“Intentionality is applied to acts that we suppose to be mechanical, and that we actually cause ourselves. We think something merely ‘happens,’ like a stone falling when we drop it, when actually we ourselves have caused it to happen.”

“Husserl pointed out that consciousness is intentional. I do not merely see something; I fire my attention at an object as I might fire a rifle at a target. If I do not do this, then I am not conscious of what I am looking at.”

“Both Husserl and Heidegger felt that the phenomenological quest would give man the possibility of ‘mystical’ experience without the need for specifically Christian or Yogic disciplines. Husserl said that the study of intentionality in action would lead towards the ‘keepers of the key to the ultimate sources of being’ (a thoroughly Heideggerian phrase), and to the ‘unveiling of the hidden achievements of the transcendental ego.’”

“The error arises from the old assumption that perception is passive, and that therefore it is a purely relative matter which we regard as ‘normal.’ All perception is intentional; Van Gogh’s perception is more intentional than our everyday perception, and since there could be no perception without intentionality, it is not at all a relative matter, but a matter of life and death. No intentionality, no perception.”

Abraham Maslow

“Modern literature and psychology play a considerable part in forming the picture that we have of ourselves; but according to Maslow they have been guilty of an underestimation of man’s character and potentialities.”

“Maslow points out that gratification of this need to know is satisfying even when it yields painful results. The healthy person wants truth even if it is painful; only the unhealthy indulge in ‘bad faith’ for self-protection.”

“Existential psychology, in fact, is simply a psychology that recognises that Maslow’s ‘need to know,’ Shaw’s ‘appetite for a high quality of existence,’ are as fundamental to human beings as the sexual appetite or the need for social security. (Here, of course, the word ‘human’ is used in the sense defined above.) In Heidegger’s language, a human being is characterised by a need for contact with ‘existence’; with the reality that underlies the banality of our social existence”

“Abraham Maslow, felt the same kind of instinctive revolt against the ‘atmosphere’ of Freudian psychology, with its emphasis on sickness and neurosis, and decided that he might obtain some equally interesting results if he studied extremely healthy people”


“Man has reached an impasse in his evolutionary development because he has not yet made the discovery that his perception can also be changed; where consciousness is concerned, he still suffers from the ‘passive fallacy’ — that as things are, so they must remain.”

“The pre-condition for any human effort is a vision of success. Man is never so strong, so enterprising, so endlessly resourceful, as when his aim stands clearly in front of him, to be achieved by a definite number of determined strides. To ‘work without hope’ is almost a contradiction in terms, for work without hope is work without real drive, without momentum.”

“Such recognition is only a beginning. Inauthenticity is to feel futile, contingent, without purpose. Authenticity is to be driven by a deep sense of purpose. Such a sense of purpose cannot exist unless we first make the assumption that our sense of contingency is a liar, and that there is a standard of values external to everyday human consciousness.”

“It is extremely important to grasp the notion that man does not yet exist. This is not intended as a paradox or a play on words; it is literally true.”

Husserl’s Phenomenology

“This leads Husserl to define phenomenology as ‘the study of the structure of consciousness.’”

“Husserl suggested — naturally enough — that as man loses all the false ideas about himself and the world through scientific analysis, and as he comes to recognise that he himself is responsible for so much that he assumed to be ‘objective,’ he will come to recognise his true self, presiding over perception and all other acts of living. This idea seems common-sensible enough, and our intuitions about ourselves seem to support it.”

“Phenomenological analysis is an attempt to discover the conscious structure of any experiences – the recipe for recreating them, as it were. If drugs like lsd can help to provide the peak experiences, and phenomenological analysis can help to uncover their structure, the significance of the method may go far beyond its possibilities as a cure for alcoholism. Hadley Cantril points out that all human activity – and therefore creativity – is based upon assumptions, derived from previous experience, as to its success.”

“The whole point of phenomenology is that there is no sharp dividing line between perception and imagination. The dividing line only applies when we think of perception as passive and imagination as active. As soon as we realise that perception is active, the old dichotomy vanishes.”

“Old” versus “New” Existentialism

“I think we should now be able to see clearly the fundamental issue on which the ‘new existentialism’ differs from the older version. The old existentialism emphasises man’s contingency. It says that since there is no God, there are no ‘transcendental values’ either. Man is alone in an empty universe; no act of his has any meaning outside itself – and its social context. Existentialism has removed the universal backcloth against which mediaeval man acted out his dreams, with a sense that everything he did would be brought up on judgement day. In its place, says Sartre, there is only the infinitude of space, which means that man’s actions are of no importance to anyone but himself. ”

“The new existentialism consists of a phenomenological examination of consciousness, with the emphasis upon the problem of what constitutes human values. And since moods of optimism and insight are less accessible than moods of depression and life-devaluation, the phenomenology of life-devaluation constitutes the most valuable field of study

“Existentialism said: There are no transcendental values; therefore man should not look for values outside his everyday consciousness. The new existentialism replies: You have overlooked the third possibility. There are states of consciousness that are not ‘everyday consciousness’ and which are not ‘transcendental’ either. These produce a definite sense of values and purpose. If we investigate these properly, man may be able to replace his old dogmatic religious values with a scientifically objective set of external values. This summarises the purpose of the ‘new existentialism,’ and provides it with a direction in which to advance, and with a philosophical method”

“Let us be frank about this. One of the reasons that the ‘old existentialism’ found itself immobilised was that it tried so hard to compromise with academic philosophy. To a large extent, the difficulties encountered in a text of Jaspers, Heidegger or Sartre are the difficulties that the author feels to be necessary to an academically respectable philosophy.”


“It all started with romanticism: with Goethe’s Faust and Schiller’s Robbers and Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound, with men demanding why they should be mere creatures.”

“Kierkegaard and Nietzsche were as much romantics as existentialists; but Jaspers, Heidegger, Sartre, Camus and the rest wrote as thinkers rather than as poets. With them, existentialism became an intellectualised romanticism.”

“Now the basic impulse behind existentialism is optimistic, very much like the impulse behind all science. Existentialism is romanticism, and romanticism is the feeling that man is not the mere creature he has always taken himself for. Romanticism began as a tremendous surge of optimism about the stature of man. Its aim – like that of science-was to raise man above the muddled feelings and impulses of his everyday humanity, and to make him a god-like observer of human existence.”

“Existentialism, like romanticism, is a philosophy of freedom. It has reached a standstill because no existential thinker can agree that there are any values outside man – that is, outside man’s ordinary, everyday consciousness. Man is free, says Sartre. But what is he to do with his freedom?”