Monday, June 16, 2008
How not to talk rubbish. (1) Do not conflate existential with existentialist.
Recently when President George W. Bush told Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that Iran was an “existential threat to peace” and the world, right away I became very intrigued. Not because I believe Iran is a threat to world peace, but because President Bush used the word “existential.”
(2) Know the relevant timelines. Existentialism, as such, has its origins with Sartre and his circle in the early forties--e.g., see Sartre's Existentialism is a Humanism (1946).
Martin Heidegger, who was born in Germany and remained a staunch member of the Nazi Party until the end of World War II, introduced the concept of “authenticity” to existentialism. Heidegger believed humans could “freely” choose to act responsibly and whole heartedly by committing themselves to life and the development of their true being.
It's hard to introduce authenticity (let's date it circa B&T, 1927) to existentialism, before it existed as such. Many texts try pass off historical figures like Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Pascal, even the author of the Book of Job, as existentialists. They, of course, can't defend themselves, but thinkers like Heidegger, who were able to respond to such accusations, denied being existentialists. Even Sartre denied being one, after he'd tired of promoting it.

(3) Be careful with those big words that sound like other big words, but mean something else.
To be “authentic” means to be conscience of one’s humanness and take responsibility, something inanimate objects cannot do.
(4) Get your text edited before publishing it.
I wanted to also contrast historical existentialism with President Bush’s concept of existentialism. By using “existential” alongside “threat,” it is disturbing that he appears to be confusing “existentialism” with “power!”
I used to be disturbed that journalist could get any old rubbish published, but I learned to stop worrying about their existential threat to literacy.
Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home
For when Ereignis is not sufficient.

Appropriation appropriates! Send your appropriations to enowning at gmail.com.

View mobile version