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Introduction to ExistentialismOn What it Means to Be Human
Opening Thoughts•There is no such thing as “existentialism.”•Most thinkers we’ll discuss will disavow the term.•Even those few who will accept it have reservations.
Sartre on ExistentialismMichel Contat: So you still accept the label of “existentialist”?Jean-Paul Sartre: The word is ridiculous. Besides, as you know, it wasn’t I who chose it: they stuck it on me and I accepted it. These days I wouldn’t. But no one calls me “existentialist” any more except in textbooks, where it doesn’t mean anything.”MC: As far as labels go, do you prefer “existentialist” to “Marxist”?JPS: If a label is absolutely necessary, I would like “existentialist” better.-- “Self-Portrait at Seventy,” in Life/Situations, p. 60.
Opening Thoughts•“Existentialism” is about more than academic philosophy.•Many of the key figures associated with the term “existentialism” were novelists, playwrights, and poets.•In influence, “existentialist” themes are found in films, in art, and in other cultural practices.•My daughter, an attorney, tells me that “a really important case in Delaware corporate law” is In re the Walt Disney Co. Derivative Litigationand subsequent related cases, in which Sartre’s Being and Nothingnessis cited! •Philosophy as a way of life.•“Care of the Self•can be traced to Socrates
Five Themes of ExistentialismThomas Flynn, Existentialism: A Very Short Introduction, ch. 1 (verbatim)1. Existence precedes essence.What you are (your essence) is the result of your choices (your existence) rather than the reverse. Essence is not destiny. You are what you make yourself to be.2. Time is of the essence.We are fundamentally time-bound beings. Unlike measurable, ‘clock’ time, lived time is qualitative: the ‘not yet’, the ‘already’, and the ‘present’ differ among themselves in meaning and value.