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The most common charge brought against Sartrean existentialism is that it is a sort of inverted theology (Un Pere Denature, for instance, is the telling title of a recent critique of Sartre), one which denies God or any Absolute, and yet presents a salvation-geared metaphysics full of paradoxes and abstractions--""contingency,"" ""freedom,"" ""authenticity,"" ""bad faith""--reminiscent of the medieval schoolmen. Moreover, to continue the indictment, Sartre has reneged on formulating the inter-personal ethics he promised at the end of Being and Nothingness. Miss Barnes, his noted translator and popularizer, answers these and other objections in her very valuable, if rather bouncy and didactic, attempt to furnish--tentatively and with a good deal of qualifying--a value-system not only accenting the Master's humanism, rather than his overly cited instances of obfuscation and post-Hegelian nihilism, but also one which illuminates or extends or (quite often) protests the intellectual climate of our day. It is a welcome, indeed necessary, book, and if it has stylistic lapses (""A bit of Zen laughter would be a real help in confronting the absurdity of existence""), or if the chapters on Aya Rand or the New Radicals frequently sound like academic versions of The Village Voice, these misfortunes are more than made up for through Miss Barnes' informed, tough-minded confrontation with the problems of subjectivity, choice, and the meaning of existential responsibility. In addition, there's a surprisingly brisk summary of Heidegger's tenebrous ontology.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1967
Publisher: Knopf