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Contemporary Philosophy


Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


DICTIONARY OF EXISTENTIALISM edited by Haim Gordon ($99.50, hardcover, 552 pages, Greenwood Press, ISBN: 0313274045)

Existentialism key concept is in the range of human freedom. A result of the priority of idea of freedom is that existentialists assert that many human relations and encounters cannot be reduced to thinking relations. What is more, they argue, the whole person is engaged in such relations and encounters. Love, genuine dialogue, a leap of faith, profound joy, creativity, anguish, nausea, guilt, and resoluteness when facing one's death are merely a few of the relations and encounters of the whole free person that different existentialists describe and discuss as beyond cognative reductionism. The implications of this approach emerge in a wide spectrum of philosophical fields, ranging from ontology and epistemology to theology and philosophy of religion, and also to ethics, aesthetics, and political thinking.

This DICTIONARY OF EXISTENTIALISM serves four purposes. First, to provide a primary reference for scholars and students seeking information about particular thinkers, writers, terms, and ideas developed by, or linked to, existentialism generally. Second, in relating to a specific topic, the DICTIONARY briefly describes the profound and original thinking of a few of the chief existentialists, while showing the significance of the topic for other thinkers. The emphasis on originality and profundity should be of great help`to the scholars and students who turn to this book. Third, the discussion of terms and definitions frequently shows the different and even clashing approaches to a topic by existentialist writers. It thus reveals that the ideas and thoughts of existentialists present the challenge of further thinking and elucidation. Fourth, it points to the influences of other thinkers on existentialist writers and to the influence of existentialist thinkers upon each other. Choices of entries for inclusion in the dictionary have been made with these aims in mind. As a dictionary it offers a thematic, authorial entree into exential thought providing someone new to the field an series of aproaches and guidlines for placing particular discussions. It is particularly useful as a guide to the classics and to a lesser degree the best secondary discussions.

Since existentialism is a close knit field of thinking, presenting the bibliography at the end of each entry presented a problem. Quite a few major existentialist texts, such as Sartre's Being and Nothingness, Buber's I and Thou, Heidegger's Being and Time, Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling, Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, Kafka's The Trial, and The Castle. Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception, and Camus' The Myth of Sisyphus, would probably have to be listed for at least a third to a half of the entries so a general selected bibliography at the end of the dictionaryhas been provided as well as cross-references to relevant entries.

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