The World Wide Web offers a great deal of information — some valuable, most not. I created this site to encourage further research into existential and phenomenological philosophies, hopefully providing a useful amount of information and references to external sources. I expect those interested in the writers and thinkers mentioned within these pages to locate the books and articles cited. My writing is not in textbook form, nor is it even in a form suitable as a high school term paper. I ask questions without offering answers, since I have no idea what the answers would be. The paragraphs are short, in a journalistic style not suited to academic research. Trying to use this site for any serious purpose might prove fatal to a student's grade.
It is not that I think the chronologies of biographical information is incorrect, but I have learned, as have most students, that some instructors are certain they and they alone know exactly what Nietzsche or Sartre meant in a particular work. My own students always seem astounded when I admit I have only an educated guess on these matters. It is much easier to know what is not likely, so we can establish limits on interpretations.
The biographies and commentaries are brief, limited by available server space, my free time, and my belief my opinions are not important. Other matters are more important than philosophy, what I ponder is how this particular set of men and women shaped literature and educational theory, not world events or human understanding.
I cite the views of others as frequently as possible. Opinions exist to be debated I am told, though I hate any debate — calm discussion is better. In many cases, opinions should be dismissed anyway. At best, opinions are starting points for new perspectives, but I'm not sure where philosophy will take anyone. If you have a question, submit it to the Exist List. I encourage students of philosophy to develop their own understandings — I’m of no particular help.
As you can probably tell by now, I am not going to claim any grand authority to write on philosophy. I think anyone staking such a claim is probably the least likely to illuminate the subject. As with most people interested in philosophy, my primary qualification is that I read too much. One can never own too many books. Any academic credentials only demonstrate that I need to be outside more often!
I also do not claim to comprehend any “theories” about life or any philosophical schools of thought. For me, things are what they are; unfortunately, things are often absurd, especially in complex human systems like companies, governments, and universities.
“But do you have any qualifications?” I can hear you asking. Other than nearly 40 years of life? Oh, you want academic letters, awards, and other silly symbols of socially acknowledged expertise. No list of credentials would satisfy some people, though. Ironic — I think credentials are silly, but I also know they matter to my career in academia.
You could read my résumé and biography to decide if you want to give any value at all to what I write. Please take into consideration that what seems like self-promotion is also part of pursuing a career in the “publish or perish” competitive world of academia. And yes, I am employed by a university.
Recognitions for The Existential Primer
The following is a partial list of recognitions The Existential Primer has received from universities, libraries, and educational publishers.
- University links:
- Intute (http://www.intute.ac.uk), JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee, U.K. Universities) includes University of Oxford (2006)
- University of Michigan, Internet Public Library
- Birkbeck, University of London
- Duquesne University
- Media mentions:
- USA Today Hot Site (2001)
- Philosopher’s Magazine (U.K.) (2002)
- Citations and links:
- Thomson Scientific Current Web Contents™ (2006)
- New York Public Library “Best of the Web” (http://www.nypl.org) (2005)
- Encyclopædia Britannica (www.britannica.com)
- McGraw-Hill Online Learning Center
I have taught philosophy courses as an assistant professor at a small private university.
- Ph.D, Rhetoric, Scientific and Technical Communication; University
- DOVE Fellowship, Community of Scholars Program
- M.A., English Composition and Rhetoric; California State University,
- Phi Kappa Phi Honors (ΦΚΦ)
- B.A., English Education / Journalism; University of Southern
- Thematic Option Honors
I want to make this as clear as possible: I am not trying to understand particular philosophers or the implications of their ideas as they might apply to me. I am interested in the lasting effects these men and women have had on literature, theatre, and educational theory. I make no pretension of understanding theories about right and wrong, ethics, or human existence. I only know that the men and women grouped as existential shaped culture, including education and popular literature.
One of the great pleasures is that I get to select the individuals profiled. I maintain a list of suggested additions to the site, yet I select those people about whom I wish to write first. In selecting these writers, I am considering their influence upon existentialism to be greater than those of others.
I am not completely ignorant of the topic: yes, some non-existentialists are on this site. I could not write about existentialism and not mention Dostoevsky, Hegel, or even Marx. It is the influence of these men upon The Existentialists that I weighed before dedicating space to commentaries upon their works. Don’t complain — I’m in charge here. (That’s dry wit, if you cannot tell!)