I had forgotten that I, too, grew up existentially, until I read Ron Manheimer’s absorbing new book about life, aging, identity, and consciousness. Moving effortlessly between personal memoir and philosophical meditation, Manheimer takes us back and forth in time to raise timeless questions. The journey is intellectually exciting, for sure, as we encounter deep insights into the human condition – but it is also surprisingly and profoundly emotional. With a light touch, Manheimer stirs the soul. — Dan P. McAdams, Henry Wade Rogers Professor of Psychology, Northwestern University, author of The Art and Science of Personality Development
Philosophers, novelists and playwrights of the existentialist tradition continue to be reprinted, discussed and performed across the world, a testimony to their enduring relevance. Embracing the vitality of these engaging and provocative thinkers and writers, History of Consciousness philosopher Ronald Manheimer takes both newcomers and devotees on a personal search for meaning while addressing twelve key ideas that capture the essence of the existential outlook.
Exploring situations from everyday life, the author reflects on the most abstract existential terms, such as nothingness, temporality and absurdism. And since existentialism’s leading lights – Kierkegaard, Sartre, de Beauvoir, and Camus – lived out their ideas in both private and public spheres, Manheimer delves into their biographies to provide a window into scenes of love and loss, war and political upheaval, friendship and betrayal.
Manheimer offers readers a personal view of how historical consciousness was transformed in Europe just as its reverberations reached American shores in the mid-twentieth century. While other philosophical movements such as structuralism, deconstructionism and post-modernism eclipsed the popularity of existentialism, the author shows how its thought currents have inspired the liberation movements of the 20th and 21st centuries – feminism, anti-colonialism, Black Power, and even the age revolution.
Ronald J. Manheimer holds a PhD from the History of Consciousness interdisciplinary graduate program of the University of California at Santa Cruz. His dissertation, Kierkegaard and the Education of Historical Consciousness, led to his first book, Kierkegaard As Educator (University of California Press, 1977). In 2003, an award-winning Korean translation of this book appeared with a new introduction by the author.
Manheimer has taught at UC Santa Cruz, San Diego State University, The Evergreen State College (Olympia, Washington), Wayne State University (Detroit), the Smithsonian, and the University of North Carolina at Asheville, where until his retirement in 2009 he held a joint appointment as Research Associate Professor of Philosophy and executive director of the NC Center for Creative Retirement (now OLLI, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute).
In his A Map to the End of Time: Wayfarings with Friends and Philosophers (Norton, 1999) Manheimer demonstrates the fruitfulness of combining dual interests in philosophy and narrative studies. This work has been translated into Chinese and Korean. His newest book, Mirrors of the Mind: Reflecting on Philosophers’ Autobiographies (Jorvik Press, 2015) extends this pursuit by capturing transformative moments in the first-person narratives of renowned thinkers.
Currently, Manheimer teaches philosophy courses at OLLI, conducts enrichment programs for elementary schoolchildren, chairs UNCA’s Center for Jewish Studies steering committee, is Chair Elect of the BJH Foundation of the Carolinas, serves on the editorial board of two academic journals, and provides consulting for non-profit organizations.
Ronald Manheimer ’s Growing Up Existentially offers an authentic testimonial to the enduring relevance of existentialism in providing meaning to our individual and collective lived experiences. Each chapter invites the reader to behold a facet of the existentialist philosophical panorama. All along keeping the discussion relatable, personal, vivid and refreshing. The end product is a truly lucid and cogent story of existentialism that is exploratory, provocative and incredibly engaging.
Keya MaitraProfessor and Chair, Dept. of Philosophy, Univ. of North Carolina, Asheville
In this wise and learned book Ron Manheimer contemplates twelve “stars” in the constellation of human thought that illuminate our lifetime journey. Drawing on the existentialists, primarily Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, Growing Up Existentially engages the reader in a conversation on such eternal issues as love and death, being and nothingness, identity and authority. These larger questions, presented with admirable clarity, frame his own coming of age story. Manheimer takes us to Denmark in pursuit of Søren Kierkegaard and to Santa Cruz to meet his esteemed philosophical mentor. The readers join a hipster couple at a jazz club and sit with his dying mother at an Asheville hospice. Both memoir and meditation, this engaging book opens possibilities to each of us on how to live the good life.
Leonard RogoffResearch Historian for the Jewish Heritage Foundation of North Carolina