Is Being and Nothingness Existentialism?


Diego Sanchez

Understanding Existentialism

Existentialism is a philosophical movement that emerged in the 20th century. It is focused on individual existence, freedom, and choice. The philosophy explores the meaning of life and existence, especially in the face of death.

Existentialism is often associated with Jean-Paul Sartre, who was a prominent existentialist philosopher. Sartre’s most famous work, Being and Nothingness, is considered a cornerstone of existentialist literature.

The Philosophy of Being and Nothingness

Being and Nothingness is a complex work that explores the nature of human existence. Sartre argues that humans are unique because they have consciousness and can reflect on their own existence.

Sartre believes that humans are fundamentally free to make choices. However, this freedom also means that humans must take responsibility for their actions. In other words, humans must create their own meaning in life because there is no inherent purpose or meaning to existence.

Existence Precedes Essence

One of Sartre’s most famous concepts is that “existence precedes essence.” This means that humans exist first and then define themselves through their actions and choices.

Sartre argues that there is no predetermined essence or nature to human beings. Instead, humans are free to create themselves through their choices and actions.

The Concept of Nothingness

Another key aspect of Sartre’s philosophy in Being and Nothingness is the concept of nothingness. Sartre argues that human beings experience a sense of emptiness or nothingness because they have no predetermined essence or purpose.

However, this nothingness can also be liberating because it means that humans are free to create their own meaning in life. Sartre suggests that individuals should embrace this freedom rather than trying to escape from it.

Is Being and Nothingness Existentialism

Being and Nothingness is often considered a crucial work in the development of existentialist philosophy. Sartre’s ideas about individual freedom, responsibility, and the search for meaning in life align with the core concepts of existentialism.

However, it is important to note that not all philosophers who are considered existentialists agree on all aspects of the philosophy. Some critics argue that Sartre’s ideas are too focused on individualism and do not take into account the social and historical context in which individuals exist.


Overall, Being and Nothingness is an important work in the development of existentialist philosophy. The book explores complex ideas about human existence, freedom, and responsibility.

While there may be some differences of opinion about whether or not Being and Nothingness is truly representative of existentialism as a whole, there is no denying that Sartre’s work has had a significant impact on philosophy and continues to be studied today.