Rhonda's Reviews > Nausea

Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre
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May 08, 2009

really liked it

This book was my early teen introduction to existentialism along with a few other works. It is a formidable effort and placing one's existence where it should be, by rights. In learning to understand oneself, one learns not only how to examine those qualities which we accept as reasonable and correct, but one learns how to understand other people at the same time. Moreover one learns the difference between responsibility and right behavior. One ought always to avoid, as Sartre later said, bad faith.
Too often those expressing existentialist points of view become involved in the importance of what they are saying, that somehow one's own personality and feelings and observations are some somehow more legitimate. Thus it leads oftentimes to a sort of solipsistic rant by which we find that there are those who are obliged to yell curses in public. Sartre would of course turn over in his grave at this although understanding freedom to express it as necessary. Still existentialism is hardly only a celebration of what one feels: the other and more important side of it is that one is responsible for who one is and what one does.
My aunt used to denigrate existentialism as a philosophy which could be expressed as “Do your own thing!” At a holiday dinner table, I objected to this and explained in no uncertain terms that it was utterly impossible for one to do someone ELSE’S thing! I further explained that existence preceded essence, a Sartrean principle with which my young mind was still grappling proudly. My parents, in turn, harshly explained why it was not a nice thing for a fourteen year old to explain such things to her aunt. Secretly I felt like Galileo.

I remember reading this book and wondering why anyone would give up a path in his life in which he was settled to pursue that which he came to believe necessary. Still I got the point that one has an obligation to follow that kind of realization, as odd as it may seem to those outside one’s life. Indeed, the difficult decisions in life have become those which have been of infinitely greater value to me, even though the social implications have been harsh.

This is a brilliant book which ought to rightfully stand as a banner for those whom decisions in their lives are the most honorable and correct which they can ever make. Moreover, it is a banner for those who want to make a change after failing to do so in their past. responsibility becomes a kind of herald by which one inevitably learns to live. As a calculus professor pointed out to me, one gets no points for sitting there and waiting for life to happen in comfort. One has an obligations to reach out and grasp it, at very least.
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