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Introducing Existentialism Paperback – January 26, 2002


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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Richard Appignanesi is the author of Introducing Freud and Introducing Postmodernism. Oscar Zarate is one of the UK's leading graphic artists. He has illustrated numerous Introducing series titles. His graphic novel A Small Killing won the Will Eisner Prize.
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Product Details

  • Series: Introducing
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Icon Books; Third Edition edition (January 26, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1840467177
  • ISBN-13: 978-1840467178
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.5 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,104,910 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

It reads like someone trying to make a simple concept sound more profound by superfluous wording and meaningless analogies.
Reducto
A shocking amount of the book discusses Appignanesi's own opinions about the nature of existenced, rather than elucidating the fundamental concepts of existentialism.
reader
As in my title, I think I should feel pretty smart if I can just make it to the end of this book and have a fraction of an understanding of what existentialism is.
Kenya Sanchez

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By reader on August 20, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am a big fan of the "Intrudicing..." series. I think that Appignanesi has done a marvelous job in editing this series, and in fact has done something socially and intellectually important by bringing these books into the world. Furthermore, his Intruducing Freud was great.

However, this book was stunningly bad. Rather than share with us the major tenants and concepts of the major thinkers of Existential Philosophy, Appignanesi chose to take us on a "personal journey" of his, wherein he confronts with us the contradictions, paradoxes and impasses that make up existentialism's concerns. Which ended up being the author sharing his many personal thoughts on the subject, in the most confusing and convoluted manner possible.

Let me give you a quotation from the book, as an example: "What is freedom grounded on? Satre replies: on the nothingness of consciousness which effects a "psychic gap" - and imaginitive distance - between myself and the world of non-conscious reality. Out there is only an undifferentiated plenitude of Being-in-itself whose material resistence to me gains form and significance by my activity of consciousness. The person is solely this act of Being-for-itself, hence its terrifying freedom."

Yes, that is Appignanesi talking, not Sartre. And no, context does nothing to improve upon its needless opacity. The entire book is like that, throwing in complex concepts like "Being-in-itself" vs. "Being-for-itself" without explainging them at all, and then throwing in something like "freedom" on top of it out of nowhere.

Clearly he is a very learned man, with tremendous depth of knowledge, and many talents in thinking and writing.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Reducto on July 15, 2008
Format: Paperback
I recently became a big fan of the Introducing series, but I'll have to say that this book is both frustrating and disappointing. I do not know much about Existentialism (hence why I bought the book) but I can point to what appear to be some problems with the book with what little I know. For example, the book spends a lot of time concentrating on Husserl, who is arguably not an existentialist philosopher. One of Sartre's central concept of "bad faith" in mentioned only once on page 19 and is not really explained. The famous "Existence precedes essence" quote of Sartre is nowhere to be found. There are probably other major concepts that are missing or not clearly explained, but again, I don't know enough (perhaps even less!) about the subject after reading this book.

Another criticism is the style. Most of the Introducing books tend to go in chronological order or in some logical order showing the development of a particular subject. This book is framed more as the author's own journey into solving particular puzzles that are supposedly connected to existentialism, but it in no way elucidates the subject. It jumps from subject to subject, few of which appear to deal with Existentialism in any way (or in any way that is clearly explained). The writing style tends to be a little thick and phrased in such a way to make the meaning more obscure (e.g. "Heidegger rightly means that the 'crisis' of science is not its own but ours by unmindfulness of how science came entirely to occupy our horizon of 'being in the world'." p. 59). It reads like someone trying to make a simple concept sound more profound by superfluous wording and meaningless analogies.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By artful.dodger on August 10, 2005
Format: Paperback
First, of all, I agree with just about everything that READER "READER" had to say about this book (except the part about the nose-picking - that's a word-picture that I just didn't need).

When I picked up the book, I immediately thought, "Who is this guy on the cover, and why does it look like he's trying to do a really bad imitation of Johnny Cash (ie, the Man in Black)?" I had to go to the reviews at Amazon to find out! Once I found out, the question shifted to "What does this guy have to do with anything?" The answer, as I found, was nothing much. Although obviously an intelligent man (with the long-suffering face of a constipated bloodhound), Appignanesi really should stick to editing. I wanted/needed a book that would explain the finer points of Existentialism to me. I ended up with a book that led me meanderingly through one man's personal diary of angst and philosophical confusion. I closed the book feeling as if my brain had been pounded with a flannel-wrapped sledgehammer. Blech!

To be fair, Zarate's illustrations are top-notch. I got quite a chuckle out of seeing Sartre with his pants down. (As I turned the page, I prayed Appignanesi wouldn't follow suit....)

Do yourself a favor, bypass this book totally. Pick up 101 Key Ideas: Existentialism (Teach Yourself series) instead. Cheaper, and much, much more bang for the buck.

Oh, and by the way, wanna find out more about despair and ennui for real? Go listen to Johnny Cash sing "Folsom Prison Blues"; now there's a man who knew how to get his point across...
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