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Transcript of Existentialism
The Philosophical and Historical Factors of Existentialism
The precursors to the movement are the philosophers Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche
Jean-Paul Sartre and his associates enabled the cultural and philosophical movement to flourish in Europe during the 1940s and 1950s
Other notable first existentialist philosophers include Karl Jaspers, Martin Heidegger, and Martin Buber (Germany), Jean Wahl and Gabriel Marcel (France), José Ortega y Gasset and Miguel de Unamuno (Spain), and Nikolai Berdyaev and Lev Shestov (Russia)
Application to Literature
Illustrates a theme between conscience and obedience to law
Individual characters illustrate in concrete detail what it's like to be human
Tents of existentialism can be found in literary works
Current Major Voices
During the postwar years, there was a very diverse coterie of existentialist writers: Dostoevsky, Ibsen, Kafka, Jean Genet, André Gide, André Malraux, and Samuel Beckett
Artists such as Alberto Giacometti and even Abstract Expressionists such as Jackson Pollock, Arshile Gorky, and Willem de Kooning, and filmmakers such as Jean-Luc Godard and Ingmar Bergman were understood in existential terms
By the 1970s, existentialism was seen as a cliche and often mocked in Woody Allen books and films
It is not often seen present-day
The Wizard of Oz
Concerned with the experience of individuals
Historical movement that flourished in Europe during post-World War II
Refuse to be part of a distinct majority
The Human Condition
Features that are universally shared by all persons
1) Humans are in a world not of their choosing.
2) Every human being is confronted with choices that have real consequences to endure.
3) Only the individual can deal with his decisions and their consequences since they are only his doing.
"Existence Precedes Essence."
The fact that someone/something exists
Facticity (undeniable facts about existence): race, gender, past
At birth, there is no distinct meaning of life since no choices have been made by the individual.
What one is
Not determined by existence
Decisions and their consequences reflect essence
Although some choices are limited, one can still freely choose his attitude to approach the situation.
Occurs when one denies responsibility for his free choices and their consequences
Assumes basic facts about human existence instead of accepting the blame for his own choices
and World War II
The New Lost Generation
Teachings about the Values of Life and about the Human Condition (Existentialism)
Thrown into a world not of her choosing (1st characteristic of the human condition)
Has choices to make since the yellow brick road forks into many directions (2nd characteristic of the human condition)
All three possess bad faith
Look for an external source to provide them with an essential feature (brain, heart, courage)
Created a few days before Dorothy's arrival
Does not make any choices while hanging on his pole (existence precedes essence)
Believes himself to be unintelligent although he has not made decisions
Makes thoughtful decisions though he believes himself to be unintelligent
The Tin Man
Believes himself to be heartless but shows caring emotions
His emotions are choices that he can make, and he has the choice to be sad or happy.
Not in his essence that he is heartless
The Cowardly Lion
Believes himself to be cowardly
Possesses akrasia (moral weakness)
Instead of acting in response to his fear, he allows his fear to control him.
He doesn't take responsibility for his way of life (essence); but rather, he blames his existence.
Realizes that existence precedes essence, making Dorothy and her companions' requests impossible to fulfill
Gives three companions tokens
Tin Man-->token of affection
By giving value to the actions of the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion, the Wizard helps them realize the meaning and the value of their lives (essence).
Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche
Kierkegaard developed the concept of "The Single Individual" in the context of his radical approach to the Christian faith while Nietzsche did so with his thesis of the death of God
Both believed that singularity could be meaningfully reflected upon yet remain invisible to traditional philosophy
The singularity of existence comes to light at the moment between ethics and religious faith
The crowd is untruth and stands in contrast to the individual
Nietzsche and Nihilism
Existence is found in the phrase "God is dead" for Nietzsche in the challenge of nihilism
He sought to find the consequence of the death of God, the collapse of theistic support for morality
Both Nietzsche and Kierkegaard uncover an aspect of one's being that can be understood neither in terms of immediate drives nor in terms of universal that of behavior, as aspect that is measured not in terms of "what I am" but in terms of "my way of being."
Sartre's existentialism was immediately inspired by Martin Heidegger and his 1927 work called "Being and Time"
Heidegger introduced most of the themes that characterized later existentialist thinking
He pursued the issues he called into question with Edmond Husserl's phenomenological method
Heidegger turned phenomenology toward what it means "to be"
Themes of Existentialism
1. The tension between the individual and the public
2. Emphasis on the situated character of human thought and reason
3. Fascination with experience of anxiety, death, the "nothing," and nihilism
4. The rejection of science as the fundamental framework for understanding the human being
5. The idea of authenticity
Edmond Husserl's efforts were towards developing a science of consciousness
Experience is meaningful and one experiences something as something
He developed a doctrine of intentionality as a refutation to the Cartesian view that consciousness relates immediately to its representation, ideas, and sensations
A phenomenology of consciousness explores the constitution of the meaning of things instead of the metaphysical composition and genesis of things
A Parisian philosopher and known as the Father of Existentialism
He drew much influence from Martin Heidegger and read Kierkegaard and Nietzsche
He developed the idea and slogan of "existence precedes essence"
The key existential notions are facticity, transcendence, alienation, and authenticity
Sartre also contemplated the notions of freedom and value
Some of his works include "Transcendence of the Ego," "Being and Nothingness," and "Truth and Existence"
Some of his followerss include Simone de Beauvoir, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Albert Camus
Facticity and Transcendence
The way of existing is the most important
Facticity is the attitude of the third-person theoretical observer
Transcendence is the attitude one takes towards oneself
The alienated self is the estrangement of the self from both the world and from itself
A person is absorbed in the world and does not experience having an “outside” or understanding oneself through third-party description. However, when one becomes aware of oneself being looked at, one becomes aware of having a nature, and a character of being or doing something.
Authenticity names the attitude in which one engages in endeavors and ideas as one's own
It is the recognition that you are a being responsible for who you are
Authenticity defines a condition on self-making
Freedom and Value
Existentialism emphasizes human freedom and focuses on the source of mendacity, self-deception and hypocrisy in moral consciousness through the ideas of anxiety, nothingness, and the absurd
Freedom is the origin of value
Values do not have a timeless validity, for they have no real authority and cannot be used to justify one's behavior
In anxiety, one grasps oneself as threatened but in anxiety there is no direct object.
With this, one can no longer “gear into” the world and this makes one lose the basic sense of oneself
The absurd, is a version of alienation from the world.
When one is not faced with anxiety, the world makes sense in has some order.
However, with anxiety one loses the meaning that is behind certain things and a word becomes absurd.
Nothingness is another term for the groundlessness of the world of meaning
When the practices in which one engages collapses because of anxiety, a person is no longer anything because practical identity is constituted by practices
This brings a person face-to-face with one’s death because one is no longer able to be anything
Basic Tenets of Existentialism Today
1. Existence precedes essence
2. Because God does not exist, one finds no values or commands to turn to which legitimize one's conduct.
3. “Man is anguish”: man is condemned to be free.
4. Existentialism views man as solely responsible for his actions
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