Nathan Perry's Reviews > Being and Nothingness

Being and Nothingness by Jean-Paul Sartre
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Aug 17, 11

Read in August, 2011

"Being and Nothingness" is the principle existential text of philosophy written by Jean-Paul Sartre'. It seems to serve more as a phenomenological extension of Martin Heidegger's text on Ontology (Being and Time) rather than the common belief that it is a profound misunderstanding of Heidegger's idea's. Which ever the case may be, Sartre' produced a text which landed the philosophical lineage of existentialism on the academic map; complete with a strange train of logic, for which might not be grasped at all, if Heidegger's "Being and Time" is not read first with firm understanding. Of the issues addressed is the historical/intellectual damage inflicted by Cartesian dualism and which Sartre attempts to repair, his arguments against theism and metaphysics, and most importantly, the premise of the "for-itself" upsurge from the "in-itself" aspect of all things in reality; and the 'nothingness' that arrives from the friction of the these two fields, serving for us all the well-spring of human experience and our own human reality (which suggests is an on-going stream of fiction that we all invent and buy into).

I would not recommend this text to anyone unless they had first a) an authentic interest in philosophy and b) if they have had a firm prior understanding of both phenomenology and ontology. I might recommend it to those who fancy the appearance of being intellectual, for if they attempt to read "Being and Nothingness" to support their personal image, they may secretly experience the shame of failing to understand what they are trying to read; an existential kick in the nuts, in itself. If such a person were able to set aside their highly protected esteem, however, they'd likely realize that they are not intellectually insufficient, but that they are just reading a very difficult and strange philosophical text. Being and Nothingness, although not as challenging as Hegel's "Phenomenology of Spirit" and "Being and Time", comes close. My analogy of consensus might maintain that Sartre's "Being and Nothingness" is as easy to comprehend (at least in its majority) as it is to pull a nail from a wooden floor board with one's lips; a nail that may or may not really be there in the first place, and the idea that one experiences it regardless of its actuality and yet chooses to orally yank it free, is possible; it is just that it is not necessarily something that one might desire to accomplish, even if the possibility of succeeding is strong.
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