Existentialism: Definition and Nature

About this essay

Existentialism is a philosophical way of thinking that emphasizes the existence of the individual person as free, responsible, and capable of determining their own growth through acts of will. It is what makes us unique and what makes us alike. The existential movement is not a set of doctrines or a philosophical system. It is a cultural movement that arose in 19th century Europe and rose to fame in 1945 after World War II. The movement is primarily concerned with the Human Condition which aims to claim the importance of individuality and freedom There are two main figures of existentialism: Soren Kierkegaard and Jean-Paul Sartre.

They took these questions seriously: ‘Why am I here?’, ‘What does it mean to be human?’, and ‘How should I live my life?’.

Existentialism is a philosophy based on the individual. The individual should figure out his or her own way of answering these questions. A human perspective about life. Moral individualism is where a person seeks the greatest good for themselves rather than the greatest good for other people.

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Meaninglessness is where there is no meaning to things. There is no inherent morality to the universe, and so each person must establish their own moral system. A person as an individual is important simply because he or she exists, and his or her essence develops over time throughout their life, rather than as a pre-existing condition and heritage to his or her existence. We live in angst. We have no one to blame for our actions but ourselves We must live an authentic life.

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That by making choices, we assume responsibility for the consequences of our actions. The most important kind of knowledge is about the Human Condition and the choices that each person has to make. Soren Kierkegaard is a Christian existentialist known as the father of Existentialism.

During the 18th century, reason and nature were given more importance, objectivity was emphasized, leading to industrial and technological advancements, and science was given the utmost importance. From the scientific viewpoint, a man was regarded as an object. Man became a slave to machines in a developing industrial society. Kierkegaard was concerned that philosophy had lost its way. He felt the need to seek out answers about uncertain things in life like our existence and spiritual things. He felt the people were responsible for giving life meaning and living that life passionately. His existential theology saw the beginning of existentialism as philosophy because he wanted to see the individual person achieving the fullness of their own existence. When people realize that they are alive and will die one day, and there is no meaning to cling to, a person is in an existential crisis and would feel a sense of dread or uneasiness about their life. His philosophy can be seen in his doctrine, that there are three stages of life experience. Aesthetic, Ethical, and Religious.

The aesthetic is where the individual may just be interested in pleasure, romance or pursuits that are ambiguous. The person merely observes the world in a detached manner with no involvement whatsoever. Here Kierkegaard says that the aesthetic mode of life remains futile and is portrayed by boredom. Ethics is where man makes a decision for himself. A decision with regard to duty. Religious is where obedience and commitment to God is important. He brought about the idea that people should have values. Jean-Paul Sartre is an Athiest Existentialist. He is the most widely known French existentialist. ‘Existentialism is a Humanism’. In a sense that existentialists start from nothing but humanity. He believed in being and nothingness. Humans are beings-in-themselves. We perceive ourselves perceiving and we are conscious of our existence. Objects are beings-in-themselves. They are unconscious, unable to notice things, and it is this existence that is predetermined. Nothingness is a hole inside the consciousness. Emptiness gives humans the potential for multiple futures and possibilities.

Existence precedes essence. Man has no innate or external nature, he must, therefore, create himself. He must create his own nature or essence because it is not fixed in advance. Existential moments arise when young people realize for the first time the choices that they make are theirs. That they are responsible for themselves. Hence the question, ‘Who am I and what should I do with my life?’. We are condemned to be free and we must decide for ourselves how to live our lives. Sartre rejects the notion of a universal human nature and instead focuses on the universal Human Condition. This means that humans have no choice but, ‘to be in the world, to work in it, to live out life in it among others, and, eventually, to die in it”.

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Existentialism: Definition and Nature. (2016, Nov 07). Retrieved from http://studymoose.com/existentialism-definition-and-nature-essay

Existentialism: Definition and Nature
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