Hell is French philosophy

Some day, I intend to write on the bizarre vaudeville act that was twentieth-century French philosophy, from Sartre to Derrida.  The second best thing that can be said about it is that, properly interpreted, French philosophers provided some of the most hilarious comedy moments in the history of ideas.

Mrs Premise:   It’s a funny thing freedom.  I mean how can any of us be really free when we still have personal possessions.

Mrs Conclusion:   You can’t.  You can’t.  I mean, how can I go off and join Frelimo when I’ve got nine more installments to pay on the fridge.

Mrs Premise:   No, you can’t.  You can’t.  Well this is the whole crux of Jean-Paul Sartre’s “Roads to Freedom”.

Now the online Independent is threatening “The Second Coming of Sartre.”  Not funny.  Once was enough.  Still, the piece cites some of the statements that made J-P Sartre one of the great funny men of his age.

EXISTENCE: ‘The thing which was waiting was on alert, it pounced on me, it flows through me. I’m filled with it. It’s nothing: I am the Thing. Existence, liberated, detached, floods over me. I exist’

REVOLUTION: ‘At the beginning of any revolt, you have to kill people. Murdering a European (for an Algerian) is killing two birds with one stone. He is getting rid of an oppressor and someone who was oppressed’

THE SOVIET UNION: ‘Freedom of speech is complete in the USSR, and the Soviet citizen is constantly improving his way of life in the midst of a society that is making constant progress’

The very best thing that can be said about French philosophy is that positively nobody, from Sartre upward, had the vaguest notion of what it was all about.  But it made us laugh, and that was good.

Mrs Conclusion:   What was Jean-Paul like?

Mrs Premise:   Well, you know, a bit moody. Yes, he didn’t join in the fun much. Just sat there thinking. Still, Mr Rotter caught him a few times with the whoopee cushion. (she demonstrates) Le Capitalisme et La Bourgeoisie ils sont la meme chose… Oooh we did laugh.


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