Sartre: An Augustinian Atheist?

Katherine Kirkpatrick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article attempts to redress the neglect of Sartre's relationship to Augustine, putting forward a reading of the early Sartre as an atheist who appropriated concepts from Augustinian theology. In particular, it is argued, Sartre owes a debt to the Augustinian doctrine of original sin. Sartre's portrait of human reality in _Being and Nothingness_ is bleak: consciousness is lack; self-knowledge is impossible; and to turn to the human other is to face the imprisonment of an objectifying gaze. But this has recognizable antecedents in Augustine's account of the condition of human fallenness. The article, therefore, demonstrates the significant similarities between Sartre's ontology of human freedom and Augustine's ontology of human sin; and asks whether Sartre's project – as defined in _Existentialism Is a Humanism_ – 'to draw the full conclusions from a _consistently atheistic position_' – results in a vision of the world without God, but not without sin. It is proposed that this opens the possibility for a previously unexplored theological reading of Sartre's early work.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalSartre Studies International
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2015


  • atheism
  • augustine
  • death of god
  • evil
  • fallenness
  • god
  • lack
  • methaphysics
  • original sin
  • Sartre


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