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Being and Nothingness [Paperback]

Jean-Paul Sartre , Hazel E. Barnes
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 1, 1993 0671867806 978-0671867805 Reprint
Born in Paris in 1905, Sartre was a professor of philosophy when he joined the French Army at the outbreak of World War II. Captured by the Germans, he was released, after nearly a year, in 1941. He immediately joined the French resistance as a journalist. In the postwar era Jean-Paul Sartre - philosopher, critic, novelist, and dramatist - became one of the most influential men of this century. He died in Paris in 1980.

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Being and Nothingness + Existentialism Is a Humanism + The Ethics Of Ambiguity
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Editorial Reviews Review

Jean-Paul Sartre, the seminal smarty-pants of mid-century thinking, launched the existentialist fleet with the publication of Being and Nothingness in 1943. Though the book is thick, dense, and unfriendly to careless readers, it is indispensable to those interested in the philosophy of consciousness and free will. Some of his arguments are fallacious, others are unclear, but for the most part Sartre's thoughts penetrate deeply into fundamental philosophical territory. Basing his conception of self-consciousness loosely on Heidegger's "being," Sartre proceeds to sharply delineate between conscious actions ("for themselves") and unconscious ("in themselves"). It is a conscious choice, he claims, to live one's life "authentically" and in a unified fashion, or not--this is the fundamental freedom of our lives.

Drawing on history and his own rich imagination for examples, Sartre offers compelling supplements to his more formal arguments. The waiter who detaches himself from his job-role sticks in the reader's memory with greater tenacity than the lengthy discussion of inauthentic life and serves to bring the full force of the argument to life. Even if you're not an angst-addicted poet from North Beach, Being and Nothingness offers you a deep conversation with a brilliant mind--unfortunately, a rare find these days. --Rob Lightner


"There can be no doubt that this is a philosophy to be reckoned with, both for its own intrinsic power and as a profound symptom of our time." (The New York Times)

Product Details

  • Paperback: 864 pages
  • Publisher: Washington Square Press; Reprint edition (August 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671867806
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671867805
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.3 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,968 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Novelist, playwright, and biographer Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-80) is widely considered one of the greatest philosophers of the twentieth century. His major works include "No Exit," "Nausea," "The Wall," "The Age of Reason," "Critique of Dialectical Reason," "Being and Nothingness," and "Roads to Freedom," an allegory of man's search for commitment, and not, as the man at the off-licence says, an everyday story of French country folk.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
182 of 183 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy the ugly white cover, not the orange one. July 10, 2004
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Not because the white one is better. They are the same translation. The orange one is ABRIDGED, which is mentioned nowhere on this website, as if the two books are the same.
They don't even have the same publisher.
Trust me: unless you can find the 1956 edition from the Philosophical Library, buy the white version from Washington Square Press. The Citadel Press edition is abridged and more expensive. Even if it has a nicer looking cover, don't buy it.
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52 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review from a layman June 30, 1999
By A Customer
If you are just getting your feet wet in ontology then this book will be very challenging and often frustrating. As you slowly become accustomed to the terminology and basic ontological concepts, the book becomes more and more readable and enjoyable. If you ever felt you were all alone in your existential dilemmas, then this book will provide great comfort. Everything is here in this book if you are willing to take the time. Contrary to an earlier review, this book makes perfect sence and every concept is backed up with logical analysis. Sartre is very good about providing clear and concise examples to all of his concepts. This is not a philosphical treatise on ethics so it is hard to understand why an earlier review labeled it as dogmatic (that person must be referring to a different work by Sartre). A dogma based on nothingness is hardly any kind of dogma.
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77 of 83 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A bad edition of a great book April 21, 2008
Being and Nothingness is a difficult but great book. This edition is terrible. It omits some of the central passages of this classic. For instance, the beautiful section on the 'Patterns of Bad Faith' are deleted. If you carefully read the inside of the jacket, it does say it is an abridged edition. That would not be bad if they deleted unimportant sections. Instead the publisher deleted key sections which they reprinted in their edition of Essays in Existentialism. So you are forced to buy two of their books.
If you want a copy of Being and Nothingness, get the Washington Square Press edition or the Routledge edition.
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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
By Gabriel
Format:Kindle Edition
It is good to have a Kindle version of a good philosophical work, but it is rendered useless when you find a lot of typos. Some of them: in the original says "interiority", this version, "inferiority"; not one time, but several. Even if the work is based on the translation of Hazel E. Barnes, this errors can lead to misunderstanding of the key statements of the book.
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62 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sartre: one of the last of the system builders.... March 30, 2002
One of the most influential books of 20th-century philosophy, Being and Nothingness, and others by Sartre, has probably been read by more beginning students of philosophy than any other. Sartre's approach to philosophy is eclectic, but he has unique solutions to some of the problems he is attempting to solve, particularly his treatment of the problem of how to handle the negation, a problem of great interest to Hegel, and carried over to a phenomenological setting by Sartre. His discussion of the "experiencing" of negation has to rank as one of the most interesting in contemporary philosophy. It is a topic also that Sartre apparently thought so important that he included it in the first chapter of the book. He does however prepare the reader for the analysis in an introduction to the book. Therein, he argues for the dissolving of the distinction between being and appearance, and to reject (in Nietzschean terms), "the illusion of worlds-behind-the-scene". This discussion also shows Satre's training in the phenomenology of Husserl and Heidegger. The move away from the dualism of appearance and essence, and appearance and being has its consequences of course, and it is these consequences that Sartre expounds upon briliantly in the rest of the book. One of these, interestingly, is the existence of an infinite series. The dualism of being and appearance is replaced by Sartre with the new dualism of finite and infinite. The appearance is finite, but to be grasped as an appearance of that which appears, says Sartre, it requires the series of appearances as infinite.
In addition, Sartre also discusses his reasoning behind his rejection of the idealism of Berkeley.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Phenomenal Book January 19, 2005
I've read this book twice now, and it remains for me one of the greatest and most influential books I've ever read, certainly in philosophy. Is it a difficult read? Yes, certainly, but it's no more difficult than many other massive philosphical tomes out there such as Heidegger's Being and Time, Hegel's Phenomenology of Mind, or Marx's Capital. Sartre didn't write the book with the general public in mind; what he wanted to do was describe and explain a formal existential philosophy for those who wanted to really get into the technical nuts and bolts. One of the reasons he wrote so many novels, plays and essays is because he wanted to illuminate his philosophy in living scenarios that would be more easily digested by the general public. If you've never read a philosophy book before, then this book is not the best place to start, if only because, in addition to its density and length, it presupposes a certain familiarity with other philosophical sytems. If you're interested in Sartre, you'd be better off starting with his thin essay book "Existentialism", or his novel "Nausea", or one of the popular existentialist anthologies such as Walter Kaufmann's, or William Barret's excellent study "Irrational Man".

I disagree with an earlier commentor's suggestion that you skip the first 2/3 of the book. I think it's important to start at the beginning (especially with Hazel Barnes' excellent introduction!) because Sartre methodically builds upon the ontology and the theory of consciousness that he lays out in the earlier parts of the book, and I think it's important to understand that fully before moving on.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Sartre brings so much together in this book - the authority on "Bad...
This is the book where Sartre gives his first and most thorough explanations of Bad Faith, as well as overtly explains his ontology. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Razor
5.0 out of 5 stars Sartre is a Must
Sartre was a genius. Still even geniuses miss the mark. The main problem of man is not in the head but in the belly. Read more
Published 3 months ago by moises nadal
4.0 out of 5 stars Sartre on Being and Nothingness
Sartre convincingly attacked Descarte's cogito ("I think, therefore I am") which had stood the test of time for roughly 300 years (though Nietzsche delivered a crippling blow... Read more
Published 6 months ago by MacheteJason
1.0 out of 5 stars A Quicky
My half cherokee, half Irish lady love picked this book up off the coffee table, read a page or so in two or three minutes, then threw it down without a word. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Robert D. Wallace
1.0 out of 5 stars MISSING CHAPTER ON BAD FAITH?!?!?
This oversight is the most egregious. How do you forget to include the chapter on Bad Faith? Don't waste your money get the translation with the white cover.
Published 9 months ago by roke
4.0 out of 5 stars Must Read to Understand the World
Looking for the meaning of life, reading Being and Nothingness: An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology will help. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Scott Haraburda
3.0 out of 5 stars one of the basics
one of the basics. very interesting, but now outdated--yet it stays with you. everyone needs to read it once---and I find many who later on have gone back and reread it!
Published 12 months ago by cullen wortham
3.0 out of 5 stars Some profound bits amidst a huge mass of drivel
Sartre could have been more concise with his words, so I didn't have to toil so painfully through such a large body of text. Read more
Published 16 months ago by david findley
1.0 out of 5 stars An Essay in Phenomenological Crapology
I started studying existentialism (Albert Camus' novels) my senior year in high school (1969), and the following year, as a freshman at UC San Diego, I moved on to Sartre's Being... Read more
Published 17 months ago by L. Ron Gardner
5.0 out of 5 stars Sent quickly and brother loved this gift
Was possibly scheduled for arriving after Christmas, but very glad is arrived 5 days before Christmas. Great gift if friend/family member is interested in philosophy. Read more
Published 18 months ago by spunkerd
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