Existentialism is often studied by students with little or no background in philosophy; either as an introduction to the idea of studying philosophy or as part of a literary course. Although it is often an attractive topic for students interested in thinking about questions of 'self' or 'being', it also requires them to study difficult thinkers and texts. This Guide for the Perplexed begins with the question of 'What is Existentialism?' and then moves on to provide a brief analysis of the key thinkers, writers and texts - both philosophical and literary - central to existentialism. Chapters focus particularly on Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Sartre and Camus but also discuss other philosophers and writers such as Nietzsche, Dostoevsky and Kafka. The second section of the Guide introduces key topics associated with existentialist thought; Self, Consciousness, the question of God and Commitment. Each chapter explains the concepts and debates and provides guidance on reading and analysing the philosophical and literary texts addressed, focusing throughout on clarifying the areas students find most difficult
Steven Earnshaw is a Principal Lecturer and Head of English Studies at Sheffield Hallam University, UK.