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Existentialism For Dummies Paperback – August 4, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-0470276990 ISBN-10: 0470276991 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 388 pages
  • Publisher: For Dummies; 1 edition (August 4, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470276991
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470276990
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #702,100 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Explore key existential themes and writings

Your friendly guide to finding meaning in a meaningless world

Is God "dead"? If we are alone, how should we act? These are key questions posed by existentialism. This unintimidating guide clearly explains the concepts of this philosophical movement in plain English. You'll meet the thinkers who helped it evolve — Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Sartre, Camus — and see how existentialist ideas have influenced everything from film and literature to world events.


  • The birth of existentialism

  • What "God is dead" means

  • Why it's crucial to live authentically

  • An existentialist critique of culture today

  • The movement's impact on philosophy and psychology

About the Author

Christopher Panza, PhD, is an associate professor of philosophy at Drury University in Springfield, MO. He teaches courses on existentialism, ethics, and freewill, has published articles on teaching philosophy and is an avid weekend baker. Gregory Gale, MA, is an adjunct professor of philosophy in Las Vegas.

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Jason Swadley on July 30, 2008
Format: Paperback
Chris Panza is an old philosophy professor of mine, so I was able to review this material before publication. Since authenticity is nowhere more important than in a review on existentialism, I make that disclosure up front. Thankfully, I can attest that the book serves as an excellent introduction.

First, you should know that Dr. Panza is one of the most popular (and challenging) professors at Drury University because he brings a deep passion to teaching. Students love him and his lectures have a crazy ability to stick with you years after leaving the classroom. The good news is that his teaching style translates well into the Dummies format, meaning that you've got a personal copy of the wonderful examples and anecdotes he used in the classroom.

I was skeptical about how well existentialism would fit into a Dummies book. I've used other books in the series on investing and a few other topics, and I've always been impressed with the authors and the presentation... but existentialism? Thankfully, this title continues the tradition of quality. It takes a complex subject and boils it down into a manageable -- and, more importantly for the topic, relevant -- format.

None of the Dummies books are comprehensive treatises on their subject, but they are concise and can act as a foundation for further study. No one will put this book down without a sharper understanding of what it means to be human.

Get this book if you're interested in a life that means something. Existentialism isn't pedantic philosophy, as this book shows... it's about living.

-Jason Swadley
University of Chicago
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Herbert L Calhoun on February 20, 2009
Format: Paperback
As a self-proclaimed existentialist, I thought it was about time to understand what it is I profess to believe in. For some reasons (not all obvious even to me) I have gravitated to the Existentialist Philosophers, because their explanations of the world just feels more right, more honest and closer to "ground truth" to me than any other philosophies. And also I guess, because, once one has sampled Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre, Ernest Becker, and Cornel West, unless he is profoundly religious or insane, he is likely to be completely absorbed by their deeply passionate (and, Heidegger aside) clearly explained views. So I chose to start at the bottom and work my way back up to the top of the ladder.

I was thus quite pleasantly surprised to discover this very fine "How To" book for dummies summarizing beautifully all one needs to know about my newly adopted philosophy, Existentialism. With what I already knew from sampling other readings, this book put all of the fragments of the puzzle in place, into one coherent framework. And for that I will forever be grateful to these authors.

What is Existentialism?

It is according to this book a philosophy that says essentially that the world in the raw is absurd. When the doctor spanks air into our lungs, we wail because we have come fearfully into a disordered, isolated, alienated, stress-producing, cold, dependent and basically neurotic and profoundly absurd world. It is absurd for the ten reasons outlined in this book and for so many others not mentioned, not the least of them being that the world is not teleological: that is, it has no purpose whatsoever. And once here, we flounder around purposelessly and aimlessly in darkness in search of light through meaning, and whether or not we find it, we then die.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Rabid Rodney on November 17, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book is absolutely amazing. It's like Martin Luther translating the Bible from Latin for me. I've read the existentialists but never could fully grasp them.

Now that I understand this thinking, it's given me a lot more confidence in life.

I just finished Thus Spoke Zarathustra and could really understand what was being said.

I think this book even with the wacky title is a really important book written for the layman and those who don't have a chance to study with really good professors like Panza and Gale.

Thank you so much for writing it.

As for the Dr. who wrote that this book is disappointing and you should read Walter Kauffman, I read Kauffman before reading this, but there was a lot of points Kauffman made which I couldn't fully grasp. This book is great for starting at the ground level and then moving up. I can now understand some of the points Kauffman was making that I didn't understand before.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Neil The Unreel on August 28, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The series and the name do not go together, but for tough subjects to understand, this series is one of the best. There are sections that one can skip entirely and not hurt the reader. I have had several philosophy courses and even a Media Criticism course where the subject and definition of Post Modernism were discussed. To this day I cannot give a good explanation of what Post Modernism is, however there is a diagram of it in this book which helps. The sections of Nietzsche and Sartre are the ones to be covered and highlighted. I always looked for a good label to describe me and atheist always fell short of what I wanted to define me. Existentialist is a great label to describe me and now with the help of this book I can tell people what an existentialist is and believes. Overall good book for a tricky subject. It is not the only book to read, but a great place to start for anyone wanting to understand something that is difficult even when in a college setting.
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More About the Author

Chris Panza was born and raised in NYC. After woking for a number of years in business, he received his BA in philosophy and literature from SUNY Purchase and his MA (1998) and PhD (2002) in philosophy from the University of Connecticut.

Chris has always been interested in the Big Philosophical Questions that touch on the meaning of life. An associate professor of philosophy at Drury University in Springfield, MO, he regularly teaches courses such as Confucianism, Existentialism, Asian Ethics (as well as Western Ethics), Logic, 17th and 18th Century Philosophy, Philosophy of Mind, Metaphysics and Epistemology, Free Will, the Self and Feminist Theory.

On the weekends, Chris takes a break from the Big Philosophical Questions and focuses on adventures in Italian Cuisine, particularly on artisan bread baking (the big questions make you hungry. you know).

You can find him blogging on Big Questions, Food, and Teaching at www.akuindeed.com - Hope to see you stop by!

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