Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Jean-Paul Sartre

French Existentialist, Philosopher, Playwright, Novelist, Teacher, Screenwriter and Political Activist

"Existence precedes and rules essence."

"I can neither seek within myself the true condition which will impel me to act, nor apply to a system of ethics for concepts which will permit me to act... No general ethics can show you what is to be done; there are no omens in the world."

"Every action, no matter how trivial, is not the simple effect of the prior psychic state and does not result from a linear determinism but rather is integrated as a secondary structure in global structures and finally in the totality which I am."

"Anti-Semitism, in a word, is fear of man's fate. The anti-Semite is the man who wants to be a pitiless stone, a furious torrent, devastating lightning: in short, anything but a man."

"Consciousness... is total emptiness (since the entire world is outside it)."

"An emotion... is a transformation of the world."

"I confused things with their names: that is belief."

"If we have defined man’s situation as a free choice, with no excuses and no recourse, every man who takes refuge behind the excuse of his passions, every man who sets up a determinism is a dishonest man."

"I distrust the incommunicable: it is the source of all violence."

"In order to get any truth about myself, I must have contact with another person. The other is indispensable to my own existence, as well as to my knowledge bout myself. This being so, in discovering my inner being I discover the other person at the same time, like a freedom placed in front of me which thinks and wills only for or against me. Hence, let us at once announce the discovery of a world which we shall call inter-subjectivity; this is the world in which man decides what he is and what others are."

"It is necessary that we make ourselves what we are."

"If you are lonely when you are alone, you are in bad company."

"Like all dreamers, I mistook disenchantment for truth."

"Man is a being in whom existence precedes essence, that he is a free being who, in various circumstances, can want only his freedom, I have at the same time recognized that I can want only the freedom of others. Therefore, in the name of this will for freedom, which freedom itself implies, I may pass judgment on those who seek to hide from themselves the complete arbitrariness and the complete freedom of their existence. Those who hide their complete freedom from themselves out of a spirit of seriousness or by means of deterministic excuses, I shall call cowards."

"Man is not the sum of what he has already, but rather the sum of what he does not yet have, of what he could have."

"Man is abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities without help, with no aim but what he sets himself."

"It is impossible to consider the feeling of inferiority without determining it in terms of the future and of my possibilities."

"Man is responsible for himself, not only for his own individuality but for all men. Man chooses himself, and in choosing for ourselves, we choose for all men."

"Man is nothing else but what he makes of himself."

"The being which is what it is can not be free. Freedom is precisely the nothingness which is made-to-be at the heart of man and which forces human-reality to make itself instead of to be."

"Dostoevsky said, “If God didn’t exist, everything would be possible.” That is the very starting point of existentialism. Indeed, everything is permissible if God does not exist, and as a result man is forlorn, because neither within him nor without does he find anything to cling to. He can’t start making excuses for himself."

"The world of explanations and reasons is not that of existence."

"Man simply is. Not that he simply is what he conceives himself to be, but he is what he wills, and as he conceives of himself after already existing - as he will to be... Man is nothing else but that which is makes of himself. That is the first principle of existentialism."

"Quality is the whole of being revealing itself within the limits of the ‘there is’. It is not the ‘outside’ of being."

"My thought is me; that is why I can't stop. I exist by what I think... and I can't stop thinking."

"The poor don't know their function in life is to exercise our generosity."

"The essence of our relations with other people is conflict."

"If Time is considered by itself, it immediately dissolves into an absolute multiplicity of instants which considered separately lose all temporal nature and are reduced purely and simply to the total a-temporality of the this."

"The more absurd life is, the more insupportable death is."

"There is no human nature, since there is no God to conceive it. Not only is man what he conceives himself to be, but he is also only what he wills himself to be after this thrust toward existence."

"Ideas come in pairs and they contradict one another; their opposition is the principal engine of reflection."

"If you have a finite point and it has no infinite reference point, then that finite point is absurd"

"[Man is] nothing else but the sum of his actions, nothing else but what his life is"

"[Existence has] neither cause nor reason nor necessity."

"Thus, there is no human nature, because there is no God to have a conniption of it. Man simply is... Man is nothing else but that which he makes of himself. That is the first principle of existentialism."

"Man is condemned to be free. Condemned, because he did not create himself, yet is nevertheless at liberty, and from the moment that he is thrown into this world he is responsible for everything he does."

"Oppression leaves [slaves] no choice other than resignation or revolution."

"Man is a useless passion."

"The problem of God is a human problem which concerns the rapport between men. It is a total problem to which each man brings a solution by his entire life, and the solution one brings to it reflects the attitude one has chosen towards other men and towards oneself."

"We only become what we are by the radical and deep-seeded refusal of that which others have made of us."

"Freedom is what you do with what's been done to you."

"I hate victims who respect their executioners."

"When the rich wage war, it’s the poor who die."

"You are your choices."

"To be responsible is to be "the uncontested author of an event or a thing.""

"Every age has its own poetry; in every age the circumstances of history choose a nation, a race, a class to take up the torch by creating situations that can be expressed or transcended only through poetry. "

"Being is. Being is in-itself. Being is what it is. "

"Every existing thing is born without reason, prolongs itself out of weakness, and dies by chance. "

"Evil is the product of the ability of humans to make abstract that which is concrete."

"God is absence. God is the solitude of man. "