Philosophy 235 - 12.3.3 Existentialism

Existentialism can be defined as the philosophical focus on the human situation, including discussions of human freedom, the making of meaning, and reflections on the relevance of the human sciences and religion. Existentialism’s phenomenological roots along with an emphasis on human freedom provides its foundation. In the existentialist view, the world of experience and meaning is created from the ground up, rather than moving from the abstract realm into the world. This reversal is the basis of human freedom: if humans create the overarching structures of society, then these structures lack the transcendent foundation that would qualify them for objectivity. In other words, if humans created all of the ideas many take to be pre-existent and necessary to our world, then these ideas are obviously not pre-existent and are not necessary. If these structures aren’t more or less fixed in the way that the law of gravity is, then we can change them as needed. Existentialism is grounded in the belief in human freedom. The world does not cause an individual’s actions, as the world and the individual are one, hence the individual is free. From human freedom comes the responsibility to engage the world and shape it as one sees fit to.

Think Like a Philosopher

Would you define yourself as an existentialist? Why or why not? Give a detailed answer that includes the strengths or weaknesses of existentialism and how it is relevant to the world in which you live.

This lesson has no exercises.

The content of this course has been taken from the free Philosophy textbook by Openstax