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How to Be an Existentialist Hardcover – 2 Sep 2009

4.3 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 136 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury 3PL (2 Sept. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1441188436
  • ISBN-13: 978-1441188434
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.1 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 720,902 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

Review

'According to existentialists, selecting this book is an active choice for which the reader is responsible. Cox, who earned his doctorate in philosophy in the UK writing on Sartre, presents an accessible overview of this philosophical worldview, its path to living an authentic life, and existential counseling (which sounds akin to cognitive behavioral therapy) as a means to this end. The book includes suggested further reading.' --Eithne, O'Leyne, BOOK NEWS, Inc.

'I have recommended How to be an Existentialist to many people and all have gained a clearer understanding of Sartre than they had before... Cox has achieved something extremely impressive here. He has written something short and simple while not losing any of the depth and subtlety.' --Existential Analysis

About the Author

Gary Cox has a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Birmingham, UK. He lives in Somerset where he teaches and writes philosophy.


Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have long described myself as an existentialist. I still do. Existentialism indirectly informs my approach to coaching and my development work with managers, leaders and executive teams. Here at last is a book explaining, even to me, what I have always meant! Often mistakenly thought to be pessimistic or even negative (perhaps because of the central notion that to continue to live is seen as a choice not to end it all), existentialism is in fact a liberating and positive philosophy which informs self development, choice and individual freedom. Instead of a 'handful of certainty', Nietzsche argues that existentialism offers a 'cartful of beautiful possibilities'. Adversity is also seen in a positive light, sustaining action, as Simone de Beauvoir says, 'like air sustains the flight of the dove'. Death is only the ultimate destination because there is no more 'future' to strive toward, and striving toward the future we currently lack is imperative to life. (Although one needn't be an atheist; neither Dostoevsky or Kierkegaard were). The existential truth is that we must all continually create ourselves through choice and action. Put simply, the authentic existentialist must want to be what they make themselves by how they choose to act, rather than make excuses for the way they act and regretting it. How's that for a guiding mantra of self development? Or, as the subtitle to the book puts it, existentialism shows the way to get real, get a grip and stop making excuses. Gary Cox has written the book I'd have loved to have written. But I have no regrets, after all, I chose not to write a book on existentialism! Instead I chose to read Gary Cox's book and wholeheartedly recommend you do the same...
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Format: Hardcover
This could have been a truly uplifting, intriguing and informative book. It isn't simply because the author cannot make up his mind what sort of a book it should be: an explication of the fundamental tenets and implications of existentialism, a DIY manual of self-improvement or a comic look at the lighter side of existentialism - one of those 'Beginner's Guides' kinds without the graphics.
In this context, the long and rather crass title and subtitle does not help. Indeed, in view of the superior academic quality of some of the text, it is clearly misleading.
The book reviews existentialism, its theories, its origins, its authors - and it does this, for the most part in the first half of the book, in an exemplary manner with scholarship and reasonably good concision.
However, after halfway through the book, there is a dramatic change in style and the author starts to ramble with no good reason and then plunges into what becomes almost an impenetrable text. He does not fully explain the technical terms he uses but, instead, repeats and re-repeats these somewhat clichéd phrases, perhaps in the hope that if he repeats them enough, their meanings will be revealed. They aren't.
This is a hopelessly verbose book written in a circumlocutory style with good intentions and sufficient knowledge but it urgently requires a valiant and committed editor.
Perhaps, the author should identify what sort of readership he is addressing. Or would that limit his choice and thus open him up to critical opinions of bad faith?
The book is definitely worth reading.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I received my copy of this book about four weeks ago and have just finished reading it for the second time. I'm not normally a philosophy buff, nor has it inspired me to start wading into the works of Sartre, Nietzsche, Camus and the others, but this is certainly a very accessible introduction to existentialism. Having said that some of it took a bit of careful reading before I started to understand and some of it I am still struggling with.

I didn't know what existentialism was, but as I read I realised that it struck a chord with me. In fact I found it to be in line with a lot of present day attitudes. It seems that Bugs Bunny and the humour of Monty Python are essentially existentialist!

Such ideas also seem, however unintentionally, to form the basis of many of the `self help' books you see around, such as the need to choose your response to situations (rather than just reacting) and taking responsibility for those choices.

The only downside is that I found some of the sentences a bit difficult to interpret in the sense that I couldn't immediately see what the author was trying to say. Nevertheless, I've put Gary Cox's other book "How to be a Philosopher" on my Christmas list.
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Format: Hardcover
I was alerted to this book following its excellent review in The Guardian, and was keen to get hold of a copy, as I'd read and enjoyed Cox's earlier book on Sartre (the Guide for the Perplexed). As its title suggests, this new work is wider in its remit, drawing on a wealth of philosophical ideas, and offering the reader a witty and thoughtful consideration of how 'doing philosophy' ought to be much more than an academic exercise. He reveals to us what the great philosophers always intended: that philosophy is a guide to living a full and meaningful life. Cox's strength lies in his deep knowledge of his subject, which gives him the license to be amusing, and the ability to engage with the reader, without ever compromising the promise of the book, which is to make us see that philosophy can help us really deal with life's challenges. Unlike the previous reviewer, I found that this excellently written book was a model of coherence and clarity throughout, and I would not hesitate to put it in the hands of anyone who wanted to learn how philosophy in general and existentialism in particular really can make a difference.
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