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Understanding Existentialism
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Book description

Understanding Existentialism provides an accessible introduction to existentialism, the philosophical and literary movement that came to prominence in Europe, particularly France, in the mid-twentieth century. The book begins with a discussion of the movement's antecedents in the ideas of Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Husserl, Jaspers and Marcel before examining the core texts that give existentialism its philosophical foundations: Heidegger's Being and Time, Sartre's Being and Nothingness, Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception and de Beauvoir's The Ethics of Ambiguity and The Second Sex. Reynolds reveals the shared concerns and the disagreements between these thinkers, and brings into focus the recurring themes in their writings that underpin "existentialism". These themes are discussed in detail and include the notion of freedom; death, finitude and mortality; phenomenological experiences and "moods", such as anguish, angst, nausea, boredom and fear; the emphasis upon authenticity and responsibility; pessimism about human relations; and the rejection of any external determination of morality or value. The final chapter assesses the legacy of existentialist ideas, particularly their influence on poststructuralism, and argues that existentialism remains a productive school of thought. Understanding Existentialism offers an ideal introduction for students studying existentialist ideas on courses in continental philosophy, literary criticism and feminist theory.


"Jargon-free and clear, its author escorts the reader through complex material and makes helpful in-flight connections between the various philosophical positions outlined. A well-written survey of existentialist thought."

Source: French Studies

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