Up@dawn 2.0

Monday, November 28, 2016

Existentialism-Existence Proceeding Essence H1

Existentialism is a 19th and  20th century philosophical idea that is based on the human existence and how we as humans find ourselves existing in the world. It’s the idea that a human exists first and then spends a lifetime changing how they perceive their existence. In simpler terms, existentialism is a philosophy concerned with finding one’s 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. And personal choices become unique without the necessity of an objective form of truth. An existentialist believes that a person should be forced to choose and be responsible without the help of laws, ethnic rules, or traditions.  Soren Kierkegaard was the first philosopher to actually consider that he wrote about Existentialism. Since his time existential approaches to philosophy about life have grown very greatly in influence and also appeared in several forms influenced by numerous writers and thinkers. In retrospect several writers who lived before Kierkegaard are seen as having been concerned with the same subject matter. All these earlier and later writer’s works have influenced the modern world - and perhaps by more than we can know. After the Second World War was there was a most notable insurgence of enthusiasm amongst substantial sections of the rising generation and the intelligentsia for philosophic ideas concerned with existential approaches to life. The writer principally looked to during this phase of the popularization of an atheistic and humanistic approach to Existentialist philosophy was Jean Paul Sartre.

The original “existential” philosophers were Soren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche although neither of them in any of their works used the term existentialism they are still considered to be the fathers of this movement. Instead of focusing on the objective truths of math, science and language they chose to focus on the human experience. They were both very interested in the meaninglessness of life and the use of diversion to allow for a human to escape boredom. They both believed in free will and the ability to make your own choices, particularly regarding human values. They then spoke on how these choices shape the identity of the one who makes them. They both created individuals who represent their ideas and the idea of freedom with Nietzsche’s “Übermensch” and Kierkegaard's knight of faith. Nietzsche’s “Übermensch” character creates his own values, religion, and virtues that he will excel under. Whereas Kierkegaard is more accepting of Christianity as a true virtue and not as a choice. Nietzsche argues through an allegory that although Christianity is not rational, but a series of logical paradoxes he implies that a leap of faith is needed to transcend this life. Although they differ in ideas on religion both these men shared the same ideas on the subjects of free will, virtue, and good and evil. They were also both large influences on other intellectual movements including the study of psychology.   

One of the biggest concepts in the teachings of existentialism is the idea that existence proceeds essence. This idea states that the most important idea for individuals is that they are individuals. Meaning that people act independently, are conscious beings rather than labels, or stereotypes. It sees from the inside disregarding preconceived categories that we put people under. It was Sartre who came up with this phrase but Kierkegaard had some of the same ideas.  He himself in one of his scripts said "The subjective thinker’s form, the form of his communication, is his style. His form must be just as manifold as are the opposites that he holds together. The systematic eins, zwei, drei is an abstract form that also must inevitably run into trouble whenever it is to be applied to the concrete. To the same degree as the subjective thinker is concrete, to the same degree his form must also be concretely dialectical. But just as he himself is not a poet, not an ethicist, not a dialectician, so also his form is none of these directly. His form must first and last be related to existence, and in this regard he must have at his disposal the poetic, the ethical, the dialectical, the religious. Subordinate character, setting, etc., which belong to the well balanced character of the esthetic production, are in themselves breadth; the subjective thinker has only one setting—existence—and has nothing to do with localities and such things. The setting is not the fairyland of the imagination, where poetry produces consummation, nor is the setting laid in England, and historical accuracy is not a concern. The setting is inwardness in existing as a human being; the concretion is the relation of the existence-categories to one another. Historical accuracy and historical actuality are breadth."(Kierkegaard) All that can sum up nicely as you can do anything you want to do. You can be anything you want to be. It’s a pleasant thought knowing that anything is possible as long as you want it to be. However other existentialist philosophers would say that wishing for something brings on an inauthentic existence.  Instead the phrase should be taken to mean that people are defined only as how they act and that people are responsible for their actions. Meaning if you are a bad person than you are responsible for this identity opposed to genetics or the overall human nature taking the blame.

Upon researching this topic, I kept finding the idea of the “Absurd”. This is an idea stating that there is no meaning in the world beyond what we give it. The meaninglessness of the world encompasses the “unfairness” of the world. To the world, and too the universe there is no such thing as a “good guy” or a “bad guy”. This contrasts the idea that bad things don’t happen to good people. The world doesn’t care if youre a good or bad person. What happens happens and theres nothing to blame for it. The universe doesn’t care about you. Life is what you make it. We as people put too much emphasis on unimportant things, we get worked up over minute things that to most would seem ridiculous to get worked up over but instead we throw a fit over the fact that the burger you ordered has onions on it instead of tomatoes. That is what “The Absurd” symbolizes. The ridiculousness of the meaning we put on things and the refusal we have to let small things go is what makes existentialism a good philosophy to follow. It allows for a clean slate of the world, letting you be your own person, and make your own choices. It’s not necessarily a way of life but a set of beliefs allowing you to live life to the beat of your own drum, and see the world through your own eyes versus other people’s opinions.


  1. "ethnic rules" - typo? In fact, though, rules of any kind are regarded with suspicion if they're externally imposed and not personally devolved.

    You've given us a good overview of ex'sm. Maybe you can say more about why an absence of intrinsic meaning and purpose in the universe, apart from human meaning and purpose, is regarded by so many Ex'sts as "absurd" rather than just (say) disappointing or disillusioning.

    See if you can find some good links, graphics, &/or videos, to sprinkle in.

  2. I quite like this, and I feel like this summarizes one of several large influences on my personal philosophy. In fact, had I come across this type of philosophy sooner it would probably have impacted me quite a bit more.