• He writes, “no one gives man his qualities– neither God, nor society, nor his parents and ancestors, nor he himself…No one is responsible for man’s being there at all,
    for his being such-and-such, or for his being in these circumstances or in this environment…Man is not the effect of some special purpose of a will, and end…”[66] Within this view, Nietzsche ties in his rejection of the existence of God,
    which he sees as a means to “redeem the world.”

  • Unlike Pascal, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche also considered the role of making free choices, particularly regarding fundamental values and beliefs, and how such choices change
    the nature and identity of the chooser.

  • The use of the word “nothing” in this context relates to the inherent insecurity about the consequences of one’s actions and to the fact that, in experiencing freedom as angst,
    one also realizes that one is fully responsible for these consequences.

  • [46] While this experience, in its basic phenomenological sense, constitutes the world as objective and oneself as objectively existing subjectivity (one experiences oneself
    as seen in the Other’s Look in precisely the same way that one experiences the Other as seen by him, as subjectivity), in existentialism, it also acts as a kind of limitation of freedom.

  • The actual life of the individual is what constitutes what could be called their “true essence” instead of an arbitrarily attributed essence others use to define them.

  • To live the life of the absurd means rejecting a life that finds or pursues specific meaning for man’s existence since there is nothing to be discovered.

  • As Kierkegaard defines it in Either/Or: “Let each one learn what he can; both of us can learn that a person’s unhappiness never lies in his lack of control over external conditions,
    since this would only make him completely unhappy.

  • A component of freedom is facticity, but not to the degree that this facticity determines one’s transcendent choices (one could then blame one’s background for making the
    choice one made [chosen project, from one’s transcendence]).

  • Existentialism asserts that people make decisions based on subjective meaning rather than pure rationality.

  • “[44] History Precursors[edit] Some have argued that existentialism has long been an element of European religious thought, even before the term came into use.

  • Facticity, in relation to authenticity, involves acting on one’s actual values when making a choice (instead of, like Kierkegaard’s Aesthete, “choosing” randomly), so that
    one takes responsibility for the act instead of choosing either-or without allowing the options to have different values.

  • [52] 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.

  • Another aspect of existential freedom is that one can change one’s values.

  • Another characteristic feature of the Look is that no Other really needs to have been there: It is possible that the creaking floorboard was simply the movement of an old
    house; the Look is not some kind of mystical telepathic experience of the actual way the Other sees one (there may have been someone there, but he could have not noticed that person).

  • Freedom “produces” angst when limited by facticity and the lack of the possibility of having facticity to “step in” and take responsibility for something one has done also
    produces angst.

  • The main point is the attitude one takes to one’s own freedom and responsibility and the extent to which one acts in accordance with this freedom.

  • Yet he continues to imply that a leap of faith is a possible means for an individual to reach a higher stage of existence that transcends and contains both an aesthetic and
    ethical value of life.

  • Common concepts in existentialist thought include existential crisis, dread, and anxiety in the face of an absurd world and free will, as well as authenticity, courage, and

  • An example of one focusing solely on possible projects without reflecting on one’s current facticity:[40] would be someone who continually thinks about future possibilities
    related to being rich (e.g.

  • However, to say that one is only one’s past would ignore the change a person undergoes in the present and future, while saying that one’s past is only what one was, would
    entirely detach it from the present self.

  • [18] For others, existentialism need not involve the rejection of God, but rather “examines mortal man’s search for meaning in a meaningless universe”, considering less “What
    is the good life?”

  • In this experience that “nothing is holding me back”, one senses the lack of anything that predetermines one to either throw oneself off or to stand still, and one experiences
    one’s own freedom.

  • [62][63] Kierkegaard and Nietzsche were two of the first philosophers considered fundamental to the existentialist movement, though neither used the term “existentialism”
    and it is unclear whether they would have supported the existentialism of the 20th century.

  • 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, meaning that it is what has formed
    the person who exists in the present.

  • [55] Confusion with nihilism Although nihilism and existentialism are distinct philosophies, they are often confused with one another since both are rooted in the human experience
    of anguish and confusion that stems from the apparent meaninglessness of a world in which humans are compelled to find or create meaning.

  • The more positive, therapeutic aspect of this is also implied: a person can choose to act in a different way, and to be a good person instead of a cruel person.

  • Although “prescriptions” against the possible deleterious consequences of these kinds of encounters vary, from Kierkegaard’s religious “stage” to Camus’ insistence on persevering
    in spite of absurdity, the concern with helping people avoid living their lives in ways that put them in the perpetual danger of having everything meaningful break down is common to most existentialist philosophers.

  • The focus on freedom in existentialism is related to the limits of responsibility one bears, as a result of one’s freedom.

  • To try to suppress feelings of anxiety and dread, people confine themselves within everyday experience, Sartre asserted, thereby relinquishing their freedom and acquiescing
    to being possessed in one form or another by “the Look” of “the Other” (i.e., possessed by another person—or at least one’s idea of that other person).

  • [30] The absurd[edit] Main article: Absurdism Sisyphus, the symbol of the absurdity of existence, painting by Franz Stuck (1920) The notion of the absurd contains the idea
    that there is no meaning in the world beyond what meaning we give it.

  • [29] Heidegger commented that “the reversal of a metaphysical statement remains a metaphysical statement”, meaning that he thought Sartre had simply switched the roles traditionally
    attributed to essence and existence without interrogating these concepts and their history.

  • According to Sartre, rationality and other forms of bad faith hinder people from finding meaning in freedom.

  • [50] In existentialism, it is more specifically a loss of hope in reaction to a breakdown in one or more of the defining qualities of one’s self or identity.

  • [17] 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.

  • For the conscious state of shame to be experienced, one has to become aware of oneself as an object of another look, proving a priori, that other minds exist.

  • So long as a person’s identity depends on qualities that can crumble, they are in perpetual despair—and as there is, in Sartrean terms, no human essence found in conventional
    reality on which to constitute the individual’s sense of identity, despair is a universal human condition.

  • It can also be seen in relation to the previous point how angst is before nothing, and this is what sets it apart from fear that has an object.

  • 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”.

  • However, this does not change the fact that freedom remains a condition of every action.

  • Both have committed many crimes, but the first man, remembering nothing, leads a rather normal life while the second man, feeling trapped by his own past, continues a life
    of crime, blaming his own past for “trapping” him in this life.

  • The rejection of reason as the source of meaning is a common theme of existentialist thought, as is the focus on the anxiety and dread that we feel in the face of our own
    radical free will and our awareness of death.

  • A denial of one’s concrete past constitutes an inauthentic lifestyle, and also applies to other kinds of facticity (having a human body—e.g., one that does not allow a person
    to run faster than the speed of sound—identity, values, etc.).

  • The second view, first elaborated by Søren Kierkegaard, holds that absurdity is limited to actions and choices of human beings.

  • 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.

  • To clarify, when one experiences someone else, and this Other person experiences the world (the same world that a person experiences)—only from “over there”—the world is constituted
    as objective in that it is something that is “there” as identical for both of the subjects; a person experiences the other person as experiencing the same things.

  • [26]: 1–4  Sartre is committed to a radical conception of freedom: nothing fixes our purpose but we ourselves, our projects have no weight or inertia except for our endorsement
    of them.

  • By contrast, Kierkegaard, opposed to the level of abstraction in Hegel, and not nearly as hostile (actually welcoming) to Christianity as Nietzsche, argues through a pseudonym
    that the objective certainty of religious truths (specifically Christian) is not only impossible, but even founded on logical paradoxes.

  • [citation needed] How one “should” act is often determined by an image one has, of how one in such a role (bank manager, lion tamer, sex worker, etc.)

  • Therefore, not every choice is perceived as having dreadful possible consequences (and, it can be claimed, human lives would be unbearable if every choice facilitated dread).

  • Instead, the phrase should be taken to say that people are defined only insofar as they act and that they are responsible for their actions.

  • Authenticity involves the idea that one has to “create oneself” and live in accordance with this self.

  • [53] Religion 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

  • When one experiences oneself in the Look, one does not experience oneself as nothing (no thing), but as something (some thing).

  • The Other is the experience of another free subject who inhabits the same world as a person does.

  • [4][60][61] He proposed that each individual—not reason, society, or religious orthodoxy—is solely tasked with giving meaning to life and living it sincerely, or “authentically”.

  • [48][49] The archetypal example is the experience one has when standing on a cliff where one not only fears falling off it, but also dreads the possibility of throwing oneself

  • He strongly believes that it was Kierkegaard himself who said that “Hegelians do not study philosophy ‘existentially;’ to use a phrase by Welhaven from one time when I spoke
    with him about philosophy.

  • [4] Definitional issues and background The labels existentialism and existentialist are often seen as historical conveniences in as much as they were first applied to many
    philosophers long after they had died.

  • They focused on subjective human experience rather than the objective truths of mathematics and science, which they believed were too detached or observational to truly get
    at the human experience.

  • 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.

  • What sets the existentialist notion of despair apart from the conventional definition is that existentialist despair is a state one is in even when they are not overtly in

  • It is in the first conversation that it is believed that Welhaven came up with “a word that he said covered a certain thinking, which had a close and positive attitude to
    life, a relationship he described as existential”.

  • It is only one’s perception of the way another might perceive him.

  • According to Wahl, “the origins of most great philosophies, like those of Plato, Descartes, and Kant, are to be found in existential reflections.

  • 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.

  • [41][42] Authenticity[edit] Main article: Authenticity Many noted existentialists consider the theme of authentic existence important.

  • “[22] Concepts Existence precedes essence[edit] Main article: Existence precedes essence Sartre argued that a central proposition of existentialism is that existence precedes
    essence, which is to say that individuals shape themselves by existing and cannot be perceived through preconceived and a priori categories, an “essence”.

  • (to feel, be, or do, good), instead asking “What is life good for?”.

  • It is generally held to be a negative feeling arising from the experience of human freedom and responsibility.

  • [57] and it is only very rarely that existentialist philosophers dismiss morality or one’s self-created meaning: Søren Kierkegaard regained a sort of morality in the religious
    (although he would not agree that it was ethical; the religious suspends the ethical), and Jean-Paul Sartre’s final words in Being and Nothingness (1943): “All these questions, which refer us to a pure and not an accessory (or impure) reflection,
    can find their reply only on the ethical plane.


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Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rubenholthuijsen/5605502523/’]