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Existentialism For Dummies [Paperback]

Christopher Panza , Gregory Gale
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 4, 2008 0470276991 978-0470276990 1
Have you ever wondered what the phrase “God is dead” means? You’ll find out in Existentialism For Dummies, a handy guide to Nietzsche, Sartre, and Kierkegaard’s favorite philosophy. See how existentialist ideas have influenced everything from film and literature to world events and discover whether or not existentialism is still relevant today.

You’ll find an introduction to existentialism and understand how it fits into the history of philosophy. This insightful guide will expose you to existentialism’s ideas about the absurdity of life and the ways that existentialism guides politics, solidarity, and respect for others. There’s even a section on religious existentialism. You’ll be able to reviewkey existential themes and writings. Find out how to:

  • Trace the influence of existentialism
  • Distinguish each philosopher’s specific ideas
  • Explain what it means to say that “God is dead”
  • See culture through an existentialist lens
  • Understand the existentialist notion of time, finitude, and death
  • Navigate the absurdity of life
  • Master the art of individuality

Complete with lists of the ten greatest existential films, ten great existential aphorisms, and ten common misconceptions about existentialism, Existentialism For Dummies is your one-stop guide to a very influential school of thought.

Frequently Bought Together

Existentialism For Dummies + Existentialism: A Beginner's Guide (Beginner's Guides) + Basic Writings of Existentialism (Modern Library Classics)
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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.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 388 pages
  • Publisher: For Dummies; 1 edition (August 4, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470276991
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470276990
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 7.2 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #149,743 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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!

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Introduction July 30, 2008
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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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Fine Piece of Work, and Not just for Dummies February 20, 2009
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
5.0 out of 5 stars This Book is Kick Butt November 17, 2008
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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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Even the diagrams help. 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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A Primer for Future Existentialists
Existentialism for Dummies is a synopsis of the major trends in the literary aspects of existentialism. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Steve Singularity Reich Sitten
5.0 out of 5 stars Impressive.
All you want to know. Easy to read, very well written and you are certainly not a dummie on existentialism anymore, when you have red this wonderfull book.
Published 6 months ago by T.J.J. Stok
5.0 out of 5 stars No Excuses
Existentialism is not an easy subject to identify or explain, but these authors do a very good job. They don't bother with words that require a dictionary, and include just the... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Richard Alverson
5.0 out of 5 stars A nice introduction to existentialism
I've always been intrigued by existentialism and some films and novels made me even more thrilled to have a introduction to these ideas. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Enrique
5.0 out of 5 stars awesome
This is great. I needed it for research and couldn'tm have asked for anything better. it's great. and does the job and continues to do so.
Published 13 months ago by NikMid
5.0 out of 5 stars I am extremely grateful that the authors of this book were able to...
This book is meeting my expectations as a basic course /outline of existentialism and the differences between the basic tenets of this philosophy.
Published 14 months ago by kguertin.
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Guide To a "Dense" Subject.
If you are familiar with Existentialist philosophy, then you the names of some of the Greats: Kirkegaard, Nietzsche, Sarte, Camus. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Matthew M. Tobin
3.0 out of 5 stars helpful but missing pages
small section of book missing entirely.

obviously knew it would be in worn condition, I even found the annotations previously made rather interesting but 20+ pages had... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Janet Bowman
5.0 out of 5 stars Impressed
I just started reading this book but I am very impressed by the down to earth explanation on the topic. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Elizabeth Echavarria
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book about existentialism
This book is:

* easy to read
* fun to read
* gives a broad review of existentialism
* changes the way you think
* gives you insight about the... Read more
Published 23 months ago by Onur Demir
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