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Notes on Cox's (2009) Existentialism

Mark Douglas

"Existentialism is primarily concerned with providing a coherent description of the human condition that fully recognizes and incorporates the fundamental or existential truths relating to that condition" (Cox, 2009, p. 14).

Existentialism is "phenomenological ontology" (2009, p. 4).

Sartre's (1946) Existentialism and Humanism "encapsulates a view fundamentally opposed to idealism that there are no ideal, otherworldly, God-given, abstract, metaphysical essences giving reality or meaning to particular things" (2009, p. 17). The catch-phrase " 'existence precedes essence' refers to the view that each person [object] exists first, without meaning or purpose, and strives thereafter to give himself [cultivate] meaning and purpose" (2009, p. 17).

"[I]t is he phenomenological theory of consciousness that underpins all the other claims that existentialism makes about time, freedom, personal relations, bad faith, authenticity and so on" (2009, p. 20).

"Tell that to the next person who asks you what existentialism is: 'Existentialism is a theory of consciousness' " (2009, p. 20).

Consciousness is "an opening up of possibilities" (2009, p. 46). "The freedom of consciousness consists in the perpetual opening up of the possibilities of situations" (2009, p. 47). "By choosing among its possibilities, by choosing a course of action, consciousness bring some of its possibilities into actuality and abandons others" (2009, p. 47). 

"[B]ad faith is more like an ongoing project of self-distraction or self-evasion than self-deception. As bad faith is not an abstract concept but a concrete, existential phenomenon -- the attitude, disposition and way of behaving of real people in real situations" (2009, p. 59). 

"[T]he most blatant feature of inauthenticity is the attempt to evade responsibility" (2009, p. 81).

"[T]o be authentic a person must realize his being-in-situation by throwing himself wholeheartedly into his situation. On the other hand, it has been argued that authenticity involves refusing to live according to the expectations of others" (2009, p. 95).

The uncompromising thought here "is that if you don't want to live your life over again then you're not doing it right!" (2009, p. 101).