Existentialism and Absurdism

The present paper undertakes an extensive investigation of Existentialism. The present paper, as such, looks into existentialism from a number of perspectives exploring the various ideologies for the very phenomenon and also it pursues the link of existentialism to absurdism. In the first section of the present study, the writer brings forward the various ideologies, interpretations, and argument both in favour and against the thinking of existentialism; in the latter part of the essay, the writer investigates the links of existentialism with that of absurdism. As such the attempt is not only to create an extensively elaborate understanding of the issues found in existentialist philosophy but also to find out its strands woven with the philosophy of absurdism.

On the whole, the purpose of this paper is multifarious. It looks into the issue of existentialist philosophy from the original bearing to later interpretation. It also focuses on sensitive areas in this domain which have received a considerable amount of argument in philosophical discourse. It, then, moves on to mark the developmental steps of existentialism with their links with absurdism.

Existentialism: Pursuing Its Origins

According to Columbia Encyclopedia, sixth edition, the term existentialism is one of the several philosophical systems that exist in the philosophical discourse in the present world literature. The core-point of interested or focus within the reach of existentialism, according to the same source, is “the individual and his relationship to the universe or God” (Columbia Encyclopedia, p. 16424, 2007). The well-noted influential figures who seem to contend, comment, criticize, and approach existentialism are Kierkegaard, Karl Jaspers, Martin Heidegger, Gabriel Marcel, and Jean-Paul Sartre. These all philosophers or thinkers have one thing to share with regard to thought and emergence of existentialism: “All revolt against the traditional metaphysical approaches to man and his place in the universe” (Columbia Encyclopedia, p. 16424, 2007). Philosophers and thinkers like Thomas Aquinas, as well as Pascal and Nietzsche, have all been regarded as the ones speaking for the very concept of philosophy of existentialism; however, according to the source of Columbia Encyclopedia, the more accurate placement of the beginnings of existentialism can be rightly attributed to Kierkegaard. What Kierkegaard did was to severely treat the Hegelians norms about abstract metaphysics as well as to bitterly confront the fallacies of the Danish church; all this he was doing was for delving deep into the issue of man’s relationship with God. The matter that Kierkegaard was fundamentally trying to look into was to recognize the “concrete ethical and religious demands confronting the individual” (Columbia Encyclopedia, p. 16424, 2007).

He was of the view that these very demands were not possibly to be met only by a mere decision made in the intellectual domain but that these demands required a more subjective commitment on the side of the individual. What caused Kierkegaard to feel despair and dreadful was the necessity and seriousness of all these ethical decisions that faced man. As such looking at the very circumstance of the present-day existentialism, it is notable that this is found chiefly in Kierkegaard’s attempt to analyze the human situation. Henceforth, the early inclination of the entire philosophy is rooted in the painstaking analysis of man’s situation and his relation to God by this very thinker and philosopher: Kierkegaard. Moving along the same lines of our pursuit of the origins of existentialism, we are informed that two later thinkers and philosophers who delved in the same domain of thinking (existentialism) were Heidegger and Sartre. Both of them are also regarded as the major developers and thinkers in existentialism movement. However, these two thinkers sought their intellectual food from the inspiring works of Edmund Husserl “and developed a phenomenological method that they used in developing their own existential analyses” (Columbia Encyclopedia, p. 16424, 2007). Heidegger simply refused to accept the label of existentialism and came forward with his own definition and philosophy. According to this very philosophy, the entire matter reached well beyond the mere being of man. It was an investigation which took man’s being or existence as merely the first step in order to investigate the issue.

However, this is worth noting that among all the major thinkers in the domain of existentialism, it was only Sartre who himself declared as being an existentialist: “For him, the central idea of all existential thought is that existence precedes essence” (Columbia Encyclopedia, p. 16424, 2007). According to the interpretive philosophy of Sartre, there is no tracing of the fact that God exists. As such with no existence as the force called God, there is nothing like a fixed force in human nature that could pursue one to act. According to Sartre’s vision and interpretation, then, what is apparently known is that “Man is totally free and entirely responsible for what he makes of himself. It is the freedom and responsibility that, as for Kierkegaard, is the source for what he makes of himself” (Columbia Encyclopedia, p. 16424, 2007). If we investigate the works of Sartre – the novels he wrote; the plays he envisioned; and the formal philosophical written compositions on this issue – we find that these all set for an inspiration that emerged in the French literature. Such French literature that gives way to the ideology of existentialism as interpreted by Sartre is best represented by such massive thinkers and philosophers as Albert Camus and Simone de Beauvoir. However, the most notable and prominent exponent in France was Gabriel Marcel. Gabriel Marcel sought to develop his philosophy within the intellectual interpretation of the Roman Catholic Church. In addition to this, along with Heidegger, another German philosopher who is known as practising and avowed existentialist was Karl Jaspers. Karl jaspers actually worked along the lines that were brought forth by Kierkegaard. He is well-known for the fact that his philosophy did not touch more on the theological lines of the issue. Within the very orbit of existentialism, there is a considerable number of philosophers and thinkers who are remembered up to the present day in the philosophical discourse such as Karl Barth, Martin Buber, Paul Tillich, and Reinhold Niebuhr.


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