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Jean-Paul Sartre and Existentialism

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The French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre was a crucial figure in Existentialism. Although his work may seem dauntingly incomprehensible at first glance, this video from The School of Life makes Sartre's ideas--about the absurdity of the world, humans' freedom of choice, and the fluidity of our supposedly rigid roles and institutions--shockingly understandable. 

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If you'd like to find out more about Sartre, consider watching the BBC's documentary series "Human, All Too Human"--it includes an episode, "The Road to Freedom," focusing on his life and work. You can also read about Sartre online at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and the Nobel Prize website. When Sartre received the Nobel Prize in Literature, he actually refused to formally accept it, writing an eloquent statement to the Swedish press. Read it here

For a fast and highly visual overview of Sartre's thinking, watch BBC Radio 4's video John Paul Sartre and the Existential Choice, narrated by Stephen Fry. Jean-Paul Sartre's most famous books include Nausea and Being and Nothingness. He is also noted in the writings of prominent philosopher Simone de Beauvoir, with whom he famously had an open relationship. Their "soul marriage" (as one New Yorker article described it) is a powerful testament to the value of collaboration and conversation in refining and developing big ideas.
If you look around you, you'll notice many instances of "bad faith"--when people believe (and act on the belief) that things must stay as they are. From accepting dead-end jobs to complying with unfair rules, it's easy to simply accept the status quo instead of questioning how we can change it. Why do you think bad faith exists? Do you think Sartre is right in saying that we don't fully acknowledge our freedom? 

Sartre saw capitalism as a "giant machine...to create a sense of necessity that doesn't exist in reality," a machine that enables the denial of freedom and the possibilities of living in other ways. What do you think about this assertion? How might you live your life differently if money were not a factor?

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