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EXISTENTIALISM Jackson Pollack, Untitled (Green-Silver), 1949.

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Presentation on theme: "EXISTENTIALISM Jackson Pollack, Untitled (Green-Silver), 1949."— Presentation transcript:

1 EXISTENTIALISM Jackson Pollack, Untitled (Green-Silver), 1949

2 Existentialism: Concerned with the existential (living, concrete): Who am I? What does my life mean? Why do I feel guilty? Why am I afraid? What am I to do? Not a specific school of philosophy but any philosophy that says that meaning and choice as they affect individuals is what is most important. Concerns: the meaning of the individual, freedom, living an authentic life, alienation, and mortality.

3 Existentialism (cont.) : Post WWII, European “thinking fad” Flourished in universities, journalism, among intellectuals, in poems, novels, plays, films. 19th century: Soren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche. 20th century: Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre.

4 Soren Kierkegaard ( ) Born in Copenhagen, Denmark. Generally thought to be founder of existentialism. Generally thought to be founder of existentialism. Kierkegaard thought that the individual, the personal, the subjective aspects of human life are the most important. Kierkegaard thought that the individual, the personal, the subjective aspects of human life are the most important.

5 Kierkegaard (cont.): Most important human activity is decision-making: through our choices, we create our lives and become ourselves. Most important human activity is decision-making: through our choices, we create our lives and become ourselves. Scientific objectivity is dangerous: reveals facts and truths but not the truth. Felt people were too dependent on experts to point out way to salvation or personal growth. Scientific objectivity is dangerous: reveals facts and truths but not the truth. Felt people were too dependent on experts to point out way to salvation or personal growth. Authenticity results when an individual lives honestly and courageously in the moment without refuge in excuses, and without reliance on groups or institutions for meaning or purpose.Authenticity results when an individual lives honestly and courageously in the moment without refuge in excuses, and without reliance on groups or institutions for meaning or purpose. In-authenticity results when the nature and needs of the individual are ignored, denied or made less important than institutions, abstractions, or groups. In-authenticity results when the nature and needs of the individual are ignored, denied or made less important than institutions, abstractions, or groups.

6 Friedrich Nietzsche ( ) “God is dead.” “God is dead.” Believed life is meaningless, full of suffering and striving; the universe is indifferent to human suffering; still, he believed life is all there is and that we should live life to the fullest and get all we can out of it. Believed life is meaningless, full of suffering and striving; the universe is indifferent to human suffering; still, he believed life is all there is and that we should live life to the fullest and get all we can out of it. Question for Nietzsche: How do we live a full life in a godless, meaningless world? Question for Nietzsche: How do we live a full life in a godless, meaningless world? Because there is no God, the morals and values that we attribute to God are instead human creations; therefore, we are free to choose whatever values it is in our interests to have. Because there is no God, the morals and values that we attribute to God are instead human creations; therefore, we are free to choose whatever values it is in our interests to have.

7 Nietzsche (cont.): For Nietzsche what we should value is the “will to power” or the drive to reach our full potential. The human being who reaches his full potential is a super- human-being or “superman.”For Nietzsche what we should value is the “will to power” or the drive to reach our full potential. The human being who reaches his full potential is a super- human-being or “superman.” Accepting this value will lead to great human achievement and allow the gifted self-fulfillment and personal happiness. Although it may lead to conflicts, these should be welcomed as should the destruction of the weak. Accepting this value will lead to great human achievement and allow the gifted self-fulfillment and personal happiness. Although it may lead to conflicts, these should be welcomed as should the destruction of the weak.

8 Jean-Paul Sartre ( ) : Born in Paris; internationally known philosopher, novelist, playwright. Awarded Nobel Prize in literature in 1964; turned it down. Born in Paris; internationally known philosopher, novelist, playwright. Awarded Nobel Prize in literature in 1964; turned it down. Existence precedes essence: We have no “given nature;” we become who we are through freedom of choice and moral responsibility.Existence precedes essence: We have no “given nature;” we become who we are through freedom of choice and moral responsibility. We are born into existence that has no divine purpose; life is often absurd or horrible and the only true values are the ones we create for ourselves. We are born into existence that has no divine purpose; life is often absurd or horrible and the only true values are the ones we create for ourselves. “Bad faith”: when people are too terrified to face the freedom and responsibility of choice and revert to old existing norms and rules (religious). “Bad faith”: when people are too terrified to face the freedom and responsibility of choice and revert to old existing norms and rules (religious). “Commitment”: Choosing and living in accord with the choice. “Commitment”: Choosing and living in accord with the choice.

9 Jean-Paul Sartre (cont.) : WWII: Joined the French army in Captured and imprisoned by Germans for nine months. Released for poor health; contributed to Sartre’s belief that evil is not an abstraction; it is real and concrete. WWII: Joined the French army in Captured and imprisoned by Germans for nine months. Released for poor health; contributed to Sartre’s belief that evil is not an abstraction; it is real and concrete. Any attempt to rationalize or deny evil fails: an ordered universe governed by a loving, powerful God is not possible; the universe is indifferent to us. Science is not a certainty given that concentration camps were both “scientific” and “rationally ordered.” Even the order of Nature is a delusion; nature does not care about us. Any attempt to rationalize or deny evil fails: an ordered universe governed by a loving, powerful God is not possible; the universe is indifferent to us. Science is not a certainty given that concentration camps were both “scientific” and “rationally ordered.” Even the order of Nature is a delusion; nature does not care about us. Belief in these ideas are attempts to evade the awesomeness of choice.Belief in these ideas are attempts to evade the awesomeness of choice.

10 The Metamorphosis Understanding Kafka and the many -isms

11 “A book must be an axe for the frozen sea inside us.” -Kafka

12 Franz Kafka: Born to a Jewish family in Prague 0 Grew up speaking German, also fluent in Czech 0 Worked as an insurance adjuster so he could also write; very few of his works were published in his lifetime 0 Contracted TB in 1917, died of starvation in relation to the disease in Prague in 1924

13 The Metamorphosis (1915) 0 One of the few works of Kafka to be published in his lifetime 0 Wanted all his works destroyed upon his death 0 Die Verwandlung = translates to “The Transformation” 0 Also means the changing of a scene in a play 0 Follows the transformation of Gregor Samsa into a “ungeziefer”, an “unclean animal not fit for sacrifice” 0 Story addressed several changes and transformations re: all characters

14 Metaphor 0 The opening of the story is far more important than the end 0 “the identity [of the beginning] as radical starting point; the intransitive and conceptual aspect, that which has no object but its own constant clarification”: Edward Said, Metaphor – usually clarifies a relation of (A) as something (B) 0 What happens to metaphor when (A) literally becomes (B)?

15 Realism: 0 Things exist and have properties which are independent from any thoughts, theories, or beliefs 0 Naturalism is an off-shoot of this idea, in that social conditions, heredity, and environment are inescapable forces shaping human character and existence 0 Both seek to represent daily life

16 Surrealism: 0 Reaction against rationalism 0 Designed to purposely cause surprise through unexpected juxtapositions, non sequitur 0 Seeks to liberate imagination from control of reason

17 Existentialism: 0 See the world as a difficult, uncaring place and the individual must find own path 0 Each person is responsible for making own purpose and meaning 0 Way to manage the crisis of human existence

18 Absurdism: 0 Conflict between the human tendency to look for meaning in life and the inability to find any meaning 0 Human efforts will ultimately fail do to the overwhelming nature of the question 0 The absurd arises from the simultaneous existence of the human individual and the universe 0 Closely linked to existentialism


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