The politics of the individual


Existentialism Philosophy

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

American Existentialism Real or Fiction?

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".

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