EXISTENTIALISM AND HUMAN EMOTIONS is a collection of essays by Jean-Paul Sartre, one of the most well-known intellectuals of the 20th century. They all share common ground regarding how existentialism affects the mind. The topics range from mental anguish to war to sexuality, with the toning swinging between practical to pretentious at the drop of a dime.
Exactly how much the reader likes HUMAN EMOTIONS will depend entirely on how much they like Sartre in general. Sartre didn’t want existentialism to be an excuse for self-doubt or lazy inaction even though he understood the validity of such emotions. His writing, in consequence, is littered with extended diatribes and contradictions. It isn’t helped by the fact that the translator clearly translated the original French manuscript word-for-word, as there are multiple words and phrases feel awkward in English. Many of the essays are taken from longer works, which makes it difficult to follow when Sartre references earlier chapters/writings that weren’t reproduced or summarized in HUMAN EMOTIONS. However, through the incredibly dry and often confusing discourse, there’s a genuine heart to his work that fosters a unique positivity to the purposelessness he supports.
The book shouldn’t be recommended to beginner philosophers, as a certain level of familiarity with the intellectuals Sartre likes to namedrop is necessary to understanding the text. It is, however, possible to go in blind to Sartre’s philosophy itself, as he provides a solid explanation of existentialism and its criticisms. The latter half of the book hasn’t aged well at all, but the first half is strong enough to enjoy on its own merits.