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Background - Holocaust (Films)
-Night and Fog 1

Background - Holocaust (Films)
-I highly recommend that you watch all 5 parts of the BBC Auschwitz documentary.  I have gathered them on myYouTube Teaching Playlist.

Holocaust - The Auschwitz Album

 The Auschwitz Album is the only full set of photographs of the selection process.  Powerful.

Recommended Reading - Existentialism
21-Existentialism-Sartre.pdf --Sartre's clearest "definition."

22-Existentialism-Camus.pdf  -- The Myth of Sisyphus

13-Nihilism.pdf - short selections of Nietzsche aphorisms

25-Fritzsche on Nietzsche.pdf - solid introduction

Nietzsche-1a.pdf - extensive selections 

Language, Essence, and Existence from Introduction to Existentialism

Questions of philosophy eventually confront matters of language and expression. What we know is complicated when we try to share knowledge or wisdom. Each time we communicate, some loss of meaning is risked.

Most visitors to this site have heard Jean-Paul Sartre’s famous statement from Being and Nothingness, “Existence precedes and rules essence.” In general, it is accepted that people create an essence while all other things have an essence and are then created or understood by people. If you have a new idea for a tool, the idea exists before the object you intend to create. However, you can understand your idea only via words or symbols already known. This means all comprehension of “essense” is limited by existing language.

Likewise, how we relate to people and each other is limited by language, even if we accept the idea that first a person exists, then he or she is free to define a “self” in the world. The concepts of language and symbols complicate the existence-essence relationship because how we describe something affects how others perceive that thing or person.

We communicate via images, sounds, and touch. For most of us, what we think is converted to a form of “unspoken speech” in our minds. This means we can only understand and explain things in some form of spoken word. Philosophers dealing with ideas of deconstruction and postmodern linguistics have come to appreciate the limits of language and the social implications of words.

French, as with most languages, is gender-specific even when naming objects. Simone de Beauvoir wondered how language affects gender identity. Language shapes us, while we also have some power to shape language. Because language is not static, we can argue for new words, new meanings, and even new grammars. Unfortunately, no language is a perfect representation of ideas, and our ideas are shaped by existing language.

If we each define an essence by living and making choices, we are still limited by words and other forms of text when we want to express that essence to others.

A Quick Lesson

Good morning/afternoon/evening class. {Mr. Wyatt pauses to accept joyful greetings.} Allow me to write a word on the board.


I need my morning tea, or I will not be able to discuss matters in a civil tone. So, you have until I finish tea to ponder and write your thoughts on what I have written.

{Mr. Wyatt enjoys a simple tea, gathered from his favorite tin, which is kept in a drawer at his desk. The hotplate, violating some campus policy or other, sits on a table behind him.}

Ah, refreshed. What did some of you write?

Blue is the English word for a wavelength in the visible light spectrum. We use it to symbolize many things…

For that, you must read Husserl’s complete works and report on how he viewed the relationship between science and philosophy. Anyone else?

I don’t know. It is the word “blue” written in white chalk on a blackboard.

Bravo! That is exactly the problem we face when studying anything. There are 20 definitions for “blue” in the Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. Until I write a sentence, “blue” is only a word. Alone, most things lack meaning — even people. We isolate things, even ourselves, to appreciate them and undertand them better. Isolated, the meaning is somehow lost. It is a paradox Kafka explored in short stories and Sartre examined ad nauseam.