Does Sartre ever talk about authenticity in terms of irrelevance?

I think that authenticity means (amongst other things) both being irrelevant and failing to act: that membership of a group which cannot achieve its goals despite having (relevance) the opportunity to, is less authentic than membership of a group which never has the opportunity to achieve its goals (irrelevance).

Does Sartre have an answer to this formula, and what is it?

  • 1
    More importantly, does Sartre ever talk about authenticity with respect to groups of people rather than individuals.
    – virmaior
    Aug 29, 2015 at 2:02
  • @virmaior i did the obvious edit, though it reads less like a good question now
    – user6917
    Aug 29, 2015 at 12:42
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    Authenticity is a concept I associate with Sartre; but does he actually mention irrelevance? Aug 29, 2015 at 17:25
  • that's what i was asking :) !
    – user6917
    Aug 29, 2015 at 17:25
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    This could definitely be developed a little more -- what about Sartre's notion of authenticity makes you think he could be receptive to such an interpretation as you seem to suggest here? The suggestion itself is already a bit leading (maybe some of it could be moved to an answer?)
    – Joseph Weissman
    Dec 23, 2015 at 22:52

1 Answer 1


I think that he doesn't talk about this separate from the overall sense of inauthenticity. Irrelevance is the inauthentic assumption that a choice would not have any effect, before making the choice and finding out, or even really playing it out in one's head. It is a basic lie that evades freedom, and it does not need separate discussion.

The 'protagonist' in Nausea, for instance, obviously continually rejects possible actions as 'irrelevant'. He may not put it that way, over and over again, but that is a lot of his internal reasoning. Meanwhile his continual undercutting of his ability to choose is not rational, and it is destroying him. If he took some of those irrelevant actions, his ability to abide the remainder of humanity might improve.

  • marx apparently tried to demarcate himself from the pseudo / failed revolutionaries of the revolution via 'principles'.
    – user25714
    Jul 12, 2017 at 20:42
  • @idiotan Is this comment in the right place? The question and the answer are about Sartre, I don't get the connection.
    – user9166
    Jul 13, 2017 at 15:11
  • The problem was you have to have an ethics to judge this kind of thing. In his very late interview with Benny Levy, Sartre hoped to develop an ethics for the Left. I think this had bothered him for years. He knew it was a problem in Being & Nothingness.
    – Gordon
    Aug 11, 2017 at 22:10
  • @Gordon How does this in particular call for an ethical consideration? Inauthenticity causes this character a specific sort of avoidable pain. He would be well advised to be rid of that pain, without any need for a moral framing. I agree that is not the best reason to be authentic, but I don't think Existentialism is about the best of anything, just what is really going on.
    – user9166
    Aug 11, 2017 at 22:29
  • Right. If existentialism is not about the best of anything then Sartre was not justified in even bringing up inauthenticity in B&N. Sartre and others later realized the "mistake". But Sartre wanted to retain the concept! So he wanted an ethics. (Now Nausea, I thought the character ended the book on an authentic note, though it has been a while since I've read it.)
    – Gordon
    Aug 11, 2017 at 22:51

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