Encounter with Nothingness: An Essay on Existentialism

By Helmut Kuhn | Go to book overview

V Gravediggers at Work

WE THINK OF the so-called analysts or semanticists as experts in the art of "debunking." You say "God," and they ask you: What do you mean by God? You say "freedom," and they ask: What do you mean by freedom? You try to explain, but they find your explanations unsatisfactory. "Rhetoric," is their verdict, and they conclude that you like others are using meaningless words.

The analysts perform their cure with an acid, burning away cankerous growths and, occasionally, also the live organs. The Existentialists form a much more ruthless demolition squad. They do have some understanding of the great words, yet by means of a slight but fatal omission they turn wholesome ideas into instruments of destruction. They are not concerned with the Nothingness in language only but with Nothingness as such. They purport not merely to purify our speech but to purge our souls at the risk of killing them in the process. Instead of an acid they use, so to speak, nuclear fission.

The Existentialist's emphasis on the concrete individual animated by passionate concern rescues from forgetfulness an important truth about man. But he mars his dis

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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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