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Willner, G. (1958). Duerckheim's Existential Philosophy: An Evaluation and Critique. Am. J. Psychoanal., 18(1):38-51.

(1958). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 18(1):38-51

Duerckheim's Existential Philosophy: An Evaluation and Critique

Gerda Willner, M.D.

The new European philosophy and psychiatry resemble in many ways the trends of modern psychoanalysis in this country. In the books and papers of the German philosopher and psychologist, Karlfried Graf Duerckheim, I found an amazing resemblance to the philosophy of Dr. Karen Horney. It is gratifying to see that, by placing emphasis on self-realization as our human destiny and giving meaning to the life of every individual, the frontiers of psychoanalytic knowledge are gradually extending.

The philosophy of existence is often called a philosophy of crisis and despair. During World War II, it sprang up and spread so rapidly that it became not a European but a world philosophy. It constitutes a courageous attempt to revise the situation of modern man, of his ever-growing alienation from himself and the world in which he lives. It attempts to do away with the split resulting from the attempt to objectify man as a thinker of thoughts, or an experiencer of an experience, as a referent of objects and yet an object himself. Existential philosophy uncovers and questions old, mechanistic, functional assumptions and steps foward with the challenge that “a new science must be rethought rather than thoughtlessly patterned along preconceived lines.”1 Contemporary philosophers of other countries have tried to ignore Europe's most important postwar philosophy by calling it, “Europe's present nightmare,” and have expected it to disappear, a passing fancy. However, existentialism has turned out to be a perennial philosophy, as recent as Kierkegaard, as old as Pascal, with ancient roots in the philosophy and religion of the Far East.

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