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What Is The Main Idea Of Existentialism?

Existentialism is aphilosophical movement with its origins from the time of famous Soren Kierkagaard (1813 – 1855) Danish philosopher along with Friedrich Nietzsce, German philosopher. A few other major existentialism philosophers include: Martin Heidegger, Karl Jaspers, Jean Paul Sartre, Albert Camus. The existential philosophy is also diverse and incredibly rich with proponents including socialists, atheists, communists, nihilists, theists. Despite of the diversity, a lot of existentialists also share some basic ideas relevant for the discussion.

Many arguments have been there about the idea of existentialism and moreover, those who are termed by the name existentialists also share some key philosophical beliefs. The thought also initially starts with living subject. Therefore, subsequently, that thought gets intrinsically linked to feeling, acting of living human individuals.

What Does An Existentialist Believe?

The theoretical grounding would thus, provide a way of distinct existentialist attitude’ – i.e. sense of perplexity and disorientation when faced with what apparently is on basis of individualism, in the meaningless world.

Existentialism philosophers argue that conventional philosophical theory is quite abstract type of individual experience for explanation of such attitude. We’ll know about the logic behind such philosophy and two linked concepts, of those of angst and absurdity.

Emphasis of defining individual power results existentialism to discern the two main truths: one, that the people have been only defined in so far as they act, and two, that the people have been responsible for actions. Thus, through both these truths, which can get fused as a way of consciousness, humans create a meaningful life and determine their own judgments and values.

When talking about individuality, it is the existence that defines essence of this individual entity. According to other philosophical theory the essence has been defined through a preconceived notion, but the existentialism critiques this through holding self-awareness crisis as a higher importance individual than onto the category in which the individual would fit. That is not for saying that, over time, human beings don’t broaden their essence to something greater than themselves, but origin of such essence gets derived through existence, not in vice-versa.


Basic issue faced through existentialists concerns awareness of the meaninglessness. By this we mean the realization that no meaning is there in the world beyond the meaning we provide it, and therefore no idea bigger than self, like ideas of evil and pure. Being faced with this absurdity, existentialist, thus reaches faith crisis, in realizing that faith would in fact mean nothing. Meaning, therefore has been stored in larger bodies, like relationships or institutions, for filling the gap between meaning and existence – as it has been provided that humans would find it difficult to believe in themselves as existing, without reference to anything else. Therefore, a concept known by the name the look evolved, where humans experience existence of other humans, for changing the current world in which they’re present into tangible notion.

Some examples of absurdity are seen works like Molloy and Endgame, where the characters start losing connection with reality of the veer and absurdity off at different angles. In existentialism in literaturesuch eponymous character of 1951 novel Molloy, for instance also warps existence perception to extent of various existences, along with multi-dimensional essence. Also he fails contemplating fundamentals of social world surrounding him, thus also isolating him and also perpetuating existential crisis.

Five Basic Tenets of Existentialism

First, a basic existentialist standpoint exists, that the existence which precedes the essence, has got primacy over essence. The man has been a conscious subject, instead of a thing that has been manipulated or predicted; he can exist as the conscious being, and must not be according to any essence, system, generalization, definition, etc. According to Existentialism it is believed that I am not anything but only the conscious existence of self. – T.Z. Lavine.

Second existentialist theme is there for anxiety of sense of anguish, generalized uneasiness, fear of dread which has not been directed to a certain object. The Anguish is dread of nothingness of the human existence. The theme is old like Kiekegaard in existentialism and it is claim which anguishes is underlying, all-pervasive, universal human existence condition. Existentialism can agree with certain thought streams in Christianity and Judaism that perceives existence of humans as falling and human life lived in sin, suffering, anxiety and guilt. The forbidding and dark human life picture results the existentialists to denial of ideas like enlightenment, happiness, optimism, sense of well-being, Stoicism serenity, since it only reflects superficial life understanding, or foolish and natural way of despairing and denying, human existence tragic aspect.

The third existentialist theme is of absurdity. The existentialist says, that I am only my existence, but this is absurd. Existing as human being is quite inexplicable and absurd. All of us are here, thrown in this place and time—but why here? Why now? Without any reason, without any real connection, it is only contingently, and so the life is only an absurd contingent. Expressing absurdity, Blaise Pascal, French philosopher and mathematician said these words.

Forth theme pervading existentialism is of void or nothingness. If not having any essence defines me, then as an existentialist, I’ll reject all political theories, sciences, religions and philosophies that can’t reflect my existence as a conscious being and the attempt for imposing a certain essentialist structure on my world and me then there isn’t anything structuring my world. Also I have followed the lead of Kierkegaard. I also stripped myself of any unacceptable structure, moral value, structures of knowledge, along with human relationships, and standing in anguishes at edge of abyss. I am also my own existence, but the existence is nothingness. Nothingness in form of death, which is final nothingness, also hands over me like sword of Damocles at each life moment. Also I am filled with anxiety at times after permitting myself for being aware about this. At all moments, the influential of German existentialism philosophers, my entire being seems drifting away into nothing.

Related theme for nothingness is the fifth existentialism psychology theme, i.e. death. Nothingness in form of death, which is final nothingness, hangs over like Damocles sword at each life moment. Also I get anxiety at times after permitting myself for becoming aware of it. At such moments according to Martin Heidegger, most influential German existential philosophers, the entire being seems drifting away into nothingness. Unaware person also tries living like death isn’t actual, he escapes reality. However, Heidegger says that the death is most authentic and significant moment, the personal potentiality, that I have to suffer alone. Also when taking death into life, acknowledge and squarely face it, I free myself from death anxiety and life pettiness, and only after that I become free for becoming myself.

What is the Main Idea of Existentialism?

No one can be totally sure about what is the main idea of existentialism, as the chief thinkers of this philosophy disagreed about the philosophy’s tenets. Also a lot of them denied being existentialists at all. Among few exceptions were two most famous, Sartre along with his companion Simone de Beauvoir, who accepted label as they became tired of telling people to avoiding calling them it.

Also they carefully worked out the philosophy, but the followers generally treated existentialism something like an attitude or a style rather than an ideology. Various generations of disaffected youngsters also sat in cafes having slim Alber Camus or Sartre volumes on table in their front, smoking strong cigarettes from blue packages and also talking about anxiety and nothingness.

When there existential fashions were found in 1940s, men wore plain shirts and raincoats and women grew loose and long hair in what was termed by the journalist as “drowning-victim” appearance. Later, woolen black turtleneck also took over – which also made everyone severely sweaty in Paris Left Bank subterranean jazz clubs, where they danced. Through day, they also hoped for sighting legendary writers – Camus with move-start looked, De Beauvoir with attractive hooded eyes, turban and Sartre with pipe, the dumpy form along with a comb-over. Nowadays, the entire scene has also become nostalgic. Meanwhile, existentialist ideas about youthful rebellion and freedom also became parts of popular culture that is hardly remembered for how scandalous they were once.

With it is a necessity almost all of us become existentialists. The map of existentialism has been drawn truthfully according to all our likeness. Existentialism isn’t any unified belief or doctrine in conventional sense. As it breaks ranks all previous philosophy. It unsettles the orthodox religion and also questions supremacy and logic of science. However, the most important thing for people following existentialism is the question that it puts up: What on earth am I there for making my existence of?

The existentialism psychology attempts underlining the raison d’etre of the social structures, that highly it is realization of individuality along with fear of responsibility forcing all the humans together, granting meaning to also otherwise all meaningless concepts. Lead character of Camus’ L’Etranger, Mersault, or of The Outsider, is perhaps the best literary example of mind conflicting subject of personal freedom and meaning. The actions throughout novel depict the disillusionment with the placed meaning of concepts instead of him, and with boundaries of reason of freedom. Simply through reading about the existentialism, one gets forced for creating thought structures for deterring from, perhaps, the fact the individual with the world around is only absurd.