An Introduction to Existentialism by Robert G. Olson

By Robert G. Olson

Quintessential advisor to at least one of the main influential inspiration platforms of our century. Stressing the paintings of Heidegger and Sartre, it deals a cautious and goal exam of the existentialist place and values — freedom of selection, person dignity, own love, inventive attempt — and solutions to the everlasting questions of the human .

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For the German romantics of the movement known as Storm and Stress the positive value of strife was a basic credo. And Hegel, who was contemporary to these romantics, made of what he called “the unhappy consciousness” a necessary and valuable stage in the odyssey of the human spirit. These precursors of existentialist thinking have not gone unrecognized. Christian existentialists rarely have a kind word for St. Thomas, but their praise of Augustine and Pascal is fulsome. Kierkegaard was fond of quoting the romantic Lessing, who claimed that if God were to offer him a life of complete fulfillment and well-being in the right hand and a life of eternal striving in the left, he would unhesitatingly accept the gift in the left hand.

It is wholly self-generating and wholly ens causa sui. It also, of course, remains eternal, for it has no limits in time. Notwithstanding Hegel’s importance in his own right, it is largely through Marx and Engels that his influence has been felt in the world of everyday affairs. Through his conception of an inevitable process of historical development of which individuals are but moments, Hegel provided the Marxists with a rationale by means of which the sacrifice of oneself and others for the sake of the community at large or future generations could be justified.

If it is observed that he has regularly desisted from betraying others, one decides that he is trustworthy and bases one’s behavior toward him upon the belief that he will continue to be trustworthy in the future. To some extent this method is also used by the existentialists when they argue against the impossibility of achieving happiness. Jaspers’ contention that medical science will probably not wipe out disease is a case in point. It has often been observed, so he argues in effect, that drugs which give us immunity against one disease kill bacteria which give us a natural immunity to other diseases, thus paving the way for an epidemic of these other diseases.

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