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David Hopkins. The avant-garde movements of Dada and Surrealism continue to have a huge influence on cultural practice, especially in contemporary art, with its obsession with sexuality, fetishism, and shock tactics.
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One imagines offbeat, avant-garde intellectuals, attached to their cigarettes, listening to jazz as they hotly debate the implications of their new-found political and artistic liberty. The mood is one of enthusiasm, creativity, anguished self-analysis, and freedom — always freedom.
That is perhaps the price paid by a manner of thinking so bent on doing philosophy concretely rather than in some abstract and timeless manner. Such is the misreading of existentialist thought that I hope to correct in this short volume. It is as current as the human condition which it examines.
To ensure at the outset that this point is not lost, I begin my initial chapter with a discussion of philosophy, not as a doctrine or a system of thought but as a way of life. It is commonly acknowledged that existentialism is a philosophy about the concrete individual. This is both its glory and its shame. We are born biological beings but we must become existential individuals by accepting responsibility for our actions.
From then on, existentialism was associated with a certain kind of humanistic philosophy that gives human beings and. While the supreme value of existentialist thought is commonly acknowledged to be freedom, its primary virtue is authenticity. Chapter 4 is devoted to this topic as well as to the nature and forms of self-deception, or bad faith, that function as its contrary.
I relate authenticity to existential individuality and consider the possibility of an ethics of authenticity based on existential responsibility. In the last chapter, I draw on the foregoing as well as on other aspects of existentialist thought to consider the continued relevance of existentialist philosophy in our day. From many likely candidates, I choose four topics of current interest to which the existentialists have something of philosophical import to say.
As for the prominence of Sartre, he and de Beauvoir are the only philosophers in this group who admitted to being existentialists.
To the extent that it is a 20th-century movement, existentialism certainly centred on his work. This short volume was written under the ideal conditions provided by the Center for Humanistic Inquiry at Emory University. The inevitable omissions, oversights, and errors in a short and simple study of an increasingly long and complex subject are clearly my own.
My thanks to John Mercer for compiling the index. Finally, I wish to dedicate this work to my sister, her husband, and their family, whose love remains as authentic as it is human. Quam bonum et quam iucundum habitare in unum. The publisher and the author apologize for any errors or omissions in the above list.
If contacted they will be pleased to rectify these at the earliest opportunity. Despite its claim to be novel and unprecedented, existentialism represents a long tradition in the history of philosophy in the West, extending back at least to Socrates — bc. Its focus is on the proper way of acting rather than on an abstract set of theoretical truths. Thus the Athenian general Laches, in a Platonic dialogue by that name, admits that what impresses him about Socrates is not his teaching but the harmony between his teaching and his life.
The philosopher was a kind of doctor of the soul, prescribing the proper attitudes and practices to foster health and happiness. Of course, philosophy as the pursuit of basic truths about human nature and the universe was also widespread among the Ancient Greeks and was an ingredient in the care of the self. It was this more theoretical approach that led to the rise of science and came to dominate the teaching of philosophy in the medieval and modern periods.
It was a matter of becoming a certain kind of person, the way Socrates exhibited a particular way of life, rather than of achieving a certain clarity of argument or insight in the way Aristotle did. In the history of philosophy, care of the self was gradually marginalized and consigned to the domains of spiritual direction, political formation, and psychological counselling.
It is in this larger tradition that existentialism as a philosophical movement can be located. Clarity is not enough Galileo wrote that the book of nature was written in mathematical characters. This view became canonized by positivist philosophy in the 19th and 3. On the one hand, he was seen as the defender of a kind of rationality that moved beyond merely conventional and subjective values towards universal moral norms, for which Kierkegaard praised him and Nietzsche censured him.
Socrates was tried and found guilty on charges of impiety and for corrupting the youth by his teaching. As Kierkegaard remarked, many people have offered proofs for the immortality of the soul, but Socrates, after hypothesizing that the soul might be immortal, risked his life with that possibility in mind. He drank the poison as commanded by the Athenian court, all the while discoursing with his followers on the possibility that another life may await him.
Moreover, the exclusion of the non-measurable from what counted as knowledge left some of our most important questions not only unanswered but unanswerable. Are our ethical rules and values merely the expression of our subjective preferences?
They were forced in that direction by acceptance of the positivist limitation of knowledge to the measurable. But are we even capable of the kind of antiseptic knowledge that the positivists require of science? Perhaps the knowing subject can be reintroduced into these discussions without compromising their objectivity. The existentialists among others responded to this challenge. What he has in mind is the so-called Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle from atomic 4.
What, for example, could be more impersonal and objective than space and time? Even the chastened view of space-time that the Relativity Theory offers us relies on an absolute or constant referent, namely the speed of light. We measure time by minutes and seconds and chart space by yards or metres. For the existentialist, the value and meaning of each temporal dimension of lived time is a function of our attitudes and choices.
Some people, for example, are always pressed to meet obligations 5. To cite another example, light manifests qualities that indicate it is a wave and others that show it to be a particle. Light seems to be both and yet neither exclusively. Another kind of logic seems called for to make sense of this phenomenon. Time has its own viscosity, as Michel Foucault remarked. But existential space is personalized as well.
The story is told of two people, one who prefers to get as closely face-to-face in conversation as possible and the other a distant, stand-off kind of person, propelling and repelling each other around the room at a cocktail party in an attempt to carry on a conversation. Lived space is personal; it is the usual route I take to work, the seating arrangement that quickly establishes itself in a 6. This too is a function of my life project. As mentioned at the outset, Kierkegaard 7. These are, of course, psychological considerations.
This sets them immediately in likely dialogue with creative artists, who trade on our emotional and imaginative lives. But the issues they address, the careful distinctions they draw, their rigorous descriptions, and, above all, their explicit conversation with others in the philosophical tradition clearly identify the existentialists as primarily philosophical even as they underscore the ambiguity of the distinction between the conceptual and the imaginative, the philosophical and the literary.
Existence precedes essence. What you are your essence is the result of your choices your existence rather than the reverse. Essence is not destiny. You are what you make yourself to be. Time is of the essence. We are fundamentally time-bound Existentialism. Existentialism is a person-centred philosophy. Existentialism is a philosophy of freedom. But we are as responsible as we are free. Ethical considerations are paramount. They simply question the ability of such reasoning to access the deep personal convictions that guide our lives.
One would simply be following the complete directions. Such would be the case of Socrates if his belief in personal immorality were merely the conclusion of an argument.
Though scarcely espousing religious relativism, as a deeply committed Christian, Kierkegaard was more concerned with combating lukewarm or purely nominal religious belief than with apologetics. For the existentialist, such truth is more a matter of decision than of discovery. But, of course, one is not making these choices blindly and without criteria contrary to popular misconception.
But the nature of the choice is criterion-constituting rather than criterionless, as some have objected. But it applies Socrates discourses over personal immortality as he is about to take the poison as commanded by the State. The great American psychologist and pragmatist philosopher William James, for instance, makes an analogous claim in his The Will To Believe when he observes that our passional nature not only lawfully may, but must, decide an option between propositions, whenever it is a genuine option that cannot by its nature be decided on intellectual grounds.
But some such options are what British ethicist R. Such decisions are not themselves principled because they are what establish the principles according to which we shall make subsequent options in our life.
You do not follow those rules before deciding to play the game; your decision to play means abiding by those very rules. In a famous set of essays, What is Literature? His basic premise is that writing is a form of action for which responsibility must be taken, but that this responsibility carries over into the content and not just the form of what is communicated. The experience of the Second World War had given Sartre a sense of social responsibility that, arguably, was lacking or at least illdeveloped in his masterpiece, Being and Nothingness In fact, the existentialists had generally been criticized for their excessive individualism and apparent lack of social conscience.
Sartre, who had already distinguished himself with several well-received plays and the impressive novel Nausea, now addressed the moral responsibility of the prose artist. What might appear to be the merely formal condition of one freedom respecting another assumes a substantive character when Sartre concludes:. The unique point of view from which the author can present the world to those freedoms whose concurrence he wishes to bring about is that of a world to be impregnated always with more freedom.
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Where does the Dadaist obsession with the body-as-mechanism come from? Dada and Surrealism continue to have a huge influence on cultural practice, especially in contemporary art, with its obsession with sexuality, fetishism, and shock tactics. A huge range of media is employed by both movements collage, painting, found objects, performance art, photography, film , but there are aesthetic differences between them. Access to the complete content on Very Short Introductions online requires a subscription or purchase.
Hopkins D. Oxford University Press, The avant-garde movements of Dada and Surrealism continue to have a huge influence on cultural practice, especially in contemporary art, with its obsession with sexuality, fetishism, and shock tactics. In this new treatment of the subject, Hopkins focuses on the many debates surrounding these movements: the Marquis de Sade's Surrealist deification, issues of quality How good is Dali? The inteational nature of these movements is examined, covering the cities of Zurich, New York, Berlin, Cologne, Barcelona, Paris, London, and recently discovered examples in Easte Europe. Hopkins explores the huge range of media employed by both Dada and Surrealism collage, painting, found objects, performance art, photography, film , whilst at the same time establishing the aesthetic differences between the movements.
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The avant-garde movements of Dada and Surrealism continue to have a huge influence on cultural practice, especially in contemporary art, with its obsession with sexuality, fetishism and shock tactics. In this treatment of the subject, Hopkins focusesMoreThe avant-garde movements of Dada and Surrealism continue to have a huge influence on cultural practice, especially in contemporary art, with its obsession with sexuality, fetishism and shock tactics. In this treatment of the subject, Hopkins focuses on the many debates surrounding these movements: the Marquis de Sades Surrealist deification, issues of quality how good is Dali? You are at the Ancient Egypt Selection Bookshelf. The most important Prove to yourself that you can stick to something small for 30 days.
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Dada and Surrealism: A Very Short Introduction focuses on the many debates surrounding these movements: the Marquis de Sade's Surrealist deification.Reply