Hell Is Other People

People smarter than me claim that Jean-Paul Sarte’s famous definition of hell is one of the most misunderstood quotes in Philosophy. It occurs at the end of Sarte’s 1943 play Hui Clos (No Exit). Fortunately, I woke up in time to hear it. The words are brilliant in context and intellectuals could (and probably have) written doctoral dissertations on the shame in realizing that others observe us as objects. And stuff like that. But the real brilliance in the four word quotation is that the profundity also works out of context. The words can stand alone for shallow people like me who can be blown away by the satisfying intersection of wit and depth.

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