Six Existentialist Thinkers by Harold Blackham

Existentialism ( was fashionable in the 1960s. Much of this is to do with the fact that its ideas were presented and consumed in theatre, literature, and popular culture. It insists that thinking begins with the human subject—not as a disembodied exercise in reason, but the acting, feeling, living human being. This chimed with the zeitgeist, and many (especially young) people read about existentialism. One book which is familiar to generations of students is H.J. Blackham’s (‘Six Existentialist Thinkers‘, and this is very much still worth reading for its clarity. It’s an excellent entry point to the subject.

Blackham offers substantial accounts of the thought of Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Jaspers, Marcel, Heidegger and Sartre, and a concluding essay that attempts to interpret the whole Existentialist movement. Enquire at your local library or available online at

Move swiftly on to the excellent  Irrational man : a study in existential philosophy by William Barrett (1958) (

The other standard text is Existentialism by John MacQuarrie (1972) Enquire at your local library or available at

If pressed for time, pick up Thomas Flynn’s book Existentialism: A Very Short Introduction (2006) Enquire at your local library or available at

Begin a lifetime of thought and reflection about existentialism by following the bibliographies in the Stanford Encyclopedia here

A useful warm up to the subject is found in the BBC Radio 4 ‘In Our Time’ 45 minute episode on existentialism. Available from the link  With  A. C. Grayling, Reader in Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London; Christina Howells, Professor of French at the University of Oxford, fellow of Wadham College; Simon Critchley, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Essex and author of A Companion to Continental Philosophy. This is a good discussion for deciding what is still worth holding onto from the assertions of this movement. Chaired by Melvyn Bragg. First broadcast Thursday 28 Jun 2001.

190 pages in Routledge & Kegan Paul

First published 1952

ISBN 978-0710010872

Harold J. Blackham – his existence preceded his essence

Scroll to Top