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Existentialism: A Beginner's Guide (Beginner's Guides) Paperback – August 1, 2008

4.4 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Thomas E. Wartenberg is Professor of Philosophy at Mount Holyoke College, Massachusetts. He is the author of Unlikely Couples: Movie Romance as Social Criticism.
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Product Details

  • Series: Beginner's Guides
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Oneworld Publications; Beginner's Guides edition (August 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1851685936
  • ISBN-13: 978-1851685936
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #144,621 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Existentialism should be pitied. Its ideas are exciting and urgent. It inspires great novels. It even promises to restore the relevance of philosophy to real life. Yet the movement's canonical philosophical texts are unreadable. Never have so many bedrock human problems been analyzed in such inhumanly turgid (and longwinded) prose. Never has a philosophical movement been so disserved by its most important philosophers.

Fortunately, "Existentialism: A Beginner's Guide" is a fantastic primer for anyone who wants to know the basics of existentialist philosophy. The exposition is clear and logical, and sticks to a few key themes. Concepts are illustrated with examples from literature and movies. The author even uses autobiography to connect abstract ideas to real problems of life. Though a professor, he remembers why ordinary people are drawn to philosophy!

With this book under their belt, readers might want to tackle ponderous tomes by Heidegger and Sartre. But even if they don't (and they might not want to once they get 10 pages into "Being and Time"), they will be left with real insights into bad faith, dasein, anxiety, the "They," and other strange-sounding existentialist ideas that lose much of their strangeness when approached via this book. Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
Thomas Wartenberg has written a superb introduction to the philosophy of Existentialism. He states, "My goal in writing this book is to reveal the excitement and allure of Existentialism in such a way that even my own teenage self - and thus everyone who has found the Existentialists' ideas useful but hard to comprehend - can grasp them. Whether I have succeeded, of course, is not for me to say." - I believe he has.

Wartenberg covers all the major Existentialists (Heidegger, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Sartre, Beauvoir, Camus, Kierkegaard, et al) in nine easy to read chapters: 1) Existence, 2) Freedom, 3) Others, 4) Anxiety, 5) Finitude, 6) The Absurd, 7) Authenticity, 8) Oppression and 9) Conclusion. My degree is in Philosophy and I took a class on Existentialism in college and I can say that this book is quite good and that it can prepare anyone to move on to some more challenging books such as Irrational Man: A Study in Existential Philosophy or Basic Writings of Existentialism (Modern Library Classics). Highly recommended; I have found that the "Beginners Guides" books are usually very good.
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Format: Paperback
I've been looking for this for a long time: a great little book about Exsitentialism - and a really good read. There's nothing else like it on the market. Mr Wartenberg writes clearly and accessibly about a difficult subject for non-philosophers like me to get our heads round. You can read it as a stand-alone or as a starting point. If you want to read more, the key texts - both philosophy and literary ones - are given. Key figures are given in short thumbnail sketches as and when they crop up in the main text, which gives you a context. The main ideas are explored with the aid of examples and Mr. Wartenberg doesn't get caught up in the complicated side-issues and arguments that always arise in philosophy. Read it - you'll be enlightened!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Thomas E. Wartenberg has written an excellent overview of Existentialism that i highly recommend to readers looking for an introduction to this school of Philosophy as well as to those readers already well versed in it.

The author manages to introduce readers to all of the leading philosophers defined as Existentialists, detailing their individual thoughts and works, while also discussing leading literary figures such as Albert Camus and Fyodor Dostoevsky, pointing out how some of the best novels ever written were influenced by and helped to further influence Existentialism.

After reading this book i feel i have a better grasp on Existentialism to now go back and read the actual work of the great philosophers. For that i am most grateful to Mr. Wartenberg.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Excellent. This is a better read than the Oxford Very Short Introduction title. The professor is articulate and writes in a clarifying manner. The book is well organized and I appreciated the side box background information.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have been starting and restarting Sartre's Being and Nothingness for many years, always ending prematurely without really understanding. I have the feeling I'm not the only one (although I have to admit there's probably few who have this as a goal...)

I've also been searching for a book that helps me over this hurdle. Existentialism: A Beginner's Guide is that book. Although I'm not finished with it yet, I can definitely say that my understanding has risen. I look forward to trying to tackle Being and Nothingness again after I finish reading this book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great book, wonderful read. Very well written. This is a philosophy page-turner, if such a thing can exist. It presents what would be difficult concepts and ideas in such a way as to make them easy for any kind of reader, even for beginners like myself.
You can get a very good idea of existentialism and then move ahead to more profound reading..
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I have had heard about Existentialism, but did not understand its primary concepts and how this philosophy differs from others. Wartenberg presents a lucid and concise review of the main themes and tenets of Existentialism. His style is accessible, the book is well organized, and he includes relevant examples from contemporary literature and arts. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and it has spurred me to do further reading on this compelling subject.
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