Solitary Purdah

American Existentialism Real or Fiction?

Intro & Index
Alienation Inevitability
Group or the Individual
Alienation For Lost Marxists
Thomas Jefferson's Revolution
Nietzsche: America's Gnostic Superman
Albert Camus, Anarchism and the Individual
Democracy and the America Hero
Dasein for Authentic Conservatives
Religious Meaning as the Art of the Existential Experience
Paul Tillich: the 'Apostle to the Intellectuals'
No Escape from Existential Reality
Nikolai Berdyaev and the Eighth Day of Creation
The Grand Inquisitor Planet
Kierkegaard as a Political Man
Simone de Beauvoir: feminist vs. revelation
The Political Philosophy of Jacques Maritain
The Choice For Political Freedom
American Existentialism Real or Fiction?
The Henry David Thoreau of Philosophy
Existential Political Therapy
NWO Overman is the Eupraxsophy of Transhumanism
The Evil that is Democratic Thought
Psychology of Tyranny for a Philosophy of Despotism
The New World Order Zeitgeist
A Different Philosophy of Civil Disobedience
The Political Significance of Gore Vidal
The Sovereign Man is the Real Prisoner
Political Socialization in the Absence of Reason
Statist Philosophy the Scourge of Christianity
Cultural Relativism and Ethical Obscurity
Jean-Paul Sartre and the Theory of Individualism
Bilderberg Authoritarianism Destroys Humanity
Atheism to Secular Humanism and Objectivism
Descartes and Western Civilization Individualism
Being an Existential Prepper
BREAKING ALL THE RULES
BREAKING ALL THE RULES Forum
BATR News
Existentialism
HOPE
Metaphysics
Existentialism Philosophy Blog

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It is a dangerous and idle dream to think that the state can become rule by philosophers turned kings or scientists turned commissars. For if philosophers become kings or scientists commissars, they become politicians, and the powers given to the state are powers given to men who are rulers of states, men subject to all the limitations and temptations of their dangerous craft. Unless this is borne in mind, there will be a dangerous optimistic tendency to sweep aside doubts and fears as irrelevant, since, in the state that the projectors have in mind, power will be exercised by men of a wisdom and degree of moral virtue that we have not yet seen. It won't. It will be exercised by men who will be men first and rulers next and scientists and saints long after. 

Denis William Brogan

American Existentialism Real or Fiction?

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An American Existential Tradition

Were the French Existentialists correct in concluding that the "American character swaggered with confidence and naive optimism?"  Sartre observed, "evil is not an American concept. There is no pessimism in America regarding human nature and social organization." Beauvoir chimed in that Americans had no "feeling for sin and for remorse." And Camus, thought Americans "lacked a sense of anguish about the problems of existence, authenticity and alienation."  In Carlin Romano's book review of Existential America by George Cotkin, Mr. Romano argues "On the contrary, Cotkin shows in the bulk of his study, "the French missed certain darker and deeper elements in the history of the American mind and spirit." For Cotkin, the "very notion of America as bereft of anguish is absurd. Death and despair appear as much in the American collective consciousness as does the luck-and-pluck optimism of Horatio Alger's heroes".

 

The post war period was a time when the United States was the victor, savior of the world.  The new global empire would be idealistic, benevolent and magnanimous.  Na´ve optimism might be over generous in describing that innocence.  Sartre, de Beauvoir and Camus may not have been the chroniclers of a de Tocqueville, but de Tocqueville certainly would have understood the angst experienced in the creation of the great American experiment.  The 1950's was an era of benign tranquility.  The threat of a nuclear holocaust loomed, but the society refused to forego its self-assurance.  The "good old days" truly were nostalgic bliss.    

 

From the Village Voice, Richard Polt asserts that: "intellectual historian George Cotkin proves existentialism's relevance by showing that it was never just a fad; existential sensibilities run deep in our history. Sartre, de Beauvoir, and Camus, who all toured the United States after the war, saw only the country's exterior, its consumerist boosterism. But would it be so surprising if the land of the free were also the land of the searching, the anxious, the alienated? This is, after all, the country of Herman Melville and Edward Hopper."

 

Conversely, the overwhelming enthusiasm that supports the regimented 'PC' culture, economy and political system; often is immune to the underlying conflicts, intended exploitation and managed future.  Over the last half century the accelerated demise of the land of the free has been transformed into the reservation of the oblivious.  The awakening that took place during the 1960's suffered a relapse.  The buoyancy of the civilization is not maintained with mere material progress.  The test of true advancement lies in the consciousness of collective community.  What was na´ve before has become delusional today. 

 

Christopher Luna's insightful comments on Existential America illustrates the sublime influence of distress in our search for authenticity.  "The willingness of Kierkegaardian thinkers to wrestle with "paradox, irony, and tragedy" in the aftermath of World War II made the Danish philosopher's ideas very attractive to writers including Thornton Wilder and W.H. Auden, as well as the painters Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman, for whom art was "a mythological and heroic 'act of defiance,' which opened the path to transcendence through engagement with the canvas and the unconscious." Kierkegaard's "mode of argument, positing two opposites," was also posthumously appropriated by Cold War proponents who demanded that Americans make a choice between "faith in God and faith in communism."

 

How ironic that the trust in country demonstrated in the 50's has digressed into a psychosis of support in a political matrix that has virtually adopted the traits of Communism, while crucifying the teaching of God.  The clash of RealPolitick has the consequences of national demise under the banner of jingoistic tolerance.  The formula for 'good citizenship' has been written by a crazed pharisee pharmacists operating under a government grant and filled with drugs that neutralize individual self-interest.

   

Luna asserts: "Existentialists argue for personal responsibility in the face of what Walter Kaufmann identified as the four elements of this philosophy: "dread, despair, death, and dauntlessness."  He goes on to say that Cotkin shows there was an existential strain in American culture that preceded the afore mentioned French philosophers, "in the work of Herman Melville, Emily Dickinson, and Edward Hopper, among others. Unlike their French counterparts, American intellectuals "refused to make a fetish out of nihilism"; instead, "anguish and despair" functioned as "goads to action and commitment."

 

The pragmatic character of American convention has a "can do" assurance that problems can be resolved.  European annals have a long heritage of distrust for government, limits on upward mobility in society and brutality from continental hostilities.  The anguish internalized from that history has not impacted the American culture to the same severity.  Yet, who can deny that despair is enveloping our own post-millennia chaotic milieu?  The emptiness of material excess, has not fully reached the pedestrians on Main Street.  Nonetheless, the arrogance of unlimited hubris in the track for a global empire has hit deeply the practices of a demented Wall Street.

 

American Existentialism is a healthy tradition that needs to go mainstream.  The fiction in the public psyche spins a yarn of communal unity when the reality of competing factions has no substantial commonality.  The verity of control from the top down pervades every aspect of institutional behavior.  Government maintains a monopoly on coercion as the means to herd the unruly into pens of docility.  Where is the optimism when the fabulous fifties are but a blast from the past?  It is not absurd to resist the juggernaut of servitude.  Rational nihilism doesn't destroy fundamental values, morality or time honored principles.  Positive nihilism acknowledges that eradication of existing failed political practices, the destruction of criminal government agencies and the elimination of fallacious imperialistic aspirations are necessary for real improvement.

  

Cotkin views the American experience as having an undercurrent of compelling anguish, which serves as a spur to commitment and onto action.  If justice is a primary objective, the agony of enduring under an interdependent model of human conformity and material servitude necessitates the vision of existential rebellion.  It is in the good and proper tradition of our heritage to correct a wrong, especially one that has gone so far a field of original intentions.  There is nothing more noble than confronting despotism.  Once you feel the pain of domestic anguish, the na´ve will start to grow up.    

 

The practical is an integral component in the legacy of our founding.  The existential is also an essential element in knowing and understanding what is worthy of preserving and what must be purged.  George Cotkin argues that an existential approach to life, marked by vexing despair and dauntless commitment in the face of uncertainty, has deep American roots and helps to define twentieth-century America in ways that we have not realized or appreciated.  If you are unable to recognize national misery, your founding in historic independence is most lacking.  Grasping that existentialism is a proud part of American tradition is a first step.  Use this philosophy as a constructive means to change behavior and instill motivation towards action.

 

SARTRE - August 29, 2005

To gauge the understanding and insight that metaphysics provides is to ask whether, in the final analysis, it helps us to cope with our world and harmonize our existence with nature, humanity, and ourselves, and leads to greater freedom and self-realization. Metaphysics is only the beginning. The end is human progress. 
Rudolph Rummel

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