23_sartre - 24.01 Classics of Western Philosophy Prof. Rae...

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24.01 Classics of Western Philosophy Prof. Rae Langton VII. Sartre Lecture 2 3 . Existentialism and Humanism 1. Biographical remarks. Sartre (1905-1980) was a teacher, novelist, and playwright, as well as one of the central figures of Existentialist philosophy. He studied German philosophy (especially Heidegger) as a prisoner of war, having been captured while serving in the French army in WW II. Together with his fellow-Existentialist de Beauvoir (also his partner), he founded and helped to run a political journal, Les Temps Modernes . Like Russell, he was politically active, and was deeply sympathetic to, though not a member of, the French Communist Party. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, but turned it down, as a bourgeois honor with which he did not wish to be associated. 2. ‘What is meant by the term existentialism?’ Sartre begins his essay by saying that what all existentialists have in common is that ‘they think that existence must precede essence , or, if you prefer, that subjectivity must be the starting point’ (1220). Sartre wants to draw a contrast between the realm of things, such as artifacts or natural objects, and the realm of human beings. The former he calls being in itself , the latter, being for itself . (This ‘ontology’ is the theme of his major work, Being and Nothingness .) What is distinctive about things is that their essence precedes their existence; what is distinctive about human beings is that our existence precedes our essence. 3.
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This note was uploaded on 01/25/2012 for the course PHIL 201H1F taught by Professor Derekallen during the Fall '10 term at University of Toronto.

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23_sartre - 24.01 Classics of Western Philosophy Prof. Rae...

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