THE LITERATURE OF EXTREME SITUATIONS *

Robert Cumming


THE POSTWAR MOOD

A philosophy with a label is usually no longer a philosophy. A philosophy proposes some coherent way of handling problems that cuts across their previous arrangement. But the popular acknowledgment of a label marks the impact of a philosophy on what would have been thought had its influence never been exerted. Its cutting edge is blunted as it encounters older recalcitrant and incompatible ways of thinking, which reclaim or rearrange its problems. The question that should then force itself on our attention, I raise specifically with regard to the philosophy labeled "existentialism": Is it merely what it has largely become -- a miscellaneous assortment of aches and pains of the human spirit?

Even to reach this question we have first to get past two popular interpretations of existentialism, the theological and the sociological, which pose problems in ways which are not native to existentialism itself. On the one interpretation, existentialism is coping wth a profoundly novel spiritual problem, What is one to do with his soul, now that God is dead? But this announcement, before it was Nietzsche's, was a Lutheran hymn, and a moment in the Christian revelation (not to mention more ancient faiths), so that it is hardly surprising if existentialist soul-searching seems the sapping of human faith by an "old despair." On the other interpretation, such novelty as existentialism retains can be traced to a different intimation of mortality, which finds expression in a less ambiguous announcement, "Nous autres, civilisations, nous savons maintenant que nous sommes mortelles."1 Existentialism then becomes a relatively new despair; a date can be added to the label, identifying existentialism as a postwar mood. But to accept this identification is to interpret existentialism as a transient emotional reaction which never achieved the sustained cogency and articulation of a philosophy, and which can be explained away by the social circumstances of its vogue -- the crumbling of bourgeois society.

Furthermore, the arrangement of problems that this sociological interpretation brings with it is incompatible with the theological interpretation. The social historian is not inclined to accept the depths of a soul as fundamental; what happens

____________________
*
[Copyright 1961 by Robert Cumming. Printed by permission of the author.]

-377-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Aesthetics Today
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this book
  • Bookmarks
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
/ 480

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    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.