Discussion about terms of use is ongoing | 4th General Meeting

Existentialism

From Anarchopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

Existentialism is a philosophical movement which claims that individual human beings have full responsibility for creating the meanings of their own lives. It is a reaction against more traditional philosophies, such as rationalism and empiricism, which sought to discover an ultimate order in metaphysical principles or in the structure of the observed world. The movement had its origins in the 19th century thought of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche and was prevalent in Continental philosophy. In the 1940s and 1950s, French philosophers such as Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and Albert Camus wrote scholarly and fictional works that helped to popularize themes associated with existentialism: "dread, boredom, alienation, the absurd, freedom, commitment, [and] nothingness". [1]

Contents

[edit] Major concepts in existentialism

Template:Cleanup-restructure Template:Original research Existentialism differentiates itself from the modern Western rationalist tradition of philosophers such as Descartes in rejecting the idea that the most certain and primary reality is rational consciousness. Descartes believed humans could doubt all existence, but could not will away or doubt the thinking consciousness, whose reality is therefore more certain than any other reality. Existentialism decisively rejects this argument, asserting instead that as conscious beings, humans would always find themselves already in a world, a prior context and a history that is given to consciousness, and that humans cannot think away that world. It is inherent and indubitably linked to consciousness. In other words, the ultimate and unquestionable reality is not thinking consciousness but, according to Heidegger, "being in the world". This is a radicalization of the notion of intentionality that comes from Brentano and Husserl, which asserts that, even in its barest form, consciousness is always conscious of something.

[edit] Existence precedes essence

A central proposition of existentialism is that existence precedes essence; that is, that a human being's existence precedes and is more fundamental than any meaning which may be ascribed to human life: humans define their own reality. One is not bound to the generalities and a priori definitions of what "being human" connotes. This is an inversion of a more traditional view, which was widely accepted from the ancient Greeks to Hegel, that the central project of philosophy was to answer the question "What is a human being?" (i.e., "What is the human essence") and to derive from that answer one's conclusions about how human beings should behave.

In Repetition, Kierkegaard's literary character Young Man laments:

How did I get into the world? Why was I not asked about it, why was I not informed of the rules and regulations but just thrust into the ranks as if I had been bought by a peddling shanghaier of human beings? How did I get involved in this big enterprise called actuality? Why should I be involved? Isn't it a matter of choice? And if I am compelled to be involved, where is the manager—I have something to say about this. Is there no manager? To whom shall I make my complaint? [2]

Heidegger coined the term "thrownness" (also used by Sartre) to describe this idea that human beings are "thrown" into existence without having chosen it. Existentialists consider being thrown into existence as prior to, and the horizon or context of, any other thoughts or ideas that humans have or definitions of themselves that they create.

Sartre, in "Essays in Existentialism", pg 36, further highlights this consciousness of being thrown into existence in the following fashion. "If man, as the existentialist conceives him, is indefinable, it is because at first he is nothing. Only afterward will he be something, and he himself will have made what he will be".

Kierkegaard also focused on the deep anxiety of human existence — the feeling that there is no purpose, indeed nothing, at its core. Finding a way to counter this nothingness, by embracing existence, is the fundamental theme of existentialism, and the explanation for the philosophy's name. While someone who claims to believe in reality might be called a "realist," or someone who believes in a deity a "deist," someone who believes fundamentally only in existence, and seeks to find meaning in his or her life solely by embracing existence, is an existentialist.

[edit] Reason as a defense against angst

Emphasizing this action, freedom, and decision as fundamental, existentialists oppose themselves to rationalism and positivism. That is, they argue against definitions of human beings as primarily rational. Rather, existentialists look at where people find meaning. Existentialism asserts that people actually make decisions based on what has meaning to them rather than what is rational.

The rejection of reason as the source of meaning is a common theme of existentialist thought, as is the focus on the feelings of anxiety and dread that we feel in the face of our own radical freedom and our awareness of death. Kierkegaard saw rationality as a mechanism humans use to counter their existential anxiety, their fear of being in the world. "If I can believe that I am rational and everyone else is rational then I have nothing to fear and no reason to feel anxious about being free."

Sartre saw rationality as 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. According to Sartre, rationality and other forms of "bad faith" hinder us from finding meaning in freedom. To try to suppress our feelings of anxiety and dread, we confine ourselves within everyday experience, Sartre asserts, thereby relinquishing our freedom and acquiescing to being possessed in one form or another by "the look" of "the other".

In a similar vein, Camus believed that society and religion falsely teach humans that "the other" has order and structure.[3] For Camus, when an individual "consciousness," longing for order, collides with "the other's" lack of order, a third element is born: "the absurd."

[edit] The absurd

It then follows that existentialism tends to view human beings as subjects in an indifferent, objective, often ambiguous, and "absurd" universe, in which meaning is not provided by the natural order, but rather can be created, however provisionally and unstably, by human beings' actions and interpretations.

During the literary modernist movement in the 1900s, authors began describing dystopian societies and surreal and absurd situations in a parallel universe, a trend that paralleled the existentialist movement. In Franz Kafka's novella The Metamorphosis, a man awakes to the realization that he has turned into a beetle. This story, which is certainly "absurd" and surreal, is one of many modernist literary works that influenced and were influenced by existentialist philosophy.

Although there are certain common tendencies amongst existentialist thinkers, there are major differences and disagreements among them, and not all of them even accept the validity of the term "existentialism." In German, the phrase Existenzphilosophie (philosophy of existence) is also used.

[edit] Existentialist perspectives on God

There is a split among existentialists between those who, like Kierkegaard, conceive the fundamental existentialist question as man's relationship to God, and those who accept Nietzsche's proclamation of the "death of God." Nonetheless, theological existentialism as advocated by philosophers and theologians like Paul Tillich, Gabriel Marcel, and Martin Buber shares many of the same tenets and themes that are central to atheistic existentialism. Belief in God is a personal choice made on the basis of a passion, of faith, an observation, or experience. Just as atheistic existentialists can freely choose not to believe, theistic existentialists can freely choose to believe in God and could, despite one's doubt, have faith that God exists and that God is good.

A third type of existentialism is agnostic existentialism. The agnostic existentialist makes no claim to know, or not know, if there is a "greater picture" in play; rather, he simply recognizes that the greatest truth is that which he chooses to act upon. The agnostic existentialist feels that to know the "greater picture," whether there is one or not, is impossible for human minds—or, if it is not impossible, that at least they have not found it yet. Like Christian existentialists, the agnostic believes existence is subjective. However one feels about the issue, through the agnostic existentialist's perspective, the act of finding knowledge of the existence of God often has little value because he feels it to be impossible, and/or believes it to be useless.

As mentioned above, opinions of philosophers associated with existentialism vary, sometimes greatly, over what "existentialism" is, and even if there is such a thing as "existentialism". One version, Sartrean existentialism, is elaborated below.

[edit] Sartrean existentialism

Some of the tenets associated with the existentialism of Jean-Paul Sartre include:

Existence precedes essence 
This is a reversal of the Aristotlean premise that essence precedes existence, where man exists to fulfill some purpose. Sartrean existentialism argues that man has no predefined purpose or meaning; rather, humans define themselves in terms of who they become as their individual lives are played out in response to the challenges posed by existence in the world.
Values are subjective 
Sartre accepts the premise that something in the "Facticity" (i.e., the properties of an object or person as traditionally conceived and experienced) of an individual is valuable because the individual consciousness chooses to value it. Sartre denies that there are any objective standards on which to base values. However, this should not be confused with post-modernism. Sartre clearly believed that systems of consciousness followed clear and solid rules.
Bad faith 
Sartre believed that people lie to themselves and, underneath these lies, people negate their own being through patterns. The preceperi is similar to what today is called insight. It is necessary to get rid of bad faith.
The Gaze 
Sartre believed that beings possess the power to look at themselves and at another or an object, which is to use one's mind to look at the person in static. This concept of "looking" and the power to look, is referred to as The Gaze. This destroys an object's subjectivity. The thing becomes an "in itself" or an object. Sartre stated that this form of consciousness was used quite often in inter-personal relationships. People place meaning onto what other people think of them rather than what they think of themselves. This process of radically re-aligning this meaning from The Gaze onto one's own being is what leads to periods of existential angst.
Being for others 
Sartre believed that people who cannot embrace their freedom seek to be "looked at," that is, to be made an object of another's subjectivity. This creates a clash of freedoms whereby person A's being (or sense of identity) is controlled by what person B's thoughts about him are.
Responsibility for choices 
The individual consciousness is responsible for all the choices it makes, regardless of the consequences. Condemned to be free because man's actions and choices are his and his alone, he is condemned to be responsible for his free choices.

There are several terms Sartre uses in his works. Being in-itself is an object that is not free and cannot change its essence. Being for-itself is free; it does not need to be what it is and can change into what it is not. Consciousness is usually considered being for-itself. Sartre distinguishes between positional and non-positional consciousness. Non-positional consciousness is being merely conscious of one's surroundings. Positional consciousness puts consciousness into relation of one's surroundings. This entails an explicit awareness of being conscious of one's surroundings. Sartre argues identity is constructed by this explicit awareness of consciousness.

[edit] Historical background

The Søren Kierkegaard Statue in Copenhagen.

Existential themes have been hinted at throughout history. Examples include Socrates and his life, Gautama Buddha's teachings, the Bible in the Book of Ecclesiastes and the Book of Job, Saint Augustine in his Confessions, Mulla Sadra's writings, and Descartes' Meditations. Individualist politics, such as those advanced by John Locke, advocated individual autonomy and self-determination rather than the state ruling over the individual. This kind of political philosophy, although not existential in nature, provided a welcoming climate for existentialism.

In 1670, Blaise Pascal's unfinished notes were published under the title of Pensées (i.e., "Thoughts"). In the work, he described many fundamental themes of existentialism. Pascal argued that without a God, life would be meaningless and miserable. People would only be able to create obstacles and overcome them in an attempt to escape boredom. These token-victories would ultimately become meaningless, since people would eventually die. This was good enough reason not to choose to become an atheist, according to Pascal.

Existentialism, in its currently recognizable 20th century form, was inspired by Søren Kierkegaard, Fyodor Dostoevsky and the German philosophers Friedrich Nietzsche, Edmund Husserl, and Martin Heidegger. It became popular in the mid-20th century through the works of the French writer-philosophers Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, whose versions of it were set out in a popular form in Sartre's 1946 Existentialism is a Humanism and Beauvoir's The Ethics of Ambiguity.

Gabriel Marcel pursued theological versions of existentialism, most notably Christian existentialism. Other theological existentialists include Paul Tillich, Rudolf Bultmann, Miguel de Unamuno, Thomas Hora and Martin Buber. Moreover, one-time Marxist Nikolai Berdyaev, developed a philosophy of Christian existentialism in his native Russia, and later in France, in the decades preceding World War II.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and Arthur Schopenhauer are also important influences on the development of existentialism (although not precursors), because the philosophies of Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche were written in response or opposition to Hegel and Schopenhauer, respectively.

[edit] Kierkegaard and Nietzsche

The first philosophers considered fundamental to the existentialist movement are Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche, though neither used the term "existentialism". Like Pascal, they were interested in people's concealment of the meaninglessness of life and the use of diversion to escape from boredom. However, what Pascal did not write about was that people can create and change their fundamental values and beliefs. Kierkegaard and Nietzsche wrote that human nature and human identity vary depending on what values and beliefs humans hold.[4][5] Objective truths (for example mathematical truths) are important, but detached or observational modes of thought can never truly comprehend human experience. Great individuals invent their own values and create the very terms under which they excel. Kierkegaard's knight of faith and Nietzsche's Übermensch are examples of those who define the nature of their own existence. In contrast, Pascal did not reason that human nature and identity are constituted by the free decisions and choices of people.

Kierkegaard's and Nietzsche's works were published too early to be considered a part of the 20th century existentialist movement. They were philosophers whose works and influences are not limited to existentialism. They have been appropriated and seen as precursors to many other intellectual movements, including postmodernism, nihilism, and various strands of psychology. Thus, it is unknown whether they would have supported the existentialism of the 20th century or accepted tenets of Jean-Paul Sartre's version of it. Nevertheless, their works are precursors to many later developments in existentialist thought.

[edit] Heidegger and the German existentialists

One of the first German existentialists was Karl Jaspers. Jaspers recognized the importance of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche and attempted to build an "Existenz" philosophy around the two. Heidegger, who was influenced by Jaspers and the phenomenologist Edmund Husserl, wrote his most influential work Being and Time which postulates Dasein (pronounced dah-zIne), literally being there—a being that is constituted by its temporality, illuminates and interprets the meaning of being in time. Dasein is sometimes considered the human subject, but Heidegger denies the Cartesian dualism of subject-object/mind-body.

Although existentialists view Heidegger to be an important philosopher in the movement, he vehemently denied being an existentialist in the Sartrean sense, and responded to Sartre in A Letter about Humanism, denying his philosophy was existentialism.

[edit] Sartre, Camus and the French existentialists

Jean-Paul Sartre is perhaps the most well-known existentialist and is one of the few to have accepted being called an "existentialist". Sartre developed his version of existentialist philosophy under the influence of Husserl and Heidegger. Being and Nothingness is perhaps his most important work about existentialism. Sartre was also talented in his ability to espouse his ideas in different media, including philosophical essays, lectures, novels, plays, and the theater. No Exit and Nausea are two of his celebrated works. In the 1960s, he attempted to reconcile existentialism and Marxism in his work Critique of Dialectical Reason.

Albert Camus was a friend of Sartre, until their falling-out, and wrote several works with existential themes including The Rebel, The Stranger, The Myth of Sisyphus and Summer in Algiers. He, like many others, rejected the existentialist label, and considered his works to be absurd. In The Myth of Sisyphus, Camus uses the analogy of the Greek myth to demonstrate the futility of existence. In the myth, Sisyphus is condemned to roll a rock up a hill for eternity, but when he reaches the summit, the rock will roll back to the bottom again. Camus believes that this existence is pointless, but he feels Sisyphus ultimately finds meaning and purpose in his task, simply by continually applying himself to it.

Critic Martin Esslin in his book Theatre of the Absurd pointed out how many contemporary playwrights such as Samuel Beckett, Eugene Ionesco, Jean Genet, and Arthur Adamov wove the existential belief that man is an absurd creature loose in a universe empty of real meaning into their plays. Esslin noted that many of these playwrights demonstrated the philosophies better than Sartre and Camus did in their own plays. Though most of the playwrights subsequently labelled "Absurdist" (based on this book) denied affiliations with existentialism and were often staunchly anti-philosphical (for example Ionesco often claimed he identified more with 'Pataphysics or with Surrealism than with existentialism) the playwrights of the Theatre of the Absurd are often linked to existentialism based on Esslin's observation. [6] Simone de Beauvoir, who was a longtime companion to Sartre, wrote about feminist and existential ethics in her works, including The Second Sex and Ethics of Ambiguity.

Franz Fanon a French-born critic of colonialism has been considered an important existentialist. [7]

Maurice Merleau-Ponty, an often overlooked existentialist, was a companion of Sartre. His understanding of Husserl's phenomenology was far greater than that of his fellow existentialists. His work, Humanism and Terror, greatly influenced Sartre.

Michel Foucault would also be considered an existentialist through his use of history to reveal the constant alterations of created meaning, thus proving its failure to produce a cohesive form of reality.

[edit] Dostoevsky, Kafka, and the literary existentialists

Many writers who are not usually considered philosophers have also had a major influence on existentialism. Among them, Czech author Franz Kafka and Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky are most prominent. Franz Kafka created often surreal and alienated characters who struggle with hopelessness and absurdity, notably in his most famous novella, The Metamorphosis, or in his master novel, The Trial. The Russian Fyodor Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground details the story of a man who is unable to fit into society and unhappy with the identities he creates for himself. Many of Dostoyevsky's novels, such as Crime and Punishment, have covered issues pertinent to existential philosophy while simultaneously refuting the validity of the claims of existentialism (notably the "superman" theory advocated by Nietzsche.) Throughout Crime and Punishment we see the protagonist, Raskolnikov, and his character develop away from existential ideas and beliefs in favor of more traditionally Christian ones, showing that Dostoevsky was still very much a Christian thinker.[unverified]

In the 20th century, existentialism experienced a resurgence in popular art forms. In fiction, Hermann Hesse's 1928 novel Steppenwolf, based on an idea in Kierkegaard's Either/Or (1843), sold well in the West. Jack Kerouac and the Beat poets adopted existentialist themes. In addition, "arthouse" films began quoting and alluding to existentialist thought and thinkers.

Existentialist novelists were generally seen as a mid-1950s phenomenon that continued until the mid- to late 1970s. Most of the major writers were either French or from French African colonies. Small circles of other Europeans were seen as literary existential precursors by the existentialists themselves, however, literary history increasingly has questioned the accuracy of this idealism for earlier models.

There is overlap between the expatriate American beat generation writers who found Paris their spiritual home, and writers of road novels. This also extends to the delayed action of the French permanent enamorment with the United States' hard boiled fiction genre, which, as Truffaut and others in the Cahiers du Cinéma indicated, influenced novels and plays. To some extent as well, the surrealist movement of Andre Breton and others, which questioned the established reality, made possible the isolation of non-academic novels protagonised by amoral anti-heroes.

[edit] Existentialism since 1970

Although postmodernist thought became the focus of many intellectuals in the 1970s and thereafter, much postmodern writing considers themes similar to existentialism. Since 1970, much cultural activity in art, cinema, and literature contains postmodern and existential elements, which, ironically, would support the postmodern thesis of "borderlessness between concepts". One should not, however, confuse postmodernism with existentialism.

Books such as Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (1968), (now republished as Blade Runner) by Philip K. Dick, Toilet the Novel by Michael Szymczyk and Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk both distort the line between reality and appearance while simultaneously espousing strong existential themes. Ideas from such thinkers as Foucault, Kafka, Nietzsche, Herbert Marcuse, Gilles Deleuze and Eduard von Hartmann permeate the works of writers such as Chuck Palahniuk, Michael Szymczyk and Charles Bukowski, and one often finds in such works a delicate balance between distastefulness and beauty.

[edit] Neo-Existentialism and Post-Postmodernism

Template:SectOR Some argue, however, that this class of writing belongs to a genre of literature called Post-Postmodernism, similar to a Russian movement in the 1990s called "Excrement Literature". Contemporary American writers, such as Chuck Palahniuk and the underground writer Szymczyk have been described as belonging to this movement in literature.[unverified] In their works, there are often elements of distortion from the "traditional" mode of narrative, which often try to grab and shock the reader and return him or her to their present. This function that comes through the form of their writing has been described as a "Metaphysics of Presence", in which, it is hoped, the intentionality of consciousness will be diverted from its inauthentic state of "care" (Heidegger's expression for the content, which consciousness fills itself with, often concerned with the trivialities of everyday life or "everydayness") towards such existential realizations of death, the here-and-now, freedom and all of its corresponding angst. It is in that relation, that such thinkers as Heidegger would argue, that one finds one's authenticity.

Thus, the element of literature that permeates such books as Fight Club and Toilet: The Novel is often described as existential in nature. On the other hand, such works also show a Post-modern concern, especially Fight Club, in which the main character Tyler Durden appears as a representation of the philosophy of the Post-Modern classic Anti-Oedipus, and its idealization of the schizo-subject, who resists the capitalistic order of the day, devours and spits out the social codes, and "...breaks through the walls of reterritorialization into the realm of flows, intensities, and becoming, thereby threatening the whole capitalistic system in which personal disintegration occurs, allowing revolutionary action to be possible...".[unverified]

In Toilet: The Novel, the entire narrative becomes schizoid in nature, each part separated from its whole, with even the protagonists trembling with despair from their own separation, their own lack of connection to the whole, and which ends in, what Deleuze calls for in Anti-Oedipus, "a breakthrough without a total breakdown, in which the schizoid subject is distinguished from the dysfunctional schizophrenic and a certain harmony is achieved between the ugly and the beautiful, and something new is seen on the horizon." Thus, this Post Postmodernist literature can often be called a synthesis between the movements of Existentialism and Post-Modernism, or as a new genre of literature, film and art, that is of an existential nature and is an evolved form of Existentialism. Neo-Existentialism, some would say, is intrinsically different from the post post-modern via its existential emphasis.[unverified]

[edit] Existential Cinema

In cinema, postmodern editing techniques, showing the displacement, discontinuity, and temporal perspective of post-modernism, can go hand-in-hand with a purely existential story, thus synthesizing technique and function to give meaning. Moreover, this has created the neologism "Neo-Existentialism"—combining post-modernism's epistemology with the reflective ontological belief of existentialism. Existential cinema deals with themes of:

  • Retaining authenticity in an apathetic, mechanical world—something postmodernism would staunchly reject, as authenticity is related to a non-existent "reality"
  • The consciousness of death, for example Heidegger's "being towards death", exemplified in Ingmar Bergman's film The Seventh Seal (1957)
  • The feelings of alienation and loneliness consequent to being unique in a world of indifferent others, or, in Kierkegaard phrase, "the crowd" or Nietzsche's "the herd"; as personified by the character of Oh Dae-su in the 2003 Korean film Oldboy
  • The concept Alltägliche selbstsein ("Everyday-ness," or ennui), which Heidegger explicated in his book Sein und Zeit (1927) (English translation: Being and Time)

The 1952 classic High Noon, starring Gary Cooper as a sheriff abandoned by the townspeople as he faces alone a vengeful killer, has often been described as an "existential Western".

A major existential movement in cinema was launched by the advent of French New Wave cinema in the 1960's. Landmark films during this period were Breathless, directed by Jean-Luc Godard and written by Francois Truffaut. Truffaut released his masterpiece, The 400 Blows, in the same year. Both Godard and Truffaut would go on to become flagbearers of existentialist cinema and produce notable films like Alphaville, Bande a part, Stolen Kisses and Bed and Board.

The acclaimed 1976 film Taxi Driver, starring Robert DeNiro, is perhaps one of the most widely known existential films. The film was heavily influenced by Dosteovsky's Notes from Underground and even quotes Dosteovsky in the line: "I'm God's lonely man." The 2004 film The Machinist is also influenced by Dosteovsky's work, especially The Double: A Petersburg Poem, The Idiot, and The Brothers Karamazov. In one scene in the film, star Christian Bale is seen reading a copy of The Idiot. Another film released in the same year, I ♥ Huckabees revolves around two existential detectives, who aim to help people solve their personal existential crises.

The introduction sequence of the 1957 film Love in the Afternoon contains the witty remark "even existentialists" make love in Paris.

The 1972 film Deliverance, as well as the 1970 book of the same name, have also been credited as existentialist, as has Fight Club (1999), eXistenZ (1999) and The Matrix (1999).

The 2003 film Lost in Translation (film), directed by Sofia Coppola, contains existential themes.

[edit] Criticisms of existentialism

Herbert Marcuse criticized existentialism, especially in Sartre's Being and Nothingness, for projecting certain features of living in a modern, oppressive society, such as anxiety and meaninglessness, onto the nature of existence itself: "In so far as Existentialism is a philosophical doctrine, it remains an idealistic doctrine: it hypothesizes specific historical conditions of human existence into ontological and metaphysical characteristics. Existentialism thus becomes part of the very ideology which it attacks, and its radicalism is illusory" [8]. Sartre had already responded to some points of the Marxist criticisms of Existentialism in his popular lecture Existentialism is a humanism, held in 1946.

Theodor Adorno, in his Jargon of Authenticity, criticized Heidegger's philosophy, with special attention to his use of language, as a mystifying ideology of advanced industrial society and its power structure.[unverified]

Heidegger criticized Sartre's Existentialism, in his Letter on Humanism:

Existentialism says [that] existence precedes essence. In this statement he [Sartre] is taking existentia and essentia according to their metaphysical meaning, which from Plato’s time on has said that essentia precedes existentia. Sartre reverses this statement. But the reversal of a metaphysical statement remains a metaphysical statement. With it he stays with metaphysics in oblivion of the truth of Being.

Roger Scruton claimed, in his book From Descartes to Wittgenstein, that both Heidegger's concept of inauthenticity and Sartre's concept of bad faith were inconsistent; both deny any universal moral creed, yet speak of these concepts as if everyone is bound to abide by them. In chapter 18, he writes,"In what sense Sartre is able to 'recommend' the authenticity which consists in the purely self-made morality is unclear. He does recommend it, but, by his own argument, his recommendation can have no objective force." Familiar with this sort of argument, Sartre claimed that bad and good faith do not represent moral ideas, rather, they are ways of being.

Logical positivists, such as Carnap and Ayer, claim that existentialists frequently become confused over the verb "to be" in their analyses of "being".[9] The verb is prefixed to a predicate and to use the word without any predicate is meaningless. Another source of confusion in the existentialist metaphysical literature is that they try to understand the meaning of the word "nothing" (the negation of existence) by assuming that it must refer to something. Borrowing Kant's argument against the ontological argument for the existence of God, the logical positivists argue that existence is not a property.

[edit] Adaptation outside philosophy

[edit] Existentialism in psychotherapy

Main article: Existential therapy


Many of the theories of Sigmund Freud, whom Sartre refuted systematically, were influenced by Nietzsche. Some have supposed that Thanatos and Eros were closely related to Dionysian and Apollonian aspects of Nietzsche philosophy.

One of the major offshoots of Existentialism as a philosophy is Existential Psychology. Sometimes termed the Third Force Psychology, this branch of psychology was initiated by Viktor Frankl (who had studied with Freud and Jung when young).[unverified] Then early in his career he was sent to a Nazi concentration camp where he survived from 1941 through 1945. In the camps he mentally re-wrote his first book whose manuscript had been confiscated at the time of his arrest. He called his theory Logotherapy and the book was Man's Search for Meaning. Speaking at a seminar in Anaheim, California in the early 1990s, Frankl stated that in the camps he would, at times, pretend to himself that he was actually in the future, remembering his experiences and noting how he was able to survive them. His years of suffering took him to the conclusion that even in the worst imaginable of circumstances, life can be assigned a worthwhile meaning. This conclusion was the heart of Frankl's psychological orientation. Logotherapy asserts that all human beings have a will to find meaning, and that serious behavioral problems develop when they cannot find it. The therapy helps patients handle the responsibility of choices and the pain of unavoidable suffering by helping them decide to give life meaning.

An early contributor to Existential Psychology was Rollo May, who was influenced by Kierkegaard.

One of the most prolific writers on techniques and theory of Existential Psychology in the USA is Irvin D. Yalom. The person who has contributed most to the development of a European version of Existential Psychotherapy is the British based Emmy van Deurzen.

With complete freedom to decide, and through being responsible for the outcome of said decisions, comes anxiety — or angst — about the choices made. Anxiety's importance in existentialism makes it a popular topic in psychotherapy. Therapists often use existential philosophy to explain the patient's anxiety. Psychotherapists using an existential approach believe that a patient can harness his anxiety and use it constructively. Instead of suppressing anxiety, patients are advised to use it as grounds for change. By embracing anxiety as inevitable, a person can use it to achieve his or her full potential in life.

Humanistic psychology also had major impetus from existential psychology and shares many of the fundamental tenets.

[edit] Terror management theory

Terror management theory is a developing area of study within the academic study of psychology. It looks at what researchers claim to be the implicit emotional reactions of people that occur when they are confronted with the psychological terror of knowing they will eventually die.

[edit] Notable examples of existentialism in popular culture

[edit] See also

[edit] References

Schaeffer, Francis. The God Who is There. 1968.

  1. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/existentialism/
  2. Kierkegaard, Søren. Repetition in Kierkegaard's Writings, vol. 6, Princeton University Press, 1983
  3. Camus, Albert. "An Absurd Reasoning"
  4. Luper, Steven. "Existing". Mayfield Publishing, 2000, p.4–5
  5. Ibid, p. 11
  6. Kernan, Alvin B. The Modern American Theater: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1967.
  7. Macey, David. Franz Fanon: a Biography "Resurrecting the Lost Voice of Franz Fanon". New York City: Picador, USA. p. 129-130.
  8. Marcuse, Herbert. "Sartre's Existentialism". Printed in Studies in Critical Philosophy. Translated by Joris De Bres. London: NLB, 1972. p. 161
  9. Carnap, Rudolf, Uberwindung der Metaphysik durch logische Analyse der Spache [Overcoming Metaphysics by the Logical Analasis of Speech], Erkenntnis (1932), p. 219-241. Carnap's critique of Heidegger's "What is Metaphysics".
  10. Jesse, (2005). "The Fiction of Self-destruction: Chuck Palahniuk, Closet Moralist," Stirrings Still, the International Journal of Existential Literature, , .

[edit] Further reading

[edit] External links

This article contains content from Wikipedia. Current versions of the GNU FDL article Existentialism on WP may contain information useful to the improvement of this article WP
Personal tools
In other languages