Existentialism is a practice of philosophy in which theobjective is reaching authenticity and individual freedom.
In modern society, individualism is ignored and there’s a tendency towards conformity; conformity and blind acceptance to what is established as “good”. To those people who just follow what others do are called: by Kierkegaard, plebs; by Sartre, the one (because you could count all these people acting like just one person); and by Nietzsche,the herd. They all refer to thinking, dressing, speaking and many things like everybody else does.
What existentialism tries to do is standing out of the herd, not being part of it.
In the analysis of the word “existence”, in latin “ex” means “out” or “exit” and the verb “sistere” means “to stand”. By this, you could say that “to exist” is to “to stand out”. Stand out from the crowd, from theaverage everyday, and even from ourselves.
Nietzsche spoke about the loneliness of the individual that stands out. In his case, as in many of existentialists, he suffered many obstacles and tragedies by not falling in the conformity. You could have a very good example in the way Socrates harmonized his life by his particular teaching.
One of Nietzsche aphorisms: To live alone, one must beeither a beast or a god, says Aristotle. Leaving out the third case: one must be both - a philosopher.
By this, for the existentialist, living in our mass society and having an almost irresistible pull toward conformity, being an individual is an achievement rather than a starting point.
We are born biological beings but we must become existential individuals by accpeting responsibility for ouractions. Many rather flee their existential individuality into the comfort of the faceless crowd.
Five themes of existentialism
There are five basic themes that the existentialist appropriates
each in his or her own way. Rather than constituting
a strict definition of ‘existentialist’, they depict more of a
family resemblance (a criss-crossing and overlapping of the
themes) among thesephilosophers.
1. Existence precedes essence. What you are (your essence)
is the result of your choices (your existence) rather than
the reverse. Essence is not destiny. You are what you make
yourself to be.
2. Time is of the essence. We are fundamentally time-bound
beings. Unlike measurable, ‘clock’ time, lived time is qualitative:
the ‘not yet’, the ‘already’, and the ‘present’ differ amongthemselves in meaning and value.
3. Humanism. Existentialism is a person-centred philosophy.
Though not anti-science, its focus is on the human
individual’s pursuit of identity and meaning amidst the
social and economic pressures of mass society for superficiality
4. Freedom/responsibility. Existentialism is a philosophy of
freedom. Its basis is the fact that we can standback from
our lives and reflect on what we have been doing. In this
sense, we are always ‘more’ than ourselves. But we are as
responsible as we are free.
5. Ethical considerations are paramount. Though each
existentialist understands the ethical, as with ‘freedom’, in
his or her own way, the underlying concern is to invite us to
examine the authenticity of our personal lives and of oursociety.
Many philosophers tend to criticize the philosophical significance of our feelings and emotions, but existentialism puts our emotions in great significance. This is why existentialism and the fine arts have been so close, and why existentialism is often considered as a mere literary movement.
Ex represents a long tradition in the history of philosophy in the West.
It comes back at...