Monday, January 19, 2004

Despair: A Moment Or A Way Of Life?

No, I am not depressed. It happens to be the title of the book (C. Stephen Evans) that I am presently reading. During my Philosophy degree, I was equally comfortable in both the Analytic and Continental traditions. I did enjoy Formal Logic, Bertrand Russell and the like. I do confess, however, that the writers found in the latter area have always held a special place on my bookshelves: Dostoevsky, Sartre, Camus, Barrett, Foucault, Derrida...

In fact, Existentialism and Phenomenology still hold great interest for me. I have tried not to wince when I hear the use of such words as "angst" and "existentialist" in everyday conversation because I studied them in the strictest senses. I realize that these words have their place now. The word "existentialist", however, is often used erroneously: it should never be used to describe oneself or another individual outside a specific context.

At the outset, Dr. Evans discusses, in very plain language, what he believes to be Existentialism:

...I have only to share an experience I have had, an experience not unique to me, but one which I believe everyone has had at some time to some degree. I cannot hope truly to describe this experience. I can only hope to engender the memory of that experience in you, for if you have not felt what I felt, you shall not understand.

The best part about this discussion, however, is that Dr. Evans, in one of the grand traditions, does, in fact, share an experience. (This is what I have always loved about the Theatre of the Absurd, too. The provoking, evoking style of illustrating a sense or a feeling of universality and, at the same time, achieving the sense of alienation that the whole of the tradition seeks to convey.)

This is what, I believe, an "existentialist" is: one who not only writes about this uncomfortable convergence of realizations, but successfully arouses it in the reader. I think that this will be revisited in the near future....

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