I found this to be a pretty boring and nonsensical book, with two exceptions:
1) The beginning of the book actually tells you what existentialism is. Most books on existentialism do not do this. They tell you who was an existentialist, how great it was, and the effect it had. But they do not tell you what it is. In a nutshell: - Before there were hippies there were bohemians. And before there were bohemians there were existentialists. An existentialist is someone who wants to drop out and do their own thing, only to wake up one day and wonder why they are living such a miserable poverty strewn life.
2) I found chapter 9 on life studies interesting. It basically covered two types of alienation: those of spoiled brats who have had it all handed to them and therefore have had nothing to struggle for – hence nothing has any meaning (for me, this was an explanation of why good looking people who seem to have it all turn to drugs). And the other extreme: racial, sexual, religious minorities who have been pushed to the margins because they cannot blend with the bourgeoisie definition of good, goodness and morality, and have to come up with some way of coping (for me, this was an explanation of why society’s losers turn to drugs). Later on, this seemed to be a possibility for the Czechs, who started with having Jan Hus burned at the stake, got a heavy dose of counter reformation oppression, and wound up having their province of Bohemia used to name the bohemians.
Beyond this – the book is a collection of questionable assertions trying to pass themselves off as profound thought, e.g.:
But as a human being, I have no predefined nature at all. I create that nature through what I choose to do.
- rubbish!, a Texas good ol’ boy and a New York intellectual DO have predefined natures. Right from the cradle.
… so that we are left only with the intense and immediate flavor – the phenomenon.
- Sounds more like a literary style than a philosophy.
Many of our uncertainties about freedom amount to uncertainties about our fundamental being.
- Huh?, uncertainties about freedom? What are they talking about?, let alone what one has to do with the other.
… and that people often behave appallingly, yet they also show how great our possibilities are.
- Huh?, these are two independent things mentioned like they were flip sides of the same coin.
They constantly repeat the questions about freedom and being that we constantly try to forget.
Heidegger once wrote that “To think is to confine yourself to a single thought”
- and that is why he comes off as a babbling moron trying to sound profound.
… our technology is not merely an aggregation of clever devices: it reveals something fundamental about our existence.
- Oh?, like being an ape that can use a tool?, this makes no sense to me.
I could go on. There are lots of swell sounding yet nonsensical and unexplained statements like this in the book. Three stars.