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Existentialism. 20 th Century Philosophy – grew out of post WWII disillusionment and trauma over atrocities – developed by Jean-Paul Sartre (20 th century.

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Presentation on theme: "Existentialism. 20 th Century Philosophy – grew out of post WWII disillusionment and trauma over atrocities – developed by Jean-Paul Sartre (20 th century."— Presentation transcript:

1 Existentialism

2 20 th Century Philosophy – grew out of post WWII disillusionment and trauma over atrocities – developed by Jean-Paul Sartre (20 th century French philosopher)

3 Influences Soren Kierkegaard – 19 th century Danish philosopher who asserted that the highest good for individual is to find his/her own unique vocation without the aid of universal, objective standards (has been called the 1 st existentialist & father of existentialism because he was the first to make existential questions a primary focus in his philosophy)

4 Friedrich Nietzche – 19 th century German philosopher & writer who asserted that the individual must decide which situations are to count as moral situations; famous for having one of his characters say “God is dead”

5 Fyodor Dostoyevsky – 19 th century Russian novelist, generally considered one of the greatest existentialist literary figures, especially because of Notes from the Underground and The Brothers Karamazov

6 Martin Heidegger – 20 th century German philosopher who asserted that anxiety leads to the individual’s confrontation with nothingness and with the impossibility of finding ultimate justification for the choices he must make

7 Ontology The study of being; the study of nature of reality – fundamental concern of existentialists.

8 Existential Beliefs 1. Man has no innate self, no soul or personality that he is born with; everything that he is, he has become since birth (nurture rather than nature) – “existence precedes essence”

9 2. At any given moment, a man’s self is the sum of the life he has shaped until then; the “nothing” he begins with is thus the source of man’s freedom, for at each moment it is man’s will that can choose how to act or not to act (free will rather than fate)

10 3.Each person is totally responsible for his choices (nothing you can blame), and he must make choices because not choosing is also a choice – you can choose to act in a different way & be a good person instead of a cruel person. (Since man can choose to be either cruel or good, he is, in fact, neither of these things essentially)

11 Atheist Existentialists vs. Christian Existentialists Atheists – no God, or if there is, he doesn’t care Christians – there is a God, but his purpose for mankind is unknowable Both - Man must create a human morality in the absence of any known, predetermined, absolute values

12 Most important value in existential belief = complete honesty with one’s self

13 Emotional anguish (Angst) – unavoidable consequence of trying to exercise total freedom of choice and trying to achieve absolute honesty in one’s actions

14 Sartre’s “Man of Good Faith” Understands humanity’s solitude in an indifferent universe Fully accept responsibility for the freedom of his choices Fully accepts responsibility for the consequences of his choices Does not withdraw from life or from society Judges the worth of his actions by estimating the consequences if everyone, not just himself, were to perform that action

15 Sartre’s “Man of Bad Faith” Accepts the illusion that humanity is not alone in an indifferent universe & that man has an essential self shaped before birth Is deliberately hypocritical Uses the excuse of “having good intentions” to escape taking responsibility for the consequences of his actions

16 Absurdity – there is no meaning to be found beyond what meaning we give to it – also encompasses the amorality or “unfairness” of the world – contrasts with “karmic” thinking – (what happens happens)

17 Albert Camus’ “Man of the Absurd” Equivalent to Sartre’s “Man of Good Faith” “Absurd” is a philosophical term for a fundamental lack of reasonableness and coherence in human existence

18 Acknowledges man’s lonely existence in the face of the silence of the universe Rejects despair and is fully engaged in life and in society Albert Camus’ “Man of the Absurd” Continued

19 Commits himself to the anguish and responsibility of living as best as he can in a universe of uncertainties Realizes that exercising his own freedom is inseparable from ensuring that all others have the same opportunity to exercise theirs, thus committing himself to removing social obstacles such as poverty, oppression, lack of education, etc. Albert Camus’ “Man of the Absurd” Continued

20 Realizes that man must make choices and is therefore condemned to be free Realizes that this absurdity is an inescapable part of the human condition Epitomized in Camus’ essay “The Myth of Sisyphus” (existence is pointless, but Sisyphus ultimately finds meaning and purpose in his task, simply by continually applying himself to it)

21 Facticity – concept defined by Sartre – Your past is what you are in the sense that it co-constitutes you, but to say that you are ONLY your past would be to ignore a large part of reality (present and future), while a denial of one’s past entirely detaches it from you now, which cannot be done – A large part of your facticity consists of things you couldn’t have chosen – your birthplace, etc., but it cannot determine you – the value ascribed to your facticity is still ascribed to it freely by you

22 Authentic versus Inauthentic Existence – leaving things to chance (refusing to choose) = inauthentic – to disregard one’s facticity = inauthentic – “finding oneself” and then living in accordance with this self = authentic existence – The authentic act is one that is in accordance with one’s freedom

23 Nihilism (nihil = nothing) - argues that existence is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value; morality does not exist; no proof of existence of a higher ruler or creator, & even if a creator exists, humanity has no moral obligation to worship him

24 Existentialist Themes Dread Boredom Alienation Absurd Freedom Nothingness

25 Other 20 th century existential lit. Jack Kerouac Beat poets Hermann Hesse And many others

26 Existentialist Films Blade Runner Fight Club “film noir” (depicts a world that is essentially corrupt & people are trapped in unwanted situations, striving against random, uncaring fate, & frequently doomed) Ordinary People Taxi Driver High Noon Easy Rider One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest A Clockwork Orange Apocalypse Now, etc.

27 Existentialist Theater/ Theater of the Absurd Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead Jean Anouilh’s Antigone etc.

28 Existential Psychoanalysis & Psychotherapy existential philosophy used to explain a patient’s anxiety. Belief that a patient can harness his anxiety & use it constructively. By embracing anxiety as inevitable, a person can use it to achieve his full potential in life.


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