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Widely recognized as the finest definition of existentialist Philosophy, this book introduced existentialism to America in 1958. Barrett discusses the views of 19th and 20th century existentialists Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Sartre and interprets the impact of their thinking on literature, art, and philosophy.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
Published: Random House Publishing Group on Jan 26, 2011
ISBN: 9780307761088
List price: $13.99
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This book has dated terrible. My copy (1962 Doubleday) doesn't even have an Index/Bibliography or anything. This is on top of his questionable assertions. This book is historically a must read for those looking for an introductory text.read more
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Barrett has given us a colorful and provocative overview of Existential philosophy, and it is so because is it not a dry survey of what Existentialism is, but what it means to us. Barrett, writing in the nineteen sixties, applies this to the man of a nuclear and technological age, an age we are immersed in even more today. We are given a wide overview of the currents of Existential thought, all the way back to the Hebrews and Hellenistic sources, to the present. This work is more relevant than ever today, as the common folk lose themselves in the distractions of mass media or fill their days with work and deed, and professional philosophers lose themselves in the machinations of privileged academic masturbation, all with eventual have to grapple with the big Nothing swirling around in their depths. If not; knowing that the core of their masochistic dinner table fixation on terrorism, warfare, and apocalypse might one day greet them in seriousness; Nothingness will confront them. It'd be best for the mass of humanity to plow their inner depths prior to such a scenario, but there meditations on that very scenario are perhaps hope of an escape from this inevitable confrontation with Self.read more
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Mostly good, not as dry as "Basic Techniques".read more
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Reviews

This book has dated terrible. My copy (1962 Doubleday) doesn't even have an Index/Bibliography or anything. This is on top of his questionable assertions. This book is historically a must read for those looking for an introductory text.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Barrett has given us a colorful and provocative overview of Existential philosophy, and it is so because is it not a dry survey of what Existentialism is, but what it means to us. Barrett, writing in the nineteen sixties, applies this to the man of a nuclear and technological age, an age we are immersed in even more today. We are given a wide overview of the currents of Existential thought, all the way back to the Hebrews and Hellenistic sources, to the present. This work is more relevant than ever today, as the common folk lose themselves in the distractions of mass media or fill their days with work and deed, and professional philosophers lose themselves in the machinations of privileged academic masturbation, all with eventual have to grapple with the big Nothing swirling around in their depths. If not; knowing that the core of their masochistic dinner table fixation on terrorism, warfare, and apocalypse might one day greet them in seriousness; Nothingness will confront them. It'd be best for the mass of humanity to plow their inner depths prior to such a scenario, but there meditations on that very scenario are perhaps hope of an escape from this inevitable confrontation with Self.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Mostly good, not as dry as "Basic Techniques".
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
This overview or survey of existentialism sufficiently conveyed the core of that subject, even if it failed to speak to me in a very profound way. Originally printed in 1956 and dotted with references to things like the Iron Curtain and the Organization Man, one feels that one might be missing out on themes of more contemporary relevance in relation to existentialist thought. It may be difficult for some to overlook the author's exclusive use of the androcentric "Man" to refer to humans collectively and other linguistic conventions no longer in general favor. The first section of the book is dedicated to the the intellectual and artistic precursors and parallels to existentialism, and Barrett makes a strong case for their affinity with the philosophical movement. The second section (unfortunately, the smaller of the two) is an overview of the existentialisms of Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Sartre. He doesn't exactly own up to it, but his brief presentations of each display a definite preference. Barrett cannot be faulted for exposing the shortcomings he sees, and there is significantly more exposed in the sections on Sartre and Nietzsche than the others. He seems to like Heidegger most of all and reserves a special distaste for Sartre. His narrative about Nietzsche hinges on the suggestion that Nietzsche's own philosophical and psychological shortcomings ultimately resulted in the insanity which afflicted him at the end of his life. Since that theory is pure speculation, and in fact a number of diseases have been suggested as possible causes, the suggestion is defamatory. It seems to be presented simply as a device for a better story, which fits into Barrett's view of Heidegger as the pinnacle of existentialist thought.Barrett is at his best when he appeals to the survival of human society, which is in imminent danger because the political establishment, he says, "lags so sadly behind the actual condition of man." American society especially is deluded by the "thin, abstract, and therefore dangerous" ideology of Enlightenment Rationality, having faced little significant challenge to its ruthless single-minded 400 year project of Manifest Destiny. Europe in contrast is rooted in thousands of years of history, making its intellectual heritage more complex and possibly more sensitive to the "shadow that surrounds all human Enlightenment."Overall, the strengths outweigh the weaknesses.
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Interesting overview of Existentialist thinkers, but some of what he claims seems to be questionable.
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