Sep 30, 2014

Glimpses Into Existence: Jean-Paul Sartre

This month of September saw two different sessions in the Glimpses Into Existence series -- mainly a matter of holiday scheduling, since Labor Day pushed the August session on Heidegger into early September.  The last four sessions -- and this is the first of those -- bring the series to a close by looking at what we might call the "third" (and most successful) "wave" of existentialism, led by French thinkers like Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, and Gabriel Marcel.

In fact, we ended up talking about that right at the start of the session -- prompted by a question from one of the participants:  why are these later existentialists all French?  You can see me puzzling about it for a moment, and giving a rather silly off-the-cuff, really nonsense answer:  "well, because they are French"!  Then, after figuring out what the question was really about -- I was a bit fuzzy headed, as I've been sick for the last week -- I managed to work out a better explanation.

Sartre is someone well worth studying in his own right as a philosopher, and then when you add in his novels, stories, plays. . .  it becomes even more enjoyable -- though he is someone who I differ from myself on many points, preferring the perspectives of Camus and Marcel to Sartre in some respects.

Here we really concentrated mainly just on two early works -- Nausea, and Being and Nothingness -- and really just selected portions of those.  Looking back at the session, I would say that we probably devoted the most discussion to a theme right at the heart of existentialist philosophy and literature:  the nature, and the scope of freedom -- and its concomitant, responsibility.

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