What is life? What is my place in it? What choices does this obligate me to make?
If you’ve ever longed to enrich your own understanding of this unique philosophical movement, the visionary thinkers it brought together to ponder these questions, and the prominent role it still
plays in contemporary thought, you now have an opportunity to do so by ordering this freshly recorded Third Edition of No Excuses: Existentialism and the Meaning of Life.
Professor Robert Solomon presents his 24 detailed lectures with gratifying lucidity and plenty of illuminating detail. His course enables you to grasp existentialism comprehensively, incisively,
and in context. You will trace its roots back to its 19th-century forbears, examine the impact that it made through its reconsideration of fundamental questions, and gain a keen sense of how
this profoundly original way of fathoming life continues to exert aprofound influence today.
Professor Robert Solomon has decades of distinguished teaching at The University of Texas to his credit. You will see why his high repute as a classroom lecturer is so well merited when you buy these tapes and join him in exploring the religious existentialism of Kierkegaard, the warrior
rhetoric and often-shocking claims about religion and morality of Nietzsche, the bold and profound fiction of Camus, the radical and uncompromising notion of freedom championed by Sartre, the
searching analysis of human historicity and finitude offered by Martin Heidegger, and more.
Under Professor Solomon’s clear guidance, you’ll see how these thinkers relate to one another, and to the larger tradition of philosophy itself. At the end of your survey, you may conclude that one of the most remarkable things about existentialism is the way in which its great questions allow room for different routes to the truth, so that this same grand arena of
intellect can admit—and even welcome—many seemingly disparate voices.
The Third Edition of No Excuses tracks the popular earlier editions closely in terms of content.
Professor Solomon has reorganized his lectures into a half-hour format that is designed to make them easier to use, especially for customers who commute.
What is Existentialism?
Existentialism is a movement, a "sensibility" that can be traced throughout the history of Western philosophy. Its central themes are:
Significance of the individual
Importance of passion
Irrational aspects of life
Omportance of human freedom.
"Existentialism is, in my view, the most exciting and important philosophical movement of the past century and a half," states Professor Solomon.
"Fifty years after the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre gave it its identity and 150 years after the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard gave it its initial impetus, existentialism continues to win new enthusiasts and, in keeping with its still exciting and revolutionary message, vehement critics."
In this series you:
Explore the religious existentialism of Kierkegaard
Hear the warrior rhetoric and often-shocking claims about religion and morality of Nietzsche
Absorb the bold and profound fiction of Camus
Comprehend the radical and uncompromising notion of freedom championed by Sartre
Consider the searching analysis of human historicity and finitude offered by Martin Heidegger.
You see how these thinkers relate to one another and to the larger tradition of philosophy itself.
"This lesson taught me how to think—not what to think," writes customer Tony Pope of Auke Bay, Alaska.
Beyond Its Basic Message, Nothing Straightforward About It
To say that the basic message of Existentialism is quite simple and straightforward is not to say that the philosophers or the philosophies that make up the movement are simple and straightforward.
The movement itself is something of a fabrication. None of the major Existentialist figures—only excepting Sartre—would recognize themselves as part of a "movement" at all. Kierkegaard and Nietzsche were both ferocious individualists who vehemently rejected all movements.
Heidegger was deeply offended when he was linked with Sartre as one of the Existentialists, and he publicly denounced the association. Camus and Sartre once were friends, but they quarreled over politics and Camus publicly rejected the association.
The Existentialists' writings, too, are by no means simple and straightforward. Kierkegaard and Nietzsche write well but in challenging, often disjointed exhortations.
Heidegger is among the most difficult writers in the entire history of philosophy, and even Sartre—a lucid literary writer when he wants to be—imitates some of the worst elements of Heidegger's notorious style.
Much of the challenge of this course of lectures, accordingly, is to free the exciting and revolutionary message of Existentialism from its often formidable textual enclosures.
The Great Existentialist Writers
Albert Camus, Lectures 1–6. After an introduction to Existentialism, the course begins with a discussion of the 20th-century writer and philosopher Camus (1913-1960). Chronologically, Camus is late in the game (you trace Existentialist ideas as far back as Kierkegaard and Nietzsche in the mid-19th century).
You start with his most famous novel, The Stranger, published in the early 1940s. You also examine The Myth of Sisyphus, in which he introduces his infamous concept of "The Absurd"; The Plague; and The Fall.
Professor Solomon's aim in opening with Camus is to "set a certain mood for the rest of the course, a rebellious, restless, yet thoroughly conscientious mood, which I believe Camus exemplifies both in his writings and in his life."
Søren Kierkegaard, Lectures 7–9. Danish philosopher Kierkegaard (1813-1855) was a deeply religious philosopher—a pious Christian—and his existentialist thought was devoted to the question, "What does it mean to be—or rather, what does it mean to become—a Christian?"
"We should thus be advised that, contrary to some popular misunderstandings, Existentialism is by no means an antireligious or unspiritual philosophy. It can and often does embrace God, as well as a host of visions of the world that we can, without apology, call spiritual," notes Dr. Solomon.
Friedrich Nietzsche, Lectures 10–13 . Nietzsche (1844–1900) is perhaps best known for his bold declaration "God is dead." He is also well known as a self-proclaimed "immoralist."
In fact, both of these phrases are misleading, argues Dr. Solomon. Nietzsche was by no means the first person to say that God is dead (Martin Luther had said it three centuries before), and Nietzsche himself was anything but an immoral person.
Fyodor Dostoevsky, Franz Kafka, Hermann Hesse, Lecture 14. Professor Solomon turns briefly to three diverse figures from literature who display Existentialist themes and temperaments in their works: Dostoevsky (1821–1881), the great Russian novelist; Kafka (1883–1924), the brilliant Czech novelist and story writer; and Hermann Hesse (1877–1962), a 20th-century Swiss writer who combined a fascination with Asian philosophy with a profoundly Nietzschean interest and temperament.
Edmund Husserl, Lecture 15. The German-Czech philosopher Husserl (1859–1938) invented a philosophical technique called "phenomenology." Husserl is not an Existentialist, but you study him because of his influence on Heidegger and Sartre, both of whom, at the beginning of their careers, considered themselves phenomenologists.
Jean-Paul Sartre, Lectures 18–23. Professor Solomon suggests that much of what is best in "postmodernism" is taken more or less directly from Sartre (1905–1980), despite the fact that he is typically attacked as the very antithesis of postmodernism.
Existentialism, Dr. Solomon argues, was and is not just another French intellectual fashion but a timely antidote to some of the worst self-(mis)understandings of the end of the century.
Lecture 24. The series concludes with a comparison and contrast with French philosophy since Sartre's time.
Lecture 1: What is Existentialism?
Lecture 2: Albert Camus—The Stranger, Part 1
Lecture 3: Camus—The Stranger, Part II
Lecture 4: Camus—The Myth of Sisyphus
Lecture 5: Camus—The Plague and The Fall
Lecture 6: Camus—The Fall, Part II
Lecture 7: Søren Kierkegaard—"On Becoming a Christian"
Lecture 8: Kierkegaard on Subjective Truth
Lecture 9: Kierkegaard's Existential Dialectic
Lecture 10: Friedrich Nietzsche on Nihilism and the Death of God
Lecture 11: Nietzsche, the "Immoralist"
Lecture 12: Nietzsche on Freedom, Fate, and Responsibility
Lecture 13: Nietzsche—The Übermensch and the Will to Power
Lecture 14: Three Grand Inquisitors: Dostoevsky, Kafka, Hesse
Lecture 15: Husserl, Heidegger, and Phenomenology
Lecture 16: Heidegger on the World and the Self
Lecture 17: Heidegger on "Authenticity"
Lecture 18: Jean-Paul Sartre at War
Lecture 19: Sartre on Emotions and Responsibility
Lecture 20: Sartre's Phenomenology
Lecture 21: Sartre on "Bad Faith"
Lecture 22: Sartre's Being-for-Others and No Exit
Lecture 23: Sartre on Sex and Love
Lecture 24: From Existentialism to Postmodernism
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