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[Hell is other people] We judge ourselves with the means other people have and have given us for judging ourselves

[Hell is other people] We judge ourselves with the means other people have and have given us for judging ourselves [Hell is other people] We judge ourselves with the means other people have and have given us for judging ourselves
Source: Vilhelm Hammershoi, The Courtyard, c. 1905
No Exit
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No Exit
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Hell is other people

Sartre offered a clarification about his much misunderstood phrase in a talk that preceded a recording of the play (No Exit) issued in 1965 : 

"Hell is other people" has always been misunderstood. It has been thought that what I meant by that was that our relations with other people are always poisoned, that they are invariably hellish relations. But what I really mean is something totally different. I mean that if relations with someone else are twisted, vitiated, then that other person can only be hell. Why? Because … when we think about ourselves, when we try to know ourselves … we use the knowledge of us which other people already have. We judge ourselves with the means other people have and have given us for judging ourselve. 

No matter what I say about myself, always someone else's judgment comes into it. Which means that if my relationships are bad, I put myself in total dependence on others. And then indeed I am in hell.

And there are a lot of people in the world who are in hell because they depend too much on other people's judgment. But that doesn't mean that you can't have other relationships with others. It just means that everyone else is very important to all of us.

The second thing I would like to say is that these people are not like us: the three people you will hear in No Exit do not look like us, in that we are all alive and they are dead. Of course, "dead" here symbolizes something: what I wanted to point out is precisely that many people are encrusted in a series of habits, customs, that they have judgments on them that they suffer from, but that they don't even try to change, and that these people are like dead in the sense that they cannot break the framework of their worries, their concerns and their customs and that they thus remain victims of the judgments that have been passed on them.

From that point on, it is quite obvious that they are cowardly or wicked, for example, if they started to be cowardly nothing changes the fact that they were cowardly, that's why they died. It is a way of saying that it is a living death to be surrounded by the perpetual concern of judgments and actions that one does not want to change, so that, in truth, as we are alive, I wanted to show through the absurd, the importance of freedom for us.

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