History of Philosophy Book Club Message Board › Just a note as we study the present existentialists

Just a note as we study the present existentialists

A former member
Post #: 46
I just wanted to say that since we are studying the history of philosophy (in this case existentialism) it is important to study what the philosopher is saying in context. That means considering the audience that they are addressing, what questions they are addressing, and why. That also means accepting the philosopher for what he or she is. If he or she is a Christian writer then that is what he or she is. If he or she is an atheist, then that is what he or she is.


It is understood that the authors are not the final authority on the topics that they are dealing with. Also not all questions can be addressed in the short time that we study them. However, these thinkers have done a good job in addressing issues of great consequence to them. They are rigorous (as opposed to systematic) but not infallible. Those of us that study them are not bound to concur with what they say. In addition, just because the masses today would disagree with them, does not mean that they are wrong, that they lack insight, and that the masses are right.

If one is to give a healthy critique of what they say in their writings and philosophy, one needs to comprehensively understand their viewpoint, considering ways of thinking that are subtle. Also it helps to be clear about what they actually said and the different perspectives (including the current scholarly consensus) especially when the points are subtle. When a philosopher has not laid out a complete systematic theory of ethics, let us be careful about giving explicit statements regarding what he or she would say about specific issues. This is because we really do not know.

In this way, we can gain something. I say this especially when it comes to existentialism where the philosophy is very personal with regard to the author.

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