From Shakespeare to Existentialism: Studies in Poetry, Religion, and Philosophy

From Shakespeare to Existentialism: Studies in Poetry, Religion, and Philosophy

From Shakespeare to Existentialism: Studies in Poetry, Religion, and Philosophy

From Shakespeare to Existentialism: Studies in Poetry, Religion, and Philosophy

Excerpt

This book is the fruit, albeit not the only one, of almost ten years' work. Drafts for various chapters have appeared here and there, but all of them have been revised, for the most part very extensively. One can--and unfortunately almost every reader will-- begin with any chapter that may strike his fancy. Read straight through, however, the book traces a historical development--and gradually various themes are developed. Even those who read only the first four chapters before they begin to skip will find more in the later chapters than readers who approach nonfiction as a kind of smorgasbord.

The outlook toward which this book points is developed more fully in my Critique of Religion and Philosophy. Here are some of the historical studies out of which my Critique has grown; there are some of my own conclusions. Alas, it works the other way around, too, and a few contentions in the present volume had to be backed up by references to my Critique.

This is certainly not positivistic historiography but writing that comes perilously close to existentialism, although Heidegger and Jaspers are sharply criticized in both books, and Toynbee is accused, among other things, of being an existentialist historian. But we need not choose between positivism and existentialism of that sort any more than between Christianity and materialism. One can write with--and can remember that the men one writes about had-- "dimensions, senses, affections, passions," without embracing the profoundly unsound methods and the dangerous contempt for reason that have been so prominent in existentialism.

While this book has considerable continuity, it is certainly not Procrustean, and the ten subjects of this study are not reduced to grist for the author's mill. The approach varies in almost every chapter, and a juxtaposition of Nietzsche and Rilke leads to a more systematic discussion of Art, Tradition, and Truth, and hence to . . .

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