The Meaning Of Life: Existentialism, The Universe and Social Problems

Meaning of life
Free download. Book file PDF easily for everyone and every device. You can download and read online The Meaning Of Life: Existentialism, The Universe and Social Problems file PDF Book only if you are registered here. And also you can download or read online all Book PDF file that related with The Meaning Of Life: Existentialism, The Universe and Social Problems book. Happy reading The Meaning Of Life: Existentialism, The Universe and Social Problems Bookeveryone. Download file Free Book PDF The Meaning Of Life: Existentialism, The Universe and Social Problems at Complete PDF Library. This Book have some digital formats such us :paperbook, ebook, kindle, epub, fb2 and another formats. Here is The CompletePDF Book Library. It's free to register here to get Book file PDF The Meaning Of Life: Existentialism, The Universe and Social Problems Pocket Guide. But if fanaticism and dogmatism which absolutize a historical truth are avoided on the one hand while relativism and skepticism which affirm the equivalence of all truths are avoided on the other, then the only other way is a constant confrontation between the different truths through an always more extended and deepened intersubjective communication.

Sartre, however, denied that there is authentic communication. According to him, consciousness is not only the nullification of things but also the nullification of the other person as other. To look at another person is to make of him a thing. Such is the profound meaning of the myth of Medusa. Sexuality itself, which Sartre held to be an essential aspect of existence, fluctuates between sadism and masochism , in which either the other person or oneself is merely a thing.

On that basis, the intersubjective relationship is obviously impossible. Heidegger pointed to the foundation of the intersubjective relationship in dread. When a person decides to escape from the banality of anonymous existence—which hides the nothingness of existence, or the nonreality of its possibilities, behind the mask of daily concerns—his understanding of that nothingness leads him to choose the only unconditioned and insurmountable possibility that belongs to him: The possibility of death, unlike the possibilities that relate him to other things and to other humans, isolates him.

It is a certain possibility, not through its apodictic evidence but because it continuously weighs upon existence. They enable one only to perceive the common destiny to which all humans are subject; and they offer, therefore, the possibility of remaining faithful to that destiny and of freely accepting the necessity that all humans have in common.

In that fidelity consists the historicity of existence, which is the repetition of tradition, the return to the possibilities from which existence had earlier been constituted , the wanting for the future what has been in the past. And in that historicity participate not only humans but all of the things of the world, in their utilizability and instrumentality, and even the totality of Nature as the locus of history.

Dread , therefore, is not fear in the face of a specific danger. It is rather the emotive understanding of the nullity of the possible, or, as Jaspers said, of the possibility of Nothingness. It has, therefore, a therapeutic function in that it leads human existence to its authenticity. From the fall into factuality into which every project plunges him, the individual can save himself only by projecting not to project—i.

The pivotal point of that conclusion—the conclusion most widely held among the existentialists and the one in fact often identified with existentialism—is the antithesis between possibility and reality. The contradiction to which that antithesis leads becomes clear when the same reality is interpreted in terms of possibility: It has been said that a coherent existentialism should avoid the constant mortal leap between Being and Nothingness; should not confuse the problematic character of existence with the fall into factuality; should not confuse the finitude of possibilities with resignation to the situation, choice with determinism, freedom conditioned by the limits of the situation with the acknowledgment of the omnipresent necessity of the Whole.

In that inquiry, it is held, existentialism could well benefit from a more attentive consideration of science, which it has viewed only as a preparatory, imperfect, and objectifying knowledge in comparison with the authentic understanding of Being, which it considers to be a more fundamental mode of the being of humans in the world. Science , it is submitted, offers today the example of an extensive and coherent use of the concept of the possible in the key notions that it employs, especially in those branches that are interdisciplinary—among them such notions as indeterminacy, chance, probability , field, model, project, structure, and conditionality.

Some steps in that direction were taken by Abbagnano and by Merleau-Ponty. According to the latter, considerations of probability are rooted in the being of humans, inasmuch as they are situated in the world and invested with the ambiguity of events. Our freedom does not destroy our situation, but is engaged with it. The situation in which we live is open. This implies both that it appeals to modes of privileged resolution and that it is of itself powerless to obtain one of them.

From that point of view, there is always a certain freedom in situations, although its degree varies from situation to situation. Among the thinkers most frequently mentioned here, the concept of the necessity of Being prevails as the basis of their metaphysical or theological orientations. Heidegger came more and more to insist on the massive presence of Being in the face of human existence, by attributing to Being all initiative and to humans only the possibility of abandoning themselves to Being and to the things that are the modes of the language of Being.

For Heidegger, Being is interpreted better through the etymology of those words that designate the most common things of daily life than through the analysis of existential possibilities. Jaspers saw the revelation of transcendence in ciphers—i. Existentialism has a theological dimension. Although Heidegger rejected the label of atheist, he also denied to the Being of which he spoke the essential qualifications of divinity, inasmuch as it is not the ultimate cause and the Good. But Jaspers, in his last writings, emphasized more and more the religious character of faith in transcendence.

Faith is the way to withdraw from the world and to resume contact with the Being that is beyond the world. Faith is life itself, in that it returns to the encompassing Whole and allows itself to be guided and fulfilled by it. Jaspers even developed a theology of history. He spoke of an axial age, which he placed between the 8th and 2nd centuries bce , the age in which the great religions and the great philosophers of the Orient arose— Confucius and Laozi , the Upanishads , Buddha , Zoroaster, the great prophets of Israel —and in Greece the age of Homer and of Classical philosophy as well as Thucydides and Archimedes.

In that age, for the first time, humans became aware of Being in general, of themselves, and of their limits. The age in which humans now live, that of science and technology, is perhaps the beginning of a new axial age that is the authentic destiny of humans but a destiny that is far off and unimaginable. For Bultmann , the theologian of the demythologization of Christianity , inauthentic existence is tied to the past, to fact, to the world, while authentic existence is open to the future, to the nonfact, to the nonworld—i.

Thus, authentic existence is not the self-projection of humans in the world but, rather, the self-projection of humans in the love of and obedience to God. But that self-projection is no longer the work of human freedom; it is the saving event that enters miraculously through faith into the future possibilities of humans. In such theological speculations and in others that are comparable, the common presupposition of the existentialists is recognized—i.

There is either an acknowledgment of that gap, with existence assuming the role of the demonic the alternative that Sartre and others have all illustrated above all in their literary works , or an acknowledgment of the hidden participation of human existence in Being through a gratuitous initiative on the part of Being. Kierkegaard had earlier distinguished three stages of existence between which there is neither development nor continuity but gaps and jumps: The ethical and religious stages correspond roughly to what Heidegger and Jaspers called, respectively, the inauthenticity and the authenticity of existence.

Art was not as a rule recognized by modern existentialists as an autonomous stage; it was almost always for them an essential manifestation of existence itself. For Jaspers , it is a mode of reading in nature, in history, and in humans the cipher of transcendence —i. According to Camus , it is an aspect of human revolt against the world. The artist tries to remake the sketch of the world that is before him and to give it the style—that is to say, the coherence and unity—that it lacks. For that purpose, he selects the elements of the world and freely combines them in order to create a value that escapes humans continuously but that the artist perceives and tries to salvage from the flux of history.

From that point of view, art would be a way of reshaping the world beyond its factual forms, in order that it might show their negative and troublesome characteristics. The directions of contemporary art that have deliberately forsaken the imitation of reality find their justification in that point of view. We welcome suggested improvements to any of our articles. You can make it easier for us to review and, hopefully, publish your contribution by keeping a few points in mind.

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Substantive issues in existentialism Fundamental concepts and contrasts Both the ontology and manner of human existence are of concern to existentialism. Ontic structure of human existence The fundamental characteristic of existentialist ontology is the primacy that study of the nature of existence gives to the concept of possibility. Manner and style of human existence Existentialism is never a solipsism in the proper sense of the term, because every existential possibility relates the individual to things and to other humans.

Problems of existentialist philosophy The key problems for existentialism are those of the individual himself, of his situation in the world, and of his more ultimate significance. Humanity and human relationships Existentialist anthropology is strictly connected with its ontology.

The human situation in the world Heidegger pointed to the foundation of the intersubjective relationship in dread. Significance of Being and transcendence Among the thinkers most frequently mentioned here, the concept of the necessity of Being prevails as the basis of their metaphysical or theological orientations.

Problems of existentialist theology Existentialism has a theological dimension. Page 2 of 3. Next page Social and historical projections of existentialism. Learn More in these related Britannica articles: Existentialism , true to its roots in Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, was oriented toward two major themes: Thus, its chief theoretical energies were devoted to ontology and decision. People, said Sartre, know only that they exist and are free to cast their own lot. Existentialist thinkers are interested in anxiety because anxiety individualizes one it is when I feel Angst more than everything that I come face to face with my own individual existence as distinct from all other entities around me.

Man is not a thinking thing de-associated from the world, as in Cartesian metaphysics, but a being which finds itself in various moods such as anxiety or boredom. Like Kierkegaard, Heidegger also believes that anxiety is born out of the terror of nothingness. In this article we have discussed the ambiguous or at times downright critical attitude of many existentialists toward the uncritical and unreflecting masses of people who, in a wholly anti-Kantian and thus also anti-Enlightenment move, locate the meaning of their existence in an external authority.

They thus give up their purported autonomy as rational beings. For Heidegger, Dasein for the most part lives inauthentically in that Dasein is absorbed in a way of life produced by others, not by Dasein itself. Heidegger was a highly original thinker. His project was nothing less than the overcoming of Western metaphysics through the positing of the forgotten question of being. He stands in a critical relation to past philosophers but simultaneously he is heavily indebted to them, much more than he would like to admit.

This is not to question his originality, it is to recognize that thought is not an ex nihilo production; it comes as a response to things past, and aims towards what is made possible through that past. In the public consciousness, at least, Sartre must surely be the central figure of existentialism. All the themes that we introduced above come together in his work. With the possible exception of Nietzsche, his writings are the most widely anthologised especially the lovely, if oversimplifying, lecture 'Existentialism and Humanism' and his literary works are widely read especially the novel Nausea or performed.

Although uncomfortable in the limelight, he was nevertheless the very model of a public intellectual, writing hundreds of short pieces for public dissemination and taking resolutely independent and often controversial stands on major political events. His writings that are most clearly existentialist in character date from Sartre's early and middle period, primarily the s and s. From the s onwards, Sartre moved his existentialism towards a philosophy the purpose of which was to understand the possibility of a genuinely revolutionary politics.

Sartre was in his late 20s when he first encountered phenomenology, specifically the philosophical ideas of Edmund Husserl. We should point out that Heidegger was also deeply influenced by Husserl, but it is less obvious in the language he employs because he drops the language of consciousness and acts. Of particular importance, Sartre thought, was Husserl's notion of intentionality. In Sartre's interpretation of this idea, consciousness is not to be identified with a thing for example a mind, soul or brain , that is to say some kind of a repository of ideas and images of things.

Rather, consciousness is nothing but a directedness towards things. Sartre found a nice way to sum up the notion of the intentional object: If I love her, I love her because she is lovable Sartre Within my experience, her lovableness is not an aspect of my image of her, rather it is a feature of her and ultimately a part of the world towards which my consciousness directs itself. The things I notice about her her smile, her laugh are not originally neutral, and then I interpret the idea of them as 'lovely', they are aspects of her as lovable.

The notion that consciousness is not a thing is vital to Sartre. Indeed, consciousness is primarily to be characterised as nothing: Sartre calls human existence the 'for-itself', and the being of things the 'in-itself'. Because it is not a thing, it is not subject to the laws of things; specifically, it is not part of a chain of causes and its identity is not akin to that of a substance. Above we suggested that a concern with the nature of existence, and more particularly a concern with the distinctive nature of human existence, are defining existentialist themes.

Moreover, qua consciousness, and not a thing that is part of the causal chain, I am free. From moment to moment, my every action is mine alone to choose. I will of course have a past 'me' that cannot be dispensed with; this is part of my 'situation'. However, again, I am first and foremost not my situation. Thus, at every moment I choose whether to continue on that life path, or to be something else. Thus, my existence the mere fact that I am is prior to my essence what I make of myself through my free choices. I am thus utterly responsible for myself.

If my act is not simply whatever happens to come to mind, then my action may embody a more general principle of action. This principle too is one that I must have freely chosen and committed myself to. It is an image of the type of life that I believe has value. In these ways, Sartre intersects with the broadly Kantian account of freedom which we introduced above in our thematic section.

As situated, I also find myself surrounded by such images — from religion, culture, politics or morality — but none compels my freedom. All these forces that seek to appropriate my freedom by objectifying me form Sartre's version of the crowd theme. I exist as freedom, primarily characterised as not determined, so my continuing existence requires the ever renewed exercise of freedom thus, in our thematic discussion above, the notion from Spinoza and Leibniz of existence as a striving-to-exist.

Thus also, my non-existence, and the non-existence of everything I believe in, is only a free choice away. I in the sense of an authentic human existence am not what I 'am' the past I have accumulated, the things that surround me, or the way that others view me. I am alone in my responsibility; my existence, relative to everything external that might give it meaning, is absurd. Face to face with such responsibility, I feel 'anxiety'. Notice that although Sartre's account of situatedness owes much to Nietzsche and Heidegger, he sees it primarily in terms of what gives human freedom its meaning and its burden.

Nietzsche and Heidegger, in contrast, view such a conception of freedom as naively metaphysical. Suppose, however, that at some point I am conscious of myself in a thing-like way. For example, I say 'I am a student' treating myself as having a fixed, thing-like identity or 'I had no choice' treating myself as belonging to the causal chain.

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I am ascribing a fixed identity or set of qualities to myself, much as I would say 'that is a piece of granite'. In that case I am existing in denial of my distinctively human mode of existence; I am fleeing from my freedom. This is inauthenticity or 'bad faith'. As we shall see, inauthenticity is not just an occasional pitfall of human life, but essential to it. Human existence is a constant falling away from an authentic recognition of its freedom. Sartre here thus echoes the notion in Heidegger than inauthenticity is a condition of possibility of human existence. Intentionality manifests itself in another important way.

Rarely if ever am I simply observing the world; instead I am involved in wanting to do something, I have a goal or purpose. Here, intentional consciousness is not a static directedness towards things, but is rather an active projection towards the future. Suppose that I undertake as my project marrying my beloved. This is an intentional relation to a future state of affairs. As free, I commit myself to this project and must reaffirm that commitment at every moment.

It is part of my life project, the image of human life that I offer to myself and to others as something of value. Notice, however, that my project involves inauthenticity. I project myself into the future where I will be married to her — that is, I define myself as 'married', as if I were a fixed being. Thus there is an essential tension to all projection. On the one hand, the mere fact that I project myself into the future is emblematic of my freedom; only a radically free consciousness can project itself.

I exist as projecting towards the future which, again, I am not. Thus, I am in the sense of an authentic self what I am not because my projecting is always underway towards the future. On the other hand, in projecting I am projecting myself as something , that is, as a thing that no longer projects, has no future, is not free. Every action, then, is both an expression of freedom and also a snare of freedom.

I seek to become the impossible object, for-itself-in-itself, a thing that is both free and a mere thing. Born of this tension is a recognition of freedom, what it entails, and its essential fragility. Thus, once again, we encounter existential anxiety. In this article, we have not stressed the importance of the concept of time for existentialism, but it should not be overlooked: In my intentional directedness towards my beloved I find her 'loveable'.

This too, though, is an objectification. Within my intentional gaze, she is loveable in much the same way that granite is hard or heavy. Insofar as I am in love, then, I seek to deny her freedom. Insofar, however, as I wish to be loved by her, then she must be free to choose me as her beloved. If she is free, she escapes my love; if not, she cannot love. Love here is a case study in the basic forms of social relation. Sartre is thus moving from an entirely individualistic frame of reference my self, my freedom and my projects towards a consideration of the self in concrete relations with others.

Sartre is working through — in a way he would shortly see as being inadequate — the issues presented by the Hegelian dialectic of recognition, which we mentioned above. This 'hell' of endlessly circling acts of freedom and objectification is brilliantly dramatised in Sartre's play No Exit. A few years later at the end of the s, Sartre wrote what has been published as Notebooks for an Ethics. Sartre influenced in the meantime by the criticisms of Merleau-Ponty and de Beauvoir, and by his increasing commitment to collectivist politics elaborated greatly his existentialist account of relations with others, taking the Hegelian idea more seriously.

He no longer thinks of concrete relations so pessimistically. While Nietzsche and Heidegger both suggest the possibility of an authentic being with others, both leave it seriously under-developed. For our purposes, there are two key ideas in the Notebooks. The first is that my projects can be realised only with the cooperation of others; however, that cooperation presupposes their freedom I cannot make her love me , and their judgements about me must concern me. Therefore permitting and nurturing the freedom of others must be a central part of all my projects.

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Sartre thus commits himself against any political, social or economic forms of subjugation. Second, there is the possibility of a form of social organisation and action in which each individual freely gives him or herself over to a joint project: An authentic existence, for Sartre, therefore means two things. First, it is something like a 'style' of existing — one that at every moment is anxious, and that means fully aware of the absurdity and fragility of its freedom.

Second, though, there is some minimal level of content to any authentic project: Subsequently a star Normalienne , she was a writer, philosopher, feminist, lifelong partner of Jean-Paul Sartre, notorious for her anti-bourgeois way of living and her free sexual relationships which included among others a passionate affair with the American writer Nelson Algren. The debate rests of course upon the fundamental misconception that wants a body of work to exist and develop independently of or uninfluenced by its intellectual environment. In Being and Nothingness , the groundwork of the Existentialist movement in France was published.

There Sartre gave an account of freedom as ontological constitutive of the subject. One cannot but be free: There, as well as in an essay from the same year titled 'The war has taken place' , Merleau-Ponty heavily criticizes the Sartrean stand, criticising it as a reformulation of basic Stoic tenets. One cannot assume freedom in isolation from the freedom of others. Moreover action takes place within a certain historical context. For Merleau-Ponty the subjective free-will is always in a dialectical relationship with its historical context.

Existential nihilism

Like Sartre it is only later in her life that this will be acknowledged. In Ethics of Ambiguity de Beauvoir offers a picture of the human subject as constantly oscillating between facticity and transcendence. Whereas the human is always already restricted by the brute facts of his existence, nevertheless it always aspires to overcome its situation, to choose its freedom and thus to create itself. This tension must be considered positive, and not restrictive of action. The term for this tension is ambiguity. Ambiguity is not a quality of the human as substance, but a characterisation of human existence.

We are ambiguous beings destined to throw ourselves into the future while simultaneously it is our very own existence that throws us back into facticity. It is exactly because of and through this fundamental failure that we realize that our ethical relation to the world cannot be self-referential but must pass through the realization of the common destiny of the human as a failed and interrelated being.

De Beauvoir, unlike Sartre, was a scholarly reader of Hegel. There Hegel describes the movement in which self-consciousness produces itself by positing another would be self-consciousness, not as a mute object Gegen-stand but as itself self-consciousness. It is, Hegel tells us, only because someone else recognizes me as a subject that I can be constituted as such.

Outside the moment of recognition there is no self-consciousness. De Beauvoir takes to heart the Hegelian lesson and tries to formulate an ethics from it. What would this ethics be? Thus there are no recipes for ethics. This is not a point to be taken light-heartedly. It constitutes a movement of opposition against a long tradition of philosophy understanding itself as theoria: De Beauvoir, in common with most existentialists, understands philosophy as praxis: It is out of this understanding that The Second Sex is born.

In English in it appeared as The Second Sex in an abridged translation. The Second Sex is an exemplary text showing how a philosophical movement can have real, tangible effects on the lives of many people, and is a magnificent exercise in what philosophy could be. The subject is irritating, especially for women The Second Sex begins with the most obvious but rarely posed question: De Beauvoir finds that at present there is no answer to that question.

The reason is that tradition has always thought of woman as the other of man. It is only man that constitutes himself as a subject as the Absolute de Beauvoir says , and woman defines herself only through him. But why is it that woman has initially accepted or tolerated this process whereby she becomes the other of man?

It is indeed easier for one — anyone — to assume the role of an object for example a housewife 'kept' by her husband than to take responsibility for creating him or herself and creating the possibilities of freedom for others. Naturally the condition of bad faith is not always the case. Often women found themselves in a sociocultural environment which denied them the very possibility of personal flourishing as happens with most of the major religious communities.

A further problem that women face is that of understanding themselves as a unity which would enable them to assume the role of their choosing. Women primarily align themselves to their class or race and not to other women. One of the most celebrated moments in The Second Sex is the much quoted phrase: For some feminists this clearly inaugurates the problematic of the sex-gender distinction where sex denotes the biological identity of the person and gender the cultural attribution of properties to the sexed body.

Thus the sex assignment a doctor pronouncing the sex of the baby is a naturalized but not at all natural normative claim which delivers the human into a world of power relations. Albert Camus was a French intellectual, writer and journalist.

His multifaceted work as well as his ambivalent relation to both philosophy and existentialism makes every attempt to classify him a rather risky operation. A recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature primarily for his novels, he is also known as a philosopher due to his non-literary work and his relation with Jean-Paul Sartre.

And yet his response was clear: The issue is not just about the label 'existentialist'. It rather points to a deep tension within the current of thought of all thinkers associated with existentialism. With how many voices can thought speak? As we have already seen, the thinkers of existentialism often deployed more than one. Almost all of them share a deep suspicion to a philosophy operating within reason as conceived of by the Enlightenment.

Camus shares this suspicion and his so called philosophy of the absurd intends to set limits to the overambitions of Western rationality.

Existentialism | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Reason is absurd in that it believes that it can explain the totality of the human experience whereas it is exactly its inability for explanation that, for example, a moment of fall designates. In a similar fashion Camus has also repudiated his connection with existentialism. Camus accuses Hegel subsequently Marx himself of reducing man to history and thus denying man the possibility of creating his own history, that is, affirming his freedom. Philosophically, Camus is known for his conception of the absurd. Perhaps we should clarify from the very beginning what the absurd is not.

The absurd is not nihilism. For Camus the acceptance of the absurd does not lead to nihilism according to Nietzsche nihilism denotes the state in which the highest values devalue themselves or to inertia, but rather to their opposite: In a world devoid of God, eternal truths or any other guiding principle, how could man bear the responsibility of a meaning-giving activity? The absurd man, like an astronaut looking at the earth from above, wonders whether a philosophical system, a religion or a political ideology is able to make the world respond to the questioning of man, or rather whether all human constructions are nothing but the excessive face-paint of a clown which is there to cover his sadness.

This terrible suspicion haunts the absurd man. In one of the most memorable openings of a non-fictional book he states: Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy. All the rest — whether or not the world has three dimensions, whether the mind has nine or twelve categories — comes afterwards. The problem of suicide a deeply personal problem manifests the exigency of a meaning-giving response. It would mean that man is not any more an animal going after answers, in accordance with some inner drive that leads him to act in order to endow the world with meaning.

The suicide has become but a passive recipient of the muteness of the world. At the end one has to keep the absurd alive, as Camus says. But what does it that mean?

In The Myth of Sisyphus Camus tells the story of the mythical Sisyphus who was condemned by the Gods to ceaselessly roll a rock to the top of a mountain and then have to let it fall back again of its own weight. The lucidity that was to constitute his torture at the same time crowns his victory. One must imagine then Sisyphus victorious: Scorn is the appropriate response in the face of the absurd; another name for this 'scorn' though would be artistic creation.

Such madness can overcome the absurd without cancelling it altogether. Almost ten years after the publication of The Myth of Sisyphus Camus publishes his second major philosophical work, The Rebel Camus continues the problematic which had begun with The Myth of Sisyphus. Previously, revolt or creation had been considered the necessary response to the absurdity of existence. Here, Camus goes on to examine the nature of rebellion and its multiple manifestations in history. The problem is that while man genuinely rebels against both unfair social conditions and, as Camus says, against the whole of creation, nevertheless in the practical administration of such revolution, man comes to deny the humanity of the other in an attempt to impose his own individuality.

Take for example the case of the infamous Marquis de Sade which Camus explores. In Sade, contradictory forces are at work see The Days of Sodom. On the one hand, Sade wishes the establishment of a certainly mad community with desire as the ultimate master, and on the other hand this very desire consumes itself and all the subjects who stand in its way. Camus goes on to examine historical manifestations of rebellion, the most prominent case being that of the French Revolution. Camus argues that the revolution ended up taking the place of the transcendent values which it sought to abolish.

Substantive issues in existentialism

An all-powerful notion of justice now takes the place formerly inhabited by God. Camus fears that all revolutions end with the re-establishment of the State. Camus is led to examine the Marxist view of history as a possible response to the failed attempts at the establishment of a true revolutionary regime. Camus examines the similarities between the Christian and the Marxist conception of history. They both exhibit a bourgeois preoccupation with progress.

In the name of the future everything can be justified: History according to both views is the linear progress from a set beginning to a definite end the metaphysical salvation of man or the materialistic salvation of him in the future Communist society. This is, Camus argues, essentially nihilistic: Because historical revolutions are for the most part nihilistic movements, Camus suggests that it is the making-absolute of the values of the revolution that necessarily lead to their negation.

On the contrary a relative conception of these values will be able to sustain a community of free individuals who have not forgotten that every historical rebellion has begun by affirming a proto-value that of human solidarity upon which every other value can be based.

In the field of visual arts existentialism exercised an enormous influence, most obviously on the movement of Expressionism. Expressionism began in Germany at the beginning of the 20 th century. Abstract expressionism which included artists such as de Kooning and Pollock, and theorists such as Rosenberg continued with some of the same themes in the United States from the s and tended to embrace existentialism as one of its intellectual guides, especially after Sartre's US lecture tour in and a production of No Exit in New York.

German Expressionism was particularly important during the birth of the new art of cinema. Perhaps the closest cinematic work to Existentialist concerns remains F.

Expressionism became a world-wide style within cinema, especially as film directors like Lang fled Germany and ended up in Hollywood. Jean Genet's Un chant d'amour is a moving poetic exploration of desire. European directors such as Bergman and Godard are often associated with existentialist themes.

Godard's Vivre sa vie My Life to Live , is explicit in its exploration of the nature of freedom under conditions of extreme social and personal pressure. In the late 20 th and early 21 st centuries existentialist ideas became common in mainstream cinema, pervading the work of writers and directors such as Woody Allen, Richard Linklater, Charlie Kaufman and Christopher Nolan. Given that Sartre and Camus were both prominent novelists and playwrights, the influence of existentialism on literature is not surprising.

However, the influence was also the other way.

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Novelists such as Dostoevsky or Kafka, and the dramatist Ibsen, were often cited by mid-century existentialists as important precedents, right along with Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. Dostoevsky creates a character Ivan Karamazov in The Brothers Karamazov , who holds the view that if God is dead, then everything is permitted; both Nietzsche and Sartre discuss Dostoevsky with enthusiasm.

Within drama, the theatre of the absurd and most obviously Beckett were influenced by existentialist ideas; later playwrights such as Albee, Pinter and Stoppard continue this tradition. One of the key figures of 20 th century psychology, Sigmund Freud , was indebted to Nietzsche especially for his analysis of the role of psychology within culture and history, and for his view of cultural artefacts such as drama or music as 'unconscious' documentations of psychological tensions.

But a more explicit taking up of existentialist themes is found in the broad 'existentialist psychotherapy' movement. A common theme within this otherwise very diverse group is that previous psychology misunderstood the fundamental nature of the human and especially its relation to others and to acts of meaning-giving; thus also, previous psychology had misunderstood what a 'healthy' attitude to self, others and meaning might be.

Key figures here include Swiss psychologists Ludwig Binswanger and later Menard Boss, both of who were enthusiastic readers of Heidegger; the Austrian Frankl, who invented the method of logotherapy; in England, Laing and Cooper, who were explicitly influenced by Sartre; and in the United States, Rollo May, who stresses the ineradicable importance of anxiety.

As a whole, existentialism has had relatively little direct influence within philosophy. In Germany, existentialism and especially Heidegger was criticised for being obscure, abstract or even mystical in nature. The criticism was echoed by many in the analytic tradition. Heidegger and the existentialist were also taken to task for paying insufficient attention to social and political structures or values, with dangerous results.

In France, philosophers like Sartre were criticised by those newly under the influence of structuralism for paying insufficient attention to the nature of language and to impersonal structures of meaning. In short, philosophy moved on, and in different directions. Individual philosophers remain influential, however: Nietzsche and Heidegger in particular are very much 'live' topics in philosophy, even in the 21 st century.


However, there are some less direct influences that remain important. Let us raise three examples. Both the issue of freedom in relation to situation, and that of the philosophical significance of what otherwise might appear to be extraneous contextual factors, remain key, albeit in dramatically altered formulation, within the work of Michel Foucault or Alain Badiou, two figures central to late 20 th century European thought.

Likewise, the philosophical importance that the existentialists placed upon emotion has been influential, legitimising a whole domain of philosophical research even by philosophers who have no interest in existentialism. Similarly, existentialism was a philosophy that insisted philosophy could and should deal very directly with 'real world' topics such as sex, death or crime, topics that had most frequently been approached abstractly within the philosophical tradition. Mary Warnock wrote on existentialism and especially Sartre, for example, while also having an incredibly important and public role within recent applied ethics.

Existentialism Existentialism is a catch-all term for those philosophers who consider the nature of the human condition as a key philosophical problem and who share the view that this problem is best addressed through ontology. Key Themes of Existentialism Although a highly diverse tradition of thought, seven themes can be identified that provide some sense of overall unity. Philosophy as a Way of Life Philosophy should not be thought of primarily either as an attempt to investigate and understand the self or the world, or as a special occupation that concerns only a few.

Anxiety and Authenticity A key idea here is that human existence is in some way 'on its own'; anxiety or anguish is the recognition of this fact. Freedom The next key theme is freedom. Existence Although, of course, existentialism takes its name from the philosophical theme of 'existence', this does not entail that there is homogeneity in the manner existence is to be understood.

The Crowd Existentialism generally also carries a social or political dimension. Key Existentialist Philosophers a. Martin Heidegger as an Existentialist Philosopher Heidegger exercised an unparalleled influence on modern thought. Jean-Paul Sartre as an Existentialist Philosopher In the public consciousness, at least, Sartre must surely be the central figure of existentialism. Albert Camus as an Existentialist Philosopher Albert Camus was a French intellectual, writer and journalist.

The Influence of Existentialism a. The Arts and Psychology In the field of visual arts existentialism exercised an enormous influence, most obviously on the movement of Expressionism. Philosophy As a whole, existentialism has had relatively little direct influence within philosophy. References and Further Reading a. General Introductions Warnock Mary.

Oxford University Press, Barrett William. Anchor House, Cooper E. Wiley-Blackwell, Reynolds Jack. Acumen, Earnshaw Steven. A Guide for the Perplexed London: Existentialism from Dostoevsky to Sartre New York: Penguin, Paul S. Edinburg University Press, Solomon C. Oxford University Press, c. Primary Bibliography Beauvoir de Simone. The Ethics of Ambiguity New York: Citadel Press, Beauvoir de Simone. The Second Sex London: Jonathan Cape, Camus Albert. The Myth of Sisyphus London: Penguin, Camus Albert.

Penguin, b Camus Albert. The Fall , London: Yale University Press, Heidegger Martin. Basic Writings , London: Routledge, Heidegger Martin. Being and Time Oxford: Blackwell, Heidegger Martin. Identity and Difference Chicago: The Concept of Anxiety Princeton: Fear and Trembling New Jersey: A Selection , London: Penguin Book, Nietzsche Friedrich. Oxford University Press, Nietzsche Friedrich. The Gay Science Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Nietzsche Friedrich. Twilight of the Idols Oxford: On the Genealogy of Morality Cambridge: Being and Nothingness London and New York: Routledge, Sartre Jean-Paul, "Intentionality: A fundamental idea of Husserl's Phenomenology.

Secondary Bibliography Camus Todd Oliver. Albert Camus — A Life London: