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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A GREAT INTRODUCTION TO THIS/THESE SCHOOL(S) OF THOUGHT
Couldn't agree less with the other reviewer. Hence, the five-star rating. As an area of thought that had always interested me but had yet to be looked at in any depth, I found this book a great - as it says on the tin - introduction to the area. Yes, you can't just skim through it in a couple of hours and know enough to hold your own in a brief existentialist chit-chat...
Published on 9 April 2008 by Easily Me

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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Give this one a miss ...
I'm afraid that I, for one, was deeply disappointed with this offering from the frequently excellent "Very Short Introduction" series, and now bitterly regret buying it. The style of writing is suffocatingly dense, leaden and dreary: the history of existentialism and existentialist thought itself makes for a fascinating story in the right hands. These are not the right...
Published on 20 Oct. 2007 by S. J. Payne


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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Give this one a miss ..., 20 Oct. 2007
By 
S. J. Payne "Weeven" (Leicester, UK) - See all my reviews
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I'm afraid that I, for one, was deeply disappointed with this offering from the frequently excellent "Very Short Introduction" series, and now bitterly regret buying it. The style of writing is suffocatingly dense, leaden and dreary: the history of existentialism and existentialist thought itself makes for a fascinating story in the right hands. These are not the right hands, and in fact it seems as though the author is going out of his way to make existentialism seem as cataclysmically dry and tedious as possible, making the book a "Very Short Introduction" to something almost unendurably boring. One star merely because (for some reason) Amazon still doesn't allow reviewers to give a book zero stars. The reader genuinely interested in a good overview of existentialism would do infinitely better in tracking down John MacQuarrie's magnificent book - now out of print, I believe, but still findable.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Poorly explained, 29 Oct. 2013
A very interesting subject, but very poorly explained by an inarticulate writer. I have found that many books in the Very Short Introduction series are written by well qualified people, but very badly explained. You are better off reading a slightly longer book by someone who has been given more space to explain a complex subject. The crammed books are full of technical language and assumptions, that leave people not too familiar with the subject confused and irritated. Sorry, but not for me.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A GREAT INTRODUCTION TO THIS/THESE SCHOOL(S) OF THOUGHT, 9 April 2008
Couldn't agree less with the other reviewer. Hence, the five-star rating. As an area of thought that had always interested me but had yet to be looked at in any depth, I found this book a great - as it says on the tin - introduction to the area. Yes, you can't just skim through it in a couple of hours and know enough to hold your own in a brief existentialist chit-chat but, with a little effort, you get quite a lot out of a little package, and I think the author deserves a lot of credit for that.

So, yes, although it is an introduction, it isn't a dumbed-down text, but one that provides a nice background and foundation for anyone approaching this area for the first time and, as such, is highly recommended.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Deceptively hard-going., 12 Oct. 2010
By 
T. West (England) - See all my reviews
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When writing a very short introduction, it would seem prudent to keep the intended audience in mind and try to 'introduce' concepts rather than assume too much prior knowledge. The book fails to do either, and reads like one of the dry, overly-academic and dense works I used to have to chew through as a third year cultural studies student; at least I know of some the concepts Flynn is trying to communicate. Many Laymen will not.

Not only is the prose a chore, but the structure is a little scattershot, and there seems no overarching narrative to the historical progress of the field; we swap between Kierkegaarde, Nietzsche, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, Jaspers and Heidegger in a brainstorm that makes the reader think some of this was a mere distraction for the author. Only the final chapter seems logically positioned.

A number of ideas are not explained, and comparisons with contemporary philosophers who were not existentialists, such as Russell and Wittgenstein, are not there to establish a perspective of where continental existentialism sat with regards to the wider picture of philosophy.

The author does manage to set existentialism against structuralist thinking of later French intellectuals, and addresses the seeming paradox of existentialism's social concerns, which at last gives a vantage point from which to analyse the real-world impact of the movement. There is also a good deal of focus on Sartre, perhaps too much where time could've been given to establishing a better narratiive.

I'm more familiar with the structuralists, so i'd hoped that this book would establish a clear precedent for what i'd learnt about in university, alas it is anything but clear.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Unreadable, 7 May 2011
Many of the sentences in this book contain so many technical terms that I couldn't understand them no matter how many times I read them. Unforgivably for a book that claims to be an "introduction", many of these technical terms are not even defined, let alone explained. What a shame, for so interesting a subject and so promising a series, that the publishers didn't find an author who knows how to communicate (indeed, didn't even run the manuscript through a spellchecker). Sadly, simply unreadable.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly boring, 5 Aug. 2013
By 
J. Morris "Josh" (London) - See all my reviews
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The Very Short Introduction series are written by professors of the subject and are aimed at provoking cross-discipline intrigue in the reader that may incite further investigation and reading - and boy are they good at achieving exactly that; often they leave more questions than answers.

Existentialism is about the existence of self, being if you will. It features the prominent figures of the field and a brief run down of their differences and central premises. It also details the place in society of Existentialism and discusses some of the major principles & ethics in depth. As might be expected from a VSI on the subject.

However, it seems to me that on completing this book, you are still left wondering what exactly Existentialism is and whether or not it is still even an active branch of philosophy and it seems to have had a time and a place (1920's to 1945's France primarily) that no longer holds water anymore due to the radical shift of perspective of the inhabitants (Egalitarianism & Libertarianism!) Whilst this doesn't make it any less relevant as it was the darling child of some the world's best (arguably) philosophers, it is all a bit ill-defined.

When this is coupled with incredibly dense paragraphs, forested with words that already exist, but in interpretations only used in philosophical circles, necessitating a glossary to the book it is pretty heavy going. But that is my subjective interpretation (does that make it so to anyone else??) but a quick glance among the other reviews here suggest that sometimes, just sometimes, subjectivity can be equal to objectivity.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Flynn's introduction to existentialism, 20 Jan. 2013
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The 'very short introduction' series is an authoritative and generally great range for those coming into a subject or, otherwise, those who wish for a brief overview. This is the main strength of the series and it lends itself well to the general concepts of certain subjects.
This, however, was not the case with Flynn's introduction to existentialism. Whilst it presented a short introduction to existentialism, it was rather disengaging and by the last chapter it seems more of a fight to the end than an enjoyable introduction. It could alternatively be said that this is a problem with the subject itself, the confounding nature of existentialism doesn't lend itself to readability. However, this is what Flynn should have been aiming for in his introduction and after the introduction of Sartre, Camus and de Beauvoir it seemed to be running out of steam.
It would be wrong, despite this, to discredit the work as bad; there is much in it of value. The introductions, as previously mentioned, to the big 3 Existentialists is brilliant and serves as either a good introduction or a helpful recapitulation to the more learned reader. This, perhaps, is what makes the struggle through later chapters more difficult, knowing that it could have been far better.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Not for the casual readier, 8 Jun. 2014
As this is a very short introduction to a frankly massive topic it necessarily uses complex language unfamiliar to the unfamiliar reader of existentialism, as this is the most prudent and economical method of portraying the relevant info. Don't expect this to be a sunny afternoon read as many other reviewers must have... it requires a thoughtful approach but gives many benefits. I suspect many readers will move on to a larger more encompassing work after this, as this really is a very 'short' introduction.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Dull Read, 19 July 2010
By 
A. J. Bush "Bushboy" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This is the first in this series of books I have read and based on this example it will be the last. As an introduction it's hard going. Whilst grateful that it was not dumbed down I had hoped for more and clearer explanations - too frequently i felt i was being given a precis of what various existentialist philosophers stated without an attempt to unravel the terminology or provide interpretation. The author's style is arid and too frequently the English is barely comprehensible (not helped by a strange way with tenses). Mary Warnock's Existentialism is a far more digestible introduction and I will follow the advice given by one of the reviewers here and hunt down John Macquarrie's book.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Just read the Wikipedia page, 8 July 2013
I'm a big fan of the VSI series, and I've read enough of them to know that some are just better written for the uninitiated reader than others. This one belongs in the 'others' basket; it's very hard going, in fact I think it actually made Existentialism more opaque for me. I'm prepared to accept that I'm no philosopher, but this book did nothing more than ram home the awful truth.
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