It is neither an excellent theoretical introduction to existentialism for the uninitiated nor a practical manual that actually lays out a distinct method for implementing existentialism towards living a better life. The book adopts a hip, irreverent style and the discussion is interspersed with ironic asides-- presumably all to draw in the non-specialist reader and put him at ease with the weighty concepts. This is a weird little book that does a middling job fulfilling its two distinct aims. However, all this bravado of attitude is incidental, and rarely of any use to understanding the difficult concepts. How could that not be bad faith? As a general introduction to existentialism, it is merely passably good.
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It is neither an excellent theoretical introduction to existentialism for the uninitiated nor a practical manual that actually lays out a distinct method for implementing existentialism towards living a better life.
The book adopts a hip, irreverent style and the discussion is interspersed with ironic asides-- presumably all to draw in the non-specialist reader and put him at ease with the weighty concepts. This is a weird little book that does a middling job fulfilling its two distinct aims. However, all this bravado of attitude is incidental, and rarely of any use to understanding the difficult concepts. How could that not be bad faith? As a general introduction to existentialism, it is merely passably good.
It is good insofar as Cox narrows in on the most useful and fundamental concepts: bad faith, authenticity, being-situation, being-towards-death, eternal recurrence. It is unsatisfying insofar as it purports to ground explanation of these crucial principles in a basic description of existentialism, its method, ontology and so forth.
As a reader who has already read a bit of Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre, Camus and Merleu-Ponty not to mention Dostoevsky and Flaubert who figure prominently here , I found many parts of the book to be a decent synthesis of concepts I already knew. His discussion of Nietzsche and Heidegger in relation to authenticity are mercifully clear. On the other hand, he could have gone so much further in writing a clear guide to the difference between bad faith and authenticity!
We all must agree that Heidegger was a Nazi and that Nazis are bad. Is every membership in a group inauthentic? Must the true existentialist disavow any affiliation with a political cause insofar as this involves alignment with an external purpose? Cox joins in the universal denunciation of Heidegger without really explaining why in relation to his central narrative.
And what about the self-help part of the book? This seems mostly bravado. Cox repeats the assertions of existentialists that belief in existentialist principles and the struggle to be authentic can lead to true emancipation. He tells us about the existence of existential counseling and that it improves on typical psychoanalysis by acknowledging anxiety as a fundamental reasoned reaction to the meaninglessness of existence. He provides no method, only madness. Nor can I recommend it to anyone looking for a way to apply existentialism to liberate his or her consciousness.
Perhaps you should try Buddhism, which, in some its recent adaptations seems to be a form of existentialism coupled with method. Overall, it approaches its point with a direct simplicity, not over-saturating the concept with muddling jargon and academic posturing. There is a bit in the middle when I started to feel a bit over my head once he starts in with the "facticity"s but it quickly passed. It is short enough not to seem daunting, as many philosophers are dreadfully verbose, taking three pages to say what might be said in one.
I would recommend this book to anyone who has a basic ability to grasp abstract concepts. I would recommend reading it with a highlighter pen, as there are many "ahas" to be found, even if you want nothing more than to understand what existentialists believe. To me it seems more like Cox feels Sartre is all one needs, more than being ignorant of what others have said.
That may be true, but I felt a little force fed regarding so much from one existentialist philosopher. I may read it again in a while. I did not understand a single word as the professor started to talk about the two heavy-weights Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger and their concepts of Dasein German for being-there.
The term refers to a persons unique spatial and temporal situated-ness in this world. I was too scared to ask, what the heck this was supposed to mean. During my first phenomenology-course at the University of Heidelberg, I almost gave up the idea to continue my studies of philosophy. Most of the other students, however, clicking their tongues due to this epiphanic realization, seemed to get it immediately. Why change something that is already as good as it is?
Well, because after a few days of drinking too much black coffee and smoking too many heavy cigarettes, my body seriously complained. Hence, I started studying, reading up, whatever I could get into my hands, to understand more and also impress the PhD-guy at the next discussion round. Long and lonely nights in the library were following: Me vs.
Everyone, who has been busily engaged in studying philosophy, knows that kind of feeling. I really wanted to crack the nut! Because I figured out that the ideas behind existentialism can be quite explosive. Hence, he chose to bridge the gap between the academic ivory tower-research and the worldly needs of an interested but theoretically untrained reader.
According to the Ancient Greek founders of Western philosophy, however, achieving personal enlightenment is precisely the point of studying philosophy. The trouble with too many philosophy students and teachers is that they think the point of studying philosophy is to get a degree — and to hell with enlightenment!
How to Be an Existentialist
GARY COX HOW TO BE AN EXISTENTIALIST PDF