Erica Miles
Erica Miles asked:

Did depressing, existential works like this contribute to other readers' confusion about life with no meaning?

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TROY CROWHURST I can understand how this novel can come across as pretty miserable. Sartre was renown for his negative ideas, famously quoted as saying: 'Hell is other people'. His point though was that by stressing the meaninglessness of life, we are 'free' to create that meaning ourselves 'authentically'. You'd need to check that out. In truth this novel doesn't take us past the first negative stage really and I was told at college that he was probably developing his ideas literally as he was writing this novel. Funny that he was a really social guy always round the Parisien cafes with a reputation as being generous with his tips! More interesting still, is that he was particularly ugly and in recognising his own ugliness and I feel that he as inspired in his negative thinking on humanity ( Only my thoughts though!) Hope you weren't too depressed by it!?
Deslourdines Some people didn't understand the book. The conclusion of the nausea is that YOU HAVE to give meaning to life through engagement, and because there is no God, YOU ARE responsible for what happens to you or others. Is that really so hard to understand? I don't think so. Sartre is not Heidegger, he is "in your face", plain and simple, and his message is optimistic.
Canichangemyusername Confusion is normal. But don't dwell on the idea of life not having meaning, or on ideas like existentialism. That will likely set you up for the confusion. And it will surely close you off to what you can learn from it. It's a book, you read it. And take what you can from it.
Karan No, but I rather read this work to see if my thoughts were similar on the meaninglessness of life and how, biological life is just an accident.
Paul Existentialism was intended as the philosophical answer to the question of "what if there is no God" or "what is life without meaning". It didn't contribute to my confusion. Quite the opposite. It helped me to accept what I already thought was probable. That there is nothing out there other than what we make of it.

But - and I think this is what some people miss - it doesn't have to be a negative or pessimistic outlook on things. There are no limits to what you can make of your life. You simply are what you do - whether you like it or not. You are not an idealistic version of yourself - the you that you might like to be. You are the one that actually does things and is a culmination of all your actions - not ideas, but actions - up to that point. By existing - by interacting with the world - you become something. And what you become is entirely of your own making - there's no blaming anyone else! You can be a good person, without the reward of a Heaven or the threat of a Hell, or be a bad person without eternal repercussions. It's completely up to you and what you do with your choices and actions. Having said that, our world and our politics - our security and our ethics - are shaped by what we do, so there are Earthly repercussions of sorts.

Existentialism has some surprisingly comparable ideas with Zen Buddhism. Life without predetermined meaning is not a life without meaning - it's entirely up to you to describe and create your story - to ascribe your meaning on it. It offers you agency. The question is whether you choose to accept that responsibility. And that's no mean feat. As Sartre said, "man is condemned to be free".

If you find Sartre too depressing or negative in his outlook, but you want to explore the ideas further, then I'd recommend checking out books by his spiritual soulmate and sometime partner Simone De Beauvoir. She had a much more humanistic and empathetic take on the same theory.
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