Category: Existentialism

Gordon Allport: Becoming (1955)

This is an extract from a short text by Gordon Allport (Becoming, 1955) subtitled: Basic Considerations for a Psychology of Personality. In these passages, the human being is seen as characterized by a process of individuation (personal) and socialization (tribal). According to the vision of the human being held by Gordon Allport: “All his life. this human being will be attempting to reconcile these two modes of becoming, the tribal and the personal: the one that makes him into a mirror, the other that lights the lamp of the individuality within”. The Goal of Psychology The goal of psychology is...

Abraham Maslow: Toward a Psychology of Being. (1955-1957)

Abraham Maslow has become famous as a psychologist for his “hierarchy of needs.” He focuses more on the healthy personality, rather than on forms of psychopathology. He belongs to the tradition of existential-humanistic thinking in America. These extracts from texts written in the middle of the 20th century have not lost any of their insight and freshness. Deficiency motivation and growth motivation (1955) So far as motivational status is concerned, healthy people have sufficiently gratified their basic needs for safety, belongingness, love, respect and self-esteem so that they are motivated primarily by trends to self-actualization (defined as ongoing actualization of...

Martin Heidegger (1889–1976)

Martin Heidegger was an important German philosopher in the 20th century, who is famous for his theories on existentialism and phenomenology. He was associated with existentialism, despite his efforts to distance himself from it. He had a strong influence on the French existentialist Jean Paul Sartre, for instance. He developed a phenomenological critique of Kant and wrote widely on Nietzsche and Hölderlin. His thinking influenced many other fields, such as theology, art, architecture, artificial intelligence, cultural anthropology, design, literary theory, social theory, political theory, psychiatry, and psychotherapy. His main work, a 20th century classic in philosophy, is ‘Sein und Zeit...

Nietzsche: Apollonian and Dionysian.

The following quote is from “The Birth of Tragedy,” (1872), Sections 1 and 2. Nietzsche discusses the two faces of art, The Apollonian and the Dionysian, but it is striking that his analysis can also be seen as a forerunner of Freud’s drive theory: Eros and Thanatos, or as Lacan’s distinction between desire and jouissance. Here is the text: “We shall have gained much for the science of aesthetics when we have come to realize, not just through logical insight but also with the certainty of something directly apprehended (Anschauung), that the continuous evolution of art is bound up with...

Existentialism Today

The task of facing one’s life cannot be met by reasoning alone; it cannot be captured in an abstract system. It requires concrete choices and actions of existing individuals in order to make it meaningful. Existentialism is a philosophical approach aimed at understanding human existence from the point of view of the experiencing subject, not from an academic distance. In the words of Søren Kierkegaard: ‘It is perfectly true, as philosophers say, that life must be understood backward. But they forget the other proposition, that it must be lived forwards. And if one thinks about that proposition, it becomes more and more evident that life can never really be understood in time simply because at no particular moment can I find the necessary resting place from which to understand it—backwards.’

For sale: baby shoes, never worn

How short can a story be and still have the characteristics of a story? Hemingway gave us an example. His shortest story consists of six words only: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” He called it his best work. Life is composed of stories, lived and told. Stories have a beginning and an end. If we ever reach a time when people can extent their lives forever, what will happen to our stories? Isn’t the brevity of human existence a major ingredient, the background to any story? What about the endings? Our lives are getting longer and longer already, but...

Camus: The Myth of Sisyphus

Albert Camus: The Myth of Sisyphus (Chapter Four) Le Mythe de Sisyphe (1942; English translation 1955) The gods had condemned Sisyphus to ceaselessly rolling a rock to the top of a mountain, whence the stone would fall back of its own weight. They had thought with some reason that there is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labour. If one believes Homer, Sisyphus was the wisest and most prudent of mortals. According to another tradition, however, he was disposed to practice the profession of highwayman. I see no contradiction in this. Opinions differ as to the reasons why...

Friedrich Nietzsche – German Texts

Nietzsche is a deeply emotional philosopher. He is a prophet of the coming changes for Europe. He critically reflects on the foundations of Western philosophy, searching for what went wrong long before the breakdown of Europe begins. He died in 1900 after a long mental illness, but he belongs into the 20th century philosophy. Alle Lust will Ewigkeit O Mensch! Gib acht! Was spricht die tiefe Mitternacht? “Ich schlief, ich schlief -, Aus tiefem Traum bin ich erwacht: – Die Welt ist tief, Und tiefer als der Tag gedacht. Tief ist ihr Weh -, Lust – tiefer noch als Herzeleid:...

Heidegger: Existence and Being

The text was written in 1949, and addresses the question of metaphysics. Towards the end, he asks: Why is there any being at all and not rather Nothing? “Descartes, writing to Picot, who translated the Principia Philosophiae into French, observed: “Thus the whole of philosophy is like a tree: the roots are metaphysics, the trunk is physics, and the branches that issue from the trunk are all the other sciences . . .” Sticking to this image, we ask: In what soil do the roots of the tree of philosophy have their hold? Out of what ground do the roots-and...