220th Century Philosophy– grew out of post WWII disillusionment and trauma over atrocities– developed by Jean-Paul Sartre (20th century French philosopher)
3Influences Soren Kierkegaard – 19th 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 1st existentialist & father of existentialism because he was the first to make existential questions a primary focus in his philosophy)
4Friedrich Nietzche– 19th 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”
5Fyodor Dostoyevsky– 19th century Russian novelist, generally considered one of the greatest existentialist literary figures, especially because of Notes from the Underground and The Brothers Karamazov
6Martin Heidegger– 20th 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
7Ontology The study of being; the study of nature of reality – fundamental concern of existentialists.
8Existential Beliefs1. 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”
92. 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)
10Each 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)
11Atheist Existentialists vs. Christian Existentialists Atheists – no God, or if there is, he doesn’t careChristians – there is a God, but his purpose for mankind is unknowableBoth - Man must create a human morality in the absence of any known, predetermined, absolute values
12Most important value in existential belief = complete honesty with one’s self
13Emotional anguish (Angst) – unavoidable consequence of trying to exercise total freedom of choice and trying to achieve absolute honesty in one’s actions
14Sartre’s “Man of Good Faith” Understands humanity’s solitude in an indifferent universeFully accept responsibility for the freedom of his choicesFully accepts responsibility for the consequences of his choicesDoes not withdraw from life or from societyJudges the worth of his actions by estimating the consequences if everyone, not just himself, were to perform that action
15Sartre’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 birthIs deliberately hypocriticalUses the excuse of “having good intentions” to escape taking responsibility for the consequences of his actions
16Absurditythere is no meaning to be found beyond what meaning we give to italso encompasses the amorality or “unfairness” of the world – contrasts with “karmic” thinking(what happens happens)
17Albert 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
18Albert Camus’ “Man of the Absurd” Continued Acknowledges man’s lonely existence in the face of the silence of the universeRejects despair and is fully engaged in life and in society
19Albert Camus’ “Man of the Absurd” Continued Commits himself to the anguish and responsibility of living as best as he can in a universe of uncertaintiesRealizes 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.
20Albert Camus’ “Man of the Absurd” Continued Realizes that man must make choices and is therefore condemned to be freeRealizes that this absurdity is an inescapable part of the human conditionEpitomized 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)
21Facticity – 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 doneA 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
22Authentic versus Inauthentic Existence leaving things to chance (refusing to choose) = inauthenticto disregard one’s facticity = inauthentic“finding oneself” and then living in accordance with this self = authentic existenceThe authentic act is one that is in accordance with one’s freedom
23Nihilism (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
25Other 20th century existential lit. Jack KerouacBeat poetsHermann HesseAnd many others
26Existentialist 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 PeopleTaxi DriverHigh NoonEasy RiderOne Flew Over the Cuckoo’s NestA Clockwork OrangeApocalypse Now, etc.
27Existentialist Theater/ Theater of the Absurd Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for GodotTom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are DeadJean Anouilh’s Antigoneetc.
28Existential 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.