a philosophical theory or attitude having various interpretations, generally emphasising the existence of the individual as a unique agent with free will and responsibility for his or her own acts, though living in a universe devoid of any certain knowledge of right and wrong; from one's plight as a free agent with uncertain guidelines may arise feelings of anguish. Existentialism is concerned more with concrete existence rather than abstract theories of essences; is contrasted with rationalism and empiricism; and is associated with Kierkegaard, Heidegger and Sartre, as well as others.
This is both a philosophical and literary movement which teaches that: Individual existence takes precedence over abstract concepts; humans are totally free and responsible for their own actions; no absolute values exist that are not grounded in human experience.
A philosophy whose central concern is the human subject’s ‘being’ in the world. Existentialism gives primacy to existence and then to essence. Among its main position is that all persons are estranged from their creativity and live in a world of objects; any attempt to realize a true human condition is to enter a struggle against estrangement.
Popular in the last century, the belief that existence comes before essence, that is, that who you are is only determined by you yourself, and not merely an accident of birth. Sartre is the most famous existentialist. It is in part a reaction to the ideas of Hegel and Nietzsche.
testing this system
A philosophical movement stressing individual responsibility for creating one's ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving.
A term derived from Soren Kierkegaard (d. 1855). It is usually applied to certain types of philosophical thinking which share a practical concern for individual existing persons and their freedom. Existentialist theology places emphases on the value of the individual person, the primacy of conscience, and the importance of freedom and authenticity in decision-making.
opposed to both rationalistic (a priori) and empirical (a posteriori) doctrines, and concludes that the problem of being, not that of epistemology, must take precedence in philosophical investigations. Being cannot be made a subjective or objective enquiry, since being is revealed to the individual by reflection on his own unique concrete existence in time and space. Existence is basic. It is the fact of an individual's presence and participation in a changing and potentially dangerous world. The self of which he is aware is a thinking being, and he understands himself in terms of his experience of himself and his situations. Back to top of this page
An attitude or philosophy concerning the fate of humanity and the individual which emphasizes free will and taking responsibility for the consequences of our acts.
The foremost exponent of existentialism in this century has been the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. Existentialism became a concern in Scandinavia primarily during World War II and afterwards. The following five points may be useful in understanding existentialism: 1. A problem of identity: Who am I? Existentialism attempts to answer the question. 2. The experience of one's own life or existence lacking a purpose or meaning. 3. A feeling of alienation. One feels fear and loneliness in the face of our well known world. The world is seen as absurd. Values have broken down. 4. One must accept one's own fear, loneliness and death as basic conditions of life. This provides a type of freedom. 5. The freedom is the freedom of choice, where you are not tied to anything. You can choose to take over your own life. You have also chosen responsibility.
See Existential ethics; Existential philosophy; Existentialism, religious; Protestant neo-orthodoxy; and Religious existentialism
(philosophy) a 20th-century philosophical movement; assumes that people are entirely free and thus responsible for what they make of themselves
a movement of thought, most influential in philosophy, theology, literature, and psychotherapy, which focuses on individual existence and subjectivity.
A worldview that maintains that all we can really know about life is that one exists, and that one's value and meaning is created by one's own will rather than by any innate human nature or transcendent purpose.
the theory that human experience is not describable in scientific or rational terms, with emphasis on man’s apparent freedom to make choices in a contingent and purposeless world.
any philosophical system that attempts to define what it means to be human in terms of “existence” (How does a human live?) rather than in terms of “essence” (What is a human?)
A philosophy of Kierkegaard - became popular as a means of interpreting the New Testament.
A philosophical movement embracing the view that the suffering individual must create meaning in an unknowable, chaotic, and seemingly empty universe.
A 20th-century philosophy which holds that humans must live their lives without any absolute values or divine laws. Many existentialists believe that since there is no guarantee of human worth or dignity, and no such thing as "human nature," humans have complete freedom to define humanity and a painful ethical responsibility to do so.
Philosophy holding that we live in a meaningless dangerous universe where each individual must be responsible for her or his existence.
Philosophical movement stemming from Kierkegaard and based on the doctrine that existence takes precedence over essence and holds that man is totally free and responsible for his acts, which is the source of dread and anguish that encompass him.
A philosophical perspective in which it is believed that humans are totally responsible for their actions; from this persepctive, art is a conscious act.
The idea that (human) existence is a series of free choices, the responsibility for which cannot be lessened by any set of rules, any circumstances, or any outside influences.
Existentialism is a philosophical movement that deals with human freedom. Existentialism itself is a revolt against traditional philosophy; it has been labeled a philosophy but a definition is difficult as its proponents have a marked difference in outlook (Schaeffer, 1968). Existentialist thought concerns itself with trying to understand fundamentals of the human condition and its relation to the world.