I wasted much of my time during my undergraduate days, but not all of it was my own doing. Among the least interesting books I had to read (more than once) was Sartre’s "Being and Nothingness", and "Nausea," and the others. Many of my profs thought themselves ever-so-deep existentialists, and forced us to read what turned out to be Nothing. In short they were fools and knaves and their offense is rank. While I wasn’t a rocket scientist, I still had a nose and knew what crap smelled like. So does Brian C. Anderson, who writes a review of Levy’s book on Jean-Paul Sartre and has this paragraph about Sartre:
"Lévy is right about the need to read Sartre, but his admiration is misplaced. What Sartre actually offers us is a paradigmatic example of the leftist mind, in all its dodgy enthusiasms. Sartre’s early existentialism presents a nihilistic conception of human freedom that still informs some forms of liberal thought; his later political writings seethe with the pathologies of the far left, including an admiration for bloodletting, so long as it targets democrats and capitalists and Westerners generally. Sartre may indeed have been ’the absolute intellectual,’ but only in a negative sense: His oeuvre stands as an absolute warning about the wrong turns that moral and political thought can take when untethered from nature or any sense of reality. Were Sartre alive today, he doubtless would place the blame for September 11 and Palestinian suicide bombings on their victims — defending, as he frequently did, the indefensible."
Peter - thanks for this. Cultural literacy and a broad education may include exposure to these ideas as having influenced Western civilization, but a good education facilitates the creation of a world-view that someone would actually want to live by. I always found it interesting that the teachers where I teach who are existentialists with their students are the worst authoritarians with their own kids who are invariably screwed up. I guess the ideas they wore on their sleeves in school was not worthy of living at home. Thank you for the Ashbrook Center, Hillsdale, and Claremont, among others, for providing that good education!