[L. 74 | 81] 8 December 1963

I had heard vaguely about President Kennedy's assassination from several people. It seems to have been rather a spectacular affair on the whole—first the actual assassination of the President at long range by a skilled marksman, and then the televised murder of the alleged assassin (even out of court, I see, you will only allow that the assassin was 'alleged') by the owner of a night-club. Splendid copy for the newspapers. Personally, I am inclined to feel that the fact of a murderer's victim being a politician should be taken as an extenuating circumstance when he comes to be tried. Politicians can be extremely provoking.

The news of Huxley's death, on the other hand, makes me rather melancholy. I had hoped vaguely (probably without good reason) that he might have found something in the Notes of use to him, in payment of the debt that I owe him for the instruction that I derived from his books in my earlier days. I learnt from him to throw away a lot of rubbish that I was carrying around with me (which I had picked up during my course of education), and this saved me a lot of time and trouble later on. Of course, it was partly (and no doubt necessarily) a matter of throwing away the baby with the bathwater; and both Huxley and I had to go out subsequently to pick up the baby again. The curious thing is that we picked up different babies.

I am re-reading Sartre's L'Être et le Néant with some care to find out the extent of my disagreement with him. Earlier, the book was of some help to me, and was at the same time a hindrance, since I accepted things that had later to be rejected. The basic point of disagreement is that Sartre takes the existence of the subject ('self') for granted, and identifies it with consciousness. But it is stimulating to disagree with him and to try to see exactly where there is disagreement. This exercise has resulted in a number of additions to and insertions in the Notes, with the idea of making certain things stand out more clearly. But there is nothing in the way of a major alteration. In the meantime, if you find things in the Notes that puzzle you, and you think I might be able to clarify them, then by all means let me know (of course, there are a number of things that are difficult in themselves, and no amount of additional words will simplify them, but there may also be things about which I have been unnecessarily obscure).