Can a nihilst be solipsistic

Summary of The being and the nothing

The existential philosophy

The concept of existential philosophy was coined around 1930 for those currents of philosophy that deal with the fundamentals of human existence in the world. The existential philosophy of the 20th century consists of different directions, some of which differ considerably from one another. Fear, death, freedom, responsibility and action form the core concepts. The Dane Sören Kierkegaard is considered to be the actual founder of this philosophy. He claimed that man was born into this world completely without ties. As "being that relates to itself", he must find his own purpose, define himself in such a way that he can accept himself. Sartre's variant of existential philosophy is commonly referred to as French existentialism. This is - in contrast to z. B. zu Kierkegaard - nihilistic and atheistic. Martin Heidegger, who, by the way, called Sartre's philosophy an error, examined man's attitude towards being. In doing so, he discovered different ways of being, in particular the "being thrown" of humans. Albert Camus advocated a philosophy of the absurd, because he primarily recognized senselessness in the reality of human life. In the ongoing fight against this meaninglessness, according to Camus, people come together to give meaning to their existence through solidarity. Finally, in addition to his political writings, Karl Jaspers dealt with, inter alia, with the mass society and the alienation through the mechanization of all areas of life. For him, man has to develop his existence in the act of communicating with other people (existence elucidation).


The starting point for Sartre's philosophy was his reading of the "3H" by the German philosophers G. W. F. Hegel, Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger, all of which he did not read in the original but in (sometimes fragmentary) translations. In 1933 he came to the Institut Français in Berlin as a scholarship holder, where he devoted himself intensively to studying literature. The preoccupation with Husserl and Heidegger initially led to a number of essays, among others. published in the Recherches Philosophiques and the Nouvelle Revue Française. In addition, Sartre had already processed important elements of his existentialist philosophy in a literary way before he began the differentiated elaboration. In his novel Der Ekel, for example, with which he became known in 1938, he described the dreary life of a man in an insignificant city who deals with unimportant things and who suddenly owes him an incomprehensible disgust, a disgust for mere existence . He realizes that he himself and everything around him is pointless and superfluous: that was the discovery of contingency, which Sartre then finally made one of the core themes of Being and Nothing.

Impact history

In 1943, Being and Nothing was published in Paris. The city was under German occupation at this time. Therefore, the work was initially only known to a small circle of intellectuals. "One day in the autumn of 1943," said the French writer Michel Tournier, "a book fell on our tables: The being and the nothing. The work was massive, rampant, sprawling, of an irresistible power, full of exquisite subtleties, encyclopedic, by superior methodology, and it was full of an intuition of diamond simplicity. Immediately afterwards the anti-philosophical rabble rose in the press. No doubt: we had a new system of thought. " At the latest after the end of the Second World War, the plant began a sensational triumph. The post-war period became the Sartre period: since his form of existential philosophy was essentially atheistic and nihilistic, but at the same time emphasized the freedom of the individual, it offered a philosophical response to the feeling of emptiness and senselessness that the horrors of war in people triggered.

Sartre expanded, supplemented and revised his philosophical thought structure again and again in smaller writings and interviews. In 1945 he published Is Existentialism a Humanism? a populist summary and further development of his thoughts. In addition, he mixed philosophy with literature like no other and also emerged as a writer of novels and dramas. For this very reason, there was a great contradiction in the room for his critics: Can someone who does not devote himself exclusively to philosophy be considered a credible philosopher at all? Until his death and beyond, Sartre was therefore decried as an anti-philosopher and sophist, whose work should be viewed as poison rather than serious philosophy. Nevertheless, or perhaps because of it, Das sein und das Nothing was read mainly by laypeople and self-taught people.