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Existentialism The term existentialism has been applied to the human subject in all aspects of the individual. Through the ideas of existentialism, philosophers have looked at the existence of the human being. An existential attitude of the world is one of confusion and belief in a meaningless world. The beliefs of existentialism came about as a complete change from the beliefs of periods like the Romantic period. This philosophical view of life came about in the 19th century. These ideas could better be explained by incidents like WWII, and how if there was a god, he would not have let such destruction happen. This view on life led to the pondering on weather or not our lives had any meaning or order to them or if they were completely random and out of our control. This time brought about many different existentialist philosophers, all having very different opinions and views of the world and its meaning. (Crowell, Steven) Soren Kierkegaard was known as the “father of existentialism” with his new views of life beginning in the 19th century. The basis and the beginning of most of Kierkegaard’s work came from his views on the Danish Church. He is popularly known for his term the “leap of faith”. He referred to this term both in a person’s belief in God and in love. This is because as he would say neither of these are things we can prove or know for sure, but only something we have to have faith in, something that can be doubted. Kierkegaard also found an importance on self-introspection and the individuals’ subjective relation to a certain subject. (McDonald, William) For example, groups who believe the same basic think all look at it with there own relativity. Most of Kierkegaard’s beliefs and philosophies have to do with moral and religious issues. These issues are the basis for a new way of thinking and looking at life that would later become known as existentialism. Another early philosopher in the 19th century with many existential elements in his thinking was Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche had views that were existential, yet they differed very much from that of Kierkegaard. He questioned Christianity and many other religions that tried to give people morality in there life. (Wicks, Robert ) Nietzsche also had ideas on the value of life and the purpose of life that formed from his belief on morality and God. Most of his ideas did not become very popular and well known until after his lifetime. A decade after WWII many of his philosophical works were revived after much translation. Nietzsche views of morality were Homeric and he saw morality more as wealth, strength, health, and power and not things like charity and pity. The statement that “God is dead” is something that was used by Nietzsche in his writing. Like much philosophy, some interpretation is done in understanding what it is they mean. Some saw Nietzsche as an atheist as he thought God no longer existed. This belief leads to a feeling that nothing matters in our life and leads to a loss on any perspective on any thing. These views on life from Nietzsche may have led to his symptoms of insanity in 1879. (Wicks, Robert) Jean-Paul Sartre is one of the most well known existentialists of the 20th century. He was a novelist, philosopher, and existentialist. Sartre became interested with the ideas of philosophy early on in his life. (Flynn, Thomas) After being involved with WWII there is a shift in his views on things and he spent most of his life thinking about his existentialist ideas about free will and communism. Sartre spent much time with the idea of consciousness and the idea that reflective consciousness or the idea of self-knowledge is something that always fails. He also said how man tries to make sense of the world it lives in is its only way of proving its own existence. (Flynn, Thomas) Sartre also gives a completely new spin on the idea of free will. The idea that if there were a creator that there would be a plan for it. However, because of this free will people believe in there must be no such creator that has a plan for us. Through this, we can see that atheism was fundamental to the style of Sartre’s existentialism beliefs. Throughout history, there have been many different beliefs on the world, life, politics, and religion. In most cases there is no real say that one is better than another when it comes down to strictly opinionated views. In the case of existentialism it can be seen just through the three philosophers; Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Sartre we can see how one philosophical idea can be approached and looked at in so many different ways. The ideas and theories that make up both philosophy and religion are so diverse and will vary between each individual person. There is no wrong answer in the work of these philosophers, or that of any other philosophers, all make valid points and allow future generations to see there work and make them think. Every human is entitled to there own belief about the purpose of life and there existential views are only important to them. It is our beliefs on life that portray how we go about living our lives and what we live for.
Crowell, Steven. "Existentialsim." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2004. 11 Mar 2009 .
"Existentialism." Wikipedia. Wikipedia Foundation Inc.. 11 Mar 2009 .
Flynn, Thomas. "Jean-Paul Sartre." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2004. 11 Mar 2009 .
McDonald, William. "Soren Kierkegaard ." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 1996. 11 Mar 2009 .
Wicks, Robert. "Friedrich Nietzsche." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 1997. 11 Mar 2009 .