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Existentialism Is a Humanism

by Jean Paul Sartre

ISBN 0300115466 / 9780300115468 / 0-300-11546-6
Publisher Yale University Press
Language English
Edition Softcover
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Book summary

This book presents a new English translation of two seminal works by Jean-Paul Sartre, the most dominant European intellectual of the post-World War II decades. The volume includes Sartres 1945 lecture Existentialism Is a Humanism and his analysis of Camuss The Stranger, along with a discussion of these works by acclaimed Sartre biographer Annie Cohen-Solal. This edition is a translation of the 1996 French edition, which includes Arlette Elkaïm-Sartres introduction and a Q&A with Sartre about his lecture. In her foreword, intended for an American audience, acclaimed Sartre biographer Annie Cohen-Solal offers an assessment of both works.

It was to correct common misconceptions about his thought that Sartre accepted an invitation to speak on October 29, 1945, at the Club Maintenant in Paris. The unstated objective of his lecture (Existentialism Is a Humanism) was to expound his philosophy as a form of existentialism, a term much bandied about at the time. Sartre asserted that existentialism was essentially a doctrine for philosophers, though, ironically, he was about to make it accessible to a general audience. The published text of his lecture quickly became one of the bibles of existentialism and made Sartre an international celebrity.
The idea of freedom occupies the center of Sartres doctrine. Man, born into an empty, godless universe, is nothing to begin with. He creates his essencehis self, his beingthrough the choices he freely makes (existence precedes essence). Were it not for the contingency of his death, he would never end. Choosing to be this or that is to affirm the value of what we choose. In choosing, therefore, we commit not only ourselves but all of mankind.
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