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      • In simpler terms, existentialism is a philosophy concerned with finding self and the meaning of life through free will, choice, and personal responsibility. The belief is that people are searching to find out who and what they are throughout life as they make choices based on their experiences, beliefs, and outlook.
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    How do existentialists find meaning in life?

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  2. Aug 23, 2004 · Existentialism arises with the collapse of the idea that philosophy can provide substantive norms for existing, ones that specify particular ways of life. Nevertheless, there remains the distinction between what I do “as” myself and as “anyone,” so in this sense existing is something at which I can succeed or fail.

  3. Existentialism is the search and journey for true self and true personal meaning in life. Most importantly, it is the arbitrary act that existentialism finds most objectionable-that is, when someone or society tries to impose or demand that their beliefs, values, or rules be faithfully accepted and obeyed.

    • Etymology
    • Definitional Issues and Background
    • Concepts
    • Opposition to Positivism and Rationalism
    • Religion
    • Confusion with Nihilism
    • History
    • Influence Outside Philosophy
    • Criticisms

    The term “existentialism” (French: L’existentialisme) was coined by the French Catholic philosopher Gabriel Marcel in the mid-1940s. At first, when Marcel applied the term to Jean-Paul Sartre at a colloquium in 1945, Sartre rejected it. Sartre subsequently changed his mind and, on October 29, 1945, publicly adopted the existentialist label in a lecture to the Club Maintenant in Paris. The lecture was published as L’existentialisme est un humanisme (Existentialism is a Humanism), a short book that did much to popularize existentialist thought.Marcel later came to reject the label himself in favour of the term Neo-Socratic, in honor of Kierkegaard’s essay “On The Concept of Irony”. Some scholars argue that the term should be used only to refer to the cultural movement in Europe in the 1940s and 1950s associated with the works of the philosophers Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Albert Camus. Other scholars extend the term to Kierkegaard, and yet others extend it...

    The labels existentialism and existentialist are often seen as historical conveniences in as much as they were first applied to many philosophers in hindsight, long after they had died. In fact, while existentialism is generally considered to have originated with Kierkegaard, the first prominent existentialist philosopher to adopt the term as a self-description was Jean-Paul Sartre. Sartre posits the idea that “what all existentialists have in common is the fundamental doctrine that existence precedes essence”, as scholar Frederick Copleston explains. According to philosopher Steven Crowell, defining existentialism has been relatively difficult, and he argues that it is better understood as a general approach used to reject certain systematic philosophies rather than as a systematic philosophy itself.Sartre himself, in a lecture delivered in 1945, described existentialism as “the attempt to draw all the consequences from a position of consistent atheism”. Although many outside Scand...

    Existence precedes essence

    Sartre argued that a central proposition of existentialism is that existence precedes essence, which means that the most important consideration for individuals is that they are individuals—independently acting and responsible, conscious beings (“existence”)—rather than what labels, roles, stereotypes, definitions, or other preconceived categories the individuals fit (“essence”). The actual life of the individuals is what constitutes what could be called their “true essence” instead of there...

    The absurd

    The notion of the absurd contains the idea that there is no meaning in the world beyond what meaning we give it. This meaninglessness also encompasses the amorality or “unfairness” of the world. This conceptualization can be highlighted in the way it opposes the traditional Abrahamic religious perspective, which establishes that life’s purpose is about the fulfillment of God’s commandments. Such a purpose is what gives meaning to people’s lives. To live the life of the absurd means rejecting...

    Facticity

    Facticity is a concept defined by Sartre in Being and Nothingness as the in-itself, which delineates for humans the modalities of being and not being. This can be more easily understood when considering facticity in relation to the temporal dimension of our past: one’s past is what one is, in the sense that it co-constitutes oneself. However, to say that one is only one’s past would be to ignore a significant part of reality (the present and the future), while saying that one’s past is only w...

    Existentialists oppose definitions of human beings as primarily rational, and, therefore, oppose positivism and rationalism. Existentialism asserts that people actually make decisions based on subjective meaning rather than pure rationality. The rejection of reason as the source of meaning is a common theme of existentialist thought, as is the focus on the feelings of anxiety and dread that we feel in the face of our own radical freedom and our awareness of death. Kierkegaard advocated rationality as a means to interact with the objective world (e.g., in the natural sciences), but when it comes to existential problems, reason is insufficient: “Human reason has boundaries”. Like Kierkegaard, Sartre saw problems with rationality, calling it a form of “bad faith”, an attempt by the self to impose structure on a world of phenomena—”the Other”—that is fundamentally irrational and random. According to Sartre, rationality and other forms of bad faith hinder people from finding meaning in f...

    An existentialist reading of the Bible would demand that the reader recognize that they are an existing subject studying the words more as a recollection of events. This is in contrast to looking at a collection of “truths” that are outside and unrelated to the reader, but may develop a sense of reality/God. Such a reader is not obligated to follow the commandments as if an external agent is forcing these commandments upon them, but as though they are inside them and guiding them from inside. This is the task Kierkegaard takes up when he asks: “Who has the more difficult task: the teacher who lectures on earnest things a meteor’s distance from everyday life—or the learner who should put it to use?” Atheistic existentialism is a kind of existentialism which strongly diverged from the Christian existential works of Søren Kierkegaard and developed within the context of an atheistic world view. The philosophies of Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche provided existentialism’s theor...

    Although nihilism and existentialism are distinct philosophies, they are often confused with one another as both are rooted in the human experience of anguish and confusion stemming from the apparent meaninglessness of a world in which humans are compelled to find or create meaning. A primary cause of confusion is that Friedrich Nietzsche is an important philosopher in both fields. Existentialist philosophers often stress the importance of Angst as signifying the absolute lack of any objective ground for action, a move that is often reduced to a moral or an existential nihilism. A pervasive theme in the works of existentialist philosophy, however, is to persist through encounters with the absurd, as seen in Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus (“One must imagine Sisyphus happy”), and it is only very rarely that existentialist philosophers dismiss morality or one’s self-created meaning: Kierkegaard regained a sort of morality in the religious (although he wouldn’t himself agree that it was et...

    Early 20th century

    In the first decades of the 20th century, a number of philosophers and writers explored existentialist ideas. The Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo, in his 1913 book The Tragic Sense of Life in Men and Nations, emphasized the life of “flesh and bone” as opposed to that of abstract rationalism. Unamuno rejected systematic philosophy in favor of the individual’s quest for faith. He retained a sense of the tragic, even absurd nature of the quest, symbolized by his enduring interest in...

    After the Second World War

    Following the Second World War, existentialism became a well-known and significant philosophical and cultural movement, mainly through the public prominence of two French writers, Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus, who wrote best-selling novels, plays and widely read journalism as well as theoretical texts. These years also saw the growing reputation of Heidegger’s book Being and Timeoutside Germany. By the end of 1947, Camus’ earlier fiction and plays had been reprinted, his new play Caligul...

    Psychoanalysis and psychotherapy

    A major offshoot of existentialism as a philosophy is existentialist psychology and psychoanalysis, which first crystallized in the work of Otto Rank, Freud’s closest associate for 20 years. Without awareness of the writings of Rank, Ludwig Binswanger was influenced by Freud, Edmund Husserl, Heidegger, and Sartre. A later figure was Viktor Frankl, who briefly met Freud as a young man. His logotherapy can be regarded as a form of existentialist therapy. The existentialists would also influence...

    General criticisms

    Walter Kaufmann criticized ‘the profoundly unsound methods and the dangerous contempt for reason that have been so prominent in existentialism.’ Logical positivist philosophers, such as Rudolf Carnap and A. J. Ayer, assert that existentialists are often confused about the verb “to be” in their analyses of “being”. Specifically, they argue that the verb “is” is transitive and pre-fixed to a predicate (e.g., an apple is red) (without a predicate, the word “is” is meaningless), and that existent...

    Sartre’s philosophy

    Many critics argue Jean-Paul Sartre’s philosophy is contradictory. Specifically, they argue that Sartre makes metaphysical arguments despite his claiming that his philosophical views ignore metaphysics. Herbert Marcuse criticized Sartre’s 1943 Being and Nothingness for projecting anxiety and meaninglessness onto the nature of existence itself: “Insofar as Existentialism is a philosophical doctrine, it remains an idealistic doctrine: it hypostatizes specific historical conditions of human exis...

  4. Existentialism is best thought of as a movement, a "sensibility" that can be traced throughout the history of Western philosophy. Its central themes are the significance of the individual, the importance of passion, the irrational aspects of life, and the importance of human freedom.

  5. Excuses: Existentialism and the Meaning of Life Scope: Existentialism is, in my view, the most exciting and important philosophical movement of the past century and a half. Fifty years after the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre gave it its identity and one hundred and Fifty years after the Danish philosopher Sorcn Kierkegaard gave it its ...

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