Justifying Our Existence: An Essay in Applied Phenomenology

Overview

In his magnum opus Being in Time (1927), Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) argued that individuals have assumed that their existence is "a given," when in actual fact they simply have the ability to be. Justifying Our Existence examines the ways in which human beings attempt to calm their existential concerns by magnifying and proving their existence through phenomena such as self-righteousness, careerism, nationalism, and religion.

Using remarkably accessible and concise writing, ...

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Justifying Our Existence: An Essay in Applied Phenomenology

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Overview

In his magnum opus Being in Time (1927), Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) argued that individuals have assumed that their existence is "a given," when in actual fact they simply have the ability to be. Justifying Our Existence examines the ways in which human beings attempt to calm their existential concerns by magnifying and proving their existence through phenomena such as self-righteousness, careerism, nationalism, and religion.

Using remarkably accessible and concise writing, Graeme Nicholson provides a close reading of Heidegger's methods to indicate how his work has a practical application for existential concerns. Justifying Our Existence shows how phenomenology can be used to foreground existence, while also providing startling insights into human behaviour, the motivation behind many of our social systems, as well as one of the twentieth century's most important philosophers.

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What People Are Saying

Richard Polt
'It is rare to find a philosophical book that is ambitious and penetrating but also a pleasure to read. Justifying Our Existence is that rare book. It takes an intimate look at personal aspirations and conscience, reflects on broad problems of national identity, and touches on far-reaching questions in philosophical theology. These themes are unified by the overarching question of why and how we seek to justify ourselves. Nicholson's approach to this question draws fruitfully on Kierkegaard and Heidegger and is extraordinarily clear, unpretentious, and relevant to real life.'
John Russon
'Justifying Our Existence is an excellent and original work of philosophy that makes compelling use of Heideggerean insights to explore our everyday efforts to make our lives meaningful. Suitable for undergraduate university courses, the book will appeal to a broad audience: Nicholson makes his subject come alive through highly personal and concrete engagement with the parameters of our lived experience, rather than through scholarly debate.'
Richard Polt
'It is rare to find a philosophical book that is ambitious and penetrating but also a pleasure to read. Justifying Our Existence is that rare book. It takes an intimate look at personal aspirations and conscience, reflects on broad problems of national identity, and touches on far-reaching questions in philosophical theology. These themes are unified by the overarching question of why and how we seek to justify ourselves. Nicholson's approach to this question draws fruitfully on Kierkegaard and Heidegger and is extraordinarily clear, unpretentious, and relevant to real life.'
Richard Polt, Department of Philosophy, Xavier University
John Russon
'Justifying Our Existence is an excellent and original work of philosophy that makes compelling use of Heideggerean insights to explore our everyday efforts to make our lives meaningful. Suitable for undergraduate university courses, the book will appeal to a broad audience: Nicholson makes his subject come alive through highly personal and concrete engagement with the parameters of our lived experience, rather than through scholarly debate.'
John Russon, Department of Philosophy, University of Guelph
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Graeme Nicholson is a professor emeritus in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Toronto.
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Table of Contents

1 Introduction 3

Life, Existence, Being 4

Phenomenology 8

How Our Being Concerns Us 12

2 The Ability to Be 19

Existence 20

Die Sorge: Care, Concern 24

The Phenomenology of Da-sein: the Self 28

The Phenomenology of Existence: Ecstasis 35

Being as the Ability to Be 39

The 'Letter on Humanism' 44

Excursus: 'Exist' in the Philosophical Tradition 45

Transition: Formalism and Application 47

3 Magnifying the Self 50

Phenomenology and Hermeneutics 53

The Meaning of Success 54

Failure 61

Achievement 67

Magnifying the Self and Magnifying its Being 73

4 Justifying the Self 75

Morality 76

The Concept of Justification 78

Inauthenticity 80

The Phenomenology of Inauthenticity 84

Shame and Remorse 92

Conscience and Guilt 95

Ascetic Autonomy 104

5 Magnifying the Community 111

Existence and Community 112

Magnifying the Polis 116

The Nation: Magnitude through justification 118

Militant Religion 123

6 Justifying the Community 125

Caring for the Polis 126

Existence and History 130

Nation and Civilization 133

7 A Spiritual Existence 141

What Is Spirit? 143

The Existing Spirit 150

The Phenomenology of Spirit: Intensity 154

The Problem of Grounding 156

God and the Self 159

Forgiveness and Justification 163

A Spiritual Community 166

8 Conclusion 169

Heidegger's Question Concerning the Meaning of Being 169

Summary of the Argument 170

Notes 173

Index 189

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