There is a philosophy that all people will have an encounter with in their life, whether they witness it in popular culture or exercise it on a daily basis. This philosophy plays a part in how people interpret the world they live in, why they believe in the things they do, and how they react to a dehumanized world. There is no single definition for Existentialism, but there are a set of principles that adhere to the philosophy. However, by no means does someone have to agree to all to be an existentialist. Of the six themes of Existentialism, I will be focusing on alienation and its causes. In order to fully understand the theme of alienation, a briefing of history that leads up to Existentialism is necessary.
The Scientific Revolution brought about the idea of reason. Old world believers and traditions were put to the test of reason and science. If they didn't pass the law of science, they were discarded. Religious beliefs were challenged by science because they didn't satisfy the scientific method. Later in history, German philosopher Freidrich Nietzche proclaimed, "God is dead" (Perry 377). He attacked Christianity because he believed it gave man a sick soul and blocked the free and spontaneous exercise of human instincts (377). The use of science also allowed for the creation of machines. Thus, the Industrial Revolution began and a modern world unfolded overnight as factories opened. The daily life of every person changed in the Industrial World, and it is how we know life as today.
The above information set the stage for Existentialism, but it wasn't until after WWII that it experienced popularly as a movement. The war had caused anxiety and despair and a rejection of the idea of reason and science. Technology in the war (gas chambers, armored tanks, etc.) made it possible to kill more people than ever, and it caused people to re-evaluate what they believed in. Existentialism was an answer to people in a society who either no longer had a God...
Cited: Bigelow, Gordon E. "A Primer of Existentialism." College English. National Council of Teachers of English, 1961.
McCoppin, Rachel. "Transcendental Legacies: Transcendental and Existential Tenets in Modernism and Postmodernism." Stirrings Still. 2.1 (2005): 44-111.
Perry, Marvin. Western Civilization: A Brief History. 5th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2005.
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