Europe's leading existential thinkers -- Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and Albert Camus -- all felt that Americans were too self-confident and shallow to accept their philosophy of responsibility, choice, and the absurd. "There is no pessimism in America regarding human nature and social organization," Sartre remarked in 1950, while Beauvoir wrote that Americans had no "feeling for sin and for remorse" and Camus derided American materialism and optimism. Existentialism, however, enjoyed rapid, widespread, and enduring popularity among Americans. No (...) less than their European counterparts, American intellectuals participated in the conversation of existentialism. In Existential America , historian George Cotkin argues that the existential approach to life, marked by vexing despair and dauntless commitment in the face of uncertainty, has deep American roots and helps to define the United States in the twentieth-century in ways that have never been fully realized or appreciated. As Cotkin shows, not only did Americans readily take to existentialism, but they were already heirs to a rich tradition of thinkers -- from Jonathan Edwards and Herman Melville to Emily Dickinson and William James -- who had wrestled with the problems of existence and the contingency of the world long before Sartre and his colleagues. After introducing this concept of an American existential tradition, Cotkin examines how formal existentialism first arrived in America in the 1930s through discussion of Kierkegaard and the early vogue among New York intellectuals for the works of Sartre, Beauvoir, and Camus. Cotkin then traces the evolution of existentialism in America: its adoption by Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison to help articulate the African-American experience its expression in the works of Norman Mailer and photographer Robert Frank its incorporation into the tenets of the feminist and radical student movements of the 1960s and its lingering presence in contemporary American thought and popular culture, particularly in such films as Crimes and Misdemeanors , Fight Club and American Beauty . The only full-length study of existentialism in America, this highly engaging and original work provides an invaluable guide to the history of American culture since the end of the Second World War. (shrink)
Hegel and the myth of reason -- Hegel's phenomenology as a systematic fragment -- The architectonic of Hegel's Phenomenology of spirit -- Points of contact in the philosophy of religion of Hegel and Schopenhauer -- Kierkegaard's criticism of the absence of ethics in Hegel's system -- Kierkegaard's criticism of abstraction and his proposed solution : appropriation -- Kierkegaard's recurring criticism of Hegel's The good and conscience-- Hegel and Nietzsche on the death of tragedy and Greek ethical life -- Existentialist ethics (...) -- Merleau-Ponty's criticisms of Sartre's theory of freedom -- Sartre and Merleau-Ponty on consciousness and bad faith. (shrink)
Machine generated contents note: Part I. Introduction: Introduction; 1. Existentialism and its legacy Steven Crowell; Part II. Existentialism in Historical Perspective: 2. Existentialism as a philosophical movement David E. Cooper; 3. Existentialism as a cultural movement William McBride; Part III. Major Existentialist Philosophers: 4. Kierkegaard's single individual and the point of indirect communication Alastair Hannay; 5. 'What a monster then is man': Pascal and Kierkegaard on being a contradictory self and what to do about it Hubert (...) L. Dreyfus; 6. Nietzsche: after the death of God Richard Schacht; 7. Nietzsche: selfhood, creativity, and philosophy Lawrence J. Hatab; 8. Heidegger: the existential analytic of Dasein William Blattner; 9. The antinomy of being: Heidegger's critique of humanism Karsten Harries; 10. Sartre's existentialism and the nature of consciousness Steven Crowell; 11. Political existentialism: the career of Sartre's political thought Thomas R. Flynn; 12. Simone de Beauvoir's existentialism: freedom and ambiguity in the human world Kristana Arp; 13. Merleau-Ponty on body, flesh, and visibility Taylor Carman; Part IV. The Reach of Existential Philosophy; 14. Existentialism as literature Jeff Malpas; 15. Existentialism and religion Merold Westphal; 16. Racism is a system: how existentialism became dialectical in Fanon and Sartre Robert Bernasconi; 17. Existential phenomenology, psychiatric illness, and the death of possibilities Matthew Ratcliffe and Matthew Broome; Bibliography of works cited; Index. (shrink)
Andrew Dobson charts Sartre's transformation from novelist and apolitical philosopher of existentialism, before the Second World War, to a committed defender of Marxism and Marxist method after it. Examining Sartre's post-war work in detail, he shows how the biographies of Baudelaire, Genet and Flaubert, often considered tangential to his main oeuvres, are in fact central to this defence of Marxism, and should therefore be read as acts of political commitment. Andrew Dobson's study is new in its use of posthumous (...) sources, including one of the first extended commentaries in English of Volume II of the Critique of dialectical reason, and in its insistence on reading Sartre's philosophical development as primarily politically motivated. It provides a clear reading of some of Sartre's less familiar works, situating them in an overarching social and political project. (shrink)
Our work represents the culmination of a study that is a search for a method. It is a search that has led us away from the remnants of Cartesianism that are found in Sartre’s Critique of Dialectical Reason, which we do not deal with here, and toward a comparative study of Karl Marx and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, which we do take up in detail. The present manuscript argues, in fact, that both Marx and Merleau-Ponty operate with a method that may be (...) called an existential dialectic.By means of careful and extended analysis of The Structure of Behavior we attempt to uncover Merleau-Ponty’s method, calling special attention to its sometimes ignored dialectical character. We then proceed to argue that Marx is operating with a type of phenomenological/existential method, and this is true not only of the young Marx but also of the mature Marx of the Grundrisse and Capital. Finally, with the assistance of Lukacs’ History and Class Consciousness, we point up the dialectical character of Marx’s method. Thus, it is by uncovering this approach in the text of each of these thinkers and by comparing the method of each man with that of the other that we show that both Marx and Merleau-Pontyoperate with an existential dialectical method.This in depth methodological comparison of Marx and Merleau-Ponty represents the first study of its kind. It is hoped that “The Existential Dialectic of Marx and Merleau-Ponty” will contribute to the on-going and important dialogue between Marxists and existentialists. (shrink)
Existentialist Politics and Political Theory The publication of the Critique of Dialectical Reason in 1960 marked the culmination of Sartre's efforts, begun in his more occasional political writings in what became essentially his journal, Les Temps Modernes, and developed more systematically in his important essay, Search for a Method, to forge links between existentialism and a non-orthodox version of Marxism with a view to developing a new philosophy of politics, society, and history and a new approach to the (...) philosophy of the social sciences. The articles provide a wide-ranging, insightful exploration of Sartre's successes and failures in this domain. (shrink)
In this accessible and comprehensive work, Robert Solomon and Kathleen Higgins cover the entire history of philosophy--ancient, medieval, and modern, from cultures both East and West--in its broader historical and cultural contexts. Major philosophers and movements are discussed along with less well-known but interesting figures. The authors examine the early Greek, Indic, and Chinese philosophers and the mythological traditions that preceded them, as well as the great religious philosophies, including Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, and Taoism. Easily understandable to students without (...) specialized knowledge of philosophy, A Short History of Philosophy demonstrates the relevance of philosophy to our times, illuminating the impact of the revolutions wrought by science, industry, colonialism, and sectarian warfare; the two world wars and the Holocaust; and the responses of philosophy in the schools of existentialism, postmodernism, feminism, and multiculturalism. In addition, the authors provide their own twists and interpretations of events, resulting in a broad view of the nature of philosophy as an intellectual discipline and its sometimes odd and dramatic consequences. (shrink)
Introduction : action, thought, pragmatism -- Neo-pragmatism and its critics -- Methodology : reconstructive dialectics -- A history of action theory -- Defining actions -- The explanation of action -- A material explication of agency -- Agency and existence.
Furthermore, it is not easy for most of us to accept a philosophy however well reasoned which refuses exterior reality to all we see, hear and touch about us. It is such philosophy that gives point to Valery's boutade: 'Philosophy pretends not to ...
I examine the consistency of Kant's notion of moral progress as found in his philosophy of history. To many commentators, Kant's very idea of moral development has seemed inconsistent with basic tenets of his critical philosophy. This idea has seemed incompatible with his claims that the moral law is unconditionally and universally valid, that moral agency is noumenal and atemporal, and that all humans are equally free. Against these charges, I argue not only that Kant's notion of moral development (...) is consistent, but also that the assumption of the possibility of moral progress is indispensible for Kant's moral theory. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to argue that Kant's philosophy of biology has crucial implications for our understanding of his philosophy of history, and that overlooking these implications leads to a fundamental misconstruction of his views. More precisely, I will show that Kant's philosophy of history is modelled on his philosophy of biology due to the fact that the development of the human species shares a number of peculiar features with the functioning of organisms, these features entailing (...) important methodological characteristics. From this main claim will follow three further claims: (1) Kant's teleological view of history is not simply based on ethical considerations that have to do with the moral progress of the human species; rather, it stems from his conception of teleology as developed in his philosophy of biology. (2) Kant's philosophy of history allows for the practice of scientific history. In this sense, Kant's view of history is not merely teleological but involves a mechanical (and thus empirical) element. (3) Just as teleology is useful for furthering mechanical accounts of biological phenomena, teleological history is useful for scientific history. (shrink)
What are the relationships between philosophy and the history of philosophy, the history of science and the philosophy of science? This selection of essays by Lorenz Krüger (1932-1994) presents exemplary studies on the philosophy of John Locke and Immanuel Kant, on the history of physics and on the scope and limitations of scientific explanation, and a realistic understanding of science and truth. In his treatment of leading currents in 20th century philosophy, Krüger presents new and original arguments (...) for a deeper understanding of the continuity and dynamics of the development of scientific theory. These result in significant consequences for the claim of the sciences that they understand reality in a rational manner. The case studies are complemented by fundamental thoughts on the relationship between philosophy, science, and their common history. (shrink)
I show the sense in which the concept of history as a human science affects our theory of the natural sciences and, therefore, our theory of the unity of the physical and human sciences. The argument proceeds by way of reviewing the effect of the Darwinian contribution regarding teleologism and of post-Darwinian paleonanthropology on the transformation of the primate members of Homo sapiens into societies of historied selves. The strategy provides a novel way of recovering the unity of the (...) sciences: by construing the physical sciences themselves as human sciences - and, therefore, as themselves historied. (shrink)
Abstract In this essay I trace the role of history in the philosophy of art from the early twentieth century to the present, beginning with the rejection of history by formalists like Clive Bell. I then attempt to show how the arguments of people like Morris Weitz and Arthur Danto led to a re-appreciation of history by philosophers of art such as Richard Wollheim, Jerrold Levinson, Robert Stecker and others.
To date, no satisfactory account of the connection between natural-scientific and historical explanation has been given, and philosophers seem to have largely given up on the problem. This paper is an attempt to resolve this old issue and to sort out and clarify some areas of historical explanation by developing and applying a method that will be called “pragmatic explication” involving the construction of definitions that are justified on pragmatic grounds. Explanations in general can be divided into “dynamic” and “static” (...) explanations, which are those that essentially require relations across time and those that do not, respectively. The problem of assimilating historical explanations concerns dynamic explanation, so a general analysis of dynamic explanation that captures both the structure of natural-scientific and historical explanation is offered. This is done in three stages: In the first stage, pragmatic explication is introduced and compared to other philosophical methods of explication. In the second stage pragmatic explication is used to tie together a series of definitions that are introduced in order to establish an account of explanation. This involves an investigation of the conditions that play the role in historiography that laws and statistical regularities play in the natural sciences. The essay argues that in the natural sciences, as well as in history, the model of explanation presented represents the aims and overarching structure of actual causal explanations offered in those disciplines. In the third stage the system arrived at in the preceding stage is filled in with conditions available to and relevant for historical inquiry. Further, the nature and treatment of causes in history and everyday life are explored and related to the system being proposed. This in turn makes room for a view connecting aspects of historical explanation and what we generally take to be causal relations. (shrink)
Although first published in 1969, the methodological views advanced in Quentin Skinner's “Meaning and Understanding in the History of Ideas” remain relevant today. In his article Skinner suggests that it would be inappropriate to even attempt to write the history of any idea or concept. In support of this view, Skinner advances two arguments, one derived from the philosophy of the later Wittgenstein and the other from that of J. L. Austin. In this paper I focus on the (...) first of these arguments. I claim that the conclusion which Skinner draws from this particular argument does not necessarily follow and that an alternative assessment of the methodological significance of Wittgenstein's philosophy for historians of ideas is possible. On this alternative view, far from ruling out conceptual history, an appeal to the view of meaning set out in Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations leads to a quite different conclusion, namely that the writing of such a history is arguably a necessary precondition for the elucidation of the meaning of a number of the core concepts in the canon of the history of political thought. Skinner's views have changed somewhat since 1969. Indeed, from the mid 1970s onwards he came to relax the strict opposition to the idea of conceptual history to which he was then committed. The paper concludes by noting that this evolution in Skinner's thinking has made him much more sympathetic than anybody reading “Meaning and Understanding in the History of Ideas” would have imagined to the research project of the Begriffgeschichte School of conceptual history. (shrink)
Philosophers' reflections on history have been dominated for decades by two themes: representation and memory. On both of these accounts, historical inquiry is divided by a certain gap from what it seeks to find or wants to know, and its activity is seen by philosophers as that of bridging this gap. Against this background, the concept of experience, in spite of its apparent rootedness in the present, can be revived as a means of thinking about our connection to the (...) past. After examining variants on the concept of experience, with special attention to its temporality, I argue in this essay that experience can be said to furnish a connection to the past that underlies both memory and representation. (shrink)
One of the most influential and significant developments in the philosophy of language over the last thirty years has been the rise of externalist conceptions of content. This essay aims to explore the implications of a form of externalism, largely derived from the work of Donald Davidson, for thinking about history, and in so doing to suggest one way in which contemporary philosophy of language may engage with contemporary philosophy of history. Much of the discussion focuses on the (...) elaboration of the externalism that is at issue, along with the holistic approach to content with which it is connected. It will be argued that such holistic externalism is itself thoroughly in keeping with the very character of historical inquiry itself, and can be seen to provide an underpinning to certain contemporary developments in historical thinking. (shrink)
Contemporary caution against anachronism in intellectual history, and the currently momentous theoretical emphasis on subjectivity in the philosophy of mind, are two prevailing conditions that set puzzling constraints for studies in the history of philosophical psychology. The former urges against assuming ideas, motives, and concepts that are alien to the historical intellectual setting under study, and combined with the latter suggests caution in relying on our intuitions regarding subjectivity due to the historically contingent characterizations it has attained in (...) contemporary philosophy of mind. In the face of these conditions, our paper raises a question of what we call non-textual (as opposed to contextual) standards of interpretation of historical texts, and proceeds to explore subjectivity as such a standard. Non-textual standards are defined as (heuristic) postulations of features of the world or our experience of it that we must suppose to be immune to historical variation in order to understand a historical text. Although the postulation of such standards is often so obvious that the fact of our doing so is not noticed at all, we argue that the problems in certain special cases, such as that of subjectivity, force us to pay attention to the methodological questions involved. Taking into account both recent methodological discussion and the problems inherent in two de facto denials of the relevance of subjectivity for historical theories, we argue that there are good grounds for the adoption of subjectivity as a non-textual standard for historical work in philosophical psychology. (shrink)
Abstract Contrary to most modern interpretations, in the early modern period, history was an indispensable resource for many philosophers. The different uses of history by Bacon, Gassendi, Locke, and Hume are explored to establish the role of history as a resource in early-modern philosophy.
In this paper I argue that, in at least two cases - his discussions of the temporal precedence o f polytheism over monotheism and of the origins of civil society - we see Hume consigning to historical development certain aspects of reason which, as a comparison with Locke will show, have sometimes been held to be uniform. In the first of these cases Hume has recourse to claims about the general historical development of human thought. In the second case, the (...) origin of the civil institution of justice and government is not linked directly to external circumstances and the principles of human nature, as it is in contractarian theories, but makes a detour through the historical acquisition of certain concepts. Because Hume's position does not conform in any simple sense to Dugald Stewart's 'incontrovertible logical maxim' that the capacities of the human mind have been the same in all ages, Stewart's account of the method of conjectural history is, in any simple sense, inadequate as a description of Hume's practice. (shrink)