Existentialism does not dictate a specific political
standpoint, but the stress on individuality and choice that this
philosophy represents do have a political side. Many of the well-known
existentialists of the world fought actively for individual freedom.
definition of freedom varies among people who employ existentialist
concepts, which is responsible partly for the political diversity of
this group. Many of the more anarchist existentialists sought freedom
from government, stressing that making mistakes and learning from one's
decisions is only natural for humanity. Others, such as Sartre, saw
communism as a truer freedom, as they were no longer burdened with the
necessities of life, such as food and shelter, and were able to more
actively pursue self-improvement.
Despite this diversity in
definition, the principal concept remains: that freedom is the essence
of being; To restrict a person of freedom is to rob him of that which
makes him alive.
Existentialism isn't necessarily atheist. Many
people criticize this philosophy as "turning away from God". This isn't
always the case. Some existentialists, such as Kierkegaard were
religious themselves. Some of the more aethist of the group didn't
abandon the concepts or value of theology, merely the importance of the
specifics. An existentialist may still have religious beliefs, but does
not rely on them. Consider this:
Let's compare the existentialist and
the religious at the point when they are ready to leave home. Both may
love their parents and have nothing but gratitude for the work they've
done. The "religious", in this comparison" are the ones who visit their
parents every weekend, and occasionally borrow money. The
existentialists, however, are aware of the necessity of their
independance. They may still visit their parents, but not with such
routine or need. As British writer Anita Brookner put it:
is about being a saint without God; being your own hero, without all
the sanction and support of religion or society.
Some philosophers, such as Gabriel Marcel developed
their own breed of existentialism within the confines of their
religion. Marcel, specifically, focused on the human-universe
relationship side of existentialism, but had the perspective of his
RoSomething of an older sister to existentialism , phenomenonology shares several of the same ideas as its sibling, and the line between the two is often unclear.
Founded by Edmund Husserl ,
phenomenonology is a philosophical model that was made to be free of
presupposition. The idea is to study and describe objects and events
only by what could be seen clearly. Anything else that was not
immediately concious was to be excluded. Rather than deductive or
empircal methods, Husserl's method was to rely on the information
gathered by the senses and to throw away all scientific or metaphysical knowledge or beliefs in order to study phenomenon more accurately.
This importance on human cognition rather than belief or assumption is mirrored in existentialism. Albert Camus takes a phenomenological view to the world with his descriptions of knowledge:
heart within me I can feel, and I judge that it exists. This world
around me I can feel, and I likewise judge that it exists. There ends
all my knowledge, and the rest is construction.
percieving phenomenon, this method reflects further in the entire nature
of existentialism. While phenomenonology is the method of percieving
things as what they are, not what they mean, existentialism is the
method of living life for what it is, not for what it means beyond what
we know of it.
(Note: This is not the full scope of the
phenomenological movement, but was meant only to explain its relevance
The Minds of Existentialism
considered to be the first of the existentialists, Kierkegaard was a
religious philosopher who stressed the need for individual choice.
potrayed humans as lonely creatures, and viewed the freedom of choice
that many existentialists valued as a burdern, due largely to the
responsibility that follows any choice. Sartre is one of the most
prominent minds in existentialism, and can be credited for bringing this
philosophy to the attention of a much larger audience.
Moving beyond Sartre's existentialism, Camus explored the meaninglessness and absurd nature of the human condition.
Other existential philosophers include Simone de Beauvoir, Martin Heidegger, Karl Jaspers, Gabriel Marcel and [b]Franz Kafka . Existentialist philosophy was also influenced by many other works, including those of [b]Friedrich Nietzsche , G. W. F. Hegel , Fyodor Dostoevsky and Edmund Husserl .
(1905–1980) was a French writer and philosopher who is one of the
leading figures in 20th-century existentialism. He imagines men as
lonely creatures in a meaningless world. He emphasizes the importance of
choice and responsibility. Sartre's influences include many of the
German philosophers, especially Heidegger, of whom he was a student. He
also had a close relationship with femenist writer Simone de Beauvoir.