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Existential Philosophy and the Promise of Education

Learning from Myths and Metaphors

Mordechai Gordon

Myths and metaphors share not only an ability to call our attention to aspects of our world of which we were previously unaware, but also a propensity toward symbolic meanings and interpretations. In Existential Philosophy and the Promise of Education: Learning from Myths and Metaphors, Professor Gordon draws on some well-known myths and metaphors of various Existentialist thinkers and writers as a lens and an interpretative framework with which to explore a variety of issues in philosophy of education. His book argues that symbolic or metaphorical interpretations can offer us representations of problems in education that go beyond what we can gain when we consider them only in their literal sense. Existential Philosophy and the Promise of Education is an excellent classroom text for a variety of foundations courses, including the Philosophy of Education.
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Chapter 4. Negotiating Contingency: Sartre’s Nausea and the Possibility of Losing Control in a Technological World


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Jean-Paul Sartre’s novel Nausea is the story of Antoine Roquentin, a French writer working on researching the life of an eighteenth century political figure by the name of Rollebon. Set in the fictional seaside town of Bouville during the winter of 1932, the novel describes how Roquentin begins to feel a growing sense of existential anxiety and nausea in the course of his daily research work and interactions with others. Confronted with the contingency of ordinary objects and events, Roquentin becomes increasingly disgusted with his own life and is almost driven to insanity. Gradually, however, he comes to accept the provisional nature of existence and the indifference of the physical world to people’s aspirations. By the end of the novel, Roquentin is able to view the contingency and indeterminacy of human existence in a more positive light while appreciating the opportunity that it provides people to choose their own destiny, construct their own meanings, and take responsibility for their decisions.

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