[Work: Nausea, Jean-Paul Sartre, 1938]
Meeting Angst and Despair:

A Brief Introduction to the Symbols and Revelations to be Found in Jean-Paul Sartre’s Nausea

 

Introduction:

Nausea - Jean-Paul SartreThe book that I would like to analytically introduce and recommend today is one that is most assuredly not for everyone. And I don’t mean that it’s not for everyone because its content is shocking, like American Psycho, nor because its content is controversial, like Lolita, nor because its content is difficult, like Gravity’s Rainbow.

No, Jean-Paul Sartre’s Nausea is not for everyone because it’s entirely possible to read the book cover-to-cover without noticing what the book is doing; and if you do exactly that, then you are likely to find the book rather boring. In fact, Nausea is at its best and most likeable when its unassuming content becomes for you shocking, controversial, and difficult. So I’m now going to try my best to prevent you from having that first experience, so that you can enjoy this amazing work of literature.

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[Work: Nausea, Jean-Paul Sartre, 1938]
Meeting Angst and Despair:

A Brief Introduction to the Symbols and Revelations to be Found in Jean-Paul Sartre’s Nausea

was last modified: January 1st, 2017 by Daniel Podgorski

[Work: The Stranger, Albert Camus, 1942]
Smiling While Despised:

The Ending of Albert Camus’ The Stranger and the Beginning of Authenticity

 

Albert Camus Sketch by M.R.P. - The Stranger - authenticity

Sketch by M.R.P.

Introduction:

A month ago, your Tuesday Tome article consisted of a discussion of the topic of authenticity in the existential classic The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy. This week, I would like to look at this same theme, authenticity, in the context of a work that is not merely labeled existential, but existentialist, appearing as it does among the canon of the French existentialists in the 20th century: The Stranger by Albert CamusThe Stranger - Albert Camus - authenticity.

The nature of this article is such that it requires spoiling basic plot details of The Stranger, so you should only continue reading after this paragraph if you either do not mind spoilers or have already read the book.

Specifically, I would like to talk about the ending epiphany of protagonist Meursault, and what it is that allows Meursault to face his death happily at the end of The Stranger. My initial premise is that attainment of the aforementioned authenticity allows Meursault to do so, but this premise will be complicated by the novel’s very last line, for which I will offer three different but related readings.

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[Work: The Stranger, Albert Camus, 1942]
Smiling While Despised:

The Ending of Albert Camus’ The Stranger and the Beginning of Authenticity

was last modified: October 21st, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski

[Topics: Existentialism, Morality]
Freedom is Not a Humanism:

Responding to the Ethical System in Jean-Paul Sartre’s “Existentialism is a Humanism”

 

Introduction:

Whatever your personal estimation of his ideas, it is nevertheless true that Jean-Paul Sartre ushered in one of those rare moments in human history when a school of contemporary philosophy was highly integrated into the zeitgeist. And while I personally find Sartre’s contributions to literature (i.e. his plays, short stories, and novels) to be so exceptional as to far outweigh his contributions to philosophy, I do find value in both.

The work by him which is most likely to have been encountered by any student of philosophy, however, is not one of his literary works; instead, it is his early speech-turned-essay “Existentialism is a Humanism.” This is an essay I generally like. After all, I like existentialism; I would not reject the label of existentialist for aspects of my own philosophical convictions. But, that said, I feel that after starting strong Sartre ventures somewhat off-base in “Existentialism is a Humanism” when he nears what is ostensibly his thesis. His initial responses to myopic detractors are useful and well-composed, but his goal (and the intention stated by his title) of showing that existentialism provides a morality of maximising freedom seems misguided.

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[Topics: Existentialism, Morality]
Freedom is Not a Humanism:

Responding to the Ethical System in Jean-Paul Sartre’s “Existentialism is a Humanism”

was last modified: April 4th, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski

[Work: The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Leo Tolstoy, 1886]
Proximity to Death:

Authentic Living and Authentic Dying in Leo Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich

 

Introduction:

Portrait of Leo Tolstoy by Ilya Efimovich Repin - The Death of Ivan Ilyich

Portrait of Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy by Ilya Repin

The abiding concern of the most controversial and often the most fascinating instances of Leo Tolstoy’s later fiction was the struggle for meaning in the midst of the author’s own existential crisis. Among that later fiction, there is arguably nowhere that struggle attains more pathos nor more honesty than in his novella, The Death of Ivan IlyichThe Death of Ivan Ilyich - Leo Tolstoy.

Unlike other works by Tolstoy, the novella does not seem to contain an easily discernible, specific answer to the question of how one’s life should be lived. Perhaps a reflection of the author’s own inability to see a definite meaning in life or a definite reason for his own impending demise, or perhaps an expression of the very personal anxiety of reflection at such proximity to death, the physical decline of Ivan Ilyich is characterized by a parallel rising search for reason and meaning.

Though one is not given the particulars of Ivan Ilyich’s final realization, one is provided with the context and effect of that most joyous ultimate epiphany, as well as the particulars of the series of smaller revelatory modes of thinking which lead to it. As Ivan Ilyich passes through phases of thought, he gains more and more insight into his past, his life, and the nature of existence, ultimately concluding that what he has lacked and sorely desires is authenticity.

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[Work: The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Leo Tolstoy, 1886]
Proximity to Death:

Authentic Living and Authentic Dying in Leo Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich

was last modified: January 2nd, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski