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  • Being and Nothingness: An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology, sometimes subtitled A Phenomenological Essay on Ontology, is a 1943 book by philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. Sartre's main purpose is to assert the individual's existence as prior to the individual's essence. His overriding concern in writing the book was to demonstrate that free will exists. While a prisoner of war in 1940 and 1941, Sartre read Martin Heidegger's Being and Time, an ontological investigation through the lens and method of Husserlian phenomenology. Reading Being and Time initiated Sartre's own enquiry leading to the publication in 1943 of Being and Nothingness whose subtitle is "A Phenomenological Essay on Ontology". Sartre's essay is clearly influenced by Heidegger though Sartre was profoundly skeptical of any measure by which humanity could achieve a kind of personal state of fulfillment comparable to the hypothetical Heideggerian re-encounter with Being. In Sartre's much gloomier account in Being and Nothingness, man is a creature haunted by a vision of "completion", what Sartre calls the ens causa sui, literally "a being that causes itself", which many religions and philosophers identify as God.

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