The Existentialist


A brief portrait of Jean-Paul Sartre


I recall reading Being & Nothingness many years ago in the Radcliffe Camera in Oxford for my thesis on Atheism which featured Sartre. It must rank as the worst book I have ever read. And I say this knowing how many people today dislike value judgements. At best it is complete and utter nonsense. At worst it is diabolical.

I now realise that Sartre is one of the many intellectuals in this world who think the rules don’t apply to them; they create their own value system as a way of avoiding the demands of conscience which would otherwise inform them of their sins and errors. Jean-Paul Sartre and others of similar bent tie themselves up in knots re-inventing the world according to their desires which are inevitably centred on gratifying the self. This is the self without limits and is a well-trod path to perdition. It is said that the self must always be a fiction until it recognises a dependency on truths beyond itself; Sartre wrote fiction dressed up as philosophy. Perhaps this is what Sartre meant by ‘bad faith’.

When I was sixteen in 1975 the name of Jean-Paul Sartre had some kudos and meant the philosophy of existentialism. Existentialism appeared to me as secular wisdom. To my untrained and uneducated mind this was a Frenchman who knew more about life than two thousand years of Christian tradition and teaching.

Since those days – sitting in the sunshine on the step of my childhood home – I have come to realise that Sartre was not only an atheist but an occasional marxist and mainly existentialist or whatever other label might apply to someone whose random thoughts masquerade as philosophical insight. Sartre wrote a lot and that might be the best place to leave him.

“Those who choose the wrong way do so because they have delighted in their own power and made themselves their own God.”

(From Introduction to ‘City of God’ by) Saint Augustine.




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