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A Primer

- Realm of Existentialism
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Britannica.com


Existentialism
Philosophy, philosophers, readings, articles


Wait a minute, there's a snag somewhere; something disagreeable. Why, now, should it be disagreeable?...Ah,I see; it's life without a break. (Jean Paul Sartre - huis clos)

Existentialism is a philosophical movement which emphasizes on individual existence, freedom, and choice.
There are several philosophical positions all related to existential philosophy but the main identifiable common proposition, is that existence precedes essence. By this, existentialism states that man exists and in that existence man defines himself and the world in his own subjectivity, and wanders between choice, freedom, and existential angst.

The first philosopher to use the term was Soren Kierkegaard (1813 - 1855), who reacted against systematic rational philosophy, specially Hegel, and grasped the notion of a truth inside of the evolving self.

Deriving from this stress on existence there are other main subjects and images that have been developed by the existentialists.

Becoming a Being (existential ontology):
We are what we can become. Ours is a process, and our becoming is our ontic possibility of becoming. Human existence is a project, in which past and present are subordinate to future, is the main residence of our existence, because it is the north of our projection of ourselves. “Human existence cannot have a relationship with being unless it remains in the midst of nothingness.” (M. Heidegger - was ist metaphysik?).
Nothingness
Nothingness appears in existentialism, as the placeholder of the possibility. The awareness of anything in the world that is not my own existence (which by the way,cannot be held in consciousness without being nihilized) is an awareness of nothingness, that is, what I, this existence am not and in some cases I could become.
Absurd
We arrive from nothingness to absurd at the moment that we ask for a meaning after we have become aware of the other (trough the prior explained negation). Absurd is a leit motiv in existentialism, specially in Sartre and Camus. It is sometimes possible to overcome absurd, with absurd itself, as Camus says in The Myth of Sisyphus: "The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy."
Ethics / Subjectivity / Good faith
Our view of the world is enough to become Truth, because it is based on our facts. What we do with this truth, depends on our good or bad faith, that is, the ability to act as if in our act the entire mankind would be represented. That is enough to prove an act as an ethical one.
Choice
We always have a choice. Existentialism does not stand for any kind of determinism except the one that determines our individual facts (existence)
We choose, and in choosing (in good or bad faith) we define ourselves. Choice is a definition of an existence in the world, towards an object outside of itself.
Choice is all that we have, without confirmation of our act; we never know what was right to choose. The doubt of our acts, together with the contingence of existence, leads to
Angst
The main characteristic of existence itself, when we face our contingence, and the absurdity of our acts and choices:
For Heidegger, it is that trough which fear becomes possible. For Kierkegaard is a desire for what one fears. For Sartre, it is the immediate consequence of facing the possibility of nothingness.

 

Ce qu'on fait n'est jamais compris mais seulement loué ou blâmé. Nietzsche, Gay Science


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