Encounter with Nothingness: An Essay on Existentialism

By Helmut Kuhn | Go to book overview

I What is Existence?

WE DISTINGUISH between what a thing is and that it is. What a thing is we call its essence, that it is, its existence. The thing I hold in my hand is by essence a pencil. And this pencil, as I believe on the evidence of my senses, exists.

As men of theory, we are generally interested in what things are like in their essences, and their existence is taken for granted. We are, as a rule, not excited about the existence of light. We wish rather to know its nature or essence.

Defining the essence is always a difficult, complicated and, in most cases, an unending business. The question of existence, on the other hand, confronts us with a simple alternative. Either a thing exists or it does not exist. There is no third possibility, though there are many doubtful cases.

The question of existence is urged upon us chiefly by our interest. We raise it when we care for the existence or the nonexistence of something. When darkness closes down, we do get excited about the existence of light. God, spies in our midst in time of war, a famine in Europe, a

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Encounter with Nothingness: An Essay on Existentialism
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgment v
  • Table of Contents vii
  • Introduction ix
  • I - What Is Existence? 1
  • II - Nothingness Astir 9
  • III - Estrangement 24
  • IV - Subjective Truth 43
  • V - Gravediggers at Work 69
  • VI - Condemned to Be Free 84
  • VII - The Crisis of the Drama 103
  • VIII - Illumination through Anguish 124
  • IX - Beyond Crisis 147
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