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The concept of existentialism in various literary works

Existentialism, true to its roots in Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, was oriented toward two major themes: Thus, its chief theoretical energies were devoted to ontology and decision. Nature of existentialist thought and manner According to existentialism: With respect to the first point, that existence is particular, existentialism is opposed to any doctrine that views human beings as the manifestation of an absolute or of an infinite substance.

It is thus opposed to most forms of idealismsuch as those that stress ConsciousnessSpirit, Reason, Idea, or Oversoul.

Existentialism

Second, it is opposed to any doctrine that sees in human beings some given and complete reality that must be resolved into its elements in order to be known or contemplated. It is thus opposed to any form of objectivism or scientismsince those approaches stress the crass reality of external fact. Third, existentialism is opposed to any form of necessitarianism; for existence is constituted by possibilities from among which the individual may choose and through which he can project himself.

And, finally, with respect to the fourth point, existentialism is opposed to any solipsism holding that I alone exist or any epistemological idealism holding that the objects of knowledge are mentalbecause existence, which is the relationship with other beings, always extends beyond itself, toward the being of those entities; it is, so to speak, transcendence. Starting from such bases, existentialism can take diverse and contrasting directions.

It can insist on the transcendence of Being with respect to existence, and, by holding that transcendence to be the origin or foundation of existence, it can thus assume a theistic form. On the other hand, it can hold that human existence, posing itself as a problem, projects itself with absolute freedom, creating itself by itself, thus assuming to itself the function of God. As such, existentialism presents itself as a radical atheism.

Existentialism

Or it may insist on the finitude of human existence—i. As such, existentialism presents itself as a humanism. From 1940 on, with the diffusion of existentialism through continental Europe, its directions developed in keeping with the diversity of the interests to which they were subject: That diversity was rooted, at least in part, in the diversity of sources on which existentialism draws.

One such source is the subjectivism of the 4th—5th-century theologian St.

Literature Glossary

Augustinewho exhorted others not to go outside themselves in the quest for truthfor it is within them that truth abides.

Still another source is the nihilism of the Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevskywho, in his novels, presented human beings as continually defeated as a result of their choices and as continually placed before the insoluble enigma of themselves.

Examples of Existentialism

As a consequence of the diversity of such sources, existentialist doctrines focus on several aspects of existence. They focus, first, on the problematic character of the human situation, through which the individual is continually confronted with diverse possibilities or alternativesamong which he may choose and on the basis of which he can project his life.

Third, the doctrines focus on the intersubjectivity that is inherent in existence and is understood either as a personal relationship between two individuals, I and thousuch that the thou may be another person or God, or as an impersonal relationship between the anonymous mass and the individual self deprived of any authentic communication with others.

  • On the other hand, there was the requirement to demythologize the religious content of faith, particularly of the Christian faith, in order to allow the message of the eschatological event of salvation to emerge from among human existential possibilities;
  • Understanding, according to Dilthey, consists in the reliving and reproducing of the experience of others;
  • No absolutes were left standing;
  • There is, in the fifth place, the therapeutic value of existential analysis that permits, on the one hand, the liberating of human existence from the beguilements or debasements to which it is subject in daily life and, on the other, the directing of human existence toward its authenticity—i.

Fourth, existentialism focuses on ontologyon some doctrine of the general meaning of Being, which can be approached in any of a number of ways: There is, in the fifth place, the therapeutic value of existential analysis that permits, on the one hand, the liberating of human existence from the beguilements or debasements to which it is subject in daily life and, on the other, the directing of human existence toward its authenticity—i.

The various forms of existentialism may also be distinguished on the basis of language, which is an indication of the cultural traditions to which they belong and which often explains the differences in terminology among various authors.

The linguistic differences, however, are not decisive for a determination of philosophical affinities. Historical survey of existentialism Many of the theses that existentialists defend or illustrate in their analyses are drawn from the wider philosophical tradition. But our whole groundwork cracks, and the earth opens to abysses. In early 19th-century French philosophyit was defended by a reformed ideologue of the French RevolutionMarie Maine de Biranwho wrote: I was already led by instinct to look within myself in order to know how it was possible that I could be alive and be myself.

The theme of the irreducibility of existence to reasoncommon to many existentialists, was also defended by the German idealist F.

  1. I am a valuing being; I must make my own meaning, over and over again, with each of a million choices I make, each step in my dance, as I become the person I will finally be at the moment of my death. No two thinkers with whom we will engage offer the same philosophical stance; existentialists are nothing if not individuals, each unique.
  2. Then you find out that they hate you. From Jaspers and Binswanger, the existentialist current became diffused and variously stated in contemporary psychiatry.
  3. Directors of Existentialist Films Here are movie directors who are well-known for their existentialist films.
  4. It is thus opposed to any form of objectivism or scientism , since those approaches stress the crass reality of external fact.
  5. Against that risk, for the theological forms of existentialism e. Augustine , who exhorted others not to go outside themselves in the quest for truth , for it is within them that truth abides.

Understanding, according to Dilthey, consists in the reliving and reproducing of the experience of others. Hence, it is also a feeling together with others and a sympathetic participation in their emotions. Understanding, therefore, accomplishes a unity between the knowing object and the object known.

Questions Can Be Existential

Immediate background and founders The theses of existentialism found a particular relevance during World War IIwhen Europe found itself threatened alternately by material and spiritual destruction. Under those circumstances of uncertainty, the optimism of Romantic inspiration, by which the destiny of humankind is infallibly guaranteed by an infinite force such as Reason, the Absolute, or Mind and propelled by it toward an ineluctable progress, appeared to be untenable.

The negative aspects of existence, such as pain, frustration, sickness, and death—which 19th-century optimism refused to take seriously because they do not touch the infinite principle that those optimists believed to be manifest in humans—became for existentialism the essential features of human reality.

The thinkers the concept of existentialism in various literary works, by virtue of the negative character of their philosophy, constituted the exception to 19th-century Romanticism thus became the acknowledged masters of the existentialists. Against Hegelian necessitarianism, Kierkegaard interpreted existence in terms of possibility: Emergence as a movement Modern existentialism reproduced such ideas and combined them in more or less coherent ways.

Human existence is, for all the forms of existentialism, the projection of the future on the basis of the possibilities that constitute it. For others such as Sartrethe possibilities that are offered to existential choice are infinite and equivalent, such that the choice between them is indifferent; and for still others Abbagnano and Merleau-Pontythe existential possibilities are limited by the situation, but they neither determine the choice nor render it indifferent. The issue is one of individuating, in every concrete situation and by means of a specific inquiry, the real possibilities offered to humans.

For all the existentialists, however, the choice among possibilities—i. Among the risks, the most serious is the descent into inauthenticity or alienation, the degradation from being a person into being a thing. Against that risk, for the theological forms of existentialism e. Existentialism has had ramifications in various areas of contemporary culture. Kafka, FranzFranz Kafka, c. From Jaspers and Binswanger, the existentialist current became diffused and variously stated in contemporary psychiatry.

  1. No two thinkers with whom we will engage offer the same philosophical stance; existentialists are nothing if not individuals, each unique.
  2. Third, existentialism is opposed to any form of necessitarianism; for existence is constituted by possibilities from among which the individual may choose and through which he can project himself.
  3. Kafka, FranzFranz Kafka, c.

On the other hand, there was the requirement to demythologize the religious content of faith, particularly of the Christian faith, in order to allow the message of the eschatological event of salvation to emerge from among human existential possibilities.

Methodological issues in existentialism The methods that existentialists employ in their interpretations have a presupposition in common: The two terms coincide in existence: That common ground notwithstanding, each existentialist thinker has defended and worked out his own method for the interpretation of existence.

Phenomenology is thus capable of disclosing the structure of Being and hence is an ontology of which the point of departure is the being of the one who poses the question about Being, namely, the human being. Reason is possible existence—i. Thus, when the impossibility of its achievement is recognized, it is changed into faith, into the recognition of transcendence as providing the only possibility of its final achievement.

According to Sartre, the foremost philosopher of mid-20th-century France, the method of philosophy is existential psychoanalysis —i. Roger-Viollet Finally, according to humanistic existentialism, as represented by Abbagnano and Merleau-Ponty, the method of philosophy consists of the analysis and the determination—by employing all available techniques, including those of science—of the structures that constitute existence—i.

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