The Death of God and the Meaning of Life

By Julian Young | Go to book overview

11

Sartre (continued)

Anguish and absurdity lie at the heart of Being and Nothingness. They lie, too, at the heart of Sartre's novels of the same period, the title of one of which, Nausea, gives a pretty unambiguous indication of Sartre's assessment of the human condition. In the last chapter we saw one account of why a clear view of our condition should induce nausea. But, so I claimed, without being properly aware that this is what he is doing, Sartre in fact provides a second and incompatible account of the nauseating character of human existence. This is the account I attribute to, as I call him, 'Sartre-Two', and to which I now turn.

* * *

Like Sartre-One, Sartre-Two (until further notice, just 'Sartre') starts out from human facticity. We find ourselves in a facticial situation - in a particular historical epoch, a particular class, possessing a particular biology, and so on. This facticity is not, however, of our choosing. As we grow from babyhood into a properly self-conscious person, we find ourselves already in our facticity. (Heidegger, as we have seen, calls this our 'thrownness' (BT 135), in order to emphasise the point that we do not choose but rather - like the child of unkind parents on his first day at boarding school - find ourselves thrown into our facticial lot in life.) Not only do we find ourselves as a kind of person that is not of our own choosing; we are held responsible for maintaining ourselves as that kind of person. And if we do not behave in ways appropriate to being, for example, a white middle-class farmer, then we are subject to punishments of various more or less obvious kinds by the white middle-class farming community in which we find ourselves (Heidegger's 'the One').

All this is something we resent. We resent our 'contingency', our dependency on something other than ourselves, our not being 'the

-142-

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The Death of God and the Meaning of Life
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - Before the Death of God 7
  • 1 - Plato 9
  • 2 - Kant and Christianity 21
  • 3 - Schopenhauer 29
  • 4 - Early Nietzsche 44
  • 5 - Hegel 57
  • 6 - Hegel (Continued), with a Postscript on Marx 71
  • Part II - After the Death of God 81
  • 7 - Later Nietzsche 83
  • 8 - Posthumous Nietzsche 97
  • 9 - Early Heidegger 107
  • 10 - Sartre 125
  • 11 - Sartre (Continued) 142
  • 12 - Camus 160
  • 13 - Foucault 173
  • 14 - Derrida 188
  • 15 - Later Heidegger 197
  • Further Reading 213
  • Notes 216
  • Index 233
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