This chapter explores some of the similarities and differences in the philosophical methods of five philosophers often considered existentialists: Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, de Beauvoir and Marcel. The relationship between existentialism and phenomenological methods, as well as transcendental reasoning in general, is examined.
This chapter challenges the received doxa that the generation of ‘poststructuralist’ philosophers broke decisively with existentialism and rendered it out of date, a mere historical curiosity. Drawing on recent research in the area, it draws some lines of influence, and even argues for some surprising points of commonality, between existentialism and poststructuralism. At least some of the core philosophical ideas of poststructuralists such as Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida and Gilles Deleuze bear more in common with existentialism than (...) is often supposed. Furthermore, it addresses a common resistance to poststructuralism by committed existentialists by showing that poststructuralism does not abandon concern with responsibility and decision, but in fact develops these themes in ways that are proximate to existentialist concerns. Finally, it argues that some of the needs that some prominent contemporary philosophers find lacking in poststructuralism – in particular, the need for subjective agency – are already met in significant ways in existentialism. These three points serve to throw new light on the contemporary relevance of existentialism, and to open up new directions for research. (shrink)
Existentialism is a concern about the foundation of meaning, morals, and purpose. Existentialisms arise when some foundation for these elements of being is under assault. In the past, first-wave existentialism concerned the increasingly apparent inability of religion, and religious tradition, to provide such a foundation, as typified in the writings of Kierkegaard, Dostoevsky, and Nietzsche. Second-wave existentialism, personified philosophically by Sartre, Camus, and de Beauvoir, developed in response to the inability of an overly optimistic Enlightenment vision of (...) reason and the common good to provide such a foundation. There is a third-wave existentialism, a new existentialism, developing in response to advances in the neurosciences that threaten the last vestiges of an immaterial soul or self. With the increasing explanatory and therapeutic power of neuroscience, the mind no longer stands apart from the world to serve as a foundation of meaning. This produces foundational anxiety. This collection of new essays explores the anxiety caused by this third-wave existentialism and some responses to it. It brings together some of the world’s leading philosophers, neuroscientists, cognitive scientists, and legal scholars to tackle our neuroexistentialist predicament and explore what the mind sciences can tell us about morality, love, emotion, autonomy, consciousness, selfhood, free will, moral responsibility, law, the nature of criminal punishment, meaning in life, and purpose. (shrink)
In this review, I will focus on how William Irwin’s The Free Market Existentialist manages to take a broad definition of existentialism and narrow it into dogma. Such narrowing limits the appeal of this book and causes an interesting discussion to fall short of its promised goal: a demonstration that libertarianism is compatible, and perhaps a natural fit, with existentialism.
Written collaboratively by two undergraduate students and one professor, this article explores what it would mean to teach existentialism “existentially.” We conducted a survey of how Existentialism is currently taught in universities across North America, concluding that, while existentialism courses tend to resemble other undergraduate philosophy courses, existentialist texts challenge us to rethink conventional teaching practices. Looking to thinkers like Kierkegaard, Beauvoir and Arendt for insights into the nature of pedagogy, as well as recent work by Gert (...) Biesta, we lay out the four qualities that we propose characterize “existentialist” teaching practices: an emphasis on teaching over learning and on the “how” over the what; the cultivation of newness as well as capacities for resistance. Reflecting on the significance of existentialism for classroom dynamics, we conclude by examining the tensions between existentialist commitments to freedom and prevailing trends in higher education. This essay raises questions about the emancipatory potential of existentialist philosophies, especially in the context of undergraduate classrooms. (shrink)
What are we to make of works of art whose apparent point is to convince us of the meaninglessness and absurdity of human existence? I examine, in this paper, the attempt of Albert Camus to provide philosophical justification of art in the face of the supposed fact of absurdity and note its failure as such with specific reference to Sartre’s criticism. Despite other superficial similarities, I contrast Camus’s concept of the absurd with that of his ‘existentialist’ colleagues, including Sartre, and (...) suggest that the latter concept is more philosophically viable. I conclude that existential phenomenology consequently provides a more promising philosophical justification for artistic creation in the light of the more viable conception of absurdity. (shrink)
The variety of existentialist thought show existentialism to be a flexible denotation, one that can be shared by believers and atheists alike. When approaching such a loosely defined term as “existentialism” a few questions arise. What are the boundaries for inclusion or exclusion? Are there more authentic forms of existentialism than others? The former question is usually dealt with by showing the history of existentialism—from Kierkegaard to Nietzsche, Heidegger to Sartre—along with noting some common strands amongst (...) their writings . The latter question is much harder to deal with. It asks for a value judgement as to which kind of existentialism is more authentic than others. It relates to the former because the person answering such a question has to have an idea of what existentialism ought to look like, but it goes beyond it by asking a deliberately evaluative question. This article is going to take both questions into account by examining the concepts and content of existentialist authors, their strengths and weaknesses, and is going to explain why I think atheistic existentialism is more authentic than religious existentialism. (shrink)
This chapter examines the connections between French existentialism and politics. Fellow travellers like Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, and de Beauvoir saw themselves as engaging with two theoretical trajectories that for them dominated the mid-twentieth century intellectual milieu, one of which was ostensibly apolitical (phenomenology), the other of which involved a politicised understanding of philosophy (Marxism). Part of the motivation behind renewing phenomenology as existential phenomenology, as opposed to classical Husserlian phenomenology, was to allow them both to comprehend what was taking place (...) during World War Two and, related to this, to allow them to try to do justice to the Marxian insight that the point is not only to understand the world but also to change it. While there are some serious risks associated with any politicising of philosophy, this chapter highlights some of the central contributions of French existentialist politics, beginning with Sartre’s Being and Nothingness and the manner in which it at least appears to consign politics to an inessential realm, before considering the subsequent illuminations on historical and political matters proffered by his contemporaries, de Beauvoir and Merleau-Ponty. We conclude via consideration of Sartre’s Critique of Dialectical Reason, which perhaps was the culmination of existential Marxism, notwithstanding the subsequent contributions made by both Sartre and de Beauvoir. Central themes to be explored include the role of dialectical thinking in political theory, the failings that existentialists diagnosed at the heart of orthodox liberal and Marxist positions, and the specific contributions that they made in regard to issues to do with responsibility and dirty hands. (shrink)
A wide range of decision-making models have been offered to assist in making ethical decisions in the workplace. Those that are based on normative moral frameworks typically include elements of traditional moral philosophy such as consequentialist and/or deontological␣ethics. This paper suggests an alternative model drawing on Jean-Paul Sartre’s existentialism. Accordingly, the model focuses on making decisions in full awareness of one’s freedom and responsibility. The steps of the model are intended to encourage reflection of one’s projects and one’s situation (...) and the possibility of refusing the expectations of others. A case study involving affirmative action in South Africa is used to demonstrate the workings of the model and a number of strengths and weaknesses are identified. Despite several weaknesses that can be raised regarding existential ethics, the model’s success lies in the way that it reframes ethical dilemmas in terms of individual freedom and responsibility, and in its acceptance and analysis of subjective experiences and personal situations. (shrink)
Despite their differences in origin, the three influential schools of twentieth-century continental cultural criticism--the Frankfurt School, existentialism, and poststructuralism--have long been treated as an ensemble and with critical hesitancy. Examining these schools as responses to the apparent collapse of Western civilization in the twentieth-century and as formidable intellectual challenges to the cultural legacies of the Enlightenment, this book provides a productive base for criticism and broadens our understanding of their histories and reception.
Existentialism enjoyed great popularity in the 1940s and 1950s, and has probably had a greater impact upon literature than any other kind of philosophy. The common interest which unites Existentialist philosophers is their interest in human freedom. Readers of Existentialist philosophy are being asked, not merely to contemplate the nature of freedom, but to experience freedom, and to practise it. -/- In this survey, Mary Warnock begins by considering the ethical origins of Existentialism, with particular reference to Kierkegaard (...) and Nietzsche, and outlines the importance of a systematic account of man's connection with the world as expounded by Husserl. She discusses at length the common interests and ancestry of Existentialism in the works of Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, and Sartre, and offers some conclusions about the current nature and future of this committed and practical philosophy. -/- This revised edition includes a postscript reviewing the status of Existentialism in the 1990s, and has a thoroughly updated bibliography. (shrink)
Without proposing anything quite so grandiose as a return to existentialism, in this paper we aim to articulate and minimally defend certain core existentialist insights concerning the first-person perspective, the relationship between theory and practice, and the mode of philosophical presentation conducive to best making those points. We will do this by considering some of the central methodological objections that have been posed around the role of the first-person perspective and “lived experience” in the contemporary literature, before providing some (...) neo-existentialist rejoinders. We will suggest that the dilemma that contemporary philosophy poses to existentialism, vis-à-vis methodology, is that it is: a) committed to lived experience as some sort of given that might be accessed either introspectively or retrospectively (with empirical science posing prima facie obstacles to the veridicality of each); and/or b) it advocates transformative experiences, and the power of philosophy in connection with such experiences, to radically revise our doxastic and inter-connected web of beliefs. In short, the charge is conservatism on the one hand, radicalism on the other. Each of these concerns will be addressed in turn, utilizing ideas from Kierkegaard (as the source for many existentialist themes, methodological concerns, and formal practices) and from the German and French twentieth century versions of existentialism. (shrink)
A tongue-in-cheek send-up of certain aspects of existentialism written by a well-known logician and philosopher who had a serious affair with existentialism in his youth. It was never submitted for publication and is finally being made available here posthumously with the permission of Helen Eberle. To the best of my recollection it was written some time in the mid/late 1980s. -- Gary H. Merrill.
Following Robert C. Solomon’s Living with Nietzsche, I defend an interpretation of Nietzsche’s views about freedom that are in line with the existentialist notion of self-creation. Given Nietzsche’s emphasis on the limitations on human freedom, his critique of the notion of causa sui (self-creation out of nothing), and his critique of morality for relying on the assumption that we have free will, it may be surprising that he could be taken seriously as an existentialist—existentialism characteristically takes freedom and self-creation (...) to be central to the human condition. Nietzsche does not endorse a radical notion of freedom; he is rather emphatically critical of any such notion. However, I argue that he does have room for a certain kind of freedom and self-creation that supports Solomon’s characterization of him as an existentialist. (shrink)
Existentialism concerning singular propositions is the thesis that singular propositions ontologically depend on the individuals they are directly about in such a way that necessarily, those propositions exist only if the individuals they are directly about exist. Haecceitism is the thesis that what non-qualitative facts there are fails to supervene on what purely qualitative facts there are. I argue that existentialism concerning singular propositions entails the denial of haecceitism and that this entailment has interesting implications for debates concerning (...) the philosophy of language, the nature of propositions, and the metaphysics of modality. (shrink)
Philosophy as a way of life -- Becoming an individual -- Humanism : for and against -- Authenticity -- A chastened individualism? Existentialism and social thought -- Existentialism in the twenty-first century.
I defend a neo-Kantian view wherein we are capable of being completely autonomous and impartial and argue that this ability can ground normativity. As this view includes an existentialist conception of the self, I defend radical choice, a primary component of that conception, against arguments many take to be definitive. I call the ability to use radical choice “existentialist voluntarism” and bring it into a current debate in normative philosophy, arguing that it allows that we can be distanced from all (...) ends at once so as to be completely impartial. Finally, I indicate how this can be the source of normativity as it provides a purely impartial reason for being rational. (shrink)
Philosophers continue to be sceptical about the possibility of constructing an existentialist ethical theory. This article explores two of the main reasons for this scepticism and draws on Jean-Paul Sartre's "Existentialism and Humanism" to suggest that there is a way around them.
First published in 1990, _Existentialism_ is widely regarded as a classic introductory survey of the topic, and has helped to renew interest in existentialist philosophy. The author places existentialism within the great traditions of philosophy, and argues that it deserves as much attention from analytic philosophers as it has always received on the continent.
The debate in relation to the soul suffers nowadays from a great lack of clarity. At least part of this cloudiness stems from a confusion among three different viewpoints that are not always reconcilable or mutually intelligible: the scientific point of view (natural sciences and empirical psychology), the therapeutic point of view (especially psychoanalysis) and the philosophical point of view. The goal of this paper is to blow away a little this cloudiness, and to introduce into the discussion a view (...) that has not yet received its proper place in it: existentialism. The scientific approach investigates the soul as if it were an object in the world, a fact. This approach gives priority to objective observations over subjective ones, and steps in the direction of materialization of the soul (the soul becomes the mind and the mind becomes the brain). Transcendental philosophy and psychological therapies explain the relation between the subject and its objects, and by this reveal the subjective dimension of our reality as the ground not only for our objective knowledge but for our ethical life as well. Existentialism, I suggest, makes a further and important step in this direction by focusing on individualistic aspects of human existence, which science could not know and general theories of the subject do not see. (shrink)
Many philosophers embrace both evolution and existentialism as though these two views provide a mutually supportive foundation for atheism. The story goes that evolution tells us life is meaningless while existentialism tells us what to do about it. In this paper, I aim to debunk this story. I begin by explaining the existentialist quest for the meaning of life. Then I explain why it is inconsistent with the principles of evolution. In the end, I argue that the quest (...) for the meaning of life should be abandoned. It is a misleading project that science renders unnecessary. Looked at in this light, existentialism appears as a stripped down version of religion, vainly clinging to dramatic fantasies about human life. Evolution has had a deep and valuable impact upon philosophy. It will not have completed its work, however, until it stamps out existentialism and its atavistic angst once and for all. (shrink)
This book is a discussion of Heidegger's, Sartre's and Marcel's rejection of Cartesian epistemology, the scepticism to which it leads and its objectivist conception of human existence. It compares this rejection with Wittgenstein's rejection of these conceptions of man, his relation to the knowledge of what belongs to the world in which he lives. It concentrates on the existentialist critiques of consciousness as a substance and of the self as such a substance, of each person's body as something external to (...) which he is causally related, and of others as at best indirectly accessible to us. It discusses Sartre's positive views on these questions and the way he falls into a form of solipsism himself. It then considers Sartre's rejection of determinism and his conception of freedom as our capacity for choice. In a concluding chapter the book sketches a non-objectivist account of the self, its development, its 'bad faith', its capacity to emerge from it, and its knowledge of itself, free from the objections considered earlier. It then considers some new objections directed at its own account. Contents: Man in the World; Man's Way of Being: Existential Dualism; The Personal Dimension: Emotions and Value Judgements; Sartre and our Identity as Individuals; Mind and Body: Rejection of Cartesian Dualism; Sartre on the Self and the Other: Rejection of Cartesian Solipsism; Human Separateness and the Possibility of Communion: Marcel's Rejection of Sartrean Solipsism; Sartre: Freedom as Something to which Man is Condemned; Self, Self-Knowledge and Self-Change: A Non-Objectivist View and its Defense. (shrink)
Africa has always been viewed as a land of the world’s greatest potential. It has been described ad nauseam as a land of abundant natural and human resources, the cradle of civilization and the bastion of man’s natural spirituality. In spite of this apparent superlative richness, the present African condition is also well documented as a paradox. If Africa is this resource rich, why is it so backward and economically poor? In line with the existentialist notion of solicitude and care, (...) this paper argues for a case of global ‘Samaritanism’, that is, an unsolicited care for the other that is nonetheless morally obligatory by virtue of a shared world and common existence. Drawing insight from the submission of Peter Singer, this paper posits that, if we have the capacity to intervene and prevent something bad from happening, without sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance, we ought morally to do it. This paper’s contribution to existing knowledge rests on the extension of Singer’s principle of ‘Samaritanism’ to include solicitude and actionable intervention on life-threatening human conditions of whatever kind. Key words : Africa, Cultural Menaces, Singer, Samaritanism, Existentialism, Fursorge. (shrink)
Includes summary but substantial accounts of the thought of Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Jaspers, Marcel, Heidegger and Sartre, and a concluding essay that attempts to interpret the whole Existentialist movement.
Includes summary but substantial accounts of the thought of Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Jaspers, Marcel, Heidegger and Sartre, and a concluding essay that attempts to interpret the whole Existentialist movement.
Existentialism has come to be identified as a critical, reactionary way of thinking, celebrating the individual, freedom, embodiment, and the limits of rationality and systematic theorizing. For the most part this assessment is true of the early and, by now, “classical” works of existentialism, those that first burst upon the philosophical and cultural scene. Circulating Being centers on the later works of several well-known French existentialists (Camus, Marcel, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty) to trace out the development of their existential thinking (...) about language, communicative life, ethics, and politics. This development “from embodiment to incorporation” carries existentialism beyond identification with the mere reactionary and reveals how, while prefiguring postmodernism in important ways, the existential thinkers dealt with here reveal themselves to be reconstructive of the Western tradition. This is apparent in the growing appreciation of difference in their late works along with a reluctance to surrender the ideal of unity, and in their reappropriation of truth and justice while repudiating a totalizing metaphysics. (shrink)
This volume develops and defends critical realism whilst engaging critically with existentialist philosophy in a number of ways. The work of existentialist thinkers as diverse as Kierkegarrd, R.D. Laing, Heideggar and Sartre is discussed at length and Andrew Collier argues that there is much to be learnt from their work, especially in Heidegger's critique of the technological view of the world. However the book concludes with a defence of objectivity against the various forms of subjectivism advanced by the existentialists.
Existentialism exerts a continuing fascination on students of philosophy and general readers. As a philosophical phenomenon, though, it is often poorly understood, as a form of radical subjectivism that turns its back on reason and argumentation and possesses all the liabilities of philosophical idealism but without any idealistic conceptual clarity. In this volume of original essays, the first to be devoted exclusively to existentialism in over forty years, a team of distinguished commentators discuss the ideas of Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, (...) Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty and Beauvoir and show how their focus on existence provides a compelling perspective on contemporary issues in moral psychology and philosophy of mind, language and history. A further sequence of chapters examines the influence of existential ideas beyond philosophy, in literature, religion, politics and psychiatry. The volume offers a rich and comprehensive assessment of the continuing vitality of existentialism as a philosophical movement and a cultural phenomenon. (shrink)
This book is a critical appraisal of the distinctive modern school of thought known as French existentialism. It philosophically engages the ideas of the major French existentialists, namely, Beauvoir, Merleau-Ponty, Marcel, Camus, and, because of his central role in the movement, especially Sartre, in a fresh attempt to elucidate their contributions to contemporary philosophy.
Existentialism, as a philosophy, gained prominence after World War II. Instead of focusing upon a particular aspect of human existence, existentialists argued that our focus must be upon the whole being as he/she exists in the world. Rebelling against the rationalism of such philosophers as Descartes and Hegel, existentialists reject the emphasis placed on man as primarily a thinking being. Freedom is central to human existence, and human relations and encounters cannot be reduced simply to "thinking." This _Dictionary_ provides--through (...) alphabetically arranged entries--overviews of the various tenets, philosophers, and writers of existentialism, and of those writers/philosophers who, in retrospect, seem to existentialists to espouse their philosophy: Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Dostoyevski, et al. (shrink)
Professor Grossman’s introduction to the revolutionary work of Husserl, Heidegger and Sartre studies the ideas of their predecessors too, explaining in detail Descartes’s conception of the mind, Brentano’s theory of intentionality, and Kierkegaard’s emphasis on dread, while tracing the debate over existence and essence as far back as Aquinas and Aristotle. For a full understanding of the existentialists and phenomenologists, we must also understand the problems that they were trying to solve. This book, originally published in 1984, presents clearly how (...) the main concerns of phenomenology and existentialism grew out of tradition. (shrink)
The Continuum Companion to Existentialism offers the definitive guide to a key area of modern European philosophy. The book covers the fundamental questions asked by existentialism, providing valuable guidance for students and researchers to some of the many important and enduring contributions of existentialist thinkers. Eighteen specially commissioned essays from an international team of experts explore existentialism’s relationship to philosophical method; ontology; politics; psychoanalysis; ethics; religion; literature; emotion; feminism and sexuality; cognitive science; authenticity and the self; its (...) significance in Latin American culture; and its contribution to the development of Poststructuralism. In addition, five short chapters summarise the status of canonical figures Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre and de Beauvoir, delineating the historical approach to their work, while pointing to new directions such research is now taking. Featuring a series of indispensable research tools (A to Z of terms, concepts and thinkers; timeline of existentialism; list of resources and an annotated guide to further reading), this Companion is an essential tool to help the new reader navigate through the heart of Existentialism and modern European philosophy. (shrink)
The Existentialist Reader is a comprehensive anthology of classic philosophical writings from eight key existentialist thinkers: Sartre, Camus, Heidegger, de Beauvoir, Jaspers, Marcel, Merleau-Ponty, and Ortega y Gasset. These substantial and carefully selected readings consider the distinctive concerns of existentialism: absurdity, anxiety, alienation, death. A comprehensive introduction by Paul S. MacDonald illuminates the existentialist quest for individual freedom and authentic human experience with insight into the historical and intellectual background of these major figures. The Existentialist Reader is a valuable (...) guide to the provocative theories that shook the philosophical world in the 1930s and continue to profoundly shape the way we think about ourselves. (shrink)
Existentialist Ontology and Human Consciousness The majority of the distinguished scholarly articles in this volume focus on Sartre's early philosophical work, which dealt first with imagination and the emotions, then with the critique of Husserl's notion of a transcendental ego, and finally with systematic ontology presented in his best-known book, Being and Nothingness. In addition, since his preoccupation with ontological questions and especially with the meanings of ego, self, and consciousness endured throughout his career, other essays discuss these themes in (...) light of later developments both in Sartre's own thought and in the phenomenological, hermeneutic, and analytic traditions. (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)
The Development and Meaning of Twentieth-Century Existentialism This volume recaptures, through the writings of figures already well-known in the mid-1940s, the coming-to-consciousness of the existentialist movement, along with early disagreements concerning its significance. The articles present various critics' shifting views of that significance and the movement's standing over subsequent decades. Despite the centrality of Sartre's thought to existentialism, these selections offer interestingly diverse perceptions of his place within the existentialist pantheon, along with varied interpretations of both the historical (...) origins and the future importance of existential philosophy. (shrink)
The Historical Dictionary of Existentialism explains the central claims of existentialist philosophy and the contexts in which it developed into one of the most influential intellectual trends of the 20th century. This is done through a chronology, an introductory essay, a bibliography, and more than 300 cross-referenced dictionary entries offering clear, accessible accounts of the life and thought of major existentialists like Jean-Paul Sartre, Martin Heidegger, Martin Buber, Karl Jaspers, Gabriel Marcel, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, (...) as well as thinkers influential to its development such as Wilhelm Dilthey, Henri Bergson, Edmund Husserl, and Max Scheler. Historical Dictionary of Existentialism affords readers an integrated, critical, and historically-sensitive understanding of this important philosophical movement. (shrink)
An exploration of the relationship between cinema and existentialism, in terms of their mutual ability to describe the human condition, this book combines analyses of topics in the philosophy of film with an exploration of specific existentialist themes expressed in the films of Fellini, Bergman and Woody Allen, among others.
Jean-Paul Sartre is often seen as the quintessential public intellectual, but this was not always the case. Until the mid-1940s he was not so well-known, even in France. Then suddenly, in a very short period of time, Sartre became an intellectual celebrity. How can we explain this remarkable transformation? The Existentialist Moment retraces Sartre s career and provides a compelling new explanation of his meteoric rise to fame. Baert takes the reader back to the confusing and traumatic period of the (...) Second World War and its immediate aftermath and shows how the unique political and intellectual landscape in France at this time helped to propel Sartre and existentialist philosophy to the fore. The book also explores why, from the early 1960s onwards, in France and elsewhere, the interest in Sartre and existentialism eventually waned. The Existentialist Moment ends with a bold new theory for the study of intellectuals and a provocative challenge to the widespread belief that the public intellectual is a species now on the brink of extinction. (shrink)