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204 THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY page in length. Loomis might well have provided the reader with cross-references to theMotif-lndex. The above-mentioned miracle, for .instance, is Motif F971.1, Dry rod blossoms) under which Thompson cites invaluable secondary sources. But inexplicably and most regrettably Thompson's work is not even mentioned at any point. Loomis quite justifiably does not attempt to deal w1th the notoriously uncertain chronology of hagiographic legends except by way of a generalization that they flourished in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries ; but the specialist, although left to determine for himself the elusive dat~ of origin for each legend, will be grateful for the copious lists of analogues; and the non-specialist interested in the Middle Ages will discover the wide potentialities of a genre so peculiarly characteristic of medieval culture. EXISTENTIALISM* L. E. M. LYNCH For some years now Existentialism has proven a lively topic of discussion both in academic and in non-academic circleS. But the meanings attributed to the term have been so varied that one of the doctrine's more famous exponents, Jean-Paul Sartre, has said that the name really means very little. Any attempt by the ordinary reader to bring some semblance of order out of the existing confusion might well start with the present volumes of Jean Wahl and Jacques Maritain . Both authors have been intimately connected with the various phases of Existentialis1n for many years, and their observations are of unique value in cutting a path through the maze of conflicting opinions. M. \Vahl charts the course very well in his Short Ilistory of Existentialism . He indicates that the source of the contemporary philosophical interest in existence is in Kierkegaard's religious reaction to the ideal of rationality so dear to the heart of Hegel. "The existent must always feel himself in the presence of God and reintegrate into Christian thought this notion of being in front of God" (p. 5) . Attempting to do this in his own life, Kierkegaard opposed the individual 's subjectivity to the notion of totality demanded by reason, and that subjectivity being quite individual, existential, and non-con- *A Short History of Existentialism. By JEAN WAHL. Translated from the French by FoRREST WILLIAMS and STANLEY MARON. New York: Philosophical Library [Toronto: McLeod]. 1949. Pp. vj, 58. ($3.75) Existence and the Existent. By JACQUES MARITAIN. English version by LEWIS GALANTIERE and GeRALD B. PHELAN. New York: Pantheon. 1948. Pp. x, 149. ($3.00) REVIEWS 205 ceptual he thereby raised the problem of reason's ability or inability to apprehend existence without destroying it. That problem, passing from a religious to a philosophical context, has provided the intellectual challenge to Jaspers, Heidegger, and their present-day exis~ tentialist disciples. Jaspers is treated quite briefly by Jean Wahl; he confines himself to indicating Jaspers' secularization (p. 9) of Kierkegaard's thought, the importance he attaches to communication, and the role of human historicity in his thought. Heidegger, on the other hand, is considered at much greater length, and, for purposes of understanding "the Philosophical School of Paris" (Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, Merleau-Ponty), it is only proper that such should be the case. Heidegger's "problem is the ancient problem of beingl) (p. 11 ), and it is because he is interested in developing an ontology or theory of being based on the only existence of which we can speak, human existence, that Heidegger rejects the title "Existential" for his thought. His phenomenological analysis of that existence indicates to Heidegger that "we are, without our finding any reason for ~mr being; hence, we are existence without es~ence'' (p. 13). It is in just such terms that Sartre has summarized his own view, and from that position all the familiar themes of Existentialism are developed : the absurdity of existence, the anguish that is the experience of our liberty amid such existence, the nothingness at the heart of existence, its temporality, etc. Such a straightforward exposition is undoubtedly quite familiar to those who have followed existential literature at all closely. The value of the present works, however, is much more in the criticism, both destructive and constructive, they offer. M. Wahl's criticism...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 204-207
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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