Being and Nothingness

Being and Nothingness, translation by Hazel E. Barnes of Être et le Néant, by Jean-Paul Sartre: Methuen & Co Ltd (London) and Philosophical Library Inc. (New York, 1957).


(N.B. Ven. Ñāṇavīra Thera's marginal notes were made in his copy of the French edition; pagination below conforms to the English translation. For those who wish to refer to the original French, the correspondence to the English pagination is roughly as follows: F11=Exlv; F37=E3; F100=E60; F200=E153; F300=E243; F400=E334; F500=E427; F600=E517; F700=E608.)


The paperback edition published by Citadel (New York, 1966) follows the same pagination as Methuen as far as page 46, at which point it omits Part One Chapter Two, Bad Faith (Methuen pp. 47-72). Subsequently the Citadel edition is paginated 24 pages less than Methuen (e.g. M73=C49). The Citadel edition also omits Part Four Chapter Two, Doing and Having (Methuen, pp. 557-616).


p. xlv/24-26



p. xlvi/13

[“to appear" supposes in essence somebody to whom to appear.]:The puthujjana's mistake.


p. xlvii/30-35

[What only an aspect of the object, and the object is altogether in that aspect and altogether outside of it. ...It is altogether outside, for the series itself will never appear nor can it appear.] after last sentence: āyusaṅkhārā?


noted: p. xlviii/27-31 and p. xlix/6-8


p. lii/6-7

[the necessary and sufficient condition for a knowing consciousness to be knowledge of its object, is that it be consciousness of itself as being that knowledge.] 'is that...itself' u/l, and


p. lii/15

[What is this consciousness of consciousness?] 'consciousness of consciousness' u/l, both lines 6-7 and 15 commented on: This is absolutely inadmissible: all consciousness is consciousness of something that is not itself consciousness. Husserl (see p. li) is quite right. Nonetheless, there is both pre-reflexion and reflexion, but they must be managed in some other way. Sartre (as will be seen) postulates the invalidity of the Law of Identity (A is A) within consciousness. This is remarkably ingenious, but it is not right. However one may look at it, it is still a piece of legerdemain. (No doubt Sartre would reply that human reality is a piece of legerdemain—see Part II, Ch. I.)


p. lii/38-40

[Or else we affirm the necessity of an infinite regress (idea ideae ideae, etc.), which is absurd.] noted, 'which is absurd' u/l: Why is this absurd? Why not a pre-reflexive hierarchy to infinity?


p. liii/3-6

[the reflecting consciousness posits the consciousness reflected-on, as its object. In the act of reflecting I pass judgement on the consciousness reflected-on; I am ashamed of it, I am proud of it, I will it, I deny it, etc.]: See Blackham's comment on p. 154.


noted: p. lv/13-16, p. lvi/24-28, p. lvi/34-37, p. lvii/32-36, p. lviii/3-5, p. lix/7-10


p. lx

[All consciousness is consciousness of something. This definition of consciousness can be taken in two very distinct senses: either we understand by this that consciousness is constitutive of the being of its object, or it means that consciousness in its inmost nature is a relation to a transcendent being. But the first interpretation of the formula destroys itself: to be conscious of something is to be confronted with a concrete and full presence which is not consciousness.] last sentence noted: Sartre takes the subject for granted, and therefore fails to see that 'Être en face d'une présence' is redundant. The wrong alternative is rejected.


noted: p. lx/34-35, p. lxii/35-38, p. lxiii/3-5, p. lxv/9-11, p. lxv/17-18, p. lxv/29-30, p. lxv/33-35 , p. lxvi/25, p. lxvi/37-41, p. 3/15-17, p. 5/23-34


p. 13/7-9

[Thus Being cut from Essence which is its ground becomes "mere empty immediacy." This is how the Phenomenology of Mind defines it by presenting pure Being "from the point of view of truth" as the immediate.]: Kierkegaard is very entertaining about all this in his CUP, pp. 101-6 and 299-302.


p. 19/6-32

[And we can ask the same question of Heidegger in these words: "If negation is the original structure of transcendence, what must be the original structure of 'human reality' in order for it to be able to transcend the world?" ...Heidegger...makes of Nothingness a sort of intentional correlate of transcendence, without seeing that he has already inserted it into transcendence itself as its original structure.

[Furthermore what is the use of affirming that Nothingness provides the ground for negation, if it is merely to enable us to form subsequently a theory of non-being which by definition separates Nothingness from all concrete negation? ...I say, ”Pierre is not there," "I have no more money,” etc. Is it really necessary to surpass the world toward nothingness and to return subsequently to being in order to provide a ground for these everyday judgements? And how can the operation be affected? To accomplish it we are not required to make the world slip into nothingness; standing within the limits of being, we simply deny an attribute a subject. Will someone say that each attribute refused, each being denied is taken up by one and the same extra-mundane nothingness, that non-being is like the fullness of what is not, that the world is suspended in non-being as the real is suspended in the heart of possibilities? In this case each negation would necessarily have for origin a particular surpassing: the surpassing of one being toward another....] noted: These criticisms of Heidegger are partly justified and partly not. Two negations are in fact necessary, one for self-and-the-world, and one for negations within the world. (Only the first has to do with taṇhā or craving, and this can be brought to an end without affecting the other.) Neither H. nor S. sees this.


p. 19/38-39

[a sort of geometrical place for unfulfilled projects] u/l: Oxford!


noted: p. 22/26-28, p. 32/6-8, p. 33/41-34/3, p. 36/21-22, p. 37/39-38/1, p. 38/9-10, p. 38/13-14, p. 40/37-42, p. 44/6-7, p. 48/42-43, p. 49/7-9, p. 50/14-18


p. 51/29

[Pierce] c/o: Peirce


noted: p. 55/6-9, p. 73/7-10


p. 74/30-32

[The distinguishing characteristic of consciousness, on the other hand, is that it is a decompression of being.] noted: This is a postulate. It can satisfy only those who are content to accept a contradiction (A≠A) as irreducible.


p. 76/3-11



p. 76/14-16

[a duality which is unity, a reflection which is its own reflecting.] noted: See p. 74.


p. 76/25-26



p. 76/31-32

[The self refers, but it refers precisely to the subject.] 'but...subject' u/l: It can only do so if the sujet is already given.


p. 77/1-7

[The self therefore represents an ideal distance within the immanence of the subject in relation to himself, a way of not being his own coincidence, of escaping identity while positing it as unity—in short, of being in a perpetually unstable equilibrium between identity as absolute cohesion without a trace of diversity and unity as a synthesis of a multiplicity. This is what we shall call presence to itself.] noted: You cannot possibly derive a sujet from soi.


noted: p. 77/19-25, p. 77/29-33, p. 78/21-23, p. 78/35-37, p. 79/4-5, p. 79/11-12


p. 80/17-20

[In truth Heidegger's description shows all too clearly his anxiety to establish an ontological foundation for an Ethics with which he claims not to be concerned, as also to reconcile his humanism with the religious sense of the transcendent.] noted: Heidegger disclaims preoccupation with God, not with Ethics. (And, in fact, it is only without God that there can be an Ethic.)


p. 80/20-23

[The intuition of our contingency is not identical with a feeling of guilt. Nevertheless it is true that in our own apprehension of ourselves, we appear to ourselves as having the character of an unjustifiable fact.] noted: The word unjustifiable cannot be separated from the idea of culpabilité. My existence is unjustifiable because, in some way, I am guilty of existing. The existence of a stone is not unjustifiable, it is simply contingent. Kierkegaard (Postscript, p. 468 seg.] is closer to the mark.


noted: p. 80/36-39, p. 82/3-4, p. 82/14-16, p. 82/19-21

[Consciousness is its own foundation but it remains contingent in order that there may be a consciousness rather than an infinity of pure and simple in-itself.]: ?


p. 82/25-27

[Thirst refers to the consciousness of thirst, which it is, as to its foundation—and conversely. But the totality “reflected—reflecting,” if it could be given, would be contingency and in- itself.]: ?


noted: p. 82/31-32, p. 83/3-4, p. 83/21, p. 84/23-25, p. 86/23-25


p. 87/13-14

[The existence of desire as a human fact is sufficient to prove that human reality is a lack.] noted: But this does not explain the existence of desire. There is no a priori reason why a lack should be unpleasant.


p. 89/21-25



p. 90/28-33

[The being of human reality is suffering because it rises in being as perpetually haunted by a totality which it is without being able to be it, precisely because it could not attain the in-itself without losing itself as for-itself. Human reality therefore is by nature an unhappy consciousness with no possibility of surpassing its unhappy state] noted: Why is this of necessity a condition of suffering?


p. 91/13-17

[It is consciousness itself, in the heart of consciousness, and yet out of reach, as an absence, an unrealizable. Its nature is to inclose its own contradiction within itself; its relation to the for-itself is a total immanence which is achieved in total transcendence.] noted: See p. 74.


p. 92/16-20



p. 92/40-41

[Now we can ascertain more exactly what is the being of the self: it is value.] double noted


noted: p. 93/34-36, p. 94/fn.12.4-7


p. 94/fn.12.9-10

[the For-itself is not a moment which can be surpassed. As such its nature approaches much nearer to the "ambiguous” realities of Kierkegaard.] noted: Postscript, p. 302.


p. 95/6-8



p. 98/20-22

[The cloud is not “potential rain;" it is, in itself, a certain quantity of water vapor, which at a given temperature and under a given pressure is strictly what it is. The in-itself is actuality.] noted by a wavy line.


p. 103/13-17

[But the Ego is far from being the personalizing pole of a consciousness which without it would remain in the impersonal stage; on the contrary, it is consciousness in its fundamental selfness which under certain conditions allows the appearance of the Ego as the transcendent-phenomenon of that selfness.] noted: It is inherently impossible to derive an Ego from a play of reflexions, unless it is already there implicitly.


p. 103/32-36

[Thus from its first arising, consciousness by the pure nihilating movement of reflection makes itself personal; for what confers personal existence on a being is not the possession of an Ego—which is only the sign of the personality—but it is the fact that the being exists for itself as a presence to itself.] noted: This is a clever guess, but all the same it is wrong.


p. 104/3-4

[In fact how can the person be defined if not as a free relation to himself?] noted: This question is not as rhetorical as Sartre intends it.


noted: p. 112/29-35, p. 114/20-22, p. 115/6-11, p. 116/19-26, p. 117/25-30, p. 118/22-24,

p. 118/32-33, p. 120/18-19, p. 120/38-40, p. 121/36-37, p. 122/13-17, p. 122/24-25, p. 123/7-10, p. 123/27-31, p. 126/34-36, p. 127/43-128/4, p. 129/8-21, p. 134/3-8,


p. 138/40

[the pure In-itself.] u/l: ?


noted: p. 139/9-140/8, p. 146/14-19, p. 146/42-147/1, p. 147/34-37


p. 149/17-19

[A for-itself which did not endure would remain of course a negation of the transcendent in-itself and a nihilation of its own being in the form of the “reflection-reflecting.”] noted; 'which did not endure would remain' u/l: This seems to imply an instant of no time, in which the pour-Soi-demeurerait, which implies some time however small.


p. 149/22-23

[In the nihilating unity of the dyad reflection-reflecting, it would be.] 'it would be' u/l


noted: p. 150/39-40, p. 152/22-25


p. 154/29-34

[This phenomenon of reflection is a permanent possibility of the for-itself because reflective scissiparity exists potentially in the for-itself which is reflected-on; it suffices in fact that the reflecting for-itself (reflétant) posit itself for it as a witness of the reflection (reflet) and that the for-itself (the reflection) posit itself for it as a reflection of this reflecting.] noted, u/l: This won't do. The assertion in the first part of this sentence does not follow from the second part, which is simply a statement of desideration. Nothing is offered to show that the pour-soi-reflétant and reflet are capable of doing what is required of them. Cf. H.J. Blackham (Six Existentialist Thinkers, Kegan Paul, p. 145): ' consciousness of something and implicit awareness of the consciousness, which is the foundation of all, is not awareness of me and can never reach me; the pour-soi as pure flight and pursuit can never know itself as flight and pursuit, and therefore the principle which ingeniously furnishes the ontological description from within could never produce the reflexive consciousness which carries out the description.'


p. F201/1 (E154/24)
[In existe lui-même sans forme de pour-soi] (compare footnote 9, E.154) 'sans' corrected to: sous


p. 155/28-31



p. 156/14-15

[Thus the reflective achievement of Descartes, the cogito, must not be limited to the infinitesimal instant.] noted, 'the infinitesimal instant' u/l: what is this? Either it is an instant or it is an infinitesimal, but not both. Presumably the former is meant, but a certain ambiguity hangs about it. See p. 195 (=E.149).


p. 156/42

[for my being-in-the-instant is not a being] u/l: This, too, is ambiguous.


noted: p. 157/27-31, p. 159/25-30


p. 160/24-25

[this in-itself which reflection has to be is the reflected-on in so far as the reflective tries to apprehend it as being-in-itself.] 'in so' u/l: But how is it that impure reflexton succeeds where pure reflexion falls (pp. 200-201 [=E.153-4])? If pure reflexion is really pure, how is impure reflexion possible? Does not impure reflexion haunt pure reflexion as the soi haunts the pour-soi? (See pp. 133-4 [=E.89·91].)


noted: p. 161/21-32, p. 165/28-40, p. 168/27-33, p. 170/8-9, p. 170/17-24, p. 172/5-9, p. 172/23-24, p. 172/32-33, p. 173/27-31, p. 174/24-26, p. 174/33-36, p. 174/40-175/4, p. 175/34-38, p. 176/41-43, p. 177/18-20, p. 177/27-35, p. 179/10-11, p. 179/25-28, p. 179/35-37, p. 179/43-44, p. 180/39-181/3, p. 181/29-31, p. 184/30-35, p. 185/8-12, p. 186/20-26, p. 188/28-30, p. 191/12-14, p. 191/36-41, p. 192/28-30, p. 194/4-7, p. 194/42-44, p. 197/8-11, p. 197/26-37


p. 200/28-31

[What the world makes known to me is only "worldly." It follows that if the infinite reference of instruments never refers to a for-itself which I am, then the totality of instruments is the exact correlate of my possibilities;] noted: Sartre too willingly ignores that Dasein ist jemeines.1


p. 200/37-38

[It is not then through unauthenticity that human reality loses itself in the world.] noted: But this is right (as against Heidegger).


p. 200/44-201/2

[Of course the Worumwillen refers us to a structure of being which we have not yet elucidated; namely, the for-others. And the "for whom" constantly appears behind the instruments.] noted (Worumwillen = "for whom"): This is the flaw in Sartre's argument—the chain is composite of different people's points of view. (From the point of view of the workman the repairing of the roof is to procure him his wage, not to keep the rain off the clerks.)


p. 202/23-25



p. 203/15

[world] u/l (=fr. monde): 'mode'?


noted: p. 203/19-21, p. 204/19-29, p. 205/10-14, p. 206/21-26, p. 206/29-34, p. 206/37-39, p. 208/1-4, p. 209/5-10, p. 209/21-26, p. 210/9-11, p. 215/20-26, p. 221/23-27


p. 235/16-19

[But actually although I am still persuaded that the hypothesis of a transcendental subject is useless and disastrous, abandoning it does not help one bit to solve the question of the existence of Others.] noted: In this matter Husserl is better than Sartre (see pp. 147-8 [=E.134-5]).


p. 237/12-14



p. 239/36-39

[Here as everywhere we ought to oppose to Hegel Kierkegaard, who represents the claims of the individual as such. The individual claims his achievement as an individual, the recognition of his concrete being, and of the objective specification of a universal structure.] noted: Postscript, p. 169 seq.


noted: p. 244/10-12, p. 246/32-247/9, p. 248/27-28


p. 249/44-250/1

[Consequently it would be in vain to look in Sein und Zeit for a simultaneous surpassing of all idealism and all realism.] noted: But Sartre's solution involves 'an insurmountable discrepancy between the ideal and the actual'—Blackham, p. 145.


noted: p. 251/11-12, p. 251/33-34, p. 252/8-10, p. 254/5-14, p. 257/18-20, p. 258/37-39, p. 260/37-40


p. 264/fn.18

Ven. Ñāṇavīra has corrected his text to: L'autre


noted: p. 265/41-266/4, p. 266/6, p. 267/35-42, p. 273/9-12, p. 277/39-41, p. 281/24-30


p. 282/27-31

[It would perhaps not be impossible to conceive of a For-itself which would be wholly free from all For-others and which would exist without even suspecting the possibility of being an object. But this For-itself simply would not be “man”] noted: But the reverse is inconceivable.


noted: p. 287/15-20, p. 288/3-8, p. 288/41-289/2, p. 290/30-35, p. 294/43-295/1


p. 297/17-21

[Only the dead can be perpetually objects without ever becoming subjects—for to die is not to lose one's objectivity in the midst of the world; all the dead are there in the world around us. But to die is to lose all possibility of revealing oneself as subject to an Other.] noted by a wavy line


noted: p. 298/1-11, p. 301/11-14, p. 305/7-14, p. 307/23-27, p. 307/31-35, p. 310/8-12, p. 312/5-11, p. 312/22-26, p. 313/35-38, p. 314/17-19


p. 315/22-27

noted and checked (and quoted at SN PHASSA [e])


noted: p. 319/12-19, p. 321/28-32, p. 326/30-36


p. 327/40-42

[Thus the body as facticity is the past as it refers originally to a birth; that is, to the primary nihilation which causes me to arise from the In-itself which I am in fact without having to be it.] noted: ?


noted: p. 328/28-32, p. 329/38-41, p. 336/8-10, p. 338/21-23, p. 338/42-339/2, p. 339/18-30, p. 343/37-344/3, p. 346/11-19, p. 346/39-42, p. 348/27-36, p. 356/15-23, p. 358/26-27, p. 358/39-41, p. 369/1-5, p. 370/6-14, p. 372/2-5, p. 372/35-44, p. 374/8-10, p. 375/35-37, p. 408/21-36, p. 409/2-5, p. 409/24-30, p. 411/32-40, p. 412/25-28, p. 419/17-19, p. 422/30-37, p. 425/23-27, p. 427/9-13, p. 428/25-29, p. 429/40-430/13, p. 436/22-24, p. 437/43-438/1, p. 438/9-16, p. 439/27-30, p. 443/33-36, p. 445/17-23, p. 447/12-19, p. 448/20-23, p. 450/21-25, p. 453/18-26, p. 456/6-20


p. 458/14-16

[Affectivity for Freud is at the basis of the act in the form of psycho-physiological drives. But this affectivity is originally in each of us a tabula rasa.] last sentence noted: !


noted: p. 459/44-460/1, p. 461/8-11, p. 462/11-14, p. 465/28-33, p. 466/28-29, p. 468/35-36, p. 473/30-42, p. 481/38-39, p. 482/16-18


p. 482/42-483/1

[If conceiving is enough for realizing, then I am plunged in a world like that of a dream in which the possible is no longer in any way distinguished from the real. I am condemned henceforth to see the world modified at the whim of the changes of my consciousness;] noted: ?


noted: p. 486/35-39, p. 497/24-28, p. 500/21-32, p. 501/44-502/3, p. 503/12-15, p. 505/31-33, p. 506/12-13, p. 506/43-507/4, p. 507/30-33, p. 508/16-18, p. 525/22-28, p. 530/34-41


p. 534/12-14

[But is the death which will overtake me my death? In the first place it is perfectly gratuitous to say that "to die is the only thing which nobody can do for me."] noted: Heidegger does not say that it is the only thing that nobody else can do for me. (See Sein und Zeit, pp. 240-242).


p. 535/1-3

[If to die is to die in order to inspire, to bear witness, for the country, etc., then anybody at all can die in my place—as in the song in which lots are drawn to see who is to be eaten.] noted: But Heidegger admits this—SZ, p. 240.


noted: p. 538/21-28, p. 543/36-40, p. 545/26-29, p. 545/41-43


p. 554/26-29

[If I am mobilized in a war, this war is my war; it is in my image and I deserve it. I deserve it first because I could always get out of it by suicide or by desertion; these ultimate possibles are those which must always be present for us when there is a question of envisaging a situation.] 'these...situation' noted: ?


noted: p. 562/21-24, p. 570/24-28, p. 571/9-12, p. 572/29-31, p. 573 24-28, p. 579/13-20, p. 580/20-22, p. 581/17-25, p. 593/11-14, p. 593/30-33, p. 593/35-36, p. 594/22-25, p. 599/29-32, p. 605/43-606/4

1 p. 200 Dasein ist jemeines = Dasein is in each case mine.