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Dictionary of the History of Ideas

Studies of Selected Pivotal Ideas
170 occurrences of ideology
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170 occurrences of ideology
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A philosophical movement is often named not by
the philosophers who are taken to be its repre-
sentatives, but rather by its opponents, by those who
observe from the outside a community of thought
amongst certain thinkers, and who give the name to
what they regard as a trend in order to be able to refute
or attack it. It is only the minor followers, usually not
the great innovators, who adopt the label of their own
accord. This is certainly the case with existentialism;
indeed the name has more often been applied as a term
of abuse than as a neutral description. There would,
however, be general agreement that the three major
figures to whom the term “existentialist” can rightly
be applied are Soren Kierkegaard, Martin Heidegger,
and Jean-Paul Sartre. Kierkegaard did not use the term,
and would probably not have thought of himself as
a philosopher; Heidegger has stated that his “philo-
sophical tendencies cannot be classed as existential-
ism”; Sartre, we are told by Merleau-Ponty, only ad-
mitted to being an existentialist because he was so
frequently called one that he felt that it was his duty
to accept the label. Thus it is impossible to look for
a definition of the term from any of the major pro-
ponents of the doctrine, though Sartre has come closest
to providing one in his lecture L'Existentialisme est
un humanisme
of 1946, which was intended as a gen-
eral description rather than a statement of his own
views. It is in this lecture, later published as a book
with the same title, that occurs the famous phrase
“Existence is prior to essence,” which is explained as
meaning that subjectivity must be the starting-point
of philosophy, that the human individual is the central
concern of all legitimate metaphysical thinking.

Once any philosophical statement has been made it
is possible to find hints of it in previous writers, to
attribute priority to anyone who used similar forms
of words, even though their main line of thought in
reality had been very different. However, it is only
in the writings of Kierkegaard that there can be de-
tected a distinctive philosophical viewpoint that
stresses the existence of the individual as against his
essence, the particular character of a man as opposed
to what he shares with all other men. It is to this that
the name “existentialism” will be given here. Certainly
many philosophers and religious thinkers, such as Saint
Augustine in his Confessions, and Pascal in his Pensées,
lay stress on individual responsibility, though they do
this in the context of a universal metaphysics.
Kierkegaard is the first to assert that “Truth is subjec-
tivity,” that “All essential knowledge relates to exist-
ence, or only such knowledge as has an essential rela-
tionship to existence is essential knowledge” (CUPS,
p. 176). He also emphasizes the absurdity of this
knowledge; the notion of the absurd being another
feature which unites thinkers who can be called exis-
tentialist. For Kierkegaard this absurdity is manifest
in the doctrines of Christianity: “The absurd is—that
the eternal truth has come into being in time, that God
has come into being, has been born, has grown up,
and so forth, precisely like any other individual human
being...” (CUPS, p. 188).

The emphasis on individuality and on absurdity has
frequently led to a romantic element in existentialist
writing, and has partly been the source of its popular
appeal. It is no accident that many existentialists are
literary figures as well as philosophers, Sartre being
perhaps the most conspicuous example, though Gabriel
Marcel has written many plays, and Albert Camus was
better known for his literary than for his theoretical


works. Critics of existentialists claim that their writings
are full of exaggerations. Their tendency to think in
terms of individuals, frequently in extreme situations
which are one of the staples of the novel and the
drama, the appeal of their arguments to the emotions
rather than to the reason of the reader, have given
weight to the charge. Though Kierkegaard wrote no
novels, his style is intensely personal and is connected
with the central drama of his life to an extent unknown
in most philosophers. This drama was his engagement
to a young girl, Regina Olsen, with whom he was
deeply in love and who reciprocated his affection.
However, Kierkegaard was convinced that he should
not marry, owing to his father's sin and his own sense
of mission. He persuaded her to break off the engage-
ment by convincing her that he was unworthy. Much
of his voluminous writing is connected with this epi-
sode, and many of the books were dedicated to Regina;
indeed, knowledge of this episode is necessary to un-
derstand both the contents and the elaborate pseudo-
nyms under which many were published, though there
were also philosophic reasons for the latter. To an
unsympathetic reader, Kierkegaard's whole attitude
seems morbid and unhealthy, and the same charge has
been brought against other existentialists. One writer
has even said: “I should be inclined to regard it almost
as a touchstone or criterion of an author's being classi-
fiable as an Existentialist, that a reader may get impa-
tient and accuse him of gross exaggeration and preten-
tiousness; that the reader may be inclined to deflate
him and 'boil down' what he seems to be saying to
some true but absolutely platitudinous remark” (Mary
Warnock, Existentialist Ethics [1967], p. 6). To some
extent this remark would be accepted by existentialists,
for one of their targets has always been complacency,
the attitude that the world is basically in order as it
is. Kierkegaard attacked the “Christians” of his day,
who thought that baptism and confirmation were sure
evidence of Christianity and who failed to realize the
paradox and difficulty of true faith. Heidegger and
Sartre also mocked the complacent. The aim of all
three, and of most others who can be described as
“existentialists,” was to expose the illusions of everyday
life and recall men to a more serious view of their
responsibilities. For this purpose exaggeration and
paradox, concentration on the seamier side of life, are
obvious techniques; an appeal to the emotions of the
reader is as important as to his reason. Hence even
the philosophers among the existentialists employ
techniques rejected by those who regard reason as
the only element in man worthy of attention, and who
think of the emotions as merely distracting to the

It is this concentration on the emotional, the subjec
tive element, that gives, or has given, existentialism
its popular appeal. And the resentment which the
movement has aroused in many philosophers of other
schools is partly due to their jealousy of such a mass
appeal. Sartre's famous example of the uselessness of
moral rules to a man in an extreme situation is obvi-
ously capable of speaking to many to whom the de-
tailed analyses of traditional moral philosophy would
be boring or unhelpful. Sartre takes the case of the
young man who, after the fall of France in 1940, is
faced with the dilemma whether to escape to England
to carry on the fight with the Free French Forces or
to stay and look after his mother, who is in need of
his attention if she is to survive the hardships of the
time. The moral rules “Do your duty to your country”
and “Honor thy father and mother” here come into
conflict, and there is no superior moral rule which can
be invoked to decide between them. If there were,
there would be no problem. What advice could Sartre
(or anyone else) offer? In one sense even the act of
asking for advice is not a neutral matter, for the choice
of an advisor is also the choice of the kind of advice
that will be given; a priest who has preached obedience
to the new government will tell him to stay, as his
higher duty lies with his mother. A member of the
Resistance will tell him to try and leave the country.
Any attempt to take advice as if it were neutral will
in fact be a decision. In the last resort the young man
can only decide, choose one moral rule to be followed
and the other to be disobeyed. And this example is
to be seen as the true model of all moral choices. The
smug, the comfortable, and the bourgeois pretend that
there are moral rules written into the nature of things,
but this is a device of bad faith or inauthenticity, an
attempt to hide from one's self the agony of choosing.

Kierkegaard's attack upon Christendom contained
similar elements. The comfortable Christians of his day
failed to realize the paradoxical nature of their belief
in Christ, to see the difficulty of claiming that the
infinite Creator had come to earth in the form of a
man. Further, such a belief must make a radical differ-
ence to the believer's life; it could not be satisfied in
perfunctory attendance at church one day a week.
What was needed was authentic Christianity, as dis-
tinct from the watered-down version preached from
the Danish pulpits of his time. Here again the authentic
individual is the one who stands out from the crowd,
who does not try to escape from the burden of choice
by doing what everyone else does. In fact Kierkegaard
was among the first to stress the growth of the anony-
mous crowd and the dangers to individuality arising
from it.

This concentration on the personal, the subjective,
the authentic individual who makes his choice without


reference to “what they will think,” made existential-
ism popular in times of crisis; it is no accident that
the movement had its greatest appeal in wartime and
in the immediate postwar period, particularly in
France. The stress on individual choice was obviously
relevant to the many Frenchmen who found themselves
in the same position as Sartre's young man. With the
return of more settled social conditions, the need for
such agonizing personal choices became rarer; at the
same time it became evident that the state of the world
is too complex for the isolated individual to affect it
by his own action, that some sort of concerted effort
is needed. Sartre's own development reflects this; he
begins with an almost anarchic individualism, in which
the moral soundness of the person is all that matters,
and progresses to a modified Marxism, wherein his
earlier existentialism is reduced to a mere facet of the
total system of thought. Authenticity comes to seem
impossible unless social conditions are appropriate: “In
a curved space it is impossible to draw a straight line,”
as one of the characters in Simone de Beauvoir's novel
Les Mandarins expresses it. De Beauvoir's writings are
very similar to those of Sartre himself.

What is remarkable about existentialism is the extent
to which a movement whose central figures were often
obscure and technical in their writings should appeal
to a large number of people who normally would have
shown no interest in philosophical works. No doubt
many of them failed to understand the details of the
discussion; certainly more people bought copies of
L'Etre et le néant or of Sein und Zeit than could have
fully understood them. But for a considerable period
of the twentieth century, existentialism was a philo-
sophical movement that numbered many nonphilo-
sophically trained people among its adherents. Cer-
tainly the plays and novels of Sartre were important
in this popularizing, but they were so because the
central themes of authenticity and moral choice, of the
individual as isolated in a hostile world, seemed to
reflect the experience of the period.

From an Anglo-Saxon point of view it may have
seemed that all Continental philosophy was existential-
ist in character; this of course is an illusion. Throughout
the period the majority of academic philosophers in
Europe were pursuing their own lines of thought, even
though “intellectual circles” in those countries were
thinking in existentialist terms. This wide popularity
no longer exists, though there are still those who find
existentialist writers have something important to say
to them. Hence it is possible, at least in outline, to
trace the rise and fall of existentialism as an intellectual
movement in the persons of its central proponents. To
do this in full would require a detailed examination
of the influence of the events of their day on the
thinkers in question, as well as their influence on the
events. However, here their main lines of thought are
sketched and it is indicated why existentialism had the
effects it did.

Though Kierkegaard can be called the founder of
the movement, his views did not penetrate the intel-
lectual world immediately; this was partly because the
time was not ripe for them to have an effect, and partly
because he wrote in Danish and it was some time
before German or other translations were available.
English versions of his writings only appeared in the
thirties and forties of the twentieth century. Kierke-
gaard's influence was not always decisive; Marcel
reached his main conclusions before he had read the
Danish thinker. Kierkegaard only turned to philosophy
because of an objection to the way religion, or more
specifically Christianity, was treated in the work of
Hegel. To an extent which it is hard to realize nowa-
days, Hegel's was the dominant philosophy of the age;
attacks on his system were thought to be attacks on
philosophy itself. He claimed that philosophy, as the
science of sciences, transcended and incorporated all
other modes of thought, including art and religion.
Christianity was, as it were, rationally reconstructed
to take its place in the vast structure. Even those who
objected tended to write in Hegelian terms, as is obvi-
ous in the case of both Marx and Engels and of
Kierkegaard himself. Instead of the dialectical progress
of Hegel, Kierkegaard substituted a series of dialectical
leaps. In 1843 Kierkegaard, as well as Engels, attended
lectures in Berlin by Schelling, who had been ap-
pointed by the Prussian government in an attempt to
undo Hegel's influence. Some features of Kierkegaard's
thought, such as the notion of man being his own
choice, were derived from these lectures, though the
particular cast given them was his.

His basic idea is that personal existence cannot be
comprehended in a system; he compares Hegel to a
man who constructs a vast palace and then lives in
a hovel at its gates. For “existence corresponds to the
individual thing,” and in such a system there is no room
for the individual, only for abstract concepts. He
summed it up: “A logical system is possible, an existen-
tial system impossible.” Whatever universal rules may
be established, the following of a rule is always a matter
of individual decision. In fact the ethical represents
the universal; it refers man to a set of rules which
render his conduct comprehensible to observers. When
Agamemnon sacrificed Iphigenia in order that the fleet
could sail for Troy, or Brutus ordered the execution
of his traitorous sons, they made a hard or tragic choice.
Even though their actions were commanded by laws
publicly acknowledged, it was still open to them to
hold back; their obedience gave their actions a heroic


character. But what they did was public, could be
understood by others because it was done in accord-
ance with public rules, even if those others would have
been incapable of emulating them. But when Abraham
decided to sacrifice Isaac, Kierkegaard claims in Fear
and Trembling,
the situation was totally different.
There were no public reasons for the deed, no obvious
external ends to be gained by it, nor were the reasons
which he could have given ones which others could
have acknowledged, for he had a private command
from God. Whatever may be the function of the story
in the Old Testament, Kierkegaard takes it as the prime
example of what he calls “the teleological suspension
of the ethical.” For the ethical demands that the father
should love his son, the religious that he should sacrifice
him; the religious command is “higher” and so must
be obeyed. Kierkegaard's own refusal to marry Regina,
in spite of his praise of marriage in Either/Or is rele-
vant here.

The whole of the relation of an individual to God
is an example of this suspension of the ethical or uni-
versal; for if God were an object whose existence could
be established in the normal way, then we should know
that He existed. There would be no virtue in such a
belief; it would not differ from that in any natural
object. For the central feature of religious belief is a
relation between the individual and God; hence public
standards of proof are out of place. Hence “Faith is
this paradox, that the individual as the particular is
higher than the universal, is justified over against it.
... This position cannot be mediated, for all mediation
comes about precisely by virtue of the universal” (FT,
p. 66). The knowledge obtained in this way makes the
individual what he really is; it is existential knowledge.
The paradox is manifest in that faith involves a relation
between the temporal and the eternal, both in the story
of the life and passion of Christ and in the fact that
faith involves a relation between the finite believer and
an infinite God. This can only come about by a “leap”
of faith: “But can anyone comprehend this Christian
doctrine? By no means.... It must be believed. Com-
prehension is coterminous with man's relation to the
human, but faith is man's relation to the Divine” (SD,
p. 226). There can be no rational justification of faith
to the nonbeliever, and the believer needs none, unless
the passionate choice itself is considered a justification.
In this sense truth is subjectivity.

Many theologians have developed views based on
Kierkegaard; notable examples of such “existential
theologizing” are Karl Barth, Rudolf Bultmann, Paul
Tillich, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In various ways these
have attempted to strip Christianity of the meta-
physical accertions which they regard as inessential,
and to put emphasis on some kind of relation, an
“existential” one, between man and God. To many
Christians their views seem to be near atheism, for the
kind of “demythologizing” which they have found
necessary in order to give Christianity a meaning in
the modern world has similarities with Kierkegaard's
“attack on Christendom,” and, as in his case, there is
an inevitable suspicion that the baby has been thrown
out with the bath water. Some sayings of Kierkegaard
seem very close to atheism, for example the remark
in his diary: “When a concrete individual lacks faith,
then neither does God exist, nor is God present, albeit
God, eternally understood, is eternal.” It is not difficult
to understand why Kierkegaard can be held partially
responsible for the atheistic trend of many who fol-
lowed him, notably Heidegger and Sartre.

For to make the relation between man and God into
something purely individual, mediated by no orga-
nization or body of public standards, is to be in danger
of making Him into something like the choice of a
person rather than an independently existing Being.
If the “leap of faith” is a private and unjustifiable act,
validated only by what happens after the leap is taken,
the status of God becomes peculiar; certainly no evi-
dence of His existence can be sought in the world. This
is not to claim that Kierkegaard is responsible for the
atheism of other philosophers, but only to point out
that the ambiguous character of his religiosity makes
it possible for much of what he says to be incorporated
into a system which is fundamentally atheist, such as
that of Sartre. Indeed, Sartre's arguments against the
existence of God might be seen as taking what
Kierkegaard demanded and claiming that it was in
principle unsatisfiable. Nietzsche talked of the “Death
of God” in the modern world, by which he meant that
the existence of God was no longer a simple and natural
fact as it was for men in earlier centuries; Kierkegaard's
frantic search for faith can be seen as an expression
of the same feeling.

One important difference between Kierkegaard and
Heidegger and Sartre is that they are professional
philosophers, concerned with teaching the subject and
with presenting their ideas in a form which will be
acceptable to their colleagues. Hence their writings
contain reference to other philosphers and discussions
of questions which might not have appeared to Kierke-
gaard relevant to the matter in hand. For another
central influence on both Heidegger and Sartre was
the phenomenologist, Edmund Husserl, who formalized
the philosophic method both men later used. Heidegger
was Husserl's pupil and later succeeded him in the
chair at Freiburg.

In spite of his disclaimers, Heidegger's Sein und Zeit
(Being and Time) has had a wide influence as an exis-
tentialist work. In this book the central concern is the


analysis of Dasein, an almost untranslatable term which
refers to the way in which human beings, as distinct
from things, exist. It is this analysis which has facili-
tated the existentialist reading. For Dasein can only
be understood in terms of human existence, the way
in which it lives its life, never in terms of its essence.
Normally this life is “inauthentic.” Heidegger claims
that this is not a moral term, though the use he makes
of it shows that an inauthentic life is lacking in impor-
tant respects.

Dasein has three important characteristics; the first
is “facticity,” the fact that I exist in an already existing
world which is my world, which could no more exist
without me than could I without it. Things in the world
are not experienced as mere material objects but as
tools, things “ready to hand” to be used in ways which
are defined for me by the structure of this world.
Heidegger also talks of this as Geworfenheit, “thrown-
ness,” the fact that I am born into a world which I
did not make and which hence sets limits for me.

The second feature is “existentiality”: “Dasein is not
a thing which has additionally the gift of being able
to do something, but it is primarily possibility.” I live
my life as a series of “projects,” and so in the future
as much as in the present. My life is “transcendent”
in the sense of always going beyond the merely given.
My personal time is different from that marked by
watches and calendars; a future event (or a past one)
may be more “present” to me than that which is
chronologically present.

Thirdly there is “forfeiture,” the way in which
Dasein is distracted from the realization of its true
being by the claims of everyday life, of the trivial and
the inessential. We live mostly in the inauthentic world
of das Man, “one” or “they” as in “They expect it
of me.” The analyses of this anonymous crowd which
plays such a part in our lives is a striking feature of
Sein und Zeit.

Dasein is free, yet in everyday life it is enslaved.
But unless there were some central “I” there would
be nothing to be enslaved; the reality of Dasein may
be hidden by the everydayness of the world, it cannot
be extinguished. Two things reveal Dasein, dread
(Angst) and death. These involve a relation to Nothing.
Heidegger's talk of “nothing” as if it were a kind of
thing has often been criticized by analytic philoso-
phers; it has been compared to the King's mistake in
Alice through the Looking-Glass of talking of “nobody”
as if it were the name of a person. It is possible to
see why Heidegger, and later Sartre in a slightly differ-
ent manner, found it necessary to use the term. It
should be remembered that many mystics have also
found it necessary to use the term in connection with
the “Dark night of the soul.” Dread, as distinct from
normal emotions, is not directed to any particular
thing; it is, as Kierkegaard said in the Concept of Dread,
dread of no thing, of nothing. Further, for Heidegger,
human freedom or “transcendence” involves nothing-
ness; in that Dasein is not determined in its actions,
the human project is free: “Without this original mani-
fest character of Nothing there is no selfhood and no
freedom.” Sartre later characterizes human reality in
a similar way, as that being “who is not what he is
and is what he is not,” again to stress the openness
of human existence, its freedom. Further, for Heidegger
dread is connected with death; the only thing which
each person must do for himself alone is to die. The
contemplation of my ultimate possibility, death, is an
essential feature of authentic living; the realization of
the fact that I must die makes possible a proper under-
standing of my own Dasein. Dread is not a morbid
state to be avoided. A fictional representation similar
to Heidegger's analysis of the way in which the con-
templation of death can alter a whole attitude to life
is given in Tolstoy's story The Death of Ivan Ilyitch.

It is now possible to see the relation between
Heidegger's thought and Husserl's phenomenology.
Husserl's motto was “Back to the things themselves,”
by which he meant back to our actual experience
without the layer of common sense and scientific pre-
suppositions which hide the “experienced phenom-
ena” from us. Dread is something which we experience
and hence must be described with as much care as
would normally be spent on more “objective” experi-
ences. Again, that material objects present themselves
as tools first, as material objects only as the result of
thought, is a result of the phenomenological method,
namely, of inspecting experience. Heidegger's use of
phenomenology was criticized by Husserl, but it is
clear that the attempt to view experience without the
normal presuppositions was an essential element of
Sein und Zeit and one factor making for its appeal.

One important point stands out: Heidegger's man
is an essentially solitary individual whose relations with
his fellows only occur at the level of forfeiture, as part
of the anonymous world of das Man. Each person must
seek his own relation with Being via the contemplation
of his own death. Here, and in his emphasis on dread,
Heidegger is like Kierkegaard. The difference between
them lies in the fact that the relation to Being is not
at all like that to a personal God; indeed, it is not clear
from Sein und Zeit what this relation should be. It
is only when it is read in the context of Heidegger's
later works that his central point becomes clear. It was
the negative analyses of human experience which
struck the readers of the book in the years following
its publication and which made Heidegger into an
influential existentialist despite his expressed intention.


Jean-Paul Sartre is in one respect the most significant
of those considered here, for his development has been
a move from a full-blooded existentialism to a modified
Marxism. His reasons were basically a dissatisfaction
with extreme individualism as a guide to moral choice.
For Sartre is first and foremost a moralist, even though
his major early work L'Etre et le néant is described
as an “essay in phenomenological ontology.” The in-
fluence of Husserl and Heidegger is always visible,
though he is often critical of them. Authenticity is the
aim of life, and it is clear that for Sartre it is a moral
value. Its opposite is “bad faith,” the attempt to claim
that values or personality are given, are part of the
order of nature instead of the result of choice. The
waiter in a café, in a famous analysis, is shown to be
“playing at being a waiter,” trying to conceal from
himself the fact that it is his own choice which drives
him to work for long hours, etc. The striking analyses
which occur in L'Etre et le néant are paralleled in many
cases by fictional representations in Sartre's large out-
put of plays and novels. For many people the first
introduction to existentialism has been through these,
rather than through his more philosophical writings.
However, Sartre is too good a writer to transfer his
philosophy direct to the stage; to take the expressions
of the characters in plays and novels as statements of
his philosophical views often leads to error. The remark
at the end of Huis clos, “Hell is other people,” is not
his considered judgment on the world but is meant as
evidence of the bad faith of the character uttering it.

Bad faith is a belief in the lack of freedom: that a
person acts as he does because of his character or
because of his situation, the position into which he was
born. Sartre wished to assert an absolute freedom, to
regard everything that is done as the result of a choice.
Material objects are what they are, can only behave
in circumscribed ways; human beings contain nothing-
ness, are separate from their situation in that they can
imagine alternatives. It is his “project” that makes a
man what he is, and the fundamental project is “choice
of one's self.” Orthodox psychoanalysis is wrong to
think of complexes as existing in the unconscious; they
are really choices which bad faith has suppressed.
Sartre's “existential psychoanalysis” has as its object
the uncovering of the fundamental project to enable
it to be changed. Detailed examples of the procedure
are given in his books on Baudelaire and Genet.

A person might also seem to be limited by his situa-
tion, by the fact that he was born at such a time of
such parents and possesses such physical characteristics.
Sartre argues that these are not really limitations if
viewed correctly. To take an extreme case, a physical
disability is not a limitation, but a particular way of
existing in the world. The only possible existence for
human beings is embodied existence, and to have a
body is to have limitations. Given our original body
it is how we react to it, whether we make it an excuse
for failure or treat it as an obstacle to overcome, which
manifests our freedom. We can only exist in an envi-
ronment, and every environment gives a full range of
human possibilities. It might seem that gravitation is
a restriction on freedom of action, but in fact without
it it is almost impossible to do anything at all; without
some resistance or friction there is nothing to push
against. Similarly, choice can only take place in a
concrete situation; we may imagine that if some things
were different our life would be easier, but this is due
to the incompleteness of the imagined life.

Values also are chosen, not given. The young man
already mentioned chooses not just a course of action
by deciding to join the Free French Forces, but a value,
in that his choice is implicitly of what anyone in the
same situation should do. It is this that makes it a
choice rather than an arbitrary act. If there were a
given set of values, it would be possible to choose in
accordance with them, but Sartre wishes to represent
all, or all important, choices as choice of values. Hence
no rational argument in favor of one choice over
against another can be given. This view is often re-
garded as irrationalism, but Sartre's point is that even
criteria of rationality are not given by the nature of
the universe, they also have to be chosen. Sartre refers
to those who believe that values are given in the same
way as physical facts as salauds and equates them with
the bourgeois. Thus his attack on this class precedes
his Marxism; to a great extent he is following the
attitude of many French writers and artists of the late
nineteenth and early twentieth centuries who felt it
necessary to épater les bourgeois. He is attacking a
mental attitude rather than an economic group, a belief
that basically everything is in order as it is, that man
possesses rights in the way in which objects possess
properties. This belief is a failure to glimpse the
nothingness that lies at the heart of man.

Sartre, like Heidegger, provided a devastating nega-
tive analysis of the human condition. With great skill
he shows up the shifts and evasions that are ordinarily
used to escape responsibility, to cover up the fact of
choice. Everyone is shown to be infected with bad
faith. But when the time comes for advice, for instruc-
tion on how an authentic choice is to be made, Sartre
seems to confine himself to the bare command to
choose. Because of the analysis he has given, no positive
recommendations can be made, for these would them-
selves become given values and so a source of bad faith.
It is significant that L'Etre et le néant closes with the


words: “These questions... can be answered only on
a moral level. I will devote my next work to them.”
No such work has so far appeared; also, the fourth
volume of the series of novels Paths to Freedom (Les
Chemins de la liberté
), which was to show how the
characters whose inauthenticity had been exposed in
the first three books managed at last to achieve
authenticity, has never been completed in spite of
Sartre's efforts to do so. Sartre has found it easier to
show what is wrong with everyday human life than
to provide a sketch of the right way to live. Heidegger
evades this issue by a shift of interest to the question
of Being, whereas Sartre's solution is more traditional,
invoking the concept of cooperative action. Authentic
existence can only be shared by a group. It is this which
leads to his modified Marxism, which is certainly not
that of the normal party member. His relations with
the Party have been complex; he has often been at-
tacked for his “bourgeois idealism.” He looks on
Marxism as primarily a moral doctrine, and as political
only insofar as just political conditions are necessary
for moral action to become possible. In Critique de
la raison dialectique,
existentialism is reduced to the
level of an “previous hit ideology next hit,” something limited in contrast
to Marxism which is the “unsurpassable philosophy of
our time.” Many of the earlier insights seem to have
been denied.

In many ways Sartre's abandonment of existentialism
in the late nineteen-fifties can be seen as the end of
the movement, and his conversion to Marxism as a
recognition that more is needed than analyses of the
human condition. Not all of those who earlier followed
him have taken the same path as Sartre, but the defec-
tion of the man who was the most popular of all
existentialists is bound to make a significant difference
to them. Existentialism never was an organized move-
ment, but was a loose grouping of like-thinking people
who found the analyses given by the writers discussed
here appropriate to the historical circumstances in
which they found themselves. In one sense there have
been as many existentialisms as existentialists. That
such a movement should have arisen is itself significant,
and in spite of its ambiguous nature, twentieth-century
thought would have been different and less interesting
without it.


General Works. H. J. Blackham, Six Existentialist Thinkers
(London, 1952), and F. H. Heinemann, Existentialism and
the Modern Predicament
(London, 1953), give good accounts.
R. G. Olson, An Introduction to Existentialism (New York,
1962), compares the existentialists with the American prag-
matists. Mary Warnock, Existentialist Ethics (London and
New York, 1967), is a good brief survey (57 pages). A special
number of the Revue Internationale de Philosophie (1949)
contains bibliographies of the subject.

Kierkegaard. The standard life of Kierkegaard is W.
Lowrie, Kierkegaard (London and New York, 1938). It con-
tains a bibliography. G. E. and G. B. Arbaugh, Kierkegaard's
(London, 1968), contains summaries of all his
books, Kierkegaard's own comments are contained in The
Point of View for My Work as an Author
(1859), trans. W.
Lowrie (Princeton, 1939; reprint New York, 1962). Works
mentioned in the text: The Concept of Dread (1844), trans.
W. Lowrie (Princeton, 1944); Concluding Unscientific Post-
(1846), trans. D. Swenson (Princeton, 1941); Fear and
(1843), trans., with The Sickness unto Death
(1849), W. Lowrie (Princeton, 1941); Either/Or (1843), Vol.
I, trans. D. & L. Swenson; Vol. II, W. Lowrie (Princeton,

Heidegger. His major work on which the existentialist
interpretation rests is Sein und Zeit (Halle, 1927); Being and
(London and New York, 1962), trans. Macquarrie and
E. Robinson. A summary of Sein und Zeit together with
translations of some of his later works is given in: Martin
Heidegger, Existence and Being, introduction by W. Brock
(London, 1949). A short account occurs in M. Grene, Martin
(Cambridge, 1957).

Sartre. F. Jeanson, le problème moral et la pensée de
(Paris, 1947, new edition Paris, 1967), has won the
approval of Sartre. There are several English works on
Sartre: Anthony Manser, Sartre (London, 1966; New York,
1967), contains a complete bibliography of Sartre's writings
up to 1964. Works mentioned in the text are: L'Etre et le
(Paris, 1943), trans. H. Barnes as Being and Nothing-
(New York, 1956); L'Existentialisme est un humanisme
(Paris, 1946), trans. B. Frechtmann as Existentialism (New
York, 1947); Huis clos (Paris, 1947), trans. S. Gilbert as In
(London, 1946), as No Exit (New York, 1947);
Baudelaire (Paris, 1947), trans. M. Turnell (New York, 1950);
Saint Genet (Paris, 1952), trans. B. Frechtmann (New York,
1963); Critique de la raison dialectique (Paris, 1960); Les
Chemins de la liberté: L'Age de raison
(Paris, 1945), trans.
E. Sutton (New York, 1947); le Sursis (Paris, 1945), trans.
E. Sutton as Reprieve (New York, 1947); la Mort dans l'âme
(Paris, 1949), trans. G. Hopkins as Iron in the Soul (London,
1950), and as Troubled Sleep, (New York, 1951); Drôle
(Temps Modernes, Nos. 49 & 50); this is part of
the projected fourth volume, la Dernière chance.

Camus. J. Cruickshank, Albert Camus and the Literature
of Revolt
(Oxford, 1959), discusses how far he can be re-
garded as an existentialist.

Marcel. Etre et avoir (Paris, 1935), trans. K. Farrer as
Being and Having (London, 1949); homo Viator (Paris,
1944), trans. E. Crauford (London, 1951; reprint New York).


[See also God; Irrationalism; Marxism; Romanticism.]