The Phenomenology of Jean-Paul Sartre (1905–1980)

  • Herbert Spiegelberg
Part of the Phaenomenologica book series (PHAE, volume 5/6)


The attempt to present and discuss Sartre’s phenomenology without including the whole of his philosophical thought has to face more than the usual amount of difficulties presented by such a selective enterprise. They begin with the fact that a man of Sartre’s versatility and vigor defies all conventional classifications. Thus, in studying Sartre the philosopher and phenomenologist, one must consider not only Sartre the novelist, the critic, the playwright, and the editor, but also the political figure. For after World War II Sartre became so involved in political action and in the theatre that one might well have wondered whether he had not turned away from philosophy for good, had it not been for the persistent announcements of major philosophical works still to appear in the near future. One might conceive of dividing up the task by concentrating on either the philosopher, the dramatist, or the novelist Sartre, as some of the more successful studies published thus far have done.1 But Sartre’s work is more than the sum of the output of his separate talents. There was a common source for all his multifarious activities. At their center was a unique philosophic concern. Some attempt to determine this core is therefore indispensable for any attempt to understand Sartre.


Phenomenological Method Phenomenological Reduction Dialectical Reason Fundamental Choice Phenomenological Ontology 
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Selective Bibliography

Major Works

  1. L’Imagination (1936). Transl. (1962) by Forest Williams — sometimes rather free. The subtitle (“A Psychological Critique”) and the Table of Contents are additions.Google Scholar
  2. La Transcendance de l’ego (1937) (TE), originally an article in Recherches philosophiques VI, since 1965 published independently with introduction, notes and appendices by Sylvie Le Bon. transl. by F. Williams and R. Kirkpatrick — careful, with introduction and helpful notes.Google Scholar
  3. La Nausée (1938). A Novel. transl. by Lloyd Alexander.Google Scholar
  4. Esquisse d’une théorie des émotions (1939). transl. by B. Frechtman under the title The Emotions: Outline of a theory — fair.Google Scholar
  5. L’Imaginaire: Psychologie phénoménologique de l’imagination (1940). Transl. anonymous, under the title Psychology of the Imagination (1948), with some misleading mistakes.Google Scholar
  6. L’Être et le néant. Essai d’ontologie phénoménologique (1943) (EN). transl. by Hazel Barnes as “Being and Nothingness” — good, but not free from serious errors. Adds an introduction, a helpful index of names and a key to special terminology of limited value, but no index of subjects.Google Scholar
  7. L’Existentialisme est un humanisme (1946). transl. by B. Frechtman (1947), not free from serious mistakes.Google Scholar
  8. Situations vol. I (1947) — X (1976). transl. of selected essays in one volume by Benita Eisler and in various other volumes.Google Scholar
  9. Saint Genet, comédien et martyre (1952). transl. by B. Frechtman.Google Scholar
  10. Questions de méthode (1957). transl. by Hazel Barnes as “Search for Method” (1963).Google Scholar
  11. Critique de la raison dialectique vol. I (1969). Transl. A. Sheridan-Smith. Edited by Jonathan Rée (1976). Adds helpful divisions of the two parts into chapters, sections, and subsections, a full table of contents and indexes.Google Scholar
  12. L’Idiot de la famille: Gustave Flaubert de 1821 à 1857 vol. I, II (1971), III (1973). Transl. by Alan Sheridan-Smith (1976).Google Scholar

Secondary Literature For Biographical Background

  1. SARTRE, J.-P. Les Mots (1963); tr. B. Frechtman as The Words (1964).Google Scholar
  2. BEAUVOIR, SIMONE DE, Mémoires d’une jeune fille rangée (1958). transl. by J. Kirkup as Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter (1959).Google Scholar
  3. BEAUVOIR, SIMONE DE, La Force de l’âge (1960). transl. by P. Green as The Prime of Life (1962).Google Scholar
  4. BEAUVOIR, SIMONE DE, La Force des choses (1963). transl. by R. Howard (1965) as The Force of Circumstances (1965).Google Scholar
  5. JEANSON, FRANCIS, Sartre par lui-même (1955). Emphasizes mostly Sartre’s plays.Google Scholar
  6. JEANSON, FRANCIS, Sartre dans sa vie (1974).Google Scholar
  7. JEANSON, FRANCIS, Le problème moral et la pensée de Sartre (1948). Preface by Sartre. Basic for an understanding of Sartre’s failure to complete his promised ethics. transl. by Robert V. Stone (1980) with Postface 1965.Google Scholar

Secondary Literature For Sartre’s Phenomenology

  1. GUTWIRTH, RUDOLF, La phénoménologie de J. P. Sartre de L’Être et le néant à la Critique de la raison dialectique. Antwerp: Sentiers (1973). Not an explicit study of Sartre’s distinctive phenomenology but of some of its ontological and anthropological results in his two major philosophical works, followed by critical discussions, only partially from a phenomenological and sometimes from a political angle.Google Scholar
  2. Varet, Gilbert, L’Ontologie de Sartre (1948). Penetrating analysis, chiefly an attempt to derive Sartre’s ontology as a necessary consequence of Husserl’s phenomenological method, but insufficiently familiar with Sartre’s German sources.Google Scholar

Studies in English

  1. CAWS, PETER, Sartre (1969).Google Scholar
  2. Cranston, Maurice, Jean-Paul Sartre (1962). Introductory; takes no special interest in phenomenology.Google Scholar
  3. DESAN, WILFRED, The Tragic Finale (1954). Based largely on Varet; sees chiefly the “despair” in Sartre’s existentialism.Google Scholar
  4. DESAN, WILFRED, The Marxism of J.-P. Sartre (1965). Helpful as an introduction to the problems of the Critique of Dialectical Reason.Google Scholar
  5. MURDOCH, IRIS, Sartre, Romantic Rationalist (1953). Perceptive and sympathetic study, based largely on Sartre’s novels.Google Scholar
  6. NATANSON, MAURICE, A Critique of Jean-Paul Sartre’s Ontology (1951). In addition to a succinct presentation, Natanson blames the defects of Sartre’s ontology on his failure to apply Husserl’s phenomenological reduction.Google Scholar
  7. WARNOCK, MARY, The Philosophy of Sartre (1967). A brief study from the analytical angle with negative conclusions.Google Scholar

Most Complete Bibliographies For Primary Literature

  1. CONTAT, MICHEL et RYBALKA, MICHEL, Les Écrits de Sartre (1970). This unique collection of bibliographical data, backed by Sartre himself, gives first a concise chronology (21 pages) followed by an annotated bibliography of 511 items, adding information about the history, reception and subsequent self-evaluation of each piece (some 430 pages). An Appendix reprints “rediscovered” texts. Excellently indexed. Transl. Richard McCleary with additional material up to 1973 in two volumes (Evanston, 1974). Indispensable for Sartre studies even in philosophy.Google Scholar

Most Complete Bibliographies For Secondary Literature

  1. LAPOINTE, FRANçOIS, Jean-Paul Sartre and His Critics. An International Bibliography (1938–1980). Bowling Green State University (1980). With annotations, 2nd edn.Google Scholar
  2. BELKIND, ALLEN, “Jean-Paul Sartre: Sartre and Existentialism in English.” A Bibliographical Guide. Kent State University Press (1970). Tries to cover both the primary and secondary English literature; some annotations.Google Scholar
  3. WILCOCKS, ROBERT, Jean-Paul Sartre: A Bibliography of International Criticism. University of Alberta Press, 1975. Much superior to the preceding ones in scope and organization.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Herbert Spiegelberg

There are no affiliations available

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