Academic journal article The Review of Metaphysics

Aho, Kevin. Existentialism: An Introduction

Academic journal article The Review of Metaphysics

Aho, Kevin. Existentialism: An Introduction

Article excerpt

AHO, Kevin. Existentialism: An Introduction. Boston: Polity Press, 2014. xvii + 193 pp. Cloth, $69.95; paper, $24.95--Aho's Existentialism offers readers an excellent new overview of a movement that is "by no means a moribund or outdated mode of thinking," but one that remains "fresh and vital" in our secular world today. For Aho, "existentialism represents a centuries-long engagement with the most fundamental of human questions"--for instance, "Who am I?" and "How should I live?"--and he thematically charts key focal points of the many philosophical and literary thinkers whose writings contribute to this engagement.

In chapter one, "Existentialism and Modernity," Aho shows how existentialism emerged as a cultural mood reacting against the modern worldview structured by science, Protestantism, and "a new picture of society." The notion of subjectivity takes center stage in chapter two, "The Insider's Perspective"; here, Aho introduces the phenomenological method, subsumed under the rubric of existentialism, with primary attention given to Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty. Appropriately, then, in chapter three Aho explains "Being-in-the-World" and how this concept resolves problematic dualisms, such as the subject/object metaphysics that has dominated Western philosophy, while also showing existentialism's relevance for contemporary philosophy of mind and cognitive science. Readers are then shown how the existential self is understood as a tension rather than a substance and relational rather than isolated (chapter four, "Self and Others"). The core idea of existentialism is "Freedom" (chapter five), which leads to the vitally related concept "Authenticity" (chapter six). In chapter seven, Aho treats the problematic discussion of "Ethics" within existential thinking, showing that although moral absolutes are rejected, this does not result in subjectivism or anything goes. In chapter eight, "Contributions to Psychiatry and Psychotherapy," Aho begins by addressing "the problem of medicalization" in our society today, and he explains how existential therapists such as May, Laing, and Binswanger avoid a reductionist approach in an attempt to understand the whole person's existential position. Aho considers the question "Is existentialism anti-psychiatry?" and carefully shows that "existential therapists need to guard against the tendency to romanticize anxiety," while he nevertheless maintains that "psychic suffering do[es] not originate in faulty biochemistry," but rather from "the structural frailty and insecurity of the human condition itself."

In the last chapter, titled "Existentialism Today," Aho shows how existential thinking is relevant for several contemporary research areas in the humanities and social sciences. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.