Wednesday, April 27, 2005

From Witness to My Life: The Letters of Jean-Paul Sartre to Simone de Beauvoir 1926-1939

They're always eager to confide in someone, which just goes to show how confused they are. They would like to talk about their personal traits and tell those little lies one does in such a state. My presence alone keeps them from doing so, for I hate weakness and confidences told halfheartedly, without reflection. But behind my back they must be babbling on like old women. Today Canguilhem said to me, "I like you because you're basically very sad and it's only to break out of it that you amuse yourself by telling stupid jokes and fighting with Larroutis." I don't know why that flattered me. Yet you know how I hate this melancholy. Here's a beautiful thought on that subject, from a philosopher I'll recommend when we've spoken about him together a bit--Alain*: "Hegel says that the immediate or natural soul is always inveloped in melancholy, as though overwhelmed. That seemed to me to have beautiful depth. When self-reflection doesn't make it right, it's a waste of time. And whoever interrogates himself answers poorly. Thought that contemplates itself alone is really just boredom or sadness. Give it a try. Ask yourself, "What on earth shall I read to pass the time? You're already yawning. You must concentrate. Desire languishes when it does not lead to will. And these remarks are enough to judge the psychologists who would like every individual to study his own thoughts as one does the grasses and the shells. But to think is to will." (Propos sur le bonheur)

*Pseudonym of Emile-Auguste Chartier (1868-1951).

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