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VINE VOICEon October 20, 2000
Looking for a textbook? A scholarly exegesis of Being and Nothingness? The final answers to all of life's questions? Then you've come to the wrong place. Looking for a thought-provoking anthology of existentialist (and quasi-existentialist) authors, which flows effortlessly from one section to the next, and brings a smile (or a furrowed brow) to all who read it? Then I can think of no better book.
The selections in this book were chosen for their readability, not their weight, so academic philosophers may find this book lacking. But were it not for books like this, which enchant the layman and force him (or her) to examine primary sources, would there be any philosophy majors?
From Camus' notion of a sustaining inward rebellion, to Sartre's brilliant reevaluation of ethics (prose in "Self-deception", poetry in "The Wall"), to the great battle over Christianity between Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, there is certainly something of vital importance to most people contained in these pages. As an individual's right is sovereign, I will not urge you to like this book, or even to read it - this, like all things, you must decide for yourself.
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on August 15, 2003
... from an under-rated and original thinker in his own right.
Along with William Barrett's 'Irrational Man,' this is the best introduction one can find to that much-maligned, much-misunderstood yet ever-popular chimera of 20th C. philosophy: existentialism.
Kaufmann is as objective as one can be, when offering a critique of thinkers and thoughts. HE IS ALSO VERY LUCID. HE WRITES CLEARLY. This is a qualaty you will not find often when perusing most high-minded 20th C. texts. He doesn't talk down to his audience and presumes a level of cultural literacy, but he steadfastly refuses to fall prey to that most insidious and seductive of academic flaws: jargon juggling.
He capably traces the roots of existentialism in various literary works and shows how the sensibilities expressed in exstlsm. are repeatedly expressed throughout western culture.
People are divided on both the subject and the book, but that is natural: par example... Students of hermenuetics and disciples of heidegger feel that Kaufmann is biased against ole Martin, or that he spends too little time on him. And devotees of Sartre feel likewise. Many think he's too kind to Nietzsche. I disagree with all of the above. I think he treats each thinker succinctly and fairly, rooting them in their context and then looking at what they had to say.
Existentialism. This is a word one hears often. It is Misused every day by pretentious half-wits of all variety. Here, in one clear volume, you have a fine key for the door. A great starting place.
PS Kaufmann's book on philosophy and tragedy is the finest I have ever read. Used ones abound for under 8 dollars in here.
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"The stone is given its existence; it need not fight for being what it is---a stone in the field. Man has to be himself in spite of unfavorable circumstances; that means he has to make his own existence at every single moment. He is given the abstract possibility of existing, but not the reality. This he has to conquer hour after hour. Man must earn his life, not only economically but metaphysically." --Ortega

Existentialism from Dostoevsky to Sartre, by Walter Kaufmann is a must have for anyone seriously undertaking a jaunt into the Realm of Existentialism and Phenomenology.

Although a small book, the paperback edition weighing in at a mere 384 pages, one will find that Kaufmann has packed it to the gills with usable, and reliable, information. Whole chapters are devoted to Existentialist giants like: Dostoevsky: Notes from Underground, Kierkegaard: The First Existentialist, Nietzsche: "Live Dangerously", Rilke: The Notes of Malte Laurids Brigge, Kafka: Three Parables, Ortega: "Man Has No Nature", Jaspers: Existenzphilosophie, Heidegger: The Quest for Being, Sartre: Existentialism, and Camus: The Myth of Sisyphus.

One should be aware that there are a lot of different writing styles, because of all the different authors, being introduced in one book. So, in some ways, to the casual reader Existentialism from Dostoevsky to Sartre may seem a bit choppy and academic, intimidating and complex. --Katharena Eiermann, 2005, the Realm of Existentialism -- Presidential Hopeful
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on May 6, 2000
I've thoroughly enjoyed rereading Kaufmann's collection of existential readings. It was originally my first glimpse of the school of thought and it remains my favorite. But reading the other reviews posted here, I am shocked that they attack Kaufmann so singularly and, in my mind, myopically. They're missing the forest for the trees; this is a wonderful overview, an honest and enlightening taste of a variety of existential ideas and, perhaps more importantly, styles. I truly appreciate Kaufmann's insights, and if nothing else, the excerpts are still excellent in themselves.
This is a good choice for anyone interested in an intelligent introduction to existentialism.
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on September 17, 2002
I read this book for an Existentialism graduate course. It is extremely entertaining (from a literary frame) and does an incredible job displaying the diverse appearances of existentialism from a wide source of writers. It's not too heavy for non-philosophy types and still does each author in it justice.
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on January 26, 2009
This book has wonderful content but has many quirks in its printing, it sometimes appears as a copy of a copy of a copy, the fonts sometimes are missing their tops and bottoms. It can be read, but the publisher should get an "F" grade in quality control by releasing this edition without a proper update. Don't let the nice cover fool you!!
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VINE VOICEon May 12, 2014
I've been familiar with this volume for about 17 years, since I became aware of philosophy in college. Like other books from back in the 1950s and '60s, this volume has survived as a cheap introduction to Existentialism. The fact that so many schools still assign this as a textbook is sad, because it's pretty much a mess of a volume for pedagogical purposes. I don't know how anyone could feel that they understand Nietzsche or Heidegger after jumping into these dense excerpts from Kaufmann's old translations. At least the entirety of a translation of Sartre's Existentialism is a Humanism is here, but I'd suggest just buying that on its own. At least this one doesn't do Beckett the disservice of sandwiching Godot into the mix, but where is Beauvoir? Not here.

It's about time we let students examine the works of these writers outside of these antiquated, U.S. in the 1950s, cold-war, Christian / atheist debate sets of paradigms.
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I really liked this superb collection of some of the finest existential writings, especially because Kaufmann focuses on those excerpts which highlight traditionally misunderstood concepts. Well worth having.
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on May 9, 2007
This anthology of Existentialist texts is the best introduction to Existentialism currently available in English. Walter Kaufmann (best known to philosophy readers as the twentieth century's most important translator of Nietzsche) presents a selection of key texts from Kierkegaard, Dostoyevski, Nietzsche of course, Heidegger, Sartre and others, and Kaufmann prefaces the anthology with a magisterial intro. The most important piece included is the complete text of Sartre's early lecture "Existentialism is a Humanism," the most accessible and clearest exposition of the most influential phase of his thought. If you want to know what Existentialism is all about (or if you already know but want to own a great reference book of essential texts), this is the book to buy.
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on November 15, 2001
"Existentialism from Dostoevsky to Sartre" is in my opinion an excellent introduction to the thoughts and works of the Existentialists. It contains excerpts from the 19th Century Germans, as well as the 20th Century French, and a handful of others as well. I was glad to see literary works included, especially the Introduction to Dostoevsky's "Notes From the Underground," which I consider to be one of the greatest novellas ever written (read the whole thing, the second part is much different from the first, but is no less enjoyable) and Sartre's short story "The Wall." I was also glad to see Camus' "The Myth of Sissyphus" included, and as the last piece especially. It is, of course, absolutely pertinent for anyone interested in the subject matter to consult each of the writers included in this anthology more in depth. However, this work serves as an excellent introduction
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