Sociology Index

Existentialism

Society and Atheism

Existentialism posits that as conscious beings, humans always find themselves already in a world and that humans cannot think away that world. Existentialism in modern philosophical trend is that a person, unlike a thing, has no predetermined essence but forms his or her essence by acts of pure will.

Existentialism was inspired by Søren Kierkegaard, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Friedrich Nietzsche, Edmund Husserl, and Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir.

Kierkegaard and Nietzsche held the view that human nature and human identity vary depending on what values and beliefs they hold.

Kierkegaard's literary character Young Man laments:
How did I get into the world? Why was I not asked about it, why was I not informed of the rules and regulations but just thrust into the ranks as if I had been bought by a peddling shanghaier of human beings? How did I get involved in this big enterprise called actuality? Why should I be involved? Isn't it a matter of choice? And if I am compelled to be involved, where is the manager, I have something to say about this. Is there no manager? To whom shall I make my complaint?

Phenomenology and Existentialism in the Twentieth Century: Book II. Fruition Cross-Pollination Dissemination (Analecta Husserliana) by A T Tymieniecka

Our world's cultural circles are permeated by the philosophical influences of existentialism and phenomenology. Two contemporary quests to elucidate rationality - took their inspirations from Kierkegaard's existentialism plumbing the subterranean source of subjective experience and Husserl's phenomenology focusing on the constitutive aspect of rationality. Existentialist rejection of ratiocination and speculation together with Husserl's shift to the genesis of epoche philosophy and literature, while the foundational underpinnings of language opened the 'hidden' behind the 'veils'.

It would be apt to quote Jean Paul Sartre here: "To be there, without rhyme or reason, necessity or justification; it is to exist without the right to exist".

Sartrean existentialism argues man exists without purpose, finds himself in the world and defines the meaning of his existence. Sartre is the most well-known existentialist and accepted being called an "existentialist".

Being and Nothingness was Jean-Paul Sartre's most important work about existentialism. Sartre was influenced by Husserl and Heidegger.

Heidegger and Sartre believed that human beings are exposed to or "thrown" into, existence - in that we have no choice to come into existence. Existentialists consider being thrown into existence as prior to any other thoughts or ideas that humans have or definitions of themselves that they create.



Nietzsche's writings had contempt for Christianity, with its compassion for the weak, and exaltation of the 'will to power' and of the Ubermensch (superman), superior to ordinary morality, who will replace the Christian ideal. He divided humankind into a small, dominant 'master-class' and a large, dominated 'herd', a thesis which was taken up in a debased form by the Nazis (Nazism) after Nietzsche's death.

The Dilemma of Mass Communication: An Existential Point of View 
Hanno Hardt - Journal of Communication Inquiry, Vol. 2, No. 2, 3-12 (1977)
Man is what he is in communication; his existence is defined by his ability to remain in communication, not only with others as a prerequisite to any participation in the social process, but also with himself as a source of genuine feelings and appreciations of his environment.