Magal The most interesting was Heidegger. In his later dostoevxky he dismisses Kierkegaard as sarhre a religious writer, and he devotes more and more attention to the works of Nietzsche whom he has come to consider one of the very greatest philosophers of all time and, exisrentialism, the last great metaphysician of the West. What is striking to a philosopher is that practically all English- speaking philosophy is included in the condemnation of inauthentic life: The content was furnished by his partners who began by thinking they had knowledge, and his own function was mainly critical. He left off clanking it.

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Seriously, Kaufmann tells us on the first page that "[e]xistentialism is not a philosophy but a label for several widely different revolts against traditional philosophy. The three writers who appear invariably on every list of "existentialists"—Jaspers, Heidegger, and Sartre—are not in agreement on essentials.

Such alleged precursors as Pascal and Kierkegaard differed from all three men by being dedicated Christians. If, as is often done, Nietzsche and Dostoevsky are included in the fold, we must make room for an impassioned anti-Christian and an even more fanatical Greek-Orthodox Russian imperialist. By the time we consider adding Rilke, Kafka, and Camus, it becomes plain that one essential feature shared by all these men is their perfervid individualism.

I see. And it gets worse: about half the writers collected here were dead before the term "existentialism" was ever coined, and only one 1 person in the entire book—Sartre, the coiner himself—actually referred to his philosophy by that name. So already things are looking a little hopeless for anyone trying to promote this particular -ism as a consistent and widely adhered-to school of thought. And yet here we are. We talk almost daily about so-and-so having an "existential crisis," though in using the term we might mean anything from a momentary bout of internal conflict to a full-blown panic attack.

What, if anything, is existentialism, and why is it still so alluring for so many despite its apparent lack of coherence and the reservations of even its most essential contributors? Existentialism from Kierkegaard to Sartre is a syllable shorter by my count, too, so what gives, Walter? I think Kaufmann misses the point a bit by including only the first half of Notes from Underground the second half is where Dostoevsky shows us the dirty underbelly of all the ideas espoused at the beginning , but I like that he Kaufmann considers fiction to be just as valid as straightforward philosophizing when it comes to expressing and examining our ideologies.

Appalled by the complacent Christianity which dominated his society, he broke his engagement to a woman he seems to have loved and devoted himself to a solitary life of writing and wandering the streets of Copenhagen and meditating on questions of faith. Friedrich Nietzsche German, - Now Nietzsche was sort of the atheistic foil for Kierkegaard, despite their knowing nothing about each other. Remember that it was a lot harder to learn about people elsewhere in the world pre-internet.

Like Kierkegaard, Nietzsche distrusted systems of all kinds and abandoned polite society to commit himself more fully to the pursuit of his own solitary enlightenment. They both stressed the primacy of the individual over the crowd, as well as the subjectivity of the human experience and the impossibility of knowing anything for sure. See Dostoevsky and Sartre for details. His section here is short, and consists mainly of an excerpt from a novel called The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge.

It was interesting reading, sort of surreal and with a lot of emphasis on death and the passage of time both crucial existential themes , though it was hard to get much of a handle on Rilke or his thought from such a tiny sample. I intend to read more eventually. While there are few writers who feel more "existential" than Kafka, I think his thematic connection to the broader movement is actually more subtle than it seems.

Well, someone like Sartre would say that even in the most restrictive circumstances choice is still possible and inevitable; we can choose our attitude, if nothing else. He also had this idea that humans have no fundamental nature or essence like rocks or trees do; we have a physical existence, but what we do with that existence and how we shape ourselves is not set in Karl Jaspers German-Swiss, - Jaspers is the existentialist the other existentialists wanted to shove in a locker although Kaufmann, somewhat bafflingly, liked him well enough to give him the longest section of this book.

He was a psychiatrist-turned-philosopher who was forced from his teaching position during the Nazi takeover for marrying a Jewish woman. Unfortunately for Jaspers, everyone else was willing to forgive MH without much hesitation owing to his brilliant mind more on that in a second , while KJ has pretty much been relegated to a footnote between his rival and Sartre.

His longest piece, about a sort of transcendent realm of being he calls "the Encompassing," was almost dull enough to skip. Martin Heidegger German, - Oh yes, Heidegger. The GR description for his magnum opus, Being and Time, asserts that the book has "literally changed the intellectual map of the modern world. In life he was an appeasing coward at best, and at worst a sincere and vocal supporter of the Nazi party who never so much as hinted he might have been misled in the prosperous for him decades following the war.

Judged by the criteria of the existentialists, he fails on every point: he argued for the importance of action, but refused to take meaningful action when it mattered most; he taught that philosophy should be lived rather than merely argued about in schools, but is notorious for his indirectness and obscurity; he preached the transcendence of everyday existence, but is all but inaccessible without a PhD.

Jean-Paul Sartre French, - And finally we arrive at Sartre, the only existentialist in this list to claim the title and the one primarily responsible—along with his intellectual and romantic partner Simone de Beauvoir, whom Kaufmann never so much as mentions—for codifying its key concepts.

But really Sartre was a kind of anti-Heidegger, in the same way that Nietzsche was the anti-Kierkegaard. He clashed with, and finally endorsed, the Communist Party, and spent much of his later career trying to synthesize existentialist ideas with marxist ones.

He was a polished and lucid writer, and he penned some solid fiction and drama in addition to his substantial philosophical tomes. Another key concept is self-deception, or "bad faith"—our capacity to believe one thing and do another, or to hold two contradictory beliefs at once. He resisted claims that existentialism was a passive or hopeless philosophy, and argued that by granting humans full agency and responsibility for their own lives it was really a profoundly action-centric and optimistic worldview.

He even addressed that tricky issue about the autonomy of the self versus the other by explaining that the moral action is always the one which grants freedom to one without taking it away from someone else.

He was not immune to mistakes and moral failings, but nor was he unwilling to reconsider his convictions when the evidence was against him. He seems to have tried sincerely to live his philosophy, and for that reason is one of its best and most convincing spokespeople.

Suffice it to say that the image of Sisyphus finding satisfaction and meaning even in his eternal toil is a memorable, if ambivalent, one to end the book on. With all that behind us, have we come any closer to an understanding of what existentialism is or means? Is it just a catch-all term for a bunch of related but distinct strands of individualist thought, or is there a kind of unity—even if only a loose unity—to the concepts and terms we deem existential?


Existentialism from Dostoevsky to Sartre

In terms of popular culture influence, a lot of novels and films during the period formed their premises around what the writers thought existentialism was about: Life is meaningless You create your own reality We are doomed to be free You must find a way to cope with your existence Being and experiencing are preferable to following a moral code or some purpose in life Human potential is unlimited even though there is no ultimate meaning to it These lines of thought make existentialism somewhat related to although not the same thing as nihilism and ethical egoism. Existentialism in some ways was a philosophy ready-made for the post- World War II era, during which people struggled to make sense of the evils that had just occurred and tended to hold grand purposes in life in disdain seen as having led, among other things, to communism , neoliberalism , and fascism. After the s, academic philosophers moved away from existentialism into other influences such as postmodernism. The idea of a crisis has largely been replaced by the concept of depression in modern medicine, although the two are distinct. An existential crisis is a period of time, often in pubescent years, where people have a crisis of meaning. Strictly religious households often cause unintentional psychological torment for those in crisis.









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