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The Experience of Nothingness Paperback – February 1, 1997
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From Library Journal
"Novak has presented us with an important reflection on a timely subject," said LJ's reviewer. Here, philosopher Novak waxes on humankind's "growing awareness of inner emptiness" (LJ 7/70) and our ability nonetheless to carry ourselves beyond despair. This edition contains a new introduction in which Novak delves further into his theory. This much ado about nothing is more for the academic crowd.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
"Michael Novak is a truly creative thinker at a time when American religious thought is dominated by fads.... His book bears rare fruit for the contemporary student of man."
"A vigorously written book by a philosopher of the rising generation which makes the effort to explore the current mood of alienation and disorientation, to speak for that mood, and to go beyond it to the expression of an ideal which might turn this mood from a purely negative one into an affirmative program."
—Charles Frankel, Book World
“Novak has presented us with an important reflection on a timely subject. Here, philosopher Novak waxes on humankind’s ‘growing awareness of inner emptiness’ and our ability nonetheless to carry ourselves beyond despair."
Top customer reviews
I give the book two stars instead of one because he does have some interesting things to say. If you're reading in the sense of having a nice conversation on the topic, the content of which is to be largely forgotten at the end, it might be worth a run-through. But if you're looking to gain knowledge about nihilism, it's not very useful, not very well-integrated, and not at all well-argued. A careful reading yields disappointment after a few dozen pages.
He wrote in the Preface to the paperback edition of this 1970 book, "Today, the experience of nothingness is simply a fact: many of us have it... what shall I do with it?... This book, then, is at most an invitation. Notice, it says, everything you can about what is happening to you... So doing... It becomes a source of further actions, actions which are by so much without illusion."
He states early on, "Boredom is the first taste of nothingness. Today, boredom is the chief starting place of metaphysics." (Pg. 6) Later, he observes, "It was the fashion of the generation before our own to aspire to 'live without myth.' But what else is my acute sense of reality but my peculiar myth, my peculiar way of ordering my experience?" (Pg. 30)
He suggests that the source of the experience of nothingness "lies in man's unstructured, relentless drive to ask questions." (Pg. 45) He poses the question, "Granted that I must die, how shall I live? That is the fundamental human question, which fundamental myths aim to answer." (Pg. 48) Later, he expands by saying, "Granted that I am empty, alone, without guides, direction, will, or obligations, how shall I live? In the nothingness, one has at last an opportunity to shape one's own identity, to create oneself. The courage to accept despair becomes the courage to be." (Pg. 61)
He argues that to choose with "less consciousness than we might" is to allow our choices to be made by others and by events than by ourselves; instead, we should leap from "the drive to question to conferring VALUE upon their exercise." To turn these facts into values is a creative act, "whose starting place is the experience of nothingness." (Pg. 57-58)
Novak, of course, later turned away from such purely theological/philosophical discussions; but his early musings remain of interest to philosophcally-minded students of theology.
I can't read a book when every page is written on...underlined n underlined over the words ..highlighted..very distractng..
Very disappointed...n waste of money.