An Introduction to Existentialism by Robert G. Olson

By Robert G. Olson

Necessary advisor to 1 of the main influential suggestion platforms of our century. Stressing the paintings of Heidegger and Sartre, it bargains a cautious and aim exam of the existentialist place and values — freedom of selection, person dignity, own love, artistic attempt — and solutions to the everlasting questions of the human .

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According to them value judgments may 52 have universal and objective validity, insofar as the essential features of the human condition, including the basic desires or aspirations of humankind, are themselves universal and objective facts. The person who has a thorough knowledge of the human condition and of basic human aspirations is in much the same position vis-à-vis mankind as is, vis-à-vis his friend, the person who knows that his friend likes the same kind of music he does and what kind of music to expect at the concert.

On the one hand, there is a sense of dread, terror, and revulsion. On the other hand, there is a sense of awe, exhilaration, and sublimity. Sometimes the sense of terror and the sense of exhilaration blend, sometimes they merely succeed one another; but both affective poles must be present if one is to speak of a genuine case of existential anguish. In this respect the experience of Job before God, in which indignation over the arbitrary exercise of divine power is transmuted into a sense of awe and respect for divine majesty, approximates fairly well to the contemporary experience of existential anguish.

If, therefore, we wish to determine whether man is free, we cannot have recourse to the behavioral sciences; the validity of their conclusions depends upon the validity of their basic assumptions, among which is the premise that man is not free. It might be countered that past successes in predicting human behavior show the validity of the behavioral scientists’ method and consequently of their basic assumption that man is not free. The existentialist would retort in roughly the following way: What behavioral scientist could successfully have predicted an event such as Abelard’s falling in love with Héloïse or Shakespeare’s writing Hamlet?

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