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Existentialism

  • F. C. Copleston
Extract

To treat existentialism as a philosophy is no more possible than to treat idealism as a philosophy. The reason is obvious. Jean-Paul Sartre is an existentialist and Gabriel Marcel is also an existentialist; but the philosophy of Sartre is not the same as the philosophy of Marcel. One can no more speak of the philosophy of Kierkegaard, Jaspers, Heidegger, Sartre, Marcel and Berdyaev, as though they maintained the same system, than one could speak of the philosophy of Plato, Berkeley and Hegel, as though one philosophy was common to the three thinkers. Of course, if one took idealism in the sense in which the Marxist uses the term, as meaning the doctrine that mind is prior to matter, i.e. as opposed to materialism (with the suggestion that realism and materialism are equivalent), one would have a definite theme to consider; but one would be forced to recognize as idealists thinkers who would never call themselves by that name and who would not be generally recognized as such. Similarly, if one said that existentialism is the doctrine that man is free and that what he makes of himself depends on himself, on his free choices, one would doubtless have mentioned a doctrine which is common to the existentialists and which they insist upon; but one would at the same time be forced to include in the ranks of the existentialists philosophers whose inclusion would be manifestly absurd.

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page 19 note 1 This paper represents a lecture given at Oxford on May 23, 1947.

page 19 note 2 L'Existentialisme est un Humanisme. p. 94.

page 19 note 3 Ibid., p. 17.

page 20 note 1 Leibniz defended “liberty,” it is true; but not all would recognize as liberty what he regarded as such.

page 22 note 1 L'Existentialisme est un Humanisme, pp. 6364.

page 22 note 2 Ibid., p. 107.

page 23 note 1 In the case of Gabriel Marcel special consideration should indeed be given to his idea of the relation of drama to philosophy; but I cannot embark on that subject here.

page 24 note 1 Cf. L'Être et le Néant, pp. 508 ff.

page 24 note 2 L'Existentialisme est un Humanisme, p. 66.

page 24 note 3 L'Être et le Néant, Part 3, Chap. I, L'Existence d'Autrui.

page 26 note 1 L'Être et le Néant, p. 168.

page 27 note 1 L'Être et le Néant, p. 708.

page 27 note 2 According to M. Sartre, l'âme est le corps en tant que le pour-soi est sa propre individuation. L'Être et le Néant, p. 372.

page 29 note 1 I am speaking of Heidegger as author of Sein und Zeit. I have heard it said that his views have changed since, but I do not know if this report is correct or not.

page 30 note 1 By ontology he means phenomenology applied to the structure of being revealed in experience; but ontology in this sense could obviously do no more than reveal the finite and contingent character of actually experienced being.

page 33 note 1 Existentialism and Religion,” in the Dublin Review for Spring, 1947.

page 33 note 2 Homo Viator, p. 193.

page 33 note 3 Positions et Approches Concrétes du Mystère Ontologique,” in Le Monde Cassé, p. 290.

page 34 note 1 Existentialism, p. 40.

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Philosophy
  • ISSN: 0031-8191
  • EISSN: 1469-817X
  • URL: /core/journals/philosophy
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