Essays in Aesthetics


Jean-Paul Sartre's views on aesthetics are perhaps less controversial than his views on a number of other issues, particularly the human predicament. As a philosopher he has the dubious distinction of being a center of cult and controversy in Paris and of having most people who have heard of existentialism connect his name with the movement. As a novelist and dramatist he has popularized the notions stated systematically in his formidable masterwork Being and Nothingness and earned notoriety for the movement and its bizarre, pessimistic, perverse and bewildering appraisal of the human situation. As a typical French intellectual he has always exhibited an expanding omniscience that gives added emphasis to his statements on many vital issues, one of which is the place of art and artists in the human situation. Whether he speaks as philosopher, dramatist, novelist or critic, the ex-professor deserves a hearing.

Though he is the point of confluence of three post-Hegelian streams of thought--the Marxist, the existentialist and the phenomenological--and the product of traditional European thinking on aesthetics, ethics, metaphysics and politics, Sartre is profoundly and self-consciously individualistic in his interpretation of the human situation. He exploits the analytical tools of the Marxists and embraces their concern for action, but he disowns their politics. He rejects Kierkegaard's leap of faith but adopts his picture of man as a lonely, anguished creature in a chaotic universe. He discards Husserl's Platonism but adapts the latter's terminology to his own purposes. Add to this the rejection of Cartesian dualism and the adoption of Freudian insights, and the net result is an outlook and a style that produce in the reader a shock of recognition--a . . .

Additional information

Publisher: Place of publication:
  • New York
Publication year:
  • 1963


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