Sunday, January 18, 2015

On Existentialism

Existentialism is a powerful philosophy in that it brings to the center and defines as paramount our very existence. In short it argues that we exist in a world where we are capable of thought and action and that we are ultimately responsible for creating our very own meaning. We must therefore embrace life but be mindful to live with the consequences of our doing. Our actions truly define us. Many existentialists have tended to see the philosophy as a natural consequence of their atheism but not all existentialists are/were atheists (Kierkegaard and Buber both believed in God). The image of Jean Paul Sartre is often associated with existentialism but a reading of his work shows that he borrowed heavily from Nietzche, Heidegger and Kierkegaard and clearly built on a dynamic that preceded him. Some have criticized the philosophy for setting itself up in a world of no purpose, a bleak dystopia of zero absolutes. I don’t see it that way. In fact I believe that it gives the individual something to aspire to. It returns one’s destiny to ourselves (where it should always belong) and nullifies the noise of mysticism that only serves to disrupt our rational thought.
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