Being and Nothingness
An Essay in Phenomenological Ontology
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First published in French in 1943, Jean-Paul Sartre’s L’Être et le Néant is one of the greatest philosophical works of the twentieth century. In it, Sartre offers nothing less than a brilliant and radical account of the human condition. The English philosopher and novelist Iris Murdoch wrote to a friend of "the excitement – I remember nothing like it since the days of discovering Keats and Shelley and Coleridge". This new translation, the first for over sixty years, makes this classic work of philosophy available to a new generation of readers.
What gives our lives significance, Sartre argues in Being and Nothingness, is not pre-established for us by God or nature but is something for which we ourselves are responsible. At the heart of this view are Sartre’s radical conceptions of consciousness and freedom. Far from being an internal, passive container for our thoughts and experiences, human consciousness is constantly projecting itself into the outside world and imbuing it with meaning. Combining this with the unsettling view that human existence is characterized by radical freedom and the inescapability of choice, Sartre introduces us to a cast of ideas and characters that are part of philosophical legend: anguish; the "bad faith" of the memorable waiter in the café; sexual desire; and the "look" of the Other, brought to life by Sartre’s famous description of someone looking through a keyhole.
Above all, by arguing that we alone create our values and that human relationships are characterized by hopeless conflict, Sartre paints a stark and controversial picture of our moral universe and one that resonates strongly today.
This new translation includes a helpful Translator’s Introduction, a comprehensive Index and a Foreword by Richard Moran, Brian D. Young Professor of Philosophy, Harvard University, USA.
Translated by Sarah Richmond, University College London, UK.
Table of Contents
Foreword Richard Moran
Translator’s Introduction Sarah Richmond
Introduction: In Search of Being
Part 1: The Problem of Nothingness
1. The Origin of Negation
2. Bad Faith
Part 2: Being-For-Itself
1. The Immediate Structures of the For-Itself
Part 3: Being-for-the-Other
1. The Other’s Existence
2. The Body
3. Concrete Relations with the Other
Part 4: To Have, To Do and To Be
1. Being and Doing: Freedom
2. To Do and to Have
Jean-Paul Sartre (1905 - 1980) was one of the great philosophers of the twentieth century and a renowned novelist, dramatist, and political activist. As a teenager Sartre was drawn to philosophy after reading Henri Bergson’s Time and Free Will. He passed the agrégation in philosophy at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris in 1929. His first novel La Nausée, which Sartre considered one of his best works, was published in 1938. Sartre served as a meteorologist in the French army before being captured by German troops in 1940, spending nine months as a prisoner of war. He continued to write during his captivity and, after his release, he published his great trilogy of novels, Les Chemins de la Liberté. In 1964, Sartre was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature but declined it. During the events of 1968 he was arrested for civil disobedience but swiftly released by President Charles de Gaulle, who allegedly said "one does not arrest Voltaire". He died on 15 April 1980 in Paris, his funeral attracting an enormous crowd of up to 50,000 mourners. He is buried in the Cimetière du Montparnasse in Paris.
"Sarah Richmond has now produced a meticulous, elegant translation…" - Jonathan Rée, London Review of Books
"Sarah Richmond’s superb new translation…is supplemented by a wealth of explanatory and analytical material [and] a particularly detailed and insightful set of notes on the translation…The first translation of Being and Nothingness was a major academic achievement that has influenced thought across a range of disciplines for more than sixty years. This new edition has the potential to be at least as influential over the coming decades." - Jonathan Webber, Mind
"The publication of this excellent new English translation of L’Être et le néant is a welcome addition to the library of Sartre scholarship … There is every chance that it will also attract non-specialist readers to Sartre’s early philosophy and will thus importantly contribute to keeping existentialist thought alive in a context and era chronically bereft of genuine philosophical enlightenment." - Sam Coombes, French Studies
"Translating such a book is manifestly a labour of love—it was as much for Barnes as for Richmond, and generations of Anglophone Sartre scholars remain grateful to Barnes, even if, as I expect (and hope) it will, Richmond's careful, thoughtful, and thought‐provoking translation becomes the standard one for use by students as well as professionals." - Katherine J. Morris, European Journal of Philosophy
"Sarah Richmond's marvellously clear and thoughtful new translation brings Sartre's rich, infuriating, endlessly fertile masterpiece to a whole new English-language readership." – Sarah Bakewell, author of At The Existentialist Café
"Sartre’s philosophy will always be important. Being and Nothingness is not an easy read but Sarah Richmond makes it accessible in English to the general reader. Her translation is exemplary in its clarity." - Richard Eyre
"Sarah Richmond's translation of this ground-zero existentialist text is breathtaking. Having developed a set of brilliant translation principles, laid out carefully in her introductory notes, she has produced a version of Sartre’s magnum opus that—finally!—renders his challenging philosophical prose comprehensible to the curious general reader and his most compelling phenomenological descriptions and analyses luminous and thrilling for those of us who have studied Being and Nothingness for years." - Nancy Bauer, Tufts University, USA
"This superb new translation is an extraordinary resource for Sartre scholars, including those who can read the work in French. Not only has Sarah Richmond produced an outstandingly accurate and fluent translation, but her extensive notes, introduction, and editorial comments ensure that the work will be turned to for clarification by all readers of Sartre. All in all, this is a major philosophical moment in Sartre studies." - Christina Howells, University of Oxford, UK
"A new translation of Being and Nothingness has been long overdue. Sarah Richmond has done an excellent job of translating and clarifying Sartre’s magnum opus, making its rich content accessible to a wider audience." - Dan Zahavi, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
"With its scholarly introduction, up-to-date bibliography and numerous footnotes, Richmond's fluent and precise translation will be an indispensable tool even for scholars able to read Sartre in French." - Andrew Leak, University College London, UK
"This fine new translation provides us with as crisp a rendering as possible of Sartre’s complex prose. Richmond’s introduction, and a panoply of informative notes, also invite readers to share with her the intricacies of the task of translation and assist in grasping many of the conceptual vocabularies and nuances of this vital text." - Sonia Kruks, author of Simone de Beauvoir and the Politics of Ambiguity