In this sense, humans are free to choose their own destiny. * is a philosophical term which asserts that there is a distinction between essential and non-essential (contingent or accidental) characteristics of an object. Essentialism assumes that objects have essences and that an objects identity is its essence. Aristotle distinguished between an objects essence and its existence. Its essence is what a thing is. Its essence is that a thing is. An objects essence is the collection of all the universals that it possesses, which if it did not possess them, it would cease to be.
There are other sorts of properties that an object possesses but that do not make the object what it is. Furthermore, essentialism holds that natural things do have essences. * In the existentialist view, the problem of being must take precedence over that knowledge in philosophical investigations. Being cannot be made a subject of objective enquiry; it is revealed to individual by reflection on his own unique concrete existence in time and space. Existence is basic: it is the fact of the individuals presence and participation in a changing and potentially dangerous world.
Each self- aware individual understands his own existence in terms of his experience of himself and his situation. The self of which he is aware is a thinking being which has beliefs, hopes, fears, desires, the need to find a purpose, and a will that can determine his actions. Understanding existentialism is often difficult, often because its ideas conflict with other major trends in the thought of western and eastern philosophies alike. Many people consider existentialism to be a dark and pessimistic philosophy, void of hope. However, the opinions of existentialist thinkers were often optimistic about the future of human beings.
Existentialism can also be difficult to understand because it does not consist of a specific dogma, or a set of metaphysical claims. Existentialism is not a definitive claim about the world or the people in it. It is marked, instead, by a set of themes about the human condition and the struggles and freedoms that humans must endure, or perhaps embrace. Despite the various and often conflicting views held by many existentialist philosophers, there are several main concepts of existentialism that are present in virtually all their works: 1. Sentient beings, especially humans, have free will. 2.
Humans are responsible for the consequences of their decisions. 3. Extremely few, if any, decisions are void of negative consequence. 4. Even when part of a group, each person acts and decides as an individual, and is accountable as such. 5. The world is indifferent towards humanity. The definition of existentialism is often hard to pin down, as there are conflicting views within existentialist thought, variations upon the ideas, and a number of so-called existentialists who rejected the title. Perhaps the central feature of existentialism that can be seen in these points is the focus on the individual.
Existentialists reject the idea that there is a fundamentally true human nature. Instead, they point out that those who seek to understand human nature undervalue the individual. The individual is free, as Sartre says, radically free. The individual can shape its own life and defy its so-called nature. The individual makes decisions and bears the responsibility for its actions alone. Existentialism is a philosophy of the individual and its struggle through life ” a focus on the subjective life that we all actually live, rather than a search for objective truths external to us. Topics in Existentialism * The Absurd.
* Existentialism & Religion * Existentialism & Politics * Existentialism & Phenomenology * Existentialist Philosophers * ””””””””””””””””- Absurdism * The idea of the absurd is a common theme in many existentialist works, particularly in Camus. Absurdity is the notion of contrast between two things. As Camus explains it in The Myth of Sisyphus: * The absurd is born out of this confrontation between the human need and the unreasonable silence of the world. * This view, which is shared by Sartre, is that humanity must live in a world that is and will forever be hostile or indifferent towards them.
The universe will never truly care for humanity the way we seem to want it to. The atheist view of this statement is that people create stories, or gods, which in their minds transcend reality to fill this void and attempt to satisfy their need. * The philosophy that encompasses the absurd is referred to as absurdism. While absurdism may be considered a branch of existentialism, it is a specific idea that is not necessary to an existentialist view. * Its easy to highlight the absurdity of the human quest for purpose. Its common to assume that everything must have a purpose, a higher reason for existence.
However, if one thing has a higher purpose, what is the reason for that purpose? Each new height must then be validated by a higher one. This evokes the common theological question: if humankind was created by God, who or what created God? (And, if God answers to a higher power, to what power does that answer? ) * Soren Kierkegaard, although religious himself, declared faith in God to be absurd, since it is impossible to know God, or to understand His purpose. In The Myth of Sisyphus, Camus described suicide as the most appropriate and rational reaction to the absurd ” but admitted that this is not a very rewarding or worthwhile reaction.
* Critics of absurdism tend to focus on two areas of the philosophy. The first is the proposition, as Camus described, that lifes absence of meaning seems to remove any reason for living. Camus answers this with methods of living with the absurd: through coping or through revolt ” and by pointing out that this lack of purpose presents humankind with true freedom. Others consider the theory itself to be arrogant, stating that although the purpose of life may not be apparent, that does not confirm that it does not exist. * ””””””””””””””””- Existentialism and Religion.
* Although the theme of humankind living in an indifferent or even hostile world is prevelant throughout existentialism, existentialism isnt necessarily atheist. Many people identify this philosophy as part of a turn away from religion, but this is not always the case. Some existentialists, such as Kierkegaard were religious themselves. An existentialist may still have religious beliefs, but does not rely on them. Consider this: * Lets compare the existentialist and the religious at the point when they are ready to leave home. Both may love their parents and have nothing but gratitude for the work theyve done.
The religious, in this comparison are the ones who visit their parents every weekend, and occasionally borrow money. The existentialists, however, are aware of the necessity of their independance. They may still visit their parents, but not with such routine or need. As British writer Anita Brookner put it: * Existentialism is about being a saint without God; being your own hero, without all the sanction and support of religion or society. * Existentialism can exist within and outside of religious context because it focuses on the individual within the concepts of human nature and the struggle for life.
Aside, perhaps, from the idea of an indifferent world, existentialism is not (by itself) about making metaphysical claims. The focus of existential philosophy is to examine the individual in the world, rather than the world itself. * Hence, some philosophers, such as Gabriel Marcel developed their own breed of existentialism within the confines of their religion. Marcel, specifically, focused on the human-universe relationship side of existentialism, but from the perspective of his Roman-Catholic faith. ””””””””””””””””-
Existentialism and Politics.
Existentialism does not dictate a specific political standpoint, but the stress on individuality and choice that this philosophy represents do have a political side. Many of the well-known existentialists of the world fought actively for individual freedom. The definition of freedom varies among people who employ existentialist concepts, which is responsible partly for the political diversity of this group. Many of the more anarchist existentialists sought freedom from government, stressing that making mistakes and learning from ones decisions is only natural for humanity.
Others, such as Sartre, saw communism as a truer freedom, as they were no longer burdened with the necessities of life, such as food and shelter, and were able to more actively pursue self-improvement. Despite this diversity in definition, the principal concept remains: that freedom is the essence of being; To restrict a person of freedom is to rob him of that which makes him alive. ””””””””””””””””-Existentialism & Phenomenology ””””””””””””””””- The relationship between phenomenology and existentialism is a close one.
Phenomenology shares several of the same ideas as its sibling, and the line between the two is often unclear. Founded by Edmund Husserl, phenomenology is a philosophical model that was made to be free of presupposition. The idea is to study and describe objects and events from the position of observers, rather than to make claims about some objective reality.
Anything that is not immediately concious is to be excluded. Rather than deductive or empircal methods, Husserls method was to rely on the information gathered by the senses and to throw away all scientific or metaphysical knowledge or beliefs in order to study phenomenon more accurately. Phenomenology is sometimes compared to idealism, the metaphysical claim that all that truly exist are minds. Phenomenology does not make this claim.
Instead, phenomenology merely focuses on the epistemological claim that all we know is our subjective reality, coupled with the normative claim that we ought to avoid the meaningless attempt to seek out some objective reality. The importance is placed on the subjective.
This importance on human cognition rather than belief or assumption is mirrored in existentialism. Albert Camus takes a phenomenological view to the world with his descriptions of knowledge: This heart within me I can feel, and I judge that it exists. This world around me I can feel, and I likewise judge that it exists. There ends all my knowledge, and the rest is construction. While the rest of philosophy is often focuses on how things are and how we are able or unable to perceive the truth in the world, phenomenology counts that our perceptions and internal experience are what matters.
Existentialism mirrors this idea in its description of human nature. Psychologists, sociologists and philosophers alike have searched for so-called truths of human nature. Existentialism holds that there are no (or at least few) universal truths about human nature ” the individual is what is important, and the individual is free to make his or her life in any way imaginable. Together, existentialism and phenomenology move the focus away from facts about the world towards facts about the individual self. For phenomenology, that means changing the way we view metaphysics and epistemological claims.
For existentialism, it generates a normative ethic on how to live a worthwhile life. (Note: This is not the full scope of the phenomenological movement, but was meant only to explain its relevance to existentialism. ) ””””””””””””””””-
Existentialist Philosophers ””””””””””””””””- The Minds of Existentialism 1. Soren Kierkegaard Often considered to be the first of the existentialists, Kierkegaard was a religious philosopher who stressed the need for individual choice. 2. Jean-Paul Sartre
Sartre potrayed humans as lonely creatures, and viewed the freedom of choice that many existentialists valued as a burdern, due largely to the responsibility that follows any choice. Sartre is one of the most prominent minds in existentialism, and can be credited for bringing this philosophy to the attention of a much larger audience. 3. Albert Camus Moving beyond Sartres existentialism, Camus explored the meaninglessness and absurd nature of the human condition. Many Others Other existential philosophers include Simone de Beauvoir, Martin Heidegger, Karl Jaspers, Gabriel Marcel and Franz Kafka.
Existentialist philosophy was also influenced by many other works, including those of Friedrich Nietzsche, G. W. F. Hegel, Fyodor Dostoevsky and Edmund Husserl. 1. Soren Kierkegaard (18131855) was a Danish philosopher who contributed greatly to existentialism. Kierkegaard seemed to believe in the idea of subjective truth”that is, the relationship one has with what he believes supercedes than the construct of the belief system itself. (For example, it is more important to live by the teachings of ones religion than to simply believe in them.)
Kierkegaard wrote under various pseudonyms, including Johannes de silentio for Fear and Trembling, as well as A, B and Judge William in various parts of Either/Or. His use of psudonyms wasnt to conceal his authorship, however, but to represent different points of view and seperate his own philosophical views from other explorations. He writes: In the pseudonymous works, there is not a single word which is mine. Kierkegaard used different names to represent different viewpoints. 2. Jean-Paul Sartre (19051980) was a French writer and philosopher who is one of the leading figures in 20th-centuryexistentialism.
He imagines men as lonely creatures in a meaningless world. He emphasizes the importance of choice and responsibility. Sartres influences include many of the German philosophers, especially Heidegger, of whom he was a student. He also had a close relationship with femenist writer Simone de Beauvoir. Sartre was offered various awards, including the Legion dhonneur and a Nobel Prize, both of which he declined. 3. Albert Camus A French writer from Algeria, Albert Camus was famous for his deep, yet concise, literary pieces.
In addition to his novels, essays and plays, Camus was a journalist, and during World War II, a member of the French resistance against German occupation. His philosophy, which is described in his essay, The Myth of Sisyphus, centers around the absurdity of the human condition. Camus was labeled as an existentialist but rejected the title. Camus brings a certain humanism to the existing existentialism of his time. While all of his characters are aware (or quickly become aware) of the absurd, they all rebel against their circumstances. Camus illustrates his views with his stories of characters who live by that philosophy.
Biography Albert Camus was born in Mondovi, Algeria on November 7, 1913. A year later, his father was killed fighting in France. Camus lived a poor childhood, but he was not unhappy. He studied philosophy at the University of Algiera and became a journalist. He also opened the Theatre de lequipe, a small performing arts group. Camus went to Paris and worked for Paris Soir, a city newspaper. He then went home and then returned to Paris a second time, where he published LEtranger (The Stranger) and La Mythe de Sisyphe (The Myth of Sisyphus).
When Nazi Germany occupied France during World War II, Camus wrote for Combat, a resistance newspaper. Camus continued to write, and gained fame writing some of his famous works, including La Peste (The Plague), and La Chute(The Fall). He was awarded the 1957 Nobel Prize for Literature. In 1960, Camus was killed in a car accident while returning to Paris. His final novel, La Premier Homme (The First Man), was found, unfinished, when he died. This book didnt appear publicly until 1994. Works * The Stranger (Novel, 1942) * The Myth of Sisyphus (Essay, 1942) * The Misunderstanding (Play, 1943) * Caligula (Play, 1944).
* The Plague (Novel, 1947) * The State of Seige (Play, 1948) * The Just Assasins (Play, 1950) * The Rebel (Essay, 1951) * The Fall (Novel, 1956) * Exile and the Kingdom (Short Stories, 1957) * Resistance, Rebellion, and Death (Political Essays, 1960) * The First Man (Autobiographical Novel, Unfinished 1960) * A Happy Death (Novel, 1971 written in 1920s) ””””””””””””””””- The Myth of Sisyphus ””””””””””””””””- The gods had condemned Sisyphus to ceaselessly rolling a rock to the top of a mountain, whence the stone would fall back of its own weight.
They had thought with some reason that there is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labor. If one believes Homer, Sisyphus was the wisest and most prudent of mortals. According to another tradition, however, he was disposed to practice the profession of highwayman. I see no contradiction in this. Opinions differ as to the reasons why he became the futile laborer of the underworld. To begin with, he is accused of a certain levity in regard to the gods. He stole their secrets. Egina, the daughter of Esopus, was carried off byJupiter.
The father was shocked by that disappearance and complained to Sisyphus. He, who knew of the abduction, offered to tell about it on condition that Esopus would give water to the citadel of Corinth. To the celestial thunderbolts he preferred the benediction of water. He was punished for this in the underworld. Homer tells us also that Sisyphus had put Death in chains. Pluto could not endure the sight of his deserted, silent empire. He dispatched the god of war, who liberated Death from the hands of her conqueror. It is said that Sisyphus, being near to death, rashly wanted to test his wifes love.
He ordered her to cast his unburied body into the middle of the public square. Sisyphus woke up in the underworld. And there, annoyed by an obedience so contrary to human love, he obtained from Pluto permission to return to earth in order to chastise his wife. But when he had seen again the face of this world, enjoyed water and sun, warm stones and the sea, he no longer wanted to go back to the infernal darkness. Recalls, signs of anger, warnings were of no avail. Many years more he lived facing the curve of the gulf, the sparkling sea, and the smiles of earth. A decree of the gods was necessary.
Mercury came and seized the impudent man by the collar and, snatching him from his joys, lead him forcibly back to the underworld, where his rock was ready for him. You have already grasped that Sisyphus is the absurd hero. He is, as much through his passions as through his torture. His scorn of the gods, his hatred of death, and his passion for life won him that unspeakable penalty in which the whole being is exerted toward accomplishing nothing. This is the price that must be paid for the passions of this earth. Nothing is told us about Sisyphus in the underworld. Myths are made for the imagination to breathe life into them.
As for this myth, one sees merely the whole effort of a body straining to raise the huge stone, to roll it, and push it up a slope a hundred times over; one sees the face screwed up, the cheek tight against the stone, the shoulder bracing the clay-covered mass, the foot wedging it, the fresh start with arms outstretched, the wholly human security of two earth-clotted hands. At the very end of his long effort measured by skyless space and time without depth, the purpose is achieved. Then Sisyphus watches the stone rush down in a few moments toward tlower world whence he will have to push it up again toward the summit.
He goes back down to the plain. It is during that return, that pause, that Sisyphus interests me. A face that toils so close to stones is already stone itself! I see that man going back down with a heavy yet measured step toward the torment of which he will never know the end. That hour like a breathing-space which returns as surely as his suffering, that is the hour of consciousness. At each of those moments when he leaves the heights and gradually sinks toward the lairs of the gods, he is superior to his fate. He is stronger than his rock. If this myth is tragic, that is because its hero is conscious.
Where would his torture be, indeed, if at every step the hope of succeeding upheld him? The workman of today works everyday in his life at the same tasks, and his fate is no less absurd. But it is tragic only at the rare moments when it becomes conscious. Sisyphus, proletarian of the gods, powerless and rebellious, knows the whole extent of his wretched condition: it is what he thinks of during his descent. The lucidity that was to constitute his torture at the same time crowns his victory. There is no fate that can not be surmounted by scorn.
If the descent is thus sometimes performed in sorrow, it can also take place in joy. This word is not too much. Again I fancy Sisyphus returning toward his rock, and the sorrow was in the beginning. When the images of earth cling too tightly to memory, when the call of happiness becomes too insistent, it happens that melancholy arises in mans heart: this is the rocks victory, this is the rock itself. The boundless grief is too heavy to bear. These are our nights of Gethsemane. But crushing truths perish from being acknowledged. Thus, Oedipus at the outset obeys fate without knowing it.
But from the moment he knows, his tragedy begins. Yet at the same moment, blind a nd desperate, he realizes that the only bond linking him to the world is the cool hand of a girl. Then a tremendous remark rings out: Despite so many ordeals, my advanced age and the nobility of my soul make me conclude that all is well. Sophocles Oedipus, like Dostoevskys Kirilov, thus gives the recipe for the absurd victory. Ancient wisdom confirms modern heroism. One does not discover the absurd without being tempted to write a manual of happiness. What! by such narrow ways ¦?
There is but one world, however. Happiness and the absurd are two sons of the same earth. They are inseparable. It would be a mistake to say that happiness necessarily springs from the absurd. Discovery. It happens as well that the felling of the absurd springs from happiness. I conclude that all is well, says Oedipus, and that remark is sacred. It echoes in the wild and limited universe of man. It teaches that all is not, has not been, exhausted. It drives out of this world a god who had come into it with dissatisfaction and a preference for futile suffering.
It makes of fate a human matter, which must be settled among men. All Sisyphus silent joy is contained therein. His fate belongs to him. His rock is a thing. Likewise, the absurd man, when he contemplates his torment, silences all the idols. In the universe suddenly restored to its silence, the myriad wondering little voices of the earth rise up. Unconscious, secret calls, invitations from all the faces, they are the necessary reverse and price of victory. There is no sun without shadow, and it is essential to know the night. The absurd man says yes and his efforts will henceforth be unceasing.
If there is a personal fate, there is no higher destiny, or at least there is, but one which he concludes is inevitable and despicable. For the rest, he knows himself to be the master of his days. At that subtle moment when man glances backward over his life, Sisyphus returning toward his rock, in that slight pivoting he contemplates that series of unrelated actions which become his fate, created by him, combined under his memorys eye and soon sealed by his death. Thus, convinced of the wholly human origin of all that is human, a blind man eager to see who knows that the night has no end, he is still on the go.
The rock is still rolling. I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain! One always finds ones burden again. But Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that negates the gods and raises rocks. He too concludes that all is well. This universe henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night filled mountain, in itself forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a mans heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy. 4. ””””””””””””””””- Simone de Beauvoir.
Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986) was a French author and philosopher. Simone de Beauvoir was also close friend and lover to Jean-Paul Sartre and was a frequent editor of his works. In addition to Sartre, de Beauvoir had a great interest in the works of many other philosophical thinkers of her time, including Albert Camus. On her own, she is most recognized for her work The Second Sex which most clearly establishes de Beauvoirs feminist views. 5. ””””””””””””””””- Martin Heidegger Martin Heidegger (18891976) was a German philosopher and student of Edmund Husserl.
Heidegger made contributions tophenomenonology and existentialism. Being and Time Heidegger spent most of his career dealing with the concept ofbeing, and his most famous work, Being and Time, is an exploration of the nature of being. Being, Heidegger thought, has been neglected since the birth of Western philosophy. The ancient Greek philosophers began a tradition, according to Heidegger, by describing being only by objects that are beings, rather than attempting to understand the nature of being ” that is, what it means to be.
Heidegger explains that being, unlike other verbs which are, in language, treated equally, is something entirely different. He describes being as a phenomenological construct, highly dependant on human understanding, saying famously, Only as phenomenology, is ontology possible. Whereas more traditional accounts of being, and of existence, describe objects with properties as independant from conciousness, Heidegger argues that our understanding of being is fundamental to it. A major part of Heideggers account of being is Dasein.
The German word Dasein means existence, but in Heideggers use it more specifically refers to the understanding of beings that understand being. Heidegger rejects the objects and subjects of previous philosophers, such as Kant and Descartes, and describes Dasein as being-in-the-world, (In-der-Welt-sein). Heidegger explains that previous philosophers have mistakenly viewed the concious thinker as a subject on its own. Instead, he says, people (or thinkers, or Dasein) are always in the world, interacting with it, influenced by their mood and generally concerned about being, whether actively or dimly.
6. Heidegger and the Nazi Party Heideggers contributions were largely disregarded in the years during and after World War II due to his activity in the German Nazi party from 1933 to 1945. While his political actions may not be honorable or respected today, many of his philiophical works are valuable contributions when seperated from the man himeself. (Heideggers support of the Nazi party even seems to contradict some of his existentialist views).
Heidegger objected to being labeled as an existentialist because the title put him in the same category as Albert Camus and Heideggers former student Jean-Paul Sartre, whom he did not want to be associated with due to their French political standings. AlthoughBeing and Time is dedicated to him, Heidegger eventually rejected the phenomenology developed by Husserl, mostly due to his Jewish lineage. Heidegger gave a series of lectures onFriedrich Nietzsche, although many saw this as a perversion of Nietzsches work used to support Nazi doctrine.
Still, many of the concepts were shared between all of these writers. Heidegger particularly believed in freedom of choice, and the responsibility for ones actions that naturally followed. Even under pressure, man is still capable of choice, he explains, and outside influence cannot be blamed for the actions of an individual. Heidegger can be credited for bringing attention to the works ofSoren Kierkegaard. He was also a friend of Karl Jaspers. Works * The Basic Problems of Phenomenology * Being and Time * An Introduction to Metaphysics 7. Karl Jaspers (18831969) was a German psychiatrist and philosopher.
He earned an MD at the University of Heidelberg in Germany where he later taught psychology and then philosophy (but was relieved of this position during Nazi power because his ideas opposed theirs). Jaspers philosophy centered around what he called the encompassing. This transcendent reality, as he described, transcended that which we could percieve naturally, and contained within it human existence. Jaspers, like Kierkegaard, recognized the missing logic of his religious conclusion, but explained that his leap of faith was a choice”which is, of course, an expression of his right.
Jaspers also valued the scientific process, and felt that it was a necessary stage in coming to understand the encompassing. He saw understading the freedom of the individual in the concrete world”and the obvious limits to that freedom”as the most important part of existence, which led him to be classified as an existentialist (a classifcation he rejected due to its apparent limitations). Jaspers limits included mortality, conscience, conflict and chance. Jaspers was also friends with Martin Heidegger, although they became distant due to differences of philosophy, as well as Heideggers involvement with the Nazi party. 8.
Gabriel Marcel (18891973) was a french philosopher and christian existentialist. He dubbed himself as a concrete philosopher, stressing becoming more involved in ones existence rather than forming abstract ideas. Marcel viewed philosophy as an inner reflection rather than the formation of a doctrine. 9. ””””””””””””””””- Franz Kafka Novelist Franz Kafka (18831924) came from a middle-class Jewish family in Prague. He lived with his parents for most of his life, despite his hyper-sensitivity to noise. Kafkas works are known for his blunt style and absurd situations, particularly in The Metamorphosis.
Works A number of Franz Kafkas early works were lost or destroyed. Others, still, went unfinished by Kafka. * The Castle * A Country Doctor * A Hunger Artist * In the Penal Colony * The Judgement * The Metamorphosis (Read Online) * The Stroker (or The Man who Disappeared) * The Trial 1. Edmund Husserl (18591938) was a German philosopher and professor who founded the school of phenomenonology. Husserl was born in what is now the Czech Republic. He earned a Ph. D. in mathematics before attending lectures by Franz Brentano, which lured him into philosophy. Husserl was a teacher of Martin Heidegger, who also served as Husserls assistant.
Heideggers main work, Being and Time was originally dedicated to Husserl, although this dedication was removed in 1941 out of fear that the Nazi party would ban it. The relationship between the two worsened after Heidegger began to support the Nazi party. Husserl also had significant influence on the work of Jean-Paul Sartre. 1. Existentialism: A Philosophy English 11 (Honors) April 29, 2008 Mr. K. Smith 2. So, what is Existentialism? Existentialism is a philosophical movement that posits that individuals create the meaning and essence of their lives, as opposed to deities or authorities creating it for them.
3. So, what is Existentialism? It emerged as a movement in twentieth-century literature and philosophy, though it had forerunners in earlier centuries. Existentialism generally postulates that the absence of a transcendent force (such as God) means that the individual is entirely free, and, therefore, ultimately responsible. It is up to humans to create an ethos of personal responsibility outside any branded belief system. In existentialist views, personal articulation of being is the only way to rise above humanitys absurd c.