Existentialism is a philosophical and psychological movement that stresses the existence of the individual self and the subjective experience of life. It emphasizes the unique experience of the individual, rather than the universal experience. Existentialists believe that each person must create their own meaning in life, as there is no inherent meaning in life itself.
Existentialism began with the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), who is often considered the first existentialist thinker. Kierkegaard’s work focused on the individual’s relationship to truth and reality, and he stressed subjectivity, choice, and commitment. French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980) was another important existentialist thinker. Sartre’s work focused on the idea of freedom, and he stressed that each individual is responsible for their own choices and actions.
Existentialism has had a significant influence on psychology, literature, and film. Existential psychologists such as Viktor Frankl (1905-1997) and Rollo May (1909-1994) have used existential ideas to help people deal with psychological distress. Existential writers such as Albert Camus (1913-1960) and Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) have explored existential themes in their work. And existential films such as Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal (1957) and Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon (1950) have dealt with existential questions of life, death, and meaning.
Existentialism is a school of thought that was developed by the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. He advanced atheistic existentialism, which claims that “Existence comes before essence. At birth, man is nothing more than a collection of past commitments. To trust in anything other than his own free will is to engage in ‘bad Faith.’ The despair and anguish of an existentialist arise from the recognition that man is condemned to freedom since there is no God. He can’t escape making choices because there isn’t a deity watching over him.”
Kierkegaard, on the other hand, was a religious existentialist. For him, “Existence is prior to essence. The individual is in a constant state of becoming. In order to become what one is, one must make a series of choices which are often difficult and require courage. Existential angst or fear is the result of making these choices.”
Both philosophers believed that man is responsible for his own actions and must accept the consequences of those actions. They also both believed that man is essentially alone in the world and that there is no God to rely upon. However, they differed in their beliefs about what man’s purpose is in life. Kierkegaard believed that man’s purpose is to find meaning in life through a relationship with God, while Sartre believed that man’s purpose is to create his own meaning in life.
Sartre’s view of the world is that humans are alienated from it, and that life has no ultimate meaning or purpose. In this sense, life is “absurd.” We are “forlorn” and “abandoned” in the world, with no one to look after ourselves but ourselves. According to Sartre, human freedom is the only basis for values, and there can be no external or objective justification for any person’s chosen values.
In making choices, we are fully and completely responsible for our own lives and actions. This is what Sartre means by ‘human authenticity’.
Kierkegaard’s Existentialism is focused on the individual human being, his anguish, and his profound relationship with God. Kierkegaard believed that religion was a necessary part of life because it helped humans to become aware of their own limitations and the need for a higher power. In order for humans to live authentic lives, they must come to terms with the fact that they will never be able to understand everything about existence or God. This acknowledgement of human limitations is what Kierkegaard termed “the Leap of Faith.”
Both philosophies have commonalities-a focus on the individual, the idea that life is absurd, and the need for humans to come to terms with their limitations- but they also have their differences. Sartre’s Existentialism is more focused on freedom while Kierkegaard’s Existentialism emphasizes faith.
Human existence, according to Sartre, is “unhappy consciousness” and “useless passion.” I must state that I believe a person’s life to be, in and of itself, a value; and the objective standard for one to follow is that which promotes this value. A person can understand the significance of the best decisions among the many available alternatives since he or she believes his or her own life to be the greatest value.
In Existentialism, Kierkegaard and Sartre both focus on the individual experience. They both agreed that existence precedes essence, meaning that people are born without predefined purpose and have to create their own values. This is in contrast to Rationalism, which focuses on logic and reason as the ultimate guide for understanding reality. Existentialists believed that humans must take responsibility for their own actions and choices because we have the freedom to choose our own path in life.
Kierkegaard was a Christian Existentialist who believed that humans are created with a specific purpose by God. He focused on the subjective experience of individuals and argued that faith is required in order to find meaning in life. Sartre was an Atheistic Existentialist who believed that humans are not created with a specific purpose. He argued that we create our own meaning in life through our actions and choices.
Outside of Sartre’s perception that life is a “miserable consciousness,” much of what he says makes sense and contradicts the dangerous ideas of Freud and his ilk. For example, Sartre emphatically rejects the notion put forth by Freud that particular mental activities have unconscious causes.
(This is the realm of the Freudian “id” which, for Freud, is the repository of our primal urges, many of them sexual in nature.) Sartre’s rejection of the unconscious has two implications: first, that we are always fully responsible for our actions and, second, that all mental events have a conscious cause. It follows from these twoimplications that bad faith (self-deception) is impossible. If we are always responsible for our actions and if all our mental events have a conscious cause, then we can never say that we did not know what we were doing or that we were not in control of our mental states.
Sartre also rejects Freud’s notion of the Oedipal complex and its claim that we are all sexually attracted to our parents and rivals of our same-sex parent. For Sartre, such claims are absurd and have no basis in reality.
Finally, Sartre rejects Freud’s view that there is a essential difference between the sexes. According to Freud, women are passive and men are active; women are ruled by their emotions and men by their reason; women are weak and men are strong, etc. For Sartre, these claims are simply false and based on nothing more than sexist stereotypes.