In This Article Jean-Paul Sartre

  • Introduction

Philosophy Jean-Paul Sartre
by
Christian Skirke
  • LAST REVIEWED: 08 October 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 April 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0192

Introduction

Jean-Paul Sartre (b. 1905–d. 1980) was one of the most influential public intellectuals of the 20th century, and one of the very few philosophers to share this distinction. It was not primarily his philosophy that had earned him public prominence. Sartre was a prolific writer of short stories, novels, and plays as well as the author of numerous pieces of political journalism. His wide-ranging oeuvre played a seminal role, from the 1940s onwards, in anchoring existentialism in French culture and popularizing it beyond France. The diversity of his interests and engagements, as well as the variety of means of articulation he employed, explains why the scholarly literature on Sartre is vast. This bibliography focuses on Sartre’s philosophical oeuvre, with occasional reference to literature and politics. It is customary to distinguish between two phases of Sartre’s philosophy. In his early philosophical works, Sartre develops his own existential philosophy out of Husserl’s phenomenology and Heidegger’s fundamental ontology. This development starts with Transcendence of the Ego (TE) and culminates in his philosophical masterpiece, Being and Nothingness (BN). Later on, Sartre abandons his early, individualistic, existentialism for a historically informed perspective. His later position is in close dialogue with Marxist ideas, presented in Critique of Dialectical Reason (CDR). By and large, this entry follows exegetical conventions, and distinguishes between Sartre’s early and later phases. Philosophical commentary and critique has traditionally focused on Sartre’s early phase. This is why most sections in this bibliography feature material addressing his works up to and including BN. Current philosophical debates about Sartre make this trend even stronger. They often reflect the remarkable renaissance of phenomenology since the late 20th century, especially in the philosophy of mind and philosophy of action. As a consequence, there is renewed interest in Sartre’s non-egological conception of consciousness and self-consciousness, his account of emotions, his controversial views on self-deception, his famous and equally controversial treatment of the topic of others. Owing to Sartre’s nonacademic style and bold revisionism, established readings even of his most important works are a rather recent phenomenon, and do not reach beyond BN. This is partly because defending or criticizing Sartre’s later attempts, in CDR, to fuse existentialism with Marxism is much less urgent today than at Sartre’s time of writing. Indeed, the heated debates about Sartre’s existentialism during his lifetime have left no legacy. Rather, the polemics surrounding his work seem to have delayed the philosophical reception of Sartre’s philosophy. Perhaps it is this delay that accounts for the peculiar fact that the majority of titles assembled in this bibliography engage directly with his work and not much with each other. Unavoidably, this affects the sense of cohesion between some of the discussions featured in this entry.

General Overviews

This section lists works on Sartre’s philosophy as a whole. The rubric Reference Books contains bibliographies and glossaries. The rubric Anthologies features collections of scholarly articles that present an authoritative picture of Sartre’s philosophy as a whole or address central systematic issues in Sartre’s philosophy.

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