Friday, April 10, 2015

I = Intelligentsia and Existentialism, French Faves - A to Z Challenge

Paris was the centre of learning in the western world in the mid-nineteenth century and into the twentieth.


Palais de la Cité with the Sainte Chapelle rising above the rooftops c. 1400

I = Intelligentsia (and Existentialism)

Intelligentsia: A class of intellectuals regarded as possessing culture and political initiative.

The history of Paris, France, goes back over 10,000 years, during which the city grew from a small mesolithic settlement to the largest city, and capital of, France. It also developed into a center of art, medicine, science, culture and high finance.

The Greater Journey,* by David McCullough, is an engaging story of the many adventurous American artists, writers, doctors, politicians, and others aspiring to increase their knowledge who set off for Paris. The time was between 1830 and 1900. These same visitors took new ideas and a broadened sense of the world home with them when they returned.

*My review of The Greater Journey

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Existentialism

Four men: Kierkegaard-Dostoyevsky-Nietzsche-Sartre

(in image following, read L-R, and upper to lower)


Existentialists: Kierkegaard-Dostoyevsky-Nietzsche-Sartre


Existentialism: A theory emphasizing the existence of the individual person as a free and responsible agent isolated in a deterministic world. Or expressed more simply: Existentialism is a philosophy that emphasizes individual existence, freedom and choice.  The belief is that humans define their own meaning in life, and try to make rational decisions despite existing in an irrational universe.

The theory originated with 19th Century philosophers Soren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzche, even though neither used the term in their writing.  In the 1940s and 50s, French existentialists Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, and Simone de Beauvoir wrote fictional works that popularized existential themes. I have read some of the fiction of all three writers, but none of their philosophy. I have read all of de Beauvoir's novels. The existential themes were dread, boredom, alienation, the absurd, freedom, commitment and nothingness. (sounds like the basis for a futuristic novel)

There are many who do not agree with Existentialism and find fault with how this philosophy is explained. Is it for us who live in a different time to make our judgement of philosophers and thinkers of that time? I think not.  We can educate ourselves about the paradigms of an era, but we cannot understand that time unless we ourselves experienced it. 


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Café de Flore

Café de Flore, Paris, by DG Hudson



At 172, boulevard Saint Germain, Paris, Cafe de Flore and Les Deux Magot, nearby, served many of the famous intellectuals who formed the intelligentsia in Paris. It was in these two bistros/coffee houses that the pro and cons of philosophy were discussed and ideas for novels developed. Even Juliette Greco was here.  

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Did you know about Existentialism? Have you read The Greater Journey? Did you know so many Americans sought knowledge in France? Have you heard of or know about The Café Flore or Les Deux Magots?

Please leave a comment to let me know you stopped by, and if you are part of the A to Z Challenge. I'll be sure to check your blog, and reciprocate. If you're not in the challenge, thanks for stopping by to visit! I try to reply to all comments.

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The A to Z Blog Challenge is brainchild of Lee, at Tossing It Out.  Please visit the A to Z blog site to find out more information and the participant list.  There are also Twitter and Facebook presences if you want to check those!


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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Paris History of Paris


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Image:
Kierkegaard-Dostoyevsky-Nietzsche-Sartre

I, the copyright holder of this work, release this work into the public domain. This applies worldwide.
In some countries this may not be legally possible; if so:
I grant anyone the right to use this work for any purpose, without any conditions, unless such conditions are required by law

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16 comments:

  1. I have a real difficult time with stuff like philosophy and existentialism. It just doesn't hold my interest and I find so much of it soaked in pretentiousness.

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    1. Thanks for being honest, JoJo. That's the general feeling, but remember this was between the two wars that this feeling of hopelessness was prevalent. But, I didn't read the philosophy either, nor did I read Ayn Rand's capitalist philosophy.

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  2. Cafe de Flore looks like a lovely place. I like that philosophy was discussed there and novel ideas developed. :)

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    1. I wish I could have been there just to observe if nothing else. I would have wanted to listen in, for sure. And talk to the artists.

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  3. Cafe de Flore does look lovely as Chrys says. Perhaps our first act of free will is to believe we have it at all. :-)

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    1. Yes, I can agree with that, Roland. If that's taken away, it's like 1984 - the movie. Glad you like the cafe shot.

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  4. Those themes don't sound very cheery.

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    1. No, They don't.There must have been a great feeling of hopelessness between the wars for many. Many families were decimated. Sartre and De Beauvoir helped the French Resistance, as did many. Imagine your home country occupied and seeing people disappear. Not cheery at all.

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  5. Hi DG - this was very insightful. I have not read The Greater Journey - it does sound like something I would like. I may check and see if I can rent if from the library.

    As to existentialism I'm a free spirit, so does that mean I'm an existentialist? Don't know! LOL Worth looking into.

    Sent with smiles, Jenny, Pearson Report
    2015 A to Z Challenge Ambassador
    @PearsonReport

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    1. If you like history, you'll like The Greater Journey, check out the review. The author is a journalist and has researched well.There is another book, The Parisians by G. Robb which highlights stories about Paris and the author adds his own suppositions. As for what makes an existentialist, I'd say how you interpret life and what you rely on to make decisions. But don't quote me. . .

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  6. So much of today's literature based in a dystopian future reminds me of the dreary outlook of existentialism. It does seem as though every era has it's philosophy of despair.

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    1. I think you're right, as I read Kafka too and his fiction (several of his novels and his journals). Didn't read philosophy as much, since they are sometimes dreary. . .and it does fit the dystopian outlook popular now.

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  7. Hi DG - I bought the Parisians .. you recommended in another Challenge - I still have to read it ..but The Greater Journey looks good ... at some stage!! It's an area I struggle with understanding .. but someone recommended "Sophie's World" ... 'wonderfully engaging mystery story that also forms a completely accessible and lucid introduction to philosophy and philosophers' ... that I need to read ...

    Fascinating post - thanks so much for highlighting .. cheers Hilary

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    1. That book is excellent, Hilary, although the last bit was less interesting to me, as the author indulged his love of biking. Greater Journey is more factual and very interesting about the Louvre, medicine, and history. Do try to get it at the library if you don't purchase it. It's a good reference and has lots of images too.

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  8. I haven't read the Greater Journey, sounds really interesting. Simone de Beauvoir - just the Second Sex. Philosophy and depression kind of go and in hand, the subject stresses me out :)

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    1. As I mentioned to Hilary, The Greater Journey gets my highest recommendation. Hubs read it first, before he became ill, then I read it. We still get it out now and again to check the info. I also read Second Sex, and Force of Circumstance (both). I do like Simone.

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