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How to Be an Existentialist: or How to Get Real, Get a Grip and Stop Making Excuses
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How to Be an Existentialist: or How to Get Real, Get a Grip and Stop Making Excuses

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  221 ratings  ·  40 reviews
How to Be an Existentialist is a witty and entertaining book about the philosophy of existentialism. It is also a genuine self-help book offering clear advice on how to live according to the principles of existentialism formulated by Nietzsche, Sartre, Camus, and the other great existentialist philosophers. An attack on contemporary excuse culture, the book urges us to fac ...more
Hardcover, 136 pages
Published November 1st 2009 by Continuum (first published 2009)
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Evan
This is a weird little book that does a middling job fulfilling its two distinct aims. It is neither an excellent theoretical introduction to existentialism for the uninitiated nor a practical manual that actually lays out a distinct method for implementing existentialism towards living a better life. The book adopts a hip, irreverent style and the discussion is interspersed with ironic asides-- presumably all to draw in the non-specialist reader and put him at ease with the weighty concepts. Ho ...more
Tyson Call
I would recommend this book to anyone who has a basic ability to grasp abstract concepts. Overall, it approaches its point with a direct simplicity, not over-saturating the concept with muddling jargon and academic posturing.

There is a bit in the middle when I started to feel a bit over my head (once he starts in with the "facticity"s) but it quickly passed.

It is short enough not to seem daunting, as many philosophers are dreadfully verbose, taking three pages to say what might be said in one.
...more
IJROTH
During my first phenomenology-course at the University of Heidelberg, I almost gave up the idea to continue my studies of philosophy. I did not understand a single word as the professor started to talk about the two heavy-weights Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger and their concepts of ‘Dasein’ (German for ‘being-there’). “The term refers to a person’s unique spatial and temporal situated-ness in this world.”, I remember him saying. I was too scared to ask, what the heck this was supposed to me ...more
Arjun Ravichandran
This little book blew me away, for two reasons. Firstly, I had expected to be done with it in maybe 2 hours. Secondly, I expected it to be a silly jokey read, on the basis of its silly jokey title. I was wrong on both counts. The book is a short and dense treatise on existentialism, written in as jargon-free a language as possible, and still maintaining something of a 'the world is meaningless, get off your ass and do something about it' vibe, that is kind of inspiring without being mawkish. The ...more
Sense of  History
It might be strange to find this book in my collection on the Sense of History. And I wasn't really thrilled by it after reading, I must confess. But it contains a few pages on the philosopy of Time that really are of interest to my focus of attention.
Cox elaborates on how existentialist philosophers pay a lot of attention to the concept of consciousness, as being the relation between us and reality. What struck me was that he writes: "what we are is the endless march forward in time", past and
...more
speciallyi
From my blog: So I'm reading this book, How to be an Existentialist by Gary Cox. It's one of the two books about Existentialism I borrowed from the library. This one is the hipper, friendly version, while the other book is more scholarly. Starting with this because I needed to ease myself in with these huge concepts first.

SO FAR some of the takeaways I gleaned:

Everyone is free, we are solely responsible for our lives. Ie. if you are not free it's because you chose not to be free.
Okay let me quo
...more
Marc L
In my university years I was very attracted to existentialism. I'm not a specialist, but of all philosophies I've come to know, this was the one I thought was most relevant, especially through its close link with real life. I read quite a lot by Camus and also some by Sartre, and I was especially charmed by the notions of freedom and responsibility.
Some thirty years later I found this rather thin book in a bookstore and I couldn't resist a renewed acquaintance. I'll say it straightforwardly: I w
...more
J K
Very short! But I found this an insightful, entertaining introduction to the concept of Existentialism, without being utterly conclusive. Further reading required. However, it boils essentially down to - own your decisions and mistakes, blame nobody but yourself, be who actually you are - once you figure THAT out, unless you don't like it, in which case, like, change it. But for god's sake, don't whine about everything because it's all on you - whatever your situation. Which, frankly, is good ad ...more
Michelle
Where to start? This book was great. My first full exposure to existentialism and boy, was it a good one. Covers things like the basic foundations of existentialism, the Other, bad faith, authenticity, temporal relationships, being, being-with-others, being-for-others,being-in-situation, etc. There's so many great quotes in this book (55 highlights in my kindle) but a favorite is this one:

"Existentialism recommends bravely accepting that this is how life is and making the most of it. It recomme
...more
Jasmine
Feb 07, 2012 Jasmine rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: wanna be existentialists.
Shelves: british
So it's really hard right now to not beat you about the head with a hundred zillion quotes from this book. I mean there are so many important terms, there are so many insightful statements. the section on bad faith was one of the best I've ever read, the section drawing parallels between nietzsche and sartre... swoon.

So there is this thing about philosophers... no joke... a philosopher is not an expert on a school they are an expert on a guy (except simon critchely who is an expert on everythin
...more
Shawn Ingram
Another solid intro to existentialism though this one is rather focussed on Sartre. Which is not a real fault as it is only an intro and as Sartre was and is pretty much the de facto existentialist.

Ever mindful of the importance of remaining practical, the author says that to be an existentialist requires three things:

1. Knowledge of the philosophy and world-view of existentialism
2. Believe the philosophy and world-view of existentialism
3. Striving to live and act in accordance with the princ
...more
V.
I would not recommend the book to anyone who has a chance of reading another book instead. Over-simplification and pretentious arrogance are the key-words of this book. But if you want to get a feeling of belonging to a superior class of philosophers with inflated senses of their worth, go ahead.
Tim
Quite a lot of pretentious tosh surrounding basically a reasonable way to view life. Probably worth reading as an introduction.

This is a fairly readable book, although some of the more philosophical sections need to be reread, and I think I get them now but am not sure.

From what I can gather, a person is a work in progress, not a defined thing. They are a combination of their previous choices and the possibilities that future choices may bring. Everyone is free in the sense of not only being abl
...more
Garry
This book has made the unapproachable subject of existentialism approachable and has definitely whetted my appetite for more on the subject.

The Hard Truth that life is meaningless within a Godless universe is now a more digestable notion for me.

As a self-help guide, it offers a refreshingly frank guide to counselling: no "we are the world; win-win" nonsense here.

It's amusing & mind-opening without being weighty.

If you want an opening to this subject, I couldn't suggest a better start than th
...more
Jessica
This is a great book for people to read to have an easy and basic understanding of existentialism. Not only does Gary Cox give examples of other great works to read he doesn't have to use the philosophical speech to explain it.
Joshua
A philosophy course meets Monty Python. A wonderful overview of Existentialism that does not shy away from the more complex issues it tackles, nor the more complex facets of the philosophy. Simply mind blowing stuff.
Lauram
Very funny and very true.
Marta
A great little book which outlines the very basics of existentialism without falling into a wormhole of philoso-speak that leaves you feeling like a total idiot. I think it serves as a good entry point into this domain and does a good job of highlighting the points where existentialist philosophers disagree. The authour wrote his PHD and several books on Sartre, so he uses a lot of examples from Sartre's works, but still does an ok job of introducing other key existentialist thinkers.
Scott
Great book
Rachel
Eh. I had to check this out repeated times from the library because I never could seem to finish it. That should have told me something, but I always thought I'd give it another chance because I enjoy a good philosophical read. It turns out there was a reason I wasn't finishing it. I agree with this guy's review: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...
Brian
This was a good overview of Existentialism and why being one is probably a good idea. I'd recommend it to anyone that is interested in the topic. It certainly gives you a lot to think about and plenty of ideas of where you can dig deeper.
Alex Witkowski
The writing style is frustrating and the author is a little self-serving, but the material is presented in an incredibly digestible and interesting manner. A typically challenging topic is offered here in a very understandable simplification. All things considered, given the subject matter, it's a quick read.
Thomas Bouwmeester
I didn't become an existentialist by reading this book (although the writer states that being an existentialist is an ongoing effort), but it says some nice things about freedom by making choices and taking your responsibility. A good introduction with lots of Sartre and some Nietzsche to make it complete.
Lou Gillies
A brilliant, concise book on existentialism which makes difficult concepts easier to grasp. I read this following an introduction on existentialist counselling on my course, of which very little made sense. This book has filled in the gaps (gaping chasms!). And I love the sarcastic asides!!
Georgina
I'm revisiting this book after an initial whiz-through. It's the sort of philosophy book I enjoy the most - breaking down abstract ideas into practical chunks. The second reading has built on the initial one, which opened my eyes. Now I have a deeper insight. Really enjoying it.
Zaki Ibrahim
A beautiful book that shares the fundamental ideas of Existentialism and teaches us how to be one. Very enjoyable read, Gary Cox is a witty writer indeed! Highly recommended for those interested in Existentialism or what to get real in life.
Spencer Madsen
this book was my first exposure to existentialism

i recommend it a lot for that purpose

i often refer back to the 'principle truths' in this book for how digestibly articulated they are
Robert
Excellent, understandable Sartre. Makes one want to read more on this branch of philosophy, now somewhat out of fashion, but very germane to our times.
adam
A surprisingly good read! An articulate elucidation of Sartrean existentialism, focusing especially on Sartre's big ideas of "bad faith" and "authenticity"
eric namour
Feb 26, 2010 eric namour added it
Shelves: philosophy, en
It's like freakonomics for philosophy - i was quite sceptic about it but thought the humour was going to be well put. I was happy when it ended
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“Part of being of a true existentialist is wanting to be what we make ourselves be by the way we choose to act, as opposed to making excuses for the way we act and regretting it.” 13 likes
“To choose not to choose is still a choice for which you alone are responsible.” 13 likes
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