Existentialism

Søren Kierkegaard: Conscious opposition and crucial contention

Danish thinker Søren Kierkegaard certainly remains one of the rebels and emphatic iconoclasts of 19th C Europe. An unorthodox writer and thinker of wit and elegance, imaginative, God-faith oriented and equipped with a melancholic bent while straddling a broad range of authorial positions (as is known, much of his influential work was published using pseudonyms) – his earliest publications ‘Either/Or’ (Feb 1843) and ‘Fear and Trembling’ (Oct 1843) I found a bit tricky to unpick, to say the least, as it became difficult to place Kierkegaard precisely in relation to the likes of ‘Victor Eremita’, ‘Judge Vilhelm’ and ‘Johannes de silentio’. I revisited Kierkegaard through my readings on ethics, especially through Wittgenstein’s interest in Kierkegaard, with Wittgenstein voicing that “Kierkegaard was by far the most profound thinker of the last century….”. Indeed, Kierkegaard, remarkably laid the foundations of ‘Existentialism‘ which emerged as a philosophical movement many decades after him, only in the early to mid 20th C. In his conscious opposition to the prevailing assumptions and conventions of his age (his antipathy and hostility to the Church and the academic establishment, professors inclusive, is well known) and in his crucial contentions about the human condition (of doubt, faith, love, spirit, flesh, paradox, choice), Kierkegaard remains relevant to this day. Read More…

Hiroshi Teshigahara: Suna no onna. Japan. 1964

Adapted from Kōbō Abe’s 1962 novel of the same name, ‘Suna no onna’ (translated as ‘The Woman in the Dunes’) is the piercing vision of a remarkable film artist, Hiroshi Teshigahara. Trained in the Japanese traditions of ‘Ikebana’ and classical painting, his turn to cinema was distinctly an aesthetic choice. In ‘Suna no onna’, he translates cinematic frames into canvases for his expression, while telling a story resonating with the myth of Sisyphus, within the existential paradigm set up by authors like Albert Camus, whose work Teshigahara was familiar with. ‘Suna no onna’ is both a brooding and scathing critique of human reasoned argumentation (the man-of-science, the urban man, the man governed by explanations for everything), and an emphatic tribute to the intuitive knowledge of nature, that which is instinctive and intrinsic, that which has not undergone the distortions imposed by human reason. Ultimately, ‘Suna no onna’ transcends itself as a cultural product of early 1960s Japan, to make a universal and specific statement about the human condition. Watch.

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Jean-Paul Sartre: The Road to Freedom

The late Jean-Paul Sartre is arguably one of the best known philosophers of the twentieth century. His indefatigable pursuit of philosophical reflection, literary creativity and, in the second half of his life, active political commitment, gained him worldwide renown, if not admiration. He is commonly considered as one of the leading figures of Existentialist philosophy, and whose writings set the tone for occidental intellectual life in the decade immediately following the Second World War. A student of Edmund Husserl and his phenomenology, Sartre brought a refreshingly startling philosophical perspective on contemporary life, society and being.

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