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Siomopoulos, V. (1975). The Existential Hero: Schizophrenic or the Forerunner of a New Affectivity?. Psychoanal. Rev., 62(3):429-436.

(1975). Psychoanalytic Review, 62(3):429-436

The Existential Hero: Schizophrenic or the Forerunner of a New Affectivity?

V. Siomopoulos, M.D.

Existentialism, as exposed in the philosophical writings of its exponents, is considered by most a rather esoteric, obscure philosophy. Concepts such as “being-in-the-world,” “being-in-itself,” and “being-for-itself,”7 defined in an intricate jargon, may appear indeed extremely difficult to grasp. In contrast, fictional works by existential writers such as Sartre and Camus have an intellectual and emotional directness, an engaging and at the same time repelling quality, which originates, I think, largely in the peculiar, unusual affectivity of the heroes of these novels. I intend to show in this article that the affectivity of the existential hero contains elements of severe psychopathology as well as the rudiments of a new mode of feeling—a new affectivity—which transcends the abstractions of the existential philosopher.


In Camus' The Stranger the hero of the novel appears to live, as it were, in a state of suspended affectivity. He experiences no sorrow for his mother's death and seems not to care one way or another about hardly anything. “To love or not to love is a question next to nothing,” he says. And he kills a man for no apparent cause with the feeling that “one might fire or not fire and it would come to absolutely the same thing.” His experiences are stripped of any affective meaningfulness, and his actions seem to exemplify the existential belief that “all human actions are equivalent” or that “one experience is as good as another.”

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