Hell is other people?
Among the Fifth Year student is one who declares himself an adherent of Existentialism and Objectivism.
I must admit that I had to look up the latter. The word itself conveyed a sense that objective realities were the only ones to be considered real, and an online definition describes it as “the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.”
The online search revealed that whilst there were similarities between Existentialism and Objectivism, they were very different philosophical traditions. Sartre is described as a “phenomenologist” while Ayn Rand, the proponent of Objectivism is considered to be an “empirical realist.”
It is hardly the stuff of secondary school classroom discussion. Anyway, I would hesitate to venture into an area where I had needed to look up a term in the first place. What I shall ask him is if he concurs with Jean Paul Sartre’s idea of hell.
In his play No Exit, Sartre presents the life of eternal perdition as one in which people can do no more than look on the world from the outside as years and decades slip past. The damned are condemned to watch as the world with which they were familiar, the people they loved, the places they knew, slip from sight. Time like an ever-rolling streams bears all its own away, and there is not the possibility of retaining a single second of that which has passed. The three characters are enclosed in a sense of everlasting despair.
“L’enfer, c’est les autres,” wrote Sartre in No Exit, “Hell is other people.”
Perhaps it is a too cynical view of humanity. Certainly, for a Fifth Year student to accept such a jaundiced view of human society would seem likely to make him pessimistic about human relationships. But, as someone who declared his belief that people don’t really live until they have faced the reality of death, perhaps a bleak view of human nature is a mild thought.
Perhaps there is truth in Sartre’s words. Other people are not necessarily hell, but the pains of human life come through relationships with other people. In words from the musical Paint My Wagon,
Do I know where hell is?
Hell is in hello
Heaven is goodbye for ever, it’s time for me to go
I don’t imagine the Fifth Year student will have heard of Lee Marvin.
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