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A Commentary on Jean-Paul Sartre's Being and Nothingness (May Reprint) 1st Edition

5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0226096995
ISBN-10: 0226096998
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Joseph Catalano is Professor Emeritus at Kean University of New Jersey and Adjunct Professor of Philosophy at the New School University of Social Research. He is the author of A Commentary of Jean-Paul Sartre's 'Being and Nothingness'; A Commentary on Jean-Paul Sartre's 'Critique of Dialectical Reason, Good Faith and Other Essays'; Perspectives on a Sartrean Ethics; and Thinking Matter: Consciousness from Aristotle to Putnam and Sartre.
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Product Details

  • Series: May Reprint
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 1st edition (September 15, 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226096998
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226096995
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #354,444 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
If you find yourself extremely frustrated in your attempt to plow through Sartre's massive BEING AND NOTHINGNESS, there is simply no better guide than Catalano's commentary. No first time reader of Sartre's book should be without this guide. Catalano does not shy away from the difficult and abstruse points of BEING AND NOTHINGNESS, but helps the reader understand Sartre's rather peculiar style of phenomenology. If one wants to understand one of the landmark works of 20th century Continental philosphy, one needs to read the original text. However, most nonacademic readers, and even most professional American philosophers, lack the crucial background to truly grasp what Sartre is attemtping to accomplish. Before reading BEING AND NOTHINGNESS, I recomend reading several of Sartre's literary works, and two shorter philosophical texts, THE TRANSCENDENCE OF THE EGO and THEORY OF THE EMOTIONS. Then expect to spend several months (at least if you have to work for a living) with Sartre's treatise. Be sure to have Catalano's book by your side. It will give you both the necessary background for understanding the text, as well as lucid commentary on some very difficult passages of Sartre's work. In the end, do not shy away from the original text. Even if you find yourself unsympathetic to Sartre's ideas and style of philosophy, I believe you will find that Sartre has some rather vivid insights about human existence.
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Format: Paperback
Sartre's philosophy reduces to a radical dichotomy of por soi and en soi. The logic for this radical dichotomy is his ontological argument. The ontological argument is the springboard for all of Sartre's later deductions. He is quite faithful to his principle, derived from the ontological argument. In this book, the author gives an excellent and lucid exposition of Sartre's reasoning on the ontological argument and shows how his entire corpus is derived from it. He shows that Sartre's lack of an ethic is grounded in Hume's understanding of personal identity, that is found in Hume's book, A Treatise of Human Nature. If experience is as radically discontinuous as Hume states it, then we cannot generalize from experience and therefore cannot formulate ethical norms. One can see the philosophical basis for Satre's Nausea when one understands the ontological argument. In fact, it is a precursor of deconstructionist understanding of words and language. Sartre ultimately resorts to a utilitarian ethical theory which, quite frankly, cannot be reconciled with his overall work. Although I adamantly disagree with Sartre, this book operates as a perfect solution for those who have difficulty understanding him.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book covers section by section Sartre's Being and Nothingness. Unlike Sartre's, it is not a large work. It provides useful background material, but I have used it primarily as a summary of Sartre's work. I recommend it to anyone tackling Sartre's tome on their own.
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Format: Paperback
This is the best commentary on Sartre's book I've seen. In fact, you should probably read this book before Being and Nothingness, and then tackle that forbiddingly ponderous and dense volume afterwards. Many people start, but never finish the book, and this book may help you get "over the hump" in that sense, since it'll simplify things considerably and give you a leg up on some of the more difficult points. Anyway, since this is an excellent commentary on Sartre's book, I just wanted to add a few comments myself, especially about one particular existential idea that I find odd.

I should warn you ahead of time that this is a very dark book review, just as Being and Nothingness itself can be, that being my point of departure. But a lot of it is black humor or satire and not meant to be taken seriously.

Sartre wrote in this book that "Life is a useless passion." He and other existential philosophers have maintained that life is "absurd,"--an idea that became a major tenet of existential thought.

Well, as the memory of the 20th century fades behind us, let us consider how absurd or useless life may truly be. Although existential philosophy traces its roots back to Kierkegard in the last half of the 19th century, it was the 20th century in which existentialism really came to prominence, as philosophers attempted to create a philosophy of being to cope with the devastation of a century that saw not only the greatest scientific and medical advances, but also the greatest conflagrations of mass death and destruction in man's history--and which, ironically enough--were mostly made possible by man's own new-found technological capabilities.
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A Commentary on Jean-Paul Sartre's Being and Nothingness (May Reprint)
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