Jean-Paul Sartre was a French philosopher, novelist, playwright, and critic. He was a leading intellectual of the 20th century and the leading proponent of existentialism.
While reading , I saw that included this book in his course syllabus on moral philosophy. So, of course, I immediately picked it up along with a bunch of the other titles. (We’ll be systematically working through that syllabus.)
Interestingly, both Stockdale and Sartre were prisoners of war. Sartre spent a year in a Nazi prison camp while Stockdale spent eight years in a North Vietnamese prison. In addition to sharing that experience, the two also share a FIERCE commitment to personal responsibility—which is, at the core, what both Stoicism and existentialism are all about.
(On that note, comes to mind—another man who suffered the indignities of war and wrote about the last freedom we each have: the freedom to choose our response to any given situation he describes in .)
This short book is a transcript of a speech Sartre gave in 1945 to address many of the critics of existentialism. It’s a *remarkably* lucid, concise exposition on the primary tenets of existentialism—even more remarkable given the fact that Sartre gave this lecture without notes. (Get a copy .)
As you can imagine, the book is not a leisurely read. I’m going to do my best to pull out some of my favorite Big Ideas we can apply to our lives today, so let’s jump straight in!
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