Existentialism discussion

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Nausea - Week 3

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message 1: by Littlevision (new)

Littlevision | 38 comments Mod
Talk about Week 3 (Jul 15-21) - through pg. 132 here.


message 2: by Jimmy (new)

Jimmy | 85 comments On pages 98 to 103, Roquentin contemplates his existence. He looks at his hand like a crab on the table. He seems to sense a connection between his brain and his hand.

Thoughts and unfinished sentences and words jump into his head. That reminded me of the debate about whether or not we have free will in Sam Harris's The Moral Landscape.

Roquentin thinks he would be better off if only he could stop thinking. But his thinking seems to be what makes him exist, like the cogito. He wishes he could not exist. Unlike most people, he is aware of his existence. And that awareness only leads to the abyss of meaninglessness. It is too late for him to turn back. Perhaps the only solution is like that of the Self-Taught Man, who lives life AS IF it had meaning. Two days later, Roquentin will do a fly "the favour of squashing him."


message 3: by Jimmy (last edited Jul 25, 2011 07:30AM) (new)

Jimmy | 85 comments I believe the Self-Taught Man is Sartre himself because he WAS a self-taught man. In The Words, Sartre's autobiography, he talks about books being his best friends. He was raised among books. With his lazy eye, he did not feel comfortable among other children.

Sartre was also a humanist and a socialist, like the Self-Taught Man. Roquentin speaks of no reason for existing (112). But the Self-Taught Man speaks of a book he has read which encourages "voluntary optimism." The goal is humanity. They are the direction our lives should take. Again, all of this is totally meaningless, but it is the meaning we add to life so that we can live it AS IF it had meaning. We must believe in men, not in God, whose existence is belied by science (114). He even goes to church just to be among the people who are there.


message 4: by Littlevision (last edited Jul 25, 2011 12:34PM) (new)

Littlevision | 38 comments Mod
Jimmy wrote: "Roquentin thinks he would be better off if only he could stop thinking. But his thinking seems to be what makes him exist, like the cogito. He wishes he could not exist. Unlike most people, he is aware of his existence. And that awareness only leads to the abyss of meaninglessness."

Existential depression explained!

Roquentin wants to stop thinking because thinking brings him to a greater understanding of the world as meaningless (causing the Nausea), but if he were to stop thinking he would stop existing (sort of the opposite of Descartes' cogito ergo sum)

Why does Roquentin think more (and differently) than everyone else? Does everyone else have existential thoughts but just not talk about them? I feel like existential thought would be natural to men if we didn't have so much religion -- people are indoctrinated to think their life has meaning and purpose.


message 5: by Jimmy (new)

Jimmy | 85 comments I agree.


message 6: by Rob the Obscure (last edited Jul 25, 2011 03:22PM) (new)

Rob the Obscure Not the opposite of Descartes...the exact Descartes:

"If I stop thinking, I'll stop existing"
"I think, therefore I am"

I don't think existentialism leads to depression. I think it leads to realization. The idea isn't that the world and human existence is "meaningless" (which is depressing). That idea tends toward nihilism. Rather, it is that the meaning to be found in life is in the existence itself, and not in some essential platonic truth that underlies it. So, seek meaning in the act of existing, observed in a radically honest way. That's existentialism in a nutshell - no reason for it to be depressing.

I think everyone does, from time to time, have moments where this reality hits them in the face. What they do, is sweep it under the rug and live in the illusion of ultimate meaning, usually with some sort of divine component. The existentialist is the one who says, "I am going to face this reality squarely, and define my life within it's context." That's the difference.


message 7: by Littlevision (new)

Littlevision | 38 comments Mod
Rob the Obscure wrote: "Not the opposite of Descartes...the exact Descartes:

"If I stop thinking, I'll stop existing"
"I think, therefore I am"

Ah, I meant... the inverse property. If that makes more sense.


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