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Existentialism Empty Existentialism

Post by offline on Tue Jan 11 2011, 11:46

Existentialism does not dictate a specific political standpoint, but the stress on individuality and choice that this philosophy represents do have a political side. Many of the well-known existentialists of the world fought actively for individual freedom.
The definition of freedom varies among people who employ existentialist concepts, which is responsible partly for the political diversity of this group. Many of the more anarchist existentialists sought freedom from government, stressing that making mistakes and learning from one's decisions is only natural for humanity. Others, such as Sartre, saw communism as a truer freedom, as they were no longer burdened with the necessities of life, such as food and shelter, and were able to more actively pursue self-improvement.
Despite this diversity in definition, the principal concept remains: that freedom is the essence of being; To restrict a person of freedom is to rob him of that which makes him alive.
Existentialism isn't necessarily atheist. Many people criticize this philosophy as "turning away from God". This isn't always the case. Some existentialists, such as Kierkegaard were religious themselves. Some of the more aethist of the group didn't abandon the concepts or value of theology, merely the importance of the specifics. An existentialist may still have religious beliefs, but does not rely on them. Consider this:
Let's compare the existentialist and the religious at the point when they are ready to leave home. Both may love their parents and have nothing but gratitude for the work they've done. The "religious", in this comparison" are the ones who visit their parents every weekend, and occasionally borrow money. The existentialists, however, are aware of the necessity of their independance. They may still visit their parents, but not with such routine or need. As British writer Anita Brookner put it:
Existentialism is about being a saint without God; being your own hero, without all the sanction and support of religion or society.
Some philosophers, such as Gabriel Marcel developed their own breed of existentialism within the confines of their religion. Marcel, specifically, focused on the human-universe relationship side of existentialism, but had the perspective of his RoSomething of an older sister to existentialism, phenomenonology shares several of the same ideas as its sibling, and the line between the two is often unclear.
Founded by Edmund Husserl, phenomenonology is a philosophical model that was made to be free of presupposition. The idea is to study and describe objects and events only by what could be seen clearly. Anything else that was not immediately concious was to be excluded. Rather than deductive or empircal methods, Husserl's method was to rely on the information gathered by the senses and to throw away all scientific or metaphysical knowledge or beliefs in order to study phenomenon more accurately.
This importance on human cognition rather than belief or assumption is mirrored in existentialism. Albert Camus takes a phenomenological view to the world with his descriptions of knowledge:
This heart within me I can feel, and I judge that it exists. This world around me I can feel, and I likewise judge that it exists. There ends all my knowledge, and the rest is construction.
Beyond simply percieving phenomenon, this method reflects further in the entire nature of existentialism. While phenomenonology is the method of percieving things as what they are, not what they mean, existentialism is the method of living life for what it is, not for what it means beyond what we know of it.
(Note: This is not the full scope of the phenomenological movement, but was meant only to explain its relevance to existentialism.)
man-Catholic faith.
The Minds of Existentialism
Søren Kierkegaard
Often considered to be the first of the existentialists, Kierkegaard was a religious philosopher who stressed the need for individual choice.
Jean-Paul Sartre
Sartre potrayed humans as lonely creatures, and viewed the freedom of choice that many existentialists valued as a burdern, due largely to the responsibility that follows any choice. Sartre is one of the most prominent minds in existentialism, and can be credited for bringing this philosophy to the attention of a much larger audience.
Albert Camus
Moving beyond Sartre's existentialism, Camus explored the meaninglessness and absurd nature of the human condition.
Many Others
Other existential philosophers include Simone de Beauvoir, Martin Heidegger, Karl Jaspers, Gabriel Marcel and Franz Kafka. Existentialist philosophy was also influenced by many other works, including those of Friedrich Nietzsche, G. W. F. Hegel, Fyodor Dostoevsky and Edmund Husserl.
Jean-Paul Sartre (1905–1980) was a French writer and philosopher who is one of the leading figures in 20th-century existentialism. He imagines men as lonely creatures in a meaningless world. He emphasizes the importance of choice and responsibility. Sartre's influences include many of the German philosophers, especially Heidegger, of whom he was a student. He also had a close relationship with femenist writer Simone de Beauvoir.


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Post by Zaki_abl on Fri Oct 28 2011, 19:49

Existentialism – A Definition
Existentialism in the broader sense is a 20th century philosophy that is centered upon the analysis of existence and of the way humans find themselves existing in the world. The notion is that humans exist first and then each individual spends a lifetime changing their essence or nature.

In simpler terms, existentialism is a philosophy concerned with finding self and the meaning of life through free will, choice, and personal responsibility. The belief is that people are searching to find out who and what they are throughout life as they make choices based on their experiences, beliefs, and outlook. And personal choices become unique without the necessity of an objective form of truth. An existentialist believes that a person should be forced to choose and be responsible without the help of laws, ethnic rules, or traditions.


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Post by Zaki_abl on Fri Oct 28 2011, 19:49

Existentialism – What It Is and Isn’t
Existentialism takes into consideration the underlying concepts:

Human free will
Human nature is chosen through life choices
A person is best when struggling against their individual nature, fighting for life
Decisions are not without stress and consequences
There are things that are not rational
Personal responsibility and discipline is crucial
Society is unnatural and its traditional religious and secular rules are arbitrary
Worldly desire is futile
Existentialism is broadly defined in a variety of concepts and there can be no one answer as to what it is, yet it does not support any of the following:
wealth, pleasure, or honor make the good life
social values and structure control the individual
accept what is and that is enough in life
science can and will make everything better
people are basically good but ruined by society or external forces
“I want my way, now!” or “It is not my fault!” mentality
There is a wide variety of philosophical, religious, and political ideologies that make up existentialism so there is no universal agreement in an arbitrary set of ideals and beliefs. Politics vary, but each seeks the most individual freedom for people within a society.


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Post by Zaki_abl on Fri Oct 28 2011, 19:50

Existentialism – Impact on Society
Existentialistic ideas came out of a time in society when there was a deep sense of despair following the Great Depression and World War II. There was a spirit of optimism in society that was destroyed by World War I and its mid-century calamities. This despair has been articulated by existentialist philosophers well into the 1970s and continues on to this day as a popular way of thinking and reasoning (with the freedom to choose one’s preferred moral belief system and lifestyle).

An existentialist could either be a religious moralist, agnostic relativist, or an amoral atheist. Kierkegaard, a religious philosopher, Nietzsche, an anti-Christian, Sartre, an atheist, and Camus an atheist, are credited for their works and writings about existentialism. Sartre is noted for bringing the most international attention to existentialism in the 20th century.

Each basically agrees that human life is in no way complete and fully satisfying because of suffering and losses that occur when considering the lack of perfection, power, and control one has over their life. Even though they do agree that life is not optimally satisfying, it nonetheless has meaning. Existentialism is the search and journey for true self and true personal meaning in life.

Most importantly, it is the arbitrary act that existentialism finds most objectionable-that is, when someone or society tries to impose or demand that their beliefs, values, or rules be faithfully accepted and obeyed. Existentialists believe this destroys individualism and makes a person become whatever the people in power desire thus they are dehumanized and reduced to being an object. Existentialism then stresses that a person's judgment is the determining factor for what is to be believed rather than by arbitrary religious or secular world values.


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Post by Mahmoud on Tue Jun 05 2012, 19:53

I. Introduction

A. Existentialism as a philosophy, or world and life view, is largely a 20th century phenomenon.
It is the very antithesis of Christian belief in that it asserts the total autonomy of man. Hence it is one of
the most virulent forms of humanism. It spread rapidly because its adherents often convey its message in more artistic form rather than in dry philosophic tomes. Instead, their medium is often novels, plays, art, or movies. They are often profoundly moving and entertaining because they speak to real human conditions.

B. One cannot properly understand the current state of western civilization without a minimal understanding of existentialist philosophy. It's influence is all-pervasive. The violence and breakdown of modern society in the 20th century can largely be attributed to this philosophy. R. C. Sproul says: "I doubt if there has been any philosophical system that has had as much influence on American culture in the twentieth century as this school of thought." LIFEVIEWS, p.28.

C. Definition: There are of course many variants of existentialism, including various religious forms. This outline is concerned mainly with secular existentialism. A common thread running through all secular forms is contained in the following definition:

"On the testimony and evidence of existence, life is patently chaotic, incoherent, meaningless, and hence absurd; consequently, the only responsible and honest intellectual and emotional response is to turn to the imperatives of the human spirit, to assert the freedom and autonomy of the self in order to impose meaningful form on the chaotic flux of existence." Clifford Edwards, CHRISTIANITY TODAY, 5/12/67.

Ponder this definition and see if it doesn't reflect much of our prevailing culture.

II. Background and Origin of Existential Thinking. The roots of existentialism.

A. Autonomous thinking (general)

This is as old as the original rebellion in Eden. It is man yielding to the satanic temptation of desiring to be as God, i.e., rejecting all outside (transcendent) sources of authority. Jean Paul Sartre, one of the
leading existentialist thinkers said: "There was nothing left in heaven...nor anyone to give me orders...I am doomed to have no other law but mine...Man is the being whose project is to become God." (Note how this closely parallels what the New Agers are saying)

B. The failure of enlightenment humanism. (specific)

1. Existentialism was a reaction against the naturalism and philosophic materialism of the Enlightenment. This naturalistic humanism resulted in a universe which was impersonal and could ultimately not be known. Sire says: "Naturalism places us as human beings in a box. But for us to have any confidence that our knowing we are in a box is true, we need to stand outside the box or to have some other being outside the box provide us with information (theologians call this "revelation"). But there is nothing or no one outside the box to give us revelation, and we cannot ourselves transcend the box." THE UNIVERSE NEXT DOOR, p.96

2. The idea that a transcendent, creator God does not exist is fairly unique to this century. If there is
no infinite, personal, creator-God who transcends His creation then there is no infinite reference
point which can give meaning to the particulars of life. Man is alone, there is only the cosmos, and
man's consciousness of himself.

3. The two great wars fought in Europe were devastating to the worldviews and culture based on naturalistic humanism. Out of this void existentialism came.

III. The Goal of Existentialism

The goal of existentialism is to escape nihilism (meaninglessness). Nihilism being the denial of all truth
and value. Notice the nihilism in the following quote:
"There is no system of philosophy to spin out. There are no ethical truths, there are just clarifications of particular ethical problems. Take advantage of these clarifications and work out your own existence. You are mistaken to think that anyone ever had the answers. There are no answers. Be brave and face up to it." Donald Kalish in TIME, p.24. 1/7/66.

Albert Camus, a leading existentialist said: "In the darkest depths of our nihilism I have sought only for the means to transcend nihilism." Camus believed that the one who lives an authentic existence is the one who rebels against that absurdity and creates meaning.

The existentialist answer, therefore, is that the individual creates his own reality and meaning inside his own head.

IV. Major Themes of Existentialism

A. Existence precedes essence, i.e., doing is more important than being.

The essence of a man is known only a posteriori, that is, after he acts. Sartre, said: "...[A]t first, he
is nothing. Only afterward will he be something, and he himself will have made what he will be. Thus, there is no human nature, since there is no god to conceive it. Not only is man what he conceives himself to be, but he is also what he wills himself to be." ESSAYS IN EXISTENCE, p.36.

A man, therefore, is the sum total of the acts that make up his life, no more, no less. When a man is
alive (or conscious), he is a subject. When he is dead, and only then, is he an object.

B. Reason is inadequate

Existentialists oppose reason to arrive at truth because certain universals have to exist which they
oppose. Existentialists emphasize passion and will. Their emphasis is not on ideas, but the thinker who has ideas. Notice this mood in the following quotes:

"Science as we know it has outlived its usefulness." Everett Mendelsohn, Harvard Biologist

"Reason is a limited skill...there is also spiritual knowledge and power." Theodore Rozak, Historian

"Equally important are mystery, ambiguity, illogical contradiction, and transcendent experience." Abraham Maslow, Psychologist

C. Freedom as opposed to determinism

The naturalism of the previous century was reductionist in that it reduced all reality to material. The
universe was a closed system governed only by chance and natural law. Man is nothing but a complex
electro-chemical machine. How then could man's acts be significant? The old rationalistic humanism tried to elevate man but the result was he merged into the woodwork. Bertrand Russell said "Man is nothing but the phosphorescence of slime." Existentialism is a reaction against this kind of determinism. The extreme is seen in the behaviorism of B.F. Skinner (see CIM Outline #48).

D. Subjectivity over Objectivity.

Truth is personal, not propositional or objective. There is no universe other than the universe of
individual human subjectivity. There are no universals, only particulars.

"[W]e remind man that there is no legislator but himself; that he himself thus abandoned, must decide
for himself." Sartre (Abandoned by whom or what? we might ask.)

"Man does not discover values; he creates them." Sartre
E. Since there is no standard to live well we should live much. (Go for all the gusto!) For the existentialist it was man's feelings and passion which made him a man. Feelings are the standard for truth. It is true if I feel strongly about it. ("How can it be wrong if it feels so right?")

V. Christian Critique

Like all humanist philosophies existentialism contains within itself the seeds of its own destruction.

A. The number one critique of existentialist philosophy is the inconsistency with which they live their lives. If man is truly free, and values are relative, why should Sartre, for example tell the U.S. to get out of Vietnam? (Which he in fact did.) Current existentialists are likewise advocates of causes. In reality, all non-christian philosophies must at some point borrow ("smuggle: might be a better word) ethical values from Christianity in order to live. Sartre himself seemed to admit this near his death. See: IS MAN THE MEASURE, p.46.

B. Existentialism is opposed to rationalism yet they write very rational books using all the laws of logic to convince readers that irrationalism is the way to meaning. If they did not employ the universals of
language how would we understand their art?

C. If values are relative how can any society exist? If every man does what is right in his own eyes what can hold society together? How can they cohere against an enemy? From the OT book of Judges we know the answer.

D. Existentialists deny any absolutes exist yet they treat human subjectivity and freedom as absolutes.

VI. Conclusion:

To understand existentialist philosophy as a christian is to weep real tears for a lost humanity. The current popular movie, FOREST GUMP, is billed as a "feel good movie" as opposed, I assume, to those which are so violent they assault the senses. However, this movie should not make Christians feel good! We may appreciate its artistry, but the basic philosophy of this movie is existentialism,
and it is this total rebellion against any transcendent values which give us the violence we see today in art and society.

The writer of Ecclesiates also pondered the questions of meaning and existence, but he came to a different conclusion. His solution was the acknowledgement of the existence of a personal Creator Who revealed Himself. His essence precedes existence and gives life meaning. See Chapter

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