existential primer

The Exist List
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Before Existentialism
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I first joined email lists in the mid-1980s. Even downloading a few messages was a slow process. I created the Exist List during this “pre-Web” period. The list is no longer limited to email, with a complete Yahoo Group community.

The mailing list URL is:

The Yahoo Group is our primary online community. If you have questions or wish to discuss philosophy, the Exist List is an active, engaged community with many knowledgeable members.

Revising Never Ends, Nor Should It…

Do not use this site as a study guide. The Existential Primer is a “living” academic project, unlike a static text. This primer is only a shallow introduction to the thinkers profiled. The incomplete nature of this website might result in misunderstanding the profiled individuals. These pages are revised often because scholarship is never ending. Consult any citations included because within them is where you will find the experts. Read their works!

NOTE: Citations are not in MLA or APA format to prevent “borrowing” from The Existential Primer. Full lists of citations appear at the end of each page. Present tense is used when referencing a published work, while past tense is favored on these pages because the major figures are… dead. Inline citations take the form (Author p. page) with no year. A title is included if there might be confusion as to the work. Quoted long passages appear indented with the <blockquote> tag and cited in the format:

Work; Author, p. Page

The Exist List FAQ

1.0 The Exist List

The Exist List is a "mailing list server" hosted on Yahoo Groups. The experienced Internet users prefer the term LISTSERV, a reference to an old VAX/VMS and UNIX program used to maintain mailing lists. (Notice the "ER" for List Server is missing because data file and program names were limited to eight characters.)

Members receive "postings" from each other via email, or you can elect to read the postings on Yahoo, where an archive of all posts since 1999 resides. Most members select to read via the Yahoo Web page, due to the volume of posts.

1.1 Purpose

This mailing list is a community interested in existentialism, phenomenology, and philosophy in general. The primary purpose is to explore Continental schools of thought, as opposed to Analytical Philosophy. Yes, Sartre, Nietzsche, and Kierkegaard, but also many others: Frankl, May, Jaspers, and Merleau-Ponty to name a few. This list encourages questions and exchanges of information. We want to know about the latest literature, articles, book releases, and more. Feel free to post book or film recommendations, in addition to questions on philosophical texts.

1.2 History

The list was started in the late 1980s on the BITNET. It moved to FidoNet in 1992, then to OneList, eGroups, and finally landing at its current home on Yahoo Groups by 1999. The group pre-dates the creation of The Existential Primer website. The site was created in November, 1996, and has been expanding ever since.

1.3 URLs for the Exist List

The mailing list URL is http://groups.yahoo.com/group/existlist

The official homepage URL is http://www.tameri.com/csw/exist

I maintain the "Existential Primer" at the preceding URL. It is only a primer, not an all-inclusive look at existentialism, phenomenology, and Continental philosophy. Members and potential members of the Exist List are encouraged to visit The Existential Primer on a regular basis to offer suggestions, corrections, and possible additions.

1.4 Founder and Moderators

I (C. S. Wyatt) founded the list at a time when the Internet was still too "academic" in many ways. My goal was to make philosophical discussions open to everyone, not merely graduate students and professors. I am a reader and writer interested in philosophy. As for academic credentials... I have them, but they shouldn’t matter. This list should value knowledge and life experience, not formal credentials.

Is this group actively moderated? Ideally, no, but there are times when we must intervene. Moderators vary over time and may be located via the Yahoo page.

1.5 What are the rules of the list?

No personal attacks. No lengthy discussions of specific religious issues (take those to other lists, please). No strong profanity (you know which words those would be). Be polite, and try to keep discussions on the topic of philosophy as much as possible.

The list does not function if you "flood" the list with off-topic posts, personal messages, or more than five posts during a single 24-hour period.

1.5.1 No personal attacks

We want this group to remain polite and inviting. Be polite. If you disagree with someone, explain your reasons without insulting the other individual personally.

1.5.2 No lengthy discussions of specific religious issues

Long discussions of specific religious issues belong in other mailing lists, not here. Christian Existentialism is a valid point of discussion, as are philosophers within that grouping, but we do not want this list to be dominated by discussions of Christianity. Sartre, Camus, Nietzsche, and many others were not Christians. There is room for all topics, but not for dwelling on one branch of existentialism.

1.5.3 No profanity

This list is used by students. We expect proper behavior.

1.5.4 No "flooding" the group with posts

We ask that members limit their posts to five per day, with a maximum of ten during an active exchange. Members posting too often appear to be "shouting" at the group. Dominating a group causes others to leave, as when one person dominates a dinner party. Share the floor, as it were, and help us encourage participation by as many members as possible. Do not "hog" space on the list -- it is poor form. If people are not responding to a topic you suggest, give them time. Not everyone can read the list daily, so be patient. This is not a chat room, it is a mailing list.

2.0 List Topics

New or potential members should read our Official Homepage: http://www.tameri.com/csw/exist. After reading the homepage, then try to remain on topic. Topics allowed include existentialism, phenomenology, and Continental philosophy. Any philosophical discussion is welcomed as long as it takes the topic seriously and encourages an exchange of ideas. Current philosophy is a frequent topic, especially post-modernism.

2.1 Existentialism Defined

Visit http://www.tameri.com/csw/exist/elexicon.html for a list of definitions and a complete lexicon used by academics when discussing existentialism.

2.1.1 Merriam-Webster Online


ex·is·ten·tial·ism. Pronunciation: -'ten(t)-sh&-"li-z&m. noun. A chiefly 20th century philosophical movement embracing diverse doctrines but centering on analysis of individual existence in an unfathomable universe and the plight of the individual who must assume ultimate responsibility for his acts of free will without any certain knowledge of what is right or wrong or good or bad

2.1.2 Webster's New World Dictionary, Second College Edition.

William Collins Publishers, Inc.; Cleveland, Ohio; 1979

The doctrine that existence takes precedence over essence and holding that man is totally free and responsible for his acts. This responsibility is the source of dread and anguish that encompass mankind.

2.1.3 American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition.

Houghton Mifflin Company, 1992

A philosophy that emphasizes the uniqueness and isolation of the individual experience in a hostile or indifferent universe, regards human existence as unexplainable, and stresses freedom of choice and responsibility for the consequences of one's acts.

2.1.4 Britannica Concise Encyclopedia.

April 20, 2003, from Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service. http://www.britannica.com/

Philosophical movement oriented toward two major themes, the analysis of human existence and the centrality of human choice. Existentialism's chief theoretical energies are thus devoted to questions about ontology and decision. It traces its roots to the writings of Soren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche. As a philosophy of human existence, existentialism found its best 20th-century exponent in Karl Jaspers; as a philosophy of human decision, its foremost representative was J.P. Sartre. Sartre finds the essence of human existence in freedom—in the duty of self-determination and the freedom of choice -- and therefore spends much time describing the human tendency toward "bad faith," reflected in humanity's perverse attempts to deny its own responsibility and flee from the truth of its inescapable freedom.

2.1.5 World Book Multimedia Encyclopedia.

World Book, Inc, 2001

Existentialism, pronounced ehg zihs TEHN shuh lihz uhm, is a philosophical movement that developed in continental Europe during the 1800's and 1900's. The movement is called existentialism because most of its members are primarily interested in the nature of existence or being, by which they usually mean human existence. Although the philosophers generally considered to be existentialists often disagree with each other and sometimes even resent being classified together, they have been grouped together because they share many problems, interests, and ideas.

The most prominent existentialist thinkers of the 1900's include the French writers Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Gabriel Marcel; the German philosophers Karl Jaspers and Martin Heidegger; the Russian religious and political thinker Nicolas Berdyaev; and the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber.

2.1.6 World Book, New York Times Dictionary.

World Book, Inc., 2001

existentialism, noun. a philosophy holding that reality consists of living and that man makes himself what he is and is responsible personally only to himself for what he makes himself. Modern existentialism was developed by a group of contemporary writers, such as Gabriel Marcel, Karl Jaspers, and especially Jean Paul Sartre, out of the works of Soren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, and other existentialist philosophers and writers of the 1800's. Existentialism, as expounded by Sartre, is not pessimistic in the nihilist sense, but is a doctrine of fortitude and even hope.

2.1.7 The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition.

Columbia University Press, 2002. http://www.bartleby.com/65/ex/existentism.html

(gzstn´shlzm, ks–) any of several philosophic systems, all centered on the individual and his relationship to the universe or to God. Important existentialists of varying and conflicting thought are Søren Kierkegaard, Karl Jaspers, Martin Heidegger, Gabriel Marcel, and Jean-Paul Sartre. All revolt against the traditional metaphysical approaches to man and his place in the universe. Thinkers such as St. Thomas Aquinas, Blaise Pascal, and Friedrich Nietzsche have been called existentialists, but it is more accurate to place the beginnings of the movement with Kierkegaard.

Sartre was the only self-declared existentialist among the major thinkers. For him the central idea of all existential thought is that existence precedes essence. For Sartre there is no God and therefore no fixed human nature that forces one to act. Man is totally free and entirely responsible for what he makes of himself. It is this freedom and responsibility that, as for Kierkegaard, is the source of man’s dread.

2.2 Phenomenology

2.2.1 Merriam-Webster Online


phe·nom·e·nol·o·gy. Pronunciation: fi-"nä-m&-'nä-l&-jE. noun. circa 1797 Etymology: German Phänomenologie, from Phänomenon phenomenon + -logie –logy

1: the study of the development of human consciousness and self-awareness as a preface to philosophy or a part of philosophy. Experience usually is considered over science, senses over objective reality due to how we acquire knowledge.

2 (a) A philosophical movement that describes the formal structure of the objects of awareness and of awareness itself in abstraction from any claims concerning existence. The typological classification of a class of phenomena <the phenomenology of religion> (b) An analysis produced by phenomenological investigation

3.0 More Information

Neither the Exist List nor my website offers enough information for even a beginning study of existentialism. Members of the list are encouraged to explore and learn via the Web and via the wonders of printed pages.

3.1 Official List Pages

The Existential Primer currently features profiles on the following writers/philosophers: de Beauvoir, Camus, Dostoevsky, Hegel, Heidegger, Husserl, Jaspers, Kafka, Kierkegaard, Merleau-Ponty, Nietzsche, Sartre, and several others in progress, too. The pages are works in progress. See http://www.tameri.com/csw/exist/index.html on a regular basis for updates.

3.2 Visit the Yahoo Page


The Yahoo page and my page include links to other philosophy sites, databases for research, and even a live chat option.

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