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1 History of Existential Thought Kortman English 10 (courtesy of Scott MacMillan 2006)

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1 1 History of Existential Thought Kortman English 10 (courtesy of Scott MacMillan 2006)

2 2 Existential thought provides a direction for humanity, as it highlights the possibilities of human existence and what can be for individual life.

3 3 Origins Ex-ist means to stand out against Ex-ist means to stand out against Individuals stand out against the world, society, institutions & ways of thought Individuals stand out against the world, society, institutions & ways of thought Dangers of belonging to the crowd Dangers of belonging to the crowd Dates back to Socrates Dates back to Socrates Many perspectives – subjective philosophy Many perspectives – subjective philosophy Expose illusions of everyday life Expose illusions of everyday life Many who have contributed do not consider themselves existentialists Many who have contributed do not consider themselves existentialists

4 4 Endeavor to grasp reality [and] arises directly out of Western mans anxiety, estrangement, and conflicts (May, 1959: 19). understand how events in life fit into a larger context…involves the process of creating and discovering meaning, which is facilitated by a sense of coherence (order, reason for existence) and a sense of purpose (mission in life, direction) (Reker & Chamberlain, 2000: 1). Attempts to understand how events in life fit into a larger context…involves the process of creating and discovering meaning, which is facilitated by a sense of coherence (order, reason for existence) and a sense of purpose (mission in life, direction) (Reker & Chamberlain, 2000: 1).

5 5 Existentialism, as a way of thinking about and depicting the world, emerged most strongly out of the tremors and that shook modern Europe beginning in the nineteenth century. The inhuman, alienating implications of modern capitalist production and warfare, the unfulfilled promise of science, the decline of religious certitude, the challenges issued by Darwin, Freud, and modern physics – all contributed to existentialisms claim to pertinence. Sartre and Heidegger expressed, in philosophical and literary terms, the essentials of existentialism. In so doing, they attempted to characterize aspects of the timeless nature of the human condition and to respond to the quickening pace of alienation and despair in their own era. (Cotkin, 2003: 3-4)

6 6 Key People Rebels who questioned place of humanity in the universe Rebels who questioned place of humanity in the universe Socrates Socrates Plato Plato Kierkegaard Kierkegaard Husserl Husserl Heidegger Heidegger Nietzsche Nietzsche Camus Camus Sartre Sartre De Beauvoir De Beauvoir Frankl Frankl

7 7 Socrates 470 – 399 BC 470 – 399 BC Greek Greek Laid foundation of Western philosophy Laid foundation of Western philosophy Socratic method Socratic method Sought to examine Sought to examine I know nothing I know nothing Socratic problem – he wrote nothing Socratic problem – he wrote nothing

8 8 Plato 427 – 347 BC 427 – 347 BC Greek Greek Socrates student Socrates student Wrote in dialogue Wrote in dialogue Metaphysical dualism Metaphysical dualism Author of The Republic Author of The Republic

9 9 Soren Kierkegaard 1813 – – 55 Considered the father of existentialism Considered the father of existentialism First to emphasize the individual First to emphasize the individual Believed in a higher power (unlike most existential philosophers) Believed in a higher power (unlike most existential philosophers) Truth is subjectivity Truth is subjectivity

10 10 Edmund Husserl 1859 – – 1938 German German Father of phenomenology- Father of phenomenology- –primarily concerned with making the structures of consciousness, and the phenomena which appear in acts of consciousness, objects of systematic reflection and analysis consciousness phenomenaconsciousness phenomena Influenced Heidegger, Sartre Influenced Heidegger, Sartre

11 11 Friedrich Nietzsche 1844 – – 1900 German German God is dead, nihilism God is dead, nihilism Wrote The Gay Science, Wrote The Gay Science,

12 12 Albert Camus 1913 – – 1960 French French Author of The Rebel, The Stranger, The Myth of Sisyphus Author of The Rebel, The Stranger, The Myth of Sisyphus Happiness is fleeting, we are mortal Happiness is fleeting, we are mortal

13 13 Martin Heidegger 1889 – – 1976 Author of Being and Time Author of Being and Time Nature of being - Daesin Nature of being - Daesin Death Death Inspired Sartre Inspired Sartre

14 14 Jean-Paul Sartre 1905 – – 1980 French French Author of Being and Nothingness, Existentialism is a Humanism Author of Being and Nothingness, Existentialism is a Humanism Existence precedes essence Existence precedes essence Bad faith – denial of freedom Bad faith – denial of freedom

15 15 Simone de Beauvoir 1908 – – 1986 French French Longtime companion to Sartre Longtime companion to Sartre Wrote about feminist and existential ethics Wrote about feminist and existential ethics Author of The Second Sex, Ethics of Ambiguity Author of The Second Sex, Ethics of Ambiguity

16 16 The existentialist writers hope to shatter our dogmatic beliefs and lure us into giving up blindly accepted ethical norms and ideologies. Only when we successfully shed these values that we have been conditioned to uphold by various institutions – our families, schools and universities – will we be able to reach beyond them to the genuine roots of our selves and ultimately attain authenticity. The unnecessary information we have collected during our lifetimes, the facts postulated as an integral part of the ethos of objectivity fostered by society and its institutions, are inapplicable to the sphere of human existence in which one struggles for ones self. There, in their stead, the notion of authenticity emerges. (Golomb, 1995: 8)

17 17 Existentialists have asked for a life in which man continuously questions his purpose and accepts responsibility for his actions, one which truly reflects mans special position in this world. Breisach (1962: 4-5)

18 18 Viktor Frankl 1905 – – 1997 Austrian Austrian Psychologist Psychologist Key figure in founding existential therapy Key figure in founding existential therapy Logotherapy - will to meaning – meaning can be found in anything Logotherapy - will to meaning – meaning can be found in anything Author of Mans search for meaning Author of Mans search for meaning

19 19 Man does not simply exist, but always decides what his existence will be, what he will become in the next moment. - Viktor Frankl

20 20 Key Concepts Existence precedes Essence Existence precedes Essence Alienation Alienation Despair Despair Death Death Freedom Freedom Choice Choice Consciousness Consciousness Authenticity Authenticity Existential angst Existential angst Existential vacuum Existential vacuum

21 21 Existence precedes Essence -Sartre In contrast to other entities, whose essential properties are fixed by the kind of entities they are, what is essential to a human beingwhat makes her who she isis not fixed by her type but by what she makes of herself, who she becomes. In contrast to other entities, whose essential properties are fixed by the kind of entities they are, what is essential to a human beingwhat makes her who she isis not fixed by her type but by what she makes of herself, who she becomes.

22 22 Authenticity Difficult to define Difficult to define Inauthentic – forced upon us, false Inauthentic – forced upon us, false Red pill vs. blue pill Red pill vs. blue pill Being true to oneself Being true to oneself Relationship to the world Relationship to the world Development of self Development of self Being versus having Being versus having Eyes of beholder Eyes of beholder Meaningful existence Meaningful existence

23 23 A person is authentic in that degree to which his being in the world is unqualifiedly in accord with the givenness of his own nature and of the world…authenticity is the primary good or value of the existential viewpoint. Bugental (1965: 31)

24 24 Existential Angst Danish meaning dread Danish meaning dread Condition of insecurity and despair Condition of insecurity and despair

25 25 Existentialism Today Humanistic psychology Humanistic psychology –concerned with the human dimension of psychology and the human context for the development of psychological theory Used in therapy Used in therapy Used in career counselling Used in career counselling

26 26 Existential Psychology Also known as existential therapy Also known as existential therapy Viktor Frankl, Rollo May, Irving Yalom Viktor Frankl, Rollo May, Irving Yalom Therapists help patients understand anxiety, aloneness and make better meaningful life choices Therapists help patients understand anxiety, aloneness and make better meaningful life choices

27 27 If nothing else survives of all the existentialists have said, it will be impossible to forget the utter seriousness with which they have dealt with human existence. I want honesty, Kiekegaard is supposed to have exclaimed shortly before his death. Truth is courage and error is cowardice, Nietzsche added to this. And in a sense this passionate willingness to search and find and to witness for this supreme personal experiment with ones whole personality is the core of existentialism. It forms the basis for authentic existence, is the key to the overcoming of estrangement, and gives the highest promise for the preservation of free and responsible man. (Breisach, 1962: 237)

28 28 Freedom vs. Determinism QW Determinism: Determinism: –the view that every event, including human cognition, behavior, decision, and action, is determined by an unbroken chain of prior occurrences chain of prior occurrenceschain of prior occurrences Quickwrite: (1/2 page) Are freedom and determinism mutually exclusive? Why? What is your perspective on the issue? Quickwrite: (1/2 page) Are freedom and determinism mutually exclusive? Why? What is your perspective on the issue?


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