly when we consider how difficult the topic is, it is fair to say that Sartre did a good job in his plain style.
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on 23 April 2012
Great quality book - a classic philosophical lecture that is not too long! Introduction provides a context for the basis of the lecture.
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on 9 April 2015
Book arrived in good time, well packaged and in excellent condition. I expect no less from the Book Depository! As to the content of the book that is excellent too. I'm still digesting what I read, but I'm glad I chose a short explanation of Existentialism and I am fairly certain that I got the gist.

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on 15 August 2016
Sartre... excellent work and notes. Some great key pointers on existentialist thought and thoughts on reality.
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on 6 January 2010
Each Existential Philosopher has different ideas and consequently writes differently. I needed a book to help with my course work and as a feel drawn to Sartra, I picked this one. It was very helpful, easy to read and understand. It is one book that I will find the time to read all the through.(unlike some others!)
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