Our exploration of existentialism began by tracing out some indications of its philosophical background. We identified a shift in philosophical perspective in the outlook of Brentano and traced out the methodological background to existentialism in phenomenology and the analytical method characteristic of the phenomenological approach developed by Husserl and Heidegger. We then moved on to begin our examination of the intellectual and ideological background of existentialism in the philosophical perspectives of two philosophers – Nietzsche and Kierkegaard. We managed to look at the initial elements of Nietzsche’s position before the Christmas break. I would like to invite you to take some time during the Christmas break to read the outline of Kierkegaard’s perspectives that I have prepared for you. In this way, we can economize a bit on time and be in a better position to move directly into existentialism itself as such when we return to Do-We-Know. Introductory remarks
We have already seen in our exploration of phenomenology that existentialism is as much an approach to our experience of life as it is a strict philosophical system. In the proto-existentialism put forth by ‘atheistic’ philosophers such as Nietzsche, existentialism could be viewed as a life-view in which the individual, in a universe without God, without revealed morality and without predetermined values and answers to the meaning of life must create his or her own truth, value and meaning systems. It was a life-view where the individual was ultimately, radically and solely responsible for his or her own actions. With the individual person at the center of all things, the radical, aristocratic individualism of a Nietzschean approach demonstrated that it was up to each individual to create an essence out of the facticity of his or her own existence. This does not necessarily lead to a nihilistic schema void of ethics, morality or values—though it certainly can—but rather to a philosophical approach in which the individual builds meaning out of the conditions of existence, bringing them into service of his or her own ‘project’. The theistic approach that we will see in Kierkegaard’s proto-existentialism also emphasizes the individual and personal responsibility—but this time it is the individual before his or her God. The existence of a moral system given to us by God in no way limits our responsibility and freedom. It does not negate the necessity to live our own lives with intelligence and volition. Theistic existentialism recognizes the human condition as it is, and presents it to God for forgiveness, healing, and strength. This is not a denial of personal responsibility. In fact, God requires that we make our own choices, choices which He honours in service of our struggle for authenticity. For those who might want to go beyond the outline that follows a useful and uncomplicated internet resource for additional information about Kierkegaard, his philosophy can be consulted at http://www.tameri.com/csw/exist/kierkegaard.shtml
Kierkegaard and existential themes
Our treatment of Kierkegaard has two objectives. Firstly we will be taking a look at Kierkegaard as a forerunner of existentialism. In this regard, it might be good to have in mind a convenient list of some of the essential characteristics of existentialism as a philosophical system: On the basis of these we can consider how Kierkegaard’s thinking foreshadowed these themes and, at the same time, we can develop an appreciation of how his philosophical perspectives differed. As you read the information I have collected for you in this document, you might want to note the extent to which Kierkegaard’s thought agrees or disagrees with the 11 points that follow. It is usually agreed that existentialism can be identified with the following points of view: 1) EXISTENCE precedes ESSENCE. There are no predetermining factors that set out...