Encyclopedia of Critical Psychology

2014 Edition
| Editors: Thomas Teo


Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-5583-7_103


The relationship between existentialism and psychoanalysis is at once self-evident and contradictory. Influenced by Martin Heidegger’s critique of metaphysics, French philosophers in the mid-twentieth century developed existentialism as a mode of thought that privileged being and acting over substance and essence. The French existentialists, led by Jean-Paul Sartre but including Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, viewed human essence not as a metaphysical given but rather as the result of the acts that the subject chooses during its existence. This rejection of human essence places existentialism in theoretical proximity to psychoanalysis, which also refuses any notion of essence that transcends and expresses itself in the subject’s acts. Sartre’s debt to psychoanalysis led him to write a screenplay for a film about Freud (Sartre, 1989), a screenplay that provided the basis for John Huston’s Freud(1962). In addition, Sartre’s famous contention...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Frankl, V. (1959). Man’s search for meaning. New York: Washington Square Press.Google Scholar
  2. Lacan, J. (2006). The mirror stage as formative of the I function (B. Fink, Trans.). In Écrits: The first complete edition in English (pp. 75–81). New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  3. Sartre, J.-P. (1956). Being and nothingness (H. E. Barnes, Trans.). New York: Washington Square Press.Google Scholar
  4. Sartre, J.-P. (1989). The Freud scenario (Q. Hoare, Trans.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  5. Zizek, S. (1996). The indivisible remainder: An essay on Schelling and related matters. New York: Verso.Google Scholar

Online Resources

  1. Existential Psychoanalytic Institute. http://www.episeattle.com/
  2. Existentialism. Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/existentialism/

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Film StudiesThe University of VermontBurlingtonUSA