Lectures: Sartre

I. Philosophy in the 18th and 19th Centuries

A. In England and France, after the mid 18th century, the focus was not so much on metaphysics and epistemology, but ethics and political philosophy

B. Germany became the focal point of metaphysics and epistemology

1. This is especially due to the work of Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), perhaps the most important philosopher since Descartes

2. Followers of Kant form of movement called "German Idealism"

II. The Road to Existentialism

A. Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), danish philosopher

B. Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), German/Swiss philosopher

C. The birth of phenomenology under Czech-German philosopher Edmund Husserl (1859-1938)

D. Martin Heidegger (1889-1978): existential phenomenology

D. Other figures (Many of them literary): Dostoyevsky, Kafka, Jaspers, Marcel, Camus, Merleu-Ponty, Ricoeur, De Beauvoir, etc.

III. Sartre's Life

IV. The book

Your text, Existentialism and Human Emotions, can be seen as divided into two parts, one long essay and bunch of smaller pieces at the end. The longer essay entitled just "Existentialism" in book is actually a translation of an essay Sartre wrote in 1947 originally published as "Existentialism is a Humanism". The remainings parts are excerpts from Being and Nothingness , Sartre's masterpiece, written in the early 40's.

You'll probably find the stuff towards the end of the book more difficult to read. Being and Nothingness was meant as a very technical exposition of a very complex and interwoven philosophical system, and it was not meant to be understood by someone who was not already familiar with the work of people like Husserl and Heidegger. The first essay however was an attempt to explain existentialism to a wider audience and to try to clear up some misconceptions that the general public had about it. Hopefully it will be easier, if not altogether easy, to read. In it, Sartre is mainly concerned with countering some objections to existentialism. We'll get around to talking about them, but first I want to get some aspects of Sartre's basic view on the table.

V. The Basics of Sartre's Ontology and the Definition of Existentialism

A. Cartesian starting point

B. The difference between being-in-itself (être-en-soi) and being-for-itself (être-pour-soi)

These are the two major kinds of things in Sartre's metaphysics. The difference between the two is explained in temporal terms.

1. For being-in-itself, "essence precedes existence"

2. Sartre argues that people like Descartes must think of humans this way

3. Sartre suggests that the definition of an existentialist is someone who believes on the contrary that for humans, "existence precedes essence"--this is what it is to constitute being-for-itself

4.Being-for-itself is a particular way of being in time, a way of having an essence in which what we are is determined by our future, by "hurling ourselves" into or imagining oursleves in the future

VI. Modes of Being

A. Preliminary Remarks

B. Basic definitions

C. Anguish (also translated as "Anxiety" or "Angst")

D. Forlornness (also translated as "abandonment")

E. Despair

F. Shame

VII. Bad Faith

VIII. Objections Raised Against Existentialism

A. Quietism

B. Isolation

C. Leads to Pure Caprice

D. Anti-Humanism

IX. Consciousness as Nothingness

X. Consciousness in a Situation

XI. For-itself and Value

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