By Robert G. Olson
Necessary consultant to at least one of the main influential notion structures 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, artistic attempt — and solutions to the everlasting questions of the human .
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Extra resources for An Introduction to Existentialism
For the existentialists it is neither external political circumstances, nor a lack of technological knowledge, nor a want of wisdom, nor an imperfect moral development of the race which prevents the attainment of human happiness. It is the human condition itself which does so. Man could not become happy without ceasing to be man. The existentialist denial that man desires happiness or well-being has outraged many unfriendly critics, who see in it an obvious untruth and a flat contradiction. What could be more obvious than that man does seek happiness?
Consider, for instance, their second contention. If our purview is limited to the Western tradition it is probably true that men have wanted to live in the clear light of consciousness. This generalization 55 applies even to the Stoics, as is shown by the fact that their indifference to worldly happiness was maintained through an effort of will which heightened consciousness of self and also by the ease with which Stoic doctrine has been incorporated into existentialist thinking. Sartre, speaking of Jean Genet, says: “It is in suffering alone that he can feel himself to be free, because it is the only feeling which can come from within himself.
The existentialist arguments against the possibility of achieving happiness are usually of such a nature that the method of the behavioral sciences could not even in principle be helpful in determining their soundness. The argument against the Enlightenment based on human freedom is typical in this respect. Behavioral scientists operate on the assumption that human behavior is predictable, 48 that men will behave in the future much as they have behaved in the past. But, say the existentialists, if man is free, then human behavior is not predictable; for to say that man is free is just another way of saying that men always can and frequently do act in such a way as to render many important facets of their behavior unpredictable.