I’ve enjoyed the other books in the “Starting with …” series, but this was a major exception. The book was repetitive and filled to the brim with meaningless (or, at least, undefined) phrases. For example, see if you can come up with a coherent explanation of the phrase “inscribe one’s values on the world”. She repeats this phrase many times throughout the book, and it meant every bit as little at the end as it did at the beginning.
Linsenbard seemed determined to make connections between Sartre and his purported influences: Socrates, Descartes, Heidegger, and Husserl. The chapter on Socrates was especially annoying: she didn’t present evidence of any influence of Socrates’ thought on Sartre’s; instead, we’re supposed to believe that Socrates’ saying “the unexamined life is not worth leading” is just like Sartre’s themes of bad faith and the like. Pretty tenuous stuff.
Topping it off, she has a reflexive need to use words like ‘gaze’, ‘authenticity’, and the rest of the Foucault postmodernist lexicon. It’s terrifically annoying and completely unnecessary. Sartre had his own vocabulary: it would have been pleasant if this book had clarified Sartre’s meaning, using words in the way he used them.