Encounter with Nothingness: An Essay on Existentialism

By Helmut Kuhn | Go to book overview

IX Beyond Crisis

IN A GOOD DRAMATIC scene a reversal of situation takes place. The attitude of the main characters towards themselves and each other not only changes, but the final configuration is the antithesis to the one with which the scene opened. The man who steps forth proudly is humbled and confused, the seemingly defeated has recovered his strength, and the enraged avenger is in a soft and forgiving mood.

Existentialist philosophy is dramatic in structure. It too brings about a reversal of situation. It begins with destructive criticism that prepares the crisis, and the crisis, in turn, preludes a movement towards reconstruction. Descent to the nadir of despair is followed by ascent to a new and supposedly unassailable position.

However, the virtue of drama is the vice of philosophy. Philosophy as a theory is debarred from being dramatic. It must be consistent with itself, and it achieves this oneness through the operation of principles sustained from beginning to end. A theory may cause a reversal of attitude in those who become acquainted with it, but it is absurd to think of it as engaged in a reversal. The reversal,

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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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