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Jean Paul Sartre Quotes


Sartre, Beauvoir & Guevara Interview

 

“Imagination is not an empirical or super-added power of consciousness, it is the whole of consciousness as it realizes its freedom.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in L’imagination (Imagination: A Psychological Critique) (1936)

“The nature of Sartre and Beauvoir’s partnership was never a secret to their friends, and it was not a secret to the public, either, after they were abruptly launched into celebrity, in 1945. They were famous as a couple with independent lives, who met in cafés, where they wrote their books and saw their friends at separate tables, and were free to enjoy other relationships, but who maintained a kind of soul marriage. Their liaison was part of the mystique of existentialism, and it was extensively documented and coolly defended in Beauvoir’s four volumes of memoirs, all of them extremely popular in France: “Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter” (1958), “The Prime of Life” (1960), “Force of Circumstance” (1963), and “All Said and Done” (1972). Beauvoir and Sartre had no interest in varnishing the facts out of respect for bourgeois notions of decency. Disrespect for bourgeois notions of decency was precisely the point.”

– Louis Menand, in “Stand By Your Man: The strange liaison of Sartre and Beauvoir” in The New Yorker (26 September 200

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Jean Paul Sartre Quotes about Art & Poetry


“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.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in Orphée Noir (Black Orpheus)


“If literature isn’t everything, it’s not worth a single hour of someone’s trouble.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in an Interview (1960)


“A writer who takes political, social or literary positions must act only with the means that are his. These means are the written words.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in Refusing the Nobel Prize, New York Times (22 October 1964)

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Jean Paul Sartre Quotes about Change


“I wanted pure love: foolishness; to love one another is to hate a common enemy: I will thus espouse your hatred. I wanted Good: nonsense; on this earth and in these times, Good and Bad are inseparable: I accept to be evil in order to become good.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in The Devil and the Good Lord (1951)


“With despair, true optimism begins: the optimism of the man who expects nothing, who knows he has no rights and nothing coming to him, who rejoices in counting on himself alone and in acting alone for the good of all.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in Characterizations of Existentialism (1944)


“If you want to deserve Hell, you need only stay in bed. The world is iniquity; if you accept it, you are an accomplice, if you change it you are an executioner.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in The Devil and the Good Lord (1951)


“I have nothing but contempt for you idiotic chosen ones who have the heart to rejoice when there are the damned in Hell and the poor on earth; as for me, I am on the side of men and I will not leave it.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in The Devil and the Good Lord (1951)

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Jean Paul Sartre Quotes about Character & Virtue


“I will not be modest. Humble, as much as you like, but not modest. Modesty is the virtue of the lukewarm.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in The Devil and the Good Lord (1951)


“I am no longer sure of anything. If I satiate my desires, I sin but I deliver myself from them; if I refuse to satisfy them, they infect the whole soul.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in The Devil and the Good Lord (1951)

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Jean Paul Sartre Quotes about Death


“In order to make myself recognized by the Other, I must risk my own life. To risk one’s life, in fact, is to reveal oneself as not-bound to the objective form or to any determined existence — as not-bound to life.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in Being and Nothingness (1943)


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

– Jean Paul Sartre


“For the moment, the jazz is playing; there is no melody, just notes, a myriad of tiny tremors. The notes know no rest, an inflexible order gives birth to them then destroys them, without ever leaving them the chance to recuperate and exist for themselves…. I would like to hold them back, but I know that, if I succeeded in stopping one, there would only remain in my hand a corrupt and languishing sound. I must accept their death; I must even want that death: I know of few more bitter or intense impressions.”

– Jean Paul Sartre


“One always dies too soon — or too late. And yet, life is there, finished: the line is drawn, and it must all be added up. You are nothing other than your life.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in No Exit


“I think of death only with tranquility, as an end. I refuse to let death hamper life. Death must enter life only to define it.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in No Exit

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Jean Paul Sartre Quotes about Determinism & Fatalism


“But [your crime] will be there, one hundred times denied, always there, dragging itself behind you. Then you will finally know that you have committed your life with one throw of the die, once and for all, and there is nothing you can do but tug our crime along until your death. Such is the law, just and unjust, of repentance. Then we will see what will become of your young pride.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in The Flies


“I am responsible for everything … except for my very responsibility, for I am not the foundation of my being. Therefore everything takes place as if I were compelled to be responsible. I am abandoned in the world … in the sense that I find myself suddenly alone and without help, engaged in a world for which I bear the whole responsibility without being able, whatever I do, to tear myself away from this responsibility for an instant.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in Being and Nothingness (1943)


“Some men are born committed to action: they do not have a choice, they have been thrown on a path, at the end of that path, an act awaits them, their act.”

“A man is what he wills himself to be.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in No Exit

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Jean Paul Sartre Quotes about Fear


“Fear? If I have gained anything by damning myself, it is that I no longer have anything to fear.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in The Flies


“They are in bad faith — they are afraid — and fear, bad faith have an aroma that the gods find delicious. Yes, the gods like that, the pitiful souls.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in The Flies


“You must be afraid, my son. That is how one becomes an honest citizen.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in The Flies

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Jean Paul Sartre Quotes about Freedom


“A man who is free is like a mangy sheep in a herd. He will contaminate my entire kingdom and ruin my work.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in The Flies, King Aegistheus


“The painful secret of gods and kings is that men are free, Aegistheus. You know it and they do not.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in The Flies,


“He was free, free in every way, free to behave like a fool or a machine, free to accept, free to refuse, free to equivocate; to marry, to give up the game, to drag this death weight about with him for years to come. He could do what he liked, no one had the right to advise him, there would be for him no Good or Evil unless he thought them into being.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in L’âge de raison (The Age of Reason) (1945)


“We will freedom for freedom’s sake, in and through particular circumstances. And in thus willing freedom, we discover that it depends entirely upon the freedom of others and that the freedom of others depends upon our own. Obviously, freedom as the definition of a man does not depend upon others, but as soon as there is a commitment, I am obliged to will the liberty of others at the same time as my own. I cannot make liberty my aim unless I make that of others equally my aim.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in Existentialism Is a Humanism, lecture [1] (1946)


“Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in Being and Nothingness (1943)

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Jean Paul Sartre Quotes about Greatness


“You know how much I admire Che Guevara. In fact, I believe that the man was not only an intellectual but also the most complete human being of our age: as a fighter and as a man, as a theoretician who was able to further the cause of revolution by drawing his theories from his personal experience in battle.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, As quoted in Marianne Sinclair’s !Viva Che!: Contributions in Tribute to Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara (1968)


“And we feel that the hero has lived all the details of this night like annunciations, promises, or even that he lived only those that were promises, blind and deaf to all that did not herald adventure. We forget that the future was not yet there; the man was walking in the night without forethought, a night which offered him a choice of dull rich prizes, and he did not make his choice.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in La nausée

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Jean Paul Sartre Quotes about Humanity


“Adieu les monstres ! Adieu les saints ! Adieu l’orgueil ! Il n’y a que des hommes.

Farewell to the monsters, farewell to the saints. Farewell to pride. All that is left is men.”

– Jean Paul Sartre


“Generally speaking there is no irreducible taste or inclination. They all represent a certain appropriative choice of being. It is up to existential psychoanalysis to compare and classify them. Ontology abandons us here; it has merely enabled us to determine the ultimate ends of human reality, its fundamental possibilities, and the value which haunts it.”

– Jean Paul Sartre


“Admit it, it is your youth that you regret, more even than your crime; it is my youth you hate, even more than my innocence.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in The Flies


“Each human reality is at the same time a direct project to metamorphose its own For-itself into an In-itself-For-itself, a project of the appropriation of the world as a totality of being-in-itself, in the form of a fundamental quality. Every human reality is a passion in that it projects losing itself so as to found being and by the same stroke to constitute the In-itself which escapes contingency by being its own foundation, the Ens causa sui, which religions call God. Thus the passion of man is the reverse of that of Christ, for man loses himself as man in order that God may be born. But the idea of God is contradictory and we lose ourselves in vain. Man is a useless passion.”

– Jean Paul Sartre


“So that is what hell is. I would never have believed it. You remember: the fire and brimstone, the torture. Ah! the farce. There is no need for torture: Hell is other people.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in No Exit

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Jean Paul Sartre Quotes about Independence


“When you live alone you no longer know what it is to tell a story: the plausible disappears at the same time as the friends. You let events flow by too: you suddenly see people appear who speak and then go away; you plunge into stories of which you can’t make head or tail: you’d make a terrible witness.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in La nausée


“People who live in society have learned how to see themselves in mirrors as they appear to their friends. I have no friends. Is that why my flesh is so naked?”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in La nausée

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Jean Paul Sartre Quotes about Knowledge & Truth


“Absurd, irreducible; nothing — not even a profound and secret delirium of nature — could explain it. Obviously I did not know everything, I had not seen the seeds sprout, or the tree grow. But faced with this great wrinkled paw, neither ignorance nor knowledge was important: the world of explanations and reasons is not the world of existence. A circle is not absurd, it is clearly explained by the rotation of a straight segment around one of its extremities. But neither does a circle exist. This root, on the other hand, existed in such a way that I could not explain it.”

– Jean Paul Sartre

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Jean Paul Sartre Quotes about Life & Existentialism


“Don’t you feel the same way? When I cannot see myself, even though I touch myself, I wonder if I really exist.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in No Exit


“Do you think that I count the days? There is only one day left, always starting over: it is given to us at dawn and taken away from us at dusk.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in The Devil and the Good Lord (1951)


“I wanted for the moments in my life to follow each other and order themselves like those of a life remembered. It would be just as well to try to catch time by the tail.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in La nausée


“I construct my memories with my present. I am lost, abandoned in the present. I try in vain to rejoin the past: I cannot escape.”

– Jean Paul Sartre


“The real nature of the present revealed itself: it was what exists, all that was not present did not exist.”

– Jean Paul Sartre


“He yawned. He had finished the day and he had also finished with his youth. Various well-bred moralities had already discreetly offered him their services: disillusioned epicureanism, smiling tolerance, resignation, common sense stoicism – all the aids whereby a man may savour, minute by minute, like a connoisseur, the failure of a life.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in L’âge de raison (The Age of Reason) (1945)


“What do we mean by saying that existence precedes essence? We mean that man first of all exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world – and defines himself afterwards. If man as the existentialist sees him is not definable, it is because to begin with he is nothing. He will not be anything until later, and then he will be what he makes of himself. Thus, there is no human nature, because there is no God to have a conception of it. Man simply is. Not that he is simply what he conceives himself to be, but he is what he wills, and as he conceives himself after already existing – as he wills to be after that leap towards existence. Man is nothing else but that which he makes of himself. That is the first principle of existentialism.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in Existentialism Is a Humanism, lecture [2] (1946)


“Existentialism is nothing else but an attempt to draw the full conclusions from a consistently atheistic position. Its intention is not in the least that of plunging men into despair. And if by despair one means as the Christians do – any attitude of unbelief, the despair of the existentialists is something different. Existentialism is not atheist in the sense that it would exhaust itself in demonstrations of the non-existence of God. It declares, rather, that even if God existed that would make no difference from its point of view. Not that we believe God does exist, but we think that the real problem is not that of His existence; what man needs is to find himself again and to understand that nothing can save him from himself, not even a valid proof of the existence of God. In this sense existentialism is optimistic. It is a doctrine of action, and it is only by self-deception, by confining their own despair with ours that Christians can describe us as without hope.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in Existentialism Is a Humanism, lecture (1946)


“I grasp at each second, trying to suck it dry: nothing happens which I do not seize, which I do not fix forever in myself, nothing, neither the fugitive tenderness of those lovely eyes, nor the noises of the street, nor the false dawn of early morning: and even so the minute passes and I do not hold it back, I like to see it pass.”

– Jean Paul Sartre


“She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in The Words (1964), speaking of his grandmother.


“Man is always separated from what he is by all the breadth of the being which he is not. He makes himself known to himself from the other side of the world and he looks from the horizon toward himself to recover his inner being.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in Being and Nothingness (1943)


“Life has no meaning a priori … It is up to you to give it a meaning, and value is nothing but the meaning that you choose.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in Being and Nothingness (1943)


“I am a man, Jupiter, and each man must invent his own path.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in The Flies


“In a word, man must create his own essence: it is in throwing himself into the world, suffering there, struggling there, that he gradually defines himself.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in Characterizations of Existentialism (1944)


“Man cannot will unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in Characterizations of Existentialism (1944)

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Jean Paul Sartre Quotes about Love


“I know. I know that I shall never again meet anything or anybody who will inspire me with passion. You know, it’s quite a job starting to love somebody. You have to have energy, generosity, blindness. There is even a moment, in the very beginning, when you have to jump across a precipice: if you think about it you don’t do it. I know I’ll never jump again.”

– Jean Paul Sartre


“If you die, I will lie down beside you and I will stay there until the end, without eating or drinking, you will rot in my arms and I will love you as carcass: for you love nothing if you do not love everything.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in The Devil and the Good Lord (1951)

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Jean Paul Sartre Quotes about Morality & Ethics


“Nicias, do you think you can erase with good deeds the wrongs you committed against your mother? What good deed will ever reach her? Her soul is a scorching noon time, without a single breath of a breeze, nothing moves, nothing changes, nothing lives there; a great emaciated sun, an immobile sun eternally consumes her.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in The Flies


“What do I care about Jupiter? Justice is a human issue, and I do not need a god to teach it to me.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in The Flies


“This is the contradiction of racism, colonialism, and all forms of tyranny: in order to treat a man like a dog, one must first recognize him as a man.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in Critique of Dialectical Reason (1960)


“I hate victims who respect their executioners.”

Loser Wins (Les Séquestrés d’Altona: A Play in Five Acts) (1960)

 


“To whomever gives a kiss or a blow

Render a kiss or blow

But to whomever gives when you are unable to return

Offer all the hatred in your heart

For you were slaves and he enslaves you”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in The Devil and the Good Lord (1951)

 


“The more one is absorbed in fighting evil, the less one is tempted to place the good in question.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted

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Jean Paul Sartre Quotes about Politics


“The French bourgeois doesn’t dislike shit, provided it is served up to him at the right time.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in Saint Genet, Actor and Martyr


“Politics is a science. You can demonstrate that you are right and that others are wrong.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in Dirty Hands


“Fascism is not defined by the number of its victims, but by the way it kills them.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in “On the Execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg,” Libération (22 June 1953)


“Our responsibility is much greater than we might have supposed, because it involves all mankind.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in Existentialism and Human Emotions (1957)

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Jean Paul Sartre Quotes about Religion


“Your church is a whore: she sells her favors to the rich.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in The Devil and the Good Lord (1951)


“It is not the same thing. You are perhaps not lying, but you are not telling the truth.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in The Devil and the Good Lord (1951)


“I know only one Church: it is the society of men.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in The Devil and the Good Lord (1951)


“Lord, you have cursed Cain and Cain’s children: thy will be done. You have allowed men’s hearts to be corrupted, that their intentions be rotten, that their actions putrefy and stink: thy will be done.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in The Devil and the Good Lord (1951)


“God is the solitude of men. There was only me: I alone decided to commit Evil; alone, I invented Good. I am the one who cheated, I am the one who performed miracles, I am the one accusing myself today, I alone can absolve myself; me, the man.”

– Jean Paul Sartre

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Jean Paul Sartre Quotes about Revolution


“I was not the one to invent lies: they were created in a society divided by class and each of us inherited lies when we were born. It is not by refusing to lie that we will abolish lies: it is by eradicating class by any means necessary.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in Dirty Hands


“It is the good children, Madame, who make the most terrible revolutionaries. They say nothing, they do not hide under the table, they eat only one sweet at a time, but later on, they make Society pay dearly for it!”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in Dirty Hands


“As for us, my little friend, we entered [the Communist Party] because we were tired of dying of hunger.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in Dirty Hands


“I respect orders but I respect myself too and I do not obey foolish rules made especially to humiliate me.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in Dirty Hands

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Jean Paul Sartre Quotes about Society


“You see, I divide men into three categories: those who have a lot of money, those who have none at all and those who have a little. The first want to keep what they have: their interest is to maintain order; the second want to take what they do not have: their interest is to destroy the existing order and to establish one which is profitable to them. They each are realist, people with whom one can agree. The third group want to overthrow the social order to take what they do not have, while still preserving it so that no one takes away what they have. Thus, they preserve in fact what they destroy in theory, or they destroy in fact what they seem to preserve. Those are the idealists.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in The Devil and the Good Lord (1951)


“There are two types of poor people, those who are poor together and those who are poor alone. The first are the true poor, the others are rich people out of luck.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in The Devil and the Good Lord (1951)

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Jean Paul Sartre Quotes about Suffering


“I will take it all: tongs, molten lead, prongs, garrotes, all that burns, all that tears, I want to truly suffer. Better one hundred bites, better the whip, vitriol, than this suffering in the head, this ghost of suffering which grazes and caresses and never hurts enough.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in No Exit


“You have stolen my face from me: you know it and I no longer do.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in No Exit

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Jean Paul Sartre Quotes about War & Violence


“I am not virtuous. Our sons will be if we shed enough blood to give them the right to be.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in The Devil and the Good Lord (1951)


“Quand les riches se font la guerre, ce sont les pauvres qui meurent.

When the rich make war, it’s the poor that die.”

– Jean Paul Sartre, as quoted in The Devil and the Good Lord (1951)

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Quotes about Jean Paul Sartre


“During the last months of the German Occupation in 1944, the young man who was to become France’s most controversial contemporary philosopher and the woman who was to become its most controversial feminist met the professional criminal who was to become its most controversial playwright.”

– Otto Friedrich Bollnow, on Jean Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Genet, in “The Mandarin and the Thief” in TIME magazine (April 28, 1986)


“When I was growing up in the 60s, Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre were a model couple, already legendary creatures, rebels with a great many causes, and leaders of what could be called the first postwar youth movement: existentialism — a philosophy that rejected all absolutes and talked of freedom, authenticity, and difficult choices. It had its own music and garb of sophisticated black which looked wonderful against a cafe backdrop. Sartre and De Beauvoir were its Bogart and Bacall, partners in a gloriously modern love affair lived out between jazz club, cafe and writing desk, with forays on to the platforms and streets of protest. Despite being indissolubly united and bound by ideas, they remained unmarried and free to engage openly in any number of relationships. This radical departure from convention seemed breathtaking at the time.”

– Lisa Appignanesi, in “Did Simone de Beauvoir’s open ‘marriage’ make her happy?” in The Guardian (9 June 2005)

 


“I also have a great intellectual respect for those who followed him (Husserl), Heidegger in particular, and among my countrymen, men like Paul Ricoeur (who, however, I am still far from trusting), and Mircea Eliade (a great explorer but one who does not want to be a guide, thank goodness. I have none for Jean-Paul Sartre, who seems to me too artful, and who besides (and here he pleases me) would be quite sorry to find himself respected. (Yet I like to imagine him elected to the Academie Fancaise, and honor which he certainly deserves.) But he has offered a testimony we would be quite wrong to neglect.”

Jacques Maritain, in The Peasant of Garonne

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