Existentialism, the meaning of meaninglessness.
Throughout the history of human kind, people have always tried to explain the purpose of their own existence in the world. But during the nineteenth century a new philosophical and cultural movement came up, and it was existentialism. I believe that Existentialism is the more logical answer about people's life meaning, there's no life after death, and it demonstrates that everyone has their own free will, as long as you are totally aware of your acts.
The word was first adopted as an auto description of his philosophical thinking by Jean-Paul Sartre, and with the wide spreading of the after war literature, existentialism became a strong cultural movement in Europe during the 1950's. Many philosophers have been categorized as existentialist such as Karl Jaspers, Gabriel Marcel, Miguel de Unamuno, Albert Camus and Heidegger amongst others; the main representatives of this philosophical thinking are Friedrich Nietzsche and Søren Kierkegaard. The world not only met existential philosophers but also artist like Arshile Gorky, Alberto Giacometti, Willem de Kooning, and Jackson Pollock, and movie directors like Ingmar Bergman and Jean-Luc Godard were recognized under the category of existentialist. And by the late twentieth century, existentialism had become a cliché parodies in many books and movies by Woody Allen.
Existentialism has been misled to be thought of as a social movement rather than a unique philosophy, but to make an accurate judgment of existentialism we must see how its creator and main leaders thought like. Jean-Paul Sartre views about life were mostly everyone's unique consciousness, which was the result of everyone's subjective and personal experience of the world. This means that no matter two people went through the same situation no matter if they were together or alone the outcome of that experience in them will not be the same. For example you have a whole nation under the same belief of a superior being and a small percent of them were to go through the same events they will all have their own subjective point of view about the situation.
On the other hand and Søren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, though they never used the term existentialism, their thoughts are considered to be the basis of existentialism, while it is unknown whether they would have agreed the existentialism ideas of the twentieth century. Their existentialist ideas focused mainly on subjective human experience instead of the objective truths of math and science, which they argued were too disconnected or observational to completely explain the inaccurate human experience. Like Pascal they were fascinated in how people resisted peacefully with the obvious insignificance of life and the use of any type of distraction in order to escape from boredom. But unlike Pascal, both Nietzsche and Kierkegaard in addition thought about the function of making free choices, specifically concerning about the main values and beliefs, and how these choices modify the nature and identity of the chooser. “Übermensch” written by Friedrich Nietzsche and “knight of faith” written by Søren Aabye Kierkegaard are the best examples that define the authors' own existence. These created individuals that invented their own values and created the extreme conditions beneath which they stand out. Kierkegaard and Nietzsche were as well the creators of other intellectual movements, such as nihilism.
The first literature writers who were a big influence on existentialism were the Czech writer Franz Kafka and the Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky. Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground
Notes from Undergroundis about the story of a man that cannot fit within a society and is completely miserable with the characters he invents for himself. A lot of Dostoevsky's novels, like Crime and Punishment in which the author
Crime and PunishmentCrime and Punishment is a novel by Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky that was first published in the literary journal The Russian Messenger in twelve monthly installments in 1866. It was later published in a single volume...
encloses quite relevant topics of existential philosophy while showing story lines opposing from material existentialism.
Kafka repeatedly created bizarre and estranged characters who resist with despair and ridiculousness, remarkably shown in his most famous book, The Trial.
Existentialist reckoners centred on the enquiry of a solid and objective human existence and the conditions and circumstances of this existence, instead of hypothesizing a human essence, struggling if whether or not human essence is resolute during life decisions.
Nevertheless, the solid individual existence is obligated to have main concern in existentialism; some situations are usually thought to be common in human existence.
These situations are better interpreted under the light of the denotation of the word "existence," that belongs from the Latin roots "existere," which denotes "to stand out." Man exists in a condition of coldness from the whole universe in which he no matter what residue right in the middle of. This coldness is what makes man capable to reflect sense within the impartial universe full of in-itself. This reflected sense sustains weak, relentlessly encountering a collapse because of whatever reason; it could either be from a misfortune to a specifically joyful moment. In this collapse, we encounter with the bare insignificance of the universe, and such encounter could have overwhelming result. This result would be the total consciousness of the how pointless life is, like Albert Camus shows in “The Myth of Sisyphus”, how pointless is for Sisyphus to keep pushing the rock upwards and when he finally gets to the very top of the hill he will inevitable fall down along with the rock in an endless cycle. Camus compares this situation with the human life situations; he implies that humans have persistence on continuing despite of irrationality of the results.
Even though there are some ways to prevent this chaotic awareness, the worry about helping human kind to stay away from living their lives in behaviours which may place them in the continuous threat of having everything meaningfully clarified, is quite frequent to the majority of existentialist philosophers. The chance of having everything meaningfully clarified poses a menace of quietist that is naturally opposed to the existentialist philosophy.
A vital characteristic of existentialism is that existence follows the essence, which means that the real life of the individual is only what defines what it is be called the "essence" of a person, rather than there being a fixed essence which constitutes what it is to be a human. Therefore people create their personal values and establish the meaning to their life, using their consciousness.
It is quite common argued in these circumstances that it is the person who defines himself. In this statement it seems that we could wish to be anything we want and subsequently we become that.
The majority of existentialist philosophers argue that this would be a false existence. This statement means that a person is defined as far as he or she is able to act and that the person is conscientious of the consequences of his or her actions.
For instance, anyone who commits cruelly to someone else is, by that act, categorized like a cruel person. Additionally, because of this committed action of cruelty these persons involved are fully in charge of their new identity (a cruel person).
Just as Sartre wrote in his Existentialism is Humanism: "man first of all exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world - and defines himself afterwards." Positively thinking it is understood from Sartre's statement that human beings having a total consciousness of their life can also choose to live differently, and to do good things instead of bad things. Since man is free to make the decision of being whether good or cruel, he is not essentially none of these things.
Because essence is not something you choose to be, is not a state of mind of a temporary feeling, it's what defines, and without it you are no longer the same.
Existentialism, a relatively new inquiry, is just another way to answer in a more bluntly manner the questions about human's purpose. Either if it's satirized in many Woody Allen's movies or highly respected in Sartre's books, Existentialism will go on as long as people keep thinking about their purpose in life.