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Existentialism Is a Humanism - Sartre, Jean Paul; Macomber, Carol; Cohen-Solal, Annie; Elka´m-Sartre, Arlette; Borchardt, Danuta - Yale University Press
Philosophy
Literary Studies

Existentialism Is a Humanism

  • Jean-Paul Sartre; Introduction by Annie Cohen-Solal; Preface and Notes by Arlette Elka´m-Sartre
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Selected as a 2008 AAUP University Press Book for Public and Secondary School Libraries.

It was to correct common misconceptions about his thought that Jean-Paul Sartre, the most dominent European intellectual of the post-World War II decades, 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 Sartre’s doctrine. Man, born into an empty, godless universe, is nothing to begin with. He creates his essence—his self, his being—through 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.

This book presents a new English translation of  Sartre’s 1945 lecture  and his analysis of Camus’s 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-Sartre’s introduction and a Q&A with Sartre about his lecture.

Philosopher, playwright, and novelist Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980) was the most dominant European intellectual for the three decades following World War II. In 1964, he was awarded but declined the Nobel Prize in Literature. Annie Cohen-Solal is the author of the acclaimed Sartre: A Life, an international best-seller that has been translated into sixteen languages.

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