What Existentialism Offers Modern Man:
A Philosophy of Fundamental Human Realities
A MID all the hubbub a few years ago about the Existentialist movement in France, it seems that nobody, not even the Existentialists themselves, took the trouble to make one cardinal point that would have cleared up a great deal of misunderstanding. Yet this point is a very simple one, so simple that it is surprising that it got lost in the scuffle. It is nothing less than the fact that Existentialism is not a philosophy at all-at least not the kind of philosophy that should have stirred the professional contentiousness of the various philosophic schools now current in America. This does not mean that Existentialism is merely a brand of impassioned rhetoric, which it may have been in some of its adherents, or merely a new literary genre-perhaps, worst of all, only a clumsy effort at poetry. On the contrary, it has a very good right to the name “philosophy,” almost, we might say, a right of primogeniture. Its aim, in fact, is nothing less than to restore to this name its ancient and primitive meaning, a meaning which covers much of the territory we moderns assign to religion, and one which centuries of specialized learning have obscured. Unless we understand this point, we shall not understand what is at the center of Existentialism, and therefore shall not see how it is related to our time and what it can hope to do for us.
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