123+ Best Jean-Paul Sartre Quotes: Exclusive Selection

Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre was a French philosopher, playwright, novelist, screenwriter, political activist, biographer, and literary critic. He was one of the key figures in the philosophy of existentialism and phenomenology, and one of the leading figures in 20th-century French philosophy and Marxism. Profoundly inspirational Jean-Paul Sartre quotes will challenge the way you think, and make your life worth living.

Famous Jean-Paul Sartre Quotes

You know how much I admire Che Guevara. In fact, I believe that the man was not only an intellectual but also the most complete human being of our age: as a fighter and as a man, as a theoretician who was able to further the cause of revolution by drawing his theories from his personal experience in battle. – Jean-Paul Sartre

I construct my memories with my present. I am lost, abandoned in the present. I try in vain to rejoin the past: I cannot escape. – Jean-Paul Sartre

We only become what we are by the radical and deep-seated refusal of that which others have made of us. – Jean-Paul Sartre

Atheism is a cruel long-term business, and I have gone through it to the end. – Jean-Paul Sartre

The poor don’t know that their function in life is to exercise our generosity. – Jean-Paul Sartre

With despair, true optimism begins: the optimism of the man who expects nothing, who knows he has no rights and nothing coming to him, who rejoices in counting on himself alone and in acting alone for the good of all. – Jean-Paul Sartre

I do not believe in God; his existence has been disproved by Science. But in the concentration camp, I learned to believe in men. – Jean-Paul Sartre

There is no salvation anywhere. The idea of salvation implies the idea of an absolute. – Jean-Paul Sartre

Every human endeavor, however singular it seems, involves the whole human race. – Jean-Paul Sartre

The best work is not what is most difficult for you; it is what you do best. – Jean-Paul Sartre

I am beginning to believe that nothing can ever be proved. These are honest hypotheses which take the facts into account: but I sense so definitely that they come from me, and that they are simply a way of unifying my own knowledge. Not a glimmer comes from Rollebon’s side. Slow, lazy, sulky, the facts adapt themselves to the rigor of the order I wish to give them; but it remains outside of them. I have the feeling of doing a work of pure imagination. – Jean-Paul Sartre

Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does. – Jean-Paul Sartre

Consciousness is a being the nature of which is to be conscious of the nothingness of its being. – Jean-Paul Sartre

To know what life is worth you have to risk it once in a while. – Jean-Paul Sartre

Fascism is not defined by the number of its victims, but by the way it kills them. – Jean-Paul Sartre

It disturbs me no more to find men base, unjust, or selfish than to see apes mischievous, wolves savage, or the vulture ravenous. – Jean-Paul Sartre

God is absence. God is the solitude of man. – Jean-Paul Sartre

There may be more beautiful times, but this one is ours. – Jean-Paul Sartre

All I can do is make the best of what I am, become accustomed to it, evaluate the possibilities, and take advantage of them the best I can. – Jean-Paul Sartre

Man is what he wills himself to be. – Jean-Paul Sartre

Let it crumble! Let the rocks revile me and flowers wilt at my coming. Your whole universe is not enough to prove me wrong. You are the king of gods, king of stones and stars, king of the waves of the sea. But you are not the king of man. – Jean-Paul Sartre

All I want is’ – and he uttered the final words through clenched teeth and with a sort of shame – ‘to retain my freedom.’ I should myself have thought,’ said Jacques, ‘that freedom consisted in frankly confronting situations into which one had deliberately entered and accepting all one’s responsibilities. But that, no doubt, is not your view. – Jean-Paul Sartre

Hell is other people at breakfast. – Jean-Paul Sartre

Man is nothing else but what he purposes, he exists only in so far as he realizes himself, he is therefore nothing else but the sum of his actions, nothing else but what his life is. – Jean-Paul Sartre

Every existing thing is born without reason, prolongs itself out of weakness, and dies by chance. – Jean-Paul Sartre

We are our choices. – Jean-Paul Sartre

I tell you in truth: all men are Prophets or else God does not exist. – Jean-Paul Sartre

Naturally, in the course of my life I have made lots of mistakes, large and small, for one reason or another, but at the heart of it all, every time I made a mistake it was because I was not radical enough. – Jean-Paul Sartre

All that I know about my life, it seems, I have learned in books. – Jean-Paul Sartre

A kiss without a moustache, they said then, is like an egg without salt; I will add to it: and it is like Good without Evil. – Jean-Paul Sartre

Sometimes the truth is too simple for intellectuals. – Jean-Paul Sartre

Only the guy who isn’t rowing has time to rock the boat. – Jean-Paul Sartre

I think there is an enormous difference between speaking and writing. One rereads what one writes. But one might read it slowly or quickly. In other words, you do not know how long you will have to spend deliberating over a sentence. … But if I listen to a tape recorder, the listening time is determined by the speed at which the tape turns and not by my own needs. – Jean-Paul Sartre

A man is always a teller of tales, he lives surrounded by his stories and the stories of others, he sees everything that happens to him through them; and he tries to live his life as if he were recounting it. – Jean-Paul Sartre

What do we mean by saying that existence precedes essence? We mean that man first of all exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world-and defines himself afterward. – Jean-Paul Sartre

I will take it all: tongs, molten lead, prongs, garrotes, all that burns, all that tears, I want to truly suffer. Better one hundred bites, better the whip, vitriol, than this suffering in the head, this ghost of suffering which grazes and caresses and never hurts enough. – Jean-Paul Sartre

Ideas come in pairs and they contradict one another; their opposition is the principal engine of reflection. – Jean-Paul Sartre

As far as men go, it is not what they are that interests me, but what they can become. – Jean-Paul Sartre

We make our own hell out of the people around us. – Jean-Paul Sartre

One does not adopt a new idea; one slips into it. – Jean-Paul Sartre

Our responsibility is much greater than we might have supposed, because it involves all mankind. – Jean-Paul Sartre

Intellectuals cannot be good revolutionaries; they are just good enough to be assassins. – Jean-Paul Sartre

In love, one and one are one. – Jean-Paul Sartre

In a word, man must create his own essence: it is in throwing himself into the world, suffering there, struggling there, that he gradually defines himself. – Jean-Paul Sartre

That God does not exist, I cannot deny, that my whole being cries out for God I cannot forget. – Jean-Paul Sartre

I was not the one to invent lies: they were created in a society divided by class and each of us inherited lies when we were born. It is not by refusing to lie that we will abolish lies it is by eradicating class by any means necessary. – Jean-Paul Sartre

A lost battle is a battle one thinks one has lost. – Jean-Paul Sartre

Before you come alive, life is nothing; it’s up to you to give it a meaning, and value is nothing else but the meaning that you choose. – Jean-Paul Sartre

There are photographers who push for war because they make stories. They search for a Chinese who has a more Chinese are than the others and they end up finding one. They have him take a typically Chinese pose and surround him with chinoiseries. What have they captured on their film? A Chinese? Definitely not: the idea of the Chinese. – Jean-Paul Sartre

The more absurd life is, the more insupportable death is. – Jean-Paul Sartre

He loves me, he doesn’t love my bowels, if they showed him my appendix in a glass he wouldn’t recognize it, he’s always feeling me, but if they put the glass in his hands he wouldn’t touch it, he wouldn’t think, that’s hers, you ought to love all of somebody, the esophagus, the liver, the intestines. Maybe we don’t love them because we aren’t used to them, but if we saw them the way we saw our hands and arms maybe we’d love them; the starfish must love each other better than we do. – Jean-Paul Sartre

It is disgusting — Why must we have bodies? – Jean-Paul Sartre

To choose not to choose is still to act. – Jean-Paul Sartre

The sun is not ridiculous, quite the contrary. On everything I like, on the rust of the construction girders, on the rotten boards of the fence, a miserly, uncertain light falls, like the look you give, after a sleepless night, on decisions made with enthusiasm the day before, on pages you have written in one spurt without crossing out a word. – Jean-Paul Sartre

It’s the well-behaved children that make the most formidable revolutionaries. They don’t say a word, they don’t hide under the table, they eat only one piece of chocolate at a time. But later on, they make society pay dearly. – Jean-Paul Sartre

A writer must refuse to allow himself to be transformed into an institution, even if it takes place in the most honorable form. – Jean-Paul Sartre

If I relegate impossible Salvation to the prop room, what remains? A whole man composed of all men and as good as all of them and no better than any. – Jean-Paul Sartre

There is only one day left, always starting over: it is given to us at dawn and taken away from us at dusk. – Jean-Paul Sartre

Life begins on the other side of despair. – Jean-Paul Sartre

I said to myself, ‘I want to die decently’. – Jean-Paul Sartre

In football everything is complicated by the presence of the opposite team. – Jean-Paul Sartre

I hate victims who respect their executioners. – Jean-Paul Sartre

Fear? If I have gained anything by damning myself, it is that I no longer have anything to fear. – Jean-Paul Sartre

Several hours or several years make no difference once you have lost eternity. – Jean-Paul Sartre

Three o’clock is always too late or too early for anything you want to do. – Jean-Paul Sartre

There are two ways of destroying a people. Either condemn them en bloc or force them to repudiate the leaders they adopted. The second is the worse. – Jean-Paul Sartre

The consciousness that says ‘I am’ is not the consciousness that thinks. – Jean-Paul Sartre

One can ask why the I has to appear in the cogito {Descartes’ argument I think therefore I am.}, since the cogito, if used rightly, is the awareness of pure consciousness, not directed at any fact or action. In fact, the I is not necessary here, since it is never united directly to consciousness. One can even imagine a pure and self-aware consciousness which thinks of itself as impersonal spontaneity. – Jean-Paul Sartre

We cannot withdraw our cards from the game. Were we as silent and mute as stones, our very passivity would be an act. – Jean-Paul Sartre

And I too wanted to be. That is all I wanted; and this is the last word. At the bottom of all these attempts which seemed without bounds, I find the same desire again: to drive existence out of me, to rid the passing moments of their fat, to twist them, dry them, purify myself, harden myself, to give back at last the sharp, precise sound of a saxophone note. That could even make an apologue: there was a poor man who got in the wrong world. – Jean-Paul Sartre

Nothingness haunts Being. – Jean-Paul Sartre

Everything that exists is born for no reason, carries on living through weakness, and dies by accident – Jean-Paul Sartre

the worst part about being lied to is knowing you weren’t worth the truth – Jean-Paul Sartre

When I can’t see myself in the mirror, I can’t even feel myself, and I begin to wonder if I exist at all. – Jean-Paul Sartre

He was free, free in every way, free to behave like a fool or a machine, free to accept, free to refuse, free to equivocate; to marry, to give up the game, to drag this death weight about with him for years to come. He could do what he liked, no one had the right to advise him, there would be for him no Good or Evil unless he thought them into being. – Jean-Paul Sartre

Violence is good for those who have nothing to lose. – Jean-Paul Sartre

Words are more treacherous and powerful than we think. – Jean-Paul Sartre

We are now in a position to understand the anti-Semite. He is a man who is afraid. Not of the Jews, to be sure, but of himself, of his own consciousness, of his liberty, of his instincts, of his responsibilities, of solitariness, of change, of society, and of the world of everything except the Jews. – Jean-Paul Sartre

I exist. It is soft, so soft, so slow. And light: it seems as though it suspends in the air. It moves. – Jean-Paul Sartre

Philosophy which does not help to illuminate the process of the liberation of the oppressed should be rejected. – Jean-Paul Sartre

But your crime will be there, one hundred times denied, always there, dragging itself behind you. Then you will finally know that you have committed your life with one throw of the die, once and for all, and there is nothing you can do but tug our crime along until your death. Such is the law, just and unjust, of repentance. Then we will see what will become of your young pride. – Jean-Paul Sartre

The individual’s duty is to do what he wants to do, to think whatever he likes, to be accountable to no one but himself, to challenge every idea and every person. – Jean-Paul Sartre

When rich people fight wars with one another, poor people are the ones to die. – Jean-Paul Sartre

Man is the being whose project it is to be God. – Jean-Paul Sartre

I had found my religion: nothing seemed more important to me than a book. I saw the library as a temple. – Jean-Paul Sartre

Un homme n’est rien d’autre qu’une serie d’entreprises. A man is no other than a series of undertakings. – Jean-Paul Sartre

Once we know and are aware, we are responsible for our action and our inaction. We can do something about it or ignore it. Either way, we are still responsible. – Jean-Paul Sartre

I wanted pure love: foolishness; to love one another is to hate a common enemy: I will thus espouse your hatred. I wanted Good: nonsense; on this earth and in these times, Good and Bad are inseparable: I accept to be evil in order to become good. – Jean-Paul Sartre

Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you. – Jean-Paul Sartre

Handing over a bank note is enough to make a bicycle belong to me, but my entire life is needed to realize this possession. – Jean-Paul Sartre

It answers the question that was tormenting you: my love, you are not ‘one thing in my life’ – not even the most important – because my life no longer belongs to me because…you are always me. – Jean-Paul Sartre

Acting is a question of absorbing other people’s personalities and adding some of your own experience. – Jean-Paul Sartre

Everything has been figured out, except how to live. – Jean-Paul Sartre

I am no longer sure of anything. If I satiate my desires, I sin but I deliver myself from them; if I refuse to satisfy them, they infect the whole soul. – Jean-Paul Sartre

Neither sex, without some fertilization of the complimentary characters of the other, is capable of the highest reaches of human endeavor. – Jean-Paul Sartre

I want to leave, to go somewhere where I should be really in my place, where I would fit in . . . but my place is nowhere; I am unwanted. – Jean-Paul Sartre

Every word has consequences. Every silence, too. – Jean-Paul Sartre

I am not virtuous. Our sons will be if we shed enough blood to give them the right to be. – Jean-Paul Sartre

Life has no meaning the moment you lose the illusion of being eternal. – Jean-Paul Sartre

If you are lonely when you’re alone, you are in bad company. – Jean-Paul Sartre

Smooth and smiling faces everywhere, but ruin in their eyes. – Jean-Paul Sartre

If I became a philosopher, if I have so keenly sought this fame for which I’m still waiting, it’s all been to seduce women basically. – Jean-Paul Sartre

Life is nothing until it is lived; but it is yours to make sense of, and the of it is nothing other than the sense you choose. – Jean-Paul Sartre

What I ask of the writer is not to ignore the reality and the fundamental problems that exist. The world’s hunger, the atomic threat, the alienation of man, I am astonished that they do not color all our literature. – Jean-Paul Sartre

He walked on in silence, the solitary sound of his footsteps echoing in his head, as in a deserted street, at dawn. His solitude was so complete, beneath a lovely sky as mellow and serene as a good conscience, amid that busy throng, that he was amazed at his own existence; he must be somebody else’s nightmare, and whoever it was would certainly awaken soon. – Jean-Paul Sartre

One cannot become a saint when one works sixteen hours a day. – Jean-Paul Sartre

To read a poem in January is as lovely as to go for a walk in June – Jean-Paul Sartre

If a Jew is fascinated by Christians it is not because of their virtues, which he values little, but because they represent anonymity, humanity without race. – Jean-Paul Sartre

Once freedom lights its beacon in man’s heart, the gods are powerless against him. – Jean-Paul Sartre

People who live in society have learnt how to see themselves, in mirrors, as they appear to their friends. I have no friends: is that why my flesh is so naked? – Jean-Paul Sartre

The absurd man will not commit suicide; he wants to live, without relinquishing any of his certainty, without a future, without hope, without illusions … and without resignation either. He stares at death with passionate attention and this fascination liberates him. He experiences the divine irresponsibility of the condemned man. – Jean-Paul Sartre

Two people can form a community by excluding a third. – Jean-Paul Sartre

When we love animals and children too much, we love them at the expense of men. – Jean-Paul Sartre

Man must be invented each day. – Jean-Paul Sartre

He who asks a question is a fool for a minute; he who does not remains a fool forever. When you realize that by changing your perspective, big things can be seen as little things, it becomes much harder to worry about anything. Commitment is an act, not a word. – Jean-Paul Sartre

It is therefore senseless to think of complaining since nothing foreign has decided what we feel, what we live, or what we are. – Jean-Paul Sartre

I think that is the big danger in keeping a diary: you exaggerate everything. – Jean-Paul Sartre

I am. I am, I exist, I think, therefore I am; I am because I think, why do I think? I don’t want to think any more, I am because I think that I don’t want to be, I think that I . . . because . . . ugh! – Jean-Paul Sartre

I’d come to realize that all our troubles spring from our failure to use plain, clear-cut language. – Jean-Paul Sartre

What is life but an unpleasant interruption to a peaceful nonexistence. – Jean-Paul Sartre

I have crossed the seas, I have left cities behind me, and I have followed the source of rivers towards their source or plunged into forests, always making for other cities. I have had women, I have fought with men; and I could never turn back any more than a record can spin in reverse. And all that was leading me where? To this very moment. – Jean-Paul Sartre

Once you hear the details of victory, it is hard to distinguish it from a defeat. – Jean-Paul Sartre

We do not know what we want and yet we are responsible for what we are – that is the fact. – Jean-Paul Sartre

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