Nausea Combines Phenomenology and Existentialist
Nausea is a novel by the existentialist philosopher Jean Paul Sartre. This novel fictionalizes Sartrean brand of existentialism. It represents a world without god or meaning. It discovers the meaninglessness of existence through an enquiry into the perceptual understanding of the universe. Based on these observations, we shall attempt to reveal how Sartre's Nausea combines phenomenology and existentialism.
As a phenomenological ontologist, Sartre likes human consciousness with worldly objects. Normally we control the objects by endowing them with essences. But if we become uncertain of our existence and fail to dictate the objects, they in turn might impinge on our consciousness thwarting the function of perceptual machinery. With the fall of perceptual control, labels vanish and things appear in their bare existence, as a formless, shapeless, chaotic mass. Consequently, the constructed senses of order break down producing an ontological uncertainty. Out of this situation emerges nausea. Antoine Roquentin, the protagonist of the novel is visited by such momentary bouts of nausea.
Roquentin’s confrontation with the surrounding phenomena leads us to an understanding of one of the central themes of perceptional crisis can be seen as a process of recognition of the predominance of existence over essence. As he looks at objects and people their essences melt away forcing him to encounter the raw existence. He begins to realize that as a conscious being he needs to freely create his essences in order to define his existence.
Revolting against all doctrines and institutions that curb individual freedom, Sartre maintains that human beings are free to do whatever they want, but they consequently must accept full responsibility for their actions. The more Roquentin proceeds to acknowledge this existential reality, the more seriously he examines his own actions as well as the way other people behave. When Anny writes a letter to Roquentin that she is in Paris and desperately needs to see him, he realizes that it is completely his decision what happens next: he can either go to see her or do nothing.
Sartre first gave the term existentialism general currency by using it for his own philosophy and by becoming the leading figure of a distinct movement in France that became internationally influential after World War-II. Sartre's philosophy is explicitly atheistic and pessimistic; he declared that human beings require a rational basis for their lives but are unable to achieve one, and thus human life is a ‘futile passion’. Sartre nevertheless insisted that his existentialism is a form of humanism, and he strongly emphasized human freedom, choice, and responsibility. He eventually tried to reconcile these existentialist concepts with a Marxist analysis of society and history.
Finally, it can be said that the existentialism in Nausea is different from the existential elements in Kafka’s The Trial and Camus; The Outsider. Sartre combines phenomenology and existentialism, with a view to ascertaining the nature of existence in its absolute bareness in hand.