“We always find something, eh Didi, to give us the impression we exist?” - Estragon in Waiting for Godot Existentialism is a movement in twentieth-century philosophy and literature that centres on the individual and his or her relationship to the universe or God. One of the leading exponents of existentialist thought was French novelist and philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. His philosophy is articulated in his novels, such as No Exit and Nausea, as well as in his more purely philosophical works (Being and Nothingness, Critique of Dialectical Reason). Among the most famous and influential existentialist propositions is Sartre’s dictum, “existence precedes and rules essence,” which is generally taken to mean that there is no pre- defined essence to humanity except that which we make for ourselves. Since Sartrean existentialism does not acknowledge the existence of a god or of any other determining principle, human beings are free to do as they choose. Along with this freedom to choose, there is the responsibility for the consequences of one’s choices. With this responsibility comes a profound anguish or dread. Existentialism attempts to describe our desire to make rational decisions despite existing in an irrational universe. Unfortunately, life might be without inherent meaning (existential atheists) or it might be without a meaning we can understand (existential theists). Either way, the human desires for logic and immortality are futile. We are forced to define our own meanings, knowing they might be temporary. The existentialist label has been applied to writers, philosophers, visual artists and filmmakers; the movement flourished in the mid-20th century Europe. Nineteenth-century precursors to this school of thought include Some notable 19th century precursors include Kierkegaard and Nietsche. Other 20th-century notables include Albert Camus, Jean Genet, Andre Gide, Simone de Beauvoir, Franz Kafka, and Beckett.
Theatre of the Absurd...
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