Existentialism was not a unified school of thought or movement. Rather, it was an attitude or mood expressing the cultural ferment of the age through philosophy and literature, borne out of postwar despair in France. Robert C. Solomon captured it nicely when he wrote, "It is the philosophical realization of a self-consciousness living in a 'broken world' (Marcel), an 'ambiguous world' (de Beauvoir), a 'dislocated world' (Merleau-Ponty), a world into which we are 'thrown' and 'condemned' yet 'abandoned' and 'free' (Heidegger and Sartre), a world which appears to be indifferent or even 'absurd' (Camus)."

Consider the past decade here in the U.S. What events will inform the next generation of philosophers and writers-Terrorism? War? Economic collapse? Environmental neglect and demise?

Surely, each generation has its challenges and crises, and these are some of ours. Yet, have we endured the kind of circumstances that will produce a new kind of existentialism? What will be the great philosophical work that articulates our current zeitgeist? What mood will best describe us?

Are there contemporary books, films, or thinkers signaling this new philosophy is already upon us? Will Cormac McCarthy's works (No Country for Old Men, The Road) play a similar role as The Stranger? Is Fight Club the new Nausea? Will there be a formal link to academic philosophy at all?

Perhaps the texture of the philosophy will come through in other areas of our culture, such as a turn to minimalism following the economic and housing crisis, the progression of the slow food movement or the green tech sector writ large. Is there a common thread in all these impulses?

It seems clear the consequences of technology, particularly the emergence of the Internet and social media, will be a unique and substantial theme of tomorrow's philosophers.  Our orientation with technology will always be part of the life into which we are "thrown."



Play the existentialism 2.0 adlib and post your creation as a comment.

The next existentialism will be the philosophical realization of ________ living in a "_____," an "______," a "______ world," a world into which we are "_____"' and "______" yet "______" and "______," a world which appears to be_______ or even "_____."



Quote from Robert C. Solomon, From Hegel to Existentialism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), p. 238.



About the Author

Michael Bruce

Michael Bruce works with at-risk youth and is the editor of College Sex - Philosophy for Everyone: Philosophers With Benefits (Wiley-Blackwell).

You are reading


A Meditation on Criticism

What's worse than harsh criticism?

Realities of Studying Philosophy at a Non-elite School

Could a state school student get into a top ten philosophy graduate program?