6 existential steps to love – Existentialism & Romantic Love
Existential therapy focuses on free will, self-determination, and the search for meaning—often centering on you rather than on the symptom. Each person has a unique identity that can be known only through relationships with others. People. But while a philosophical definition of existentialism may not entirely But the connection between these meanings and my projects is not. Existentialism is a philosophy that emphasizes individual existence, freedom and choice. It is the view that humans define their own meaning in life, and try to.
Some Existentialists, like Nietzscheproclaimed that "God is dead" and that the concept of God is obsolete. Others, like Kierkegaardwere intensely religious, even if they did not feel able to justify it. The important factor for Existentialists is the freedom of choice to believe or not to believe. History of Existentialism Back to Top Existentialist-type themes appear in early Buddhist and Christian writings including those of St. In the 17th Century, Blaise Pascal suggested that, without a God, life would be meaningless, boring and miserable, much as later Existentialists believed, although, unlike them, Pascal saw this as a reason for the existence of a God.
His near-contemporary, John Lockeadvocated individual autonomy and self-determination, but in the positive pursuit of Liberalism and Individualism rather than in response to an Existentialist experience.
It can be argued that Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and Arthur Schopenhauer were also important influences on the development of Existentialism, because the philosophies of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche were written in response or in opposition to them.
Kierkegaard and Nietzschelike Pascal before them, were interested in people's concealment of the meaninglessness of life and their use of diversion to escape from boredom. However, unlike Pascalthey considered the role of making free choices on fundamental values and beliefs to be essential in the attempt to change the nature and identity of the chooser. In Kierkegaard 's case, this results in the "knight of faith", who puts complete faith in himself and in God, as described in his work "Fear and Trembling".
Martin Heidegger was an important early philosopher in the movement, particularly his influential work "Being and Time", although he himself vehemently denied being an existentialist in the Sartrean sense. His discussion of ontology is rooted in an analysis of the mode of existence of individual human beings, and his analysis of authenticity and anxiety in modern culture make him very much an Existentialist in the usual modern usage.
Existentialism came of age in the midth Century, largely through the scholarly and fictional works of the French existentialists, Jean-Paul SartreAlbert Camus - and Simone de Beauvoir - Maurice Merleau-Ponty - is another influential and often overlooked French Existentialist of the period.
Sartre is perhaps the most well-known, as well as one of the few to have actually accepted being called an "existentialist". In "The Myth of Sisyphus"Albert Camus uses the analogy of the Greek myth of Sisyphus who is condemned for eternity to roll a rock up a hill, only to have it roll to the bottom again each time to exemplify the pointlessness of existence, but shows that Sisyphus ultimately finds meaning and purpose in his task, simply by continually applying himself to it.
Simone de Beauvoir, an important existentialist who spent much of her life alongside Sartrewrote about feminist and existential ethics in her works, including "The Second Sex" and "The Ethics of Ambiguity" If she is free, she escapes my love; if not, she cannot love.
Love here is a case study in the basic forms of social relation. Sartre is thus moving from an entirely individualistic frame of reference my self, my freedom and my projects towards a consideration of the self in concrete relations with others.
Sartre is working through — in a way he would shortly see as being inadequate — the issues presented by the Hegelian dialectic of recognition, which we mentioned above. This 'hell' of endlessly circling acts of freedom and objectification is brilliantly dramatised in Sartre's play No Exit.
A few years later at the end of the s, Sartre wrote what has been published as Notebooks for an Ethics. Sartre influenced in the meantime by the criticisms of Merleau-Ponty and de Beauvoir, and by his increasing commitment to collectivist politics elaborated greatly his existentialist account of relations with others, taking the Hegelian idea more seriously.
He no longer thinks of concrete relations so pessimistically. While Nietzsche and Heidegger both suggest the possibility of an authentic being with others, both leave it seriously under-developed. For our purposes, there are two key ideas in the Notebooks. The first is that my projects can be realised only with the cooperation of others; however, that cooperation presupposes their freedom I cannot make her love meand their judgements about me must concern me.
Therefore permitting and nurturing the freedom of others must be a central part of all my projects. Sartre thus commits himself against any political, social or economic forms of subjugation. Second, there is the possibility of a form of social organisation and action in which each individual freely gives him or herself over to a joint project: An authentic existence, for Sartre, therefore means two things.
First, it is something like a 'style' of existing — one that at every moment is anxious, and that means fully aware of the absurdity and fragility of its freedom. Second, though, there is some minimal level of content to any authentic project: Subsequently a star Normalienne, she was a writer, philosopher, feminist, lifelong partner of Jean-Paul Sartre, notorious for her anti-bourgeois way of living and her free sexual relationships which included among others a passionate affair with the American writer Nelson Algren.
The debate rests of course upon the fundamental misconception that wants a body of work to exist and develop independently of or uninfluenced by its intellectual environment.
In Being and Nothingness, the groundwork of the Existentialist movement in France was published. There Sartre gave an account of freedom as ontological constitutive of the subject. One cannot but be free: There, as well as in an essay from the same year titled 'The war has taken place', Merleau-Ponty heavily criticizes the Sartrean stand, criticising it as a reformulation of basic Stoic tenets. One cannot assume freedom in isolation from the freedom of others. Moreover action takes place within a certain historical context.
For Merleau-Ponty the subjective free-will is always in a dialectical relationship with its historical context. Like Sartre it is only later in her life that this will be acknowledged. In Ethics of Ambiguity de Beauvoir offers a picture of the human subject as constantly oscillating between facticity and transcendence.
Whereas the human is always already restricted by the brute facts of his existence, nevertheless it always aspires to overcome its situation, to choose its freedom and thus to create itself.
This tension must be considered positive, and not restrictive of action. The term for this tension is ambiguity. Ambiguity is not a quality of the human as substance, but a characterisation of human existence. We are ambiguous beings destined to throw ourselves into the future while simultaneously it is our very own existence that throws us back into facticity. It is exactly because of and through this fundamental failure that we realize that our ethical relation to the world cannot be self-referential but must pass through the realization of the common destiny of the human as a failed and interrelated being.
De Beauvoir, unlike Sartre, was a scholarly reader of Hegel. There Hegel describes the movement in which self-consciousness produces itself by positing another would be self-consciousness, not as a mute object Gegen-stand but as itself self-consciousness. It is, Hegel tells us, only because someone else recognizes me as a subject that I can be constituted as such. Outside the moment of recognition there is no self-consciousness.
De Beauvoir takes to heart the Hegelian lesson and tries to formulate an ethics from it.
What would this ethics be? Thus there are no recipes for ethics. This is not a point to be taken light-heartedly. It constitutes a movement of opposition against a long tradition of philosophy understanding itself as theoria: De Beauvoir, in common with most existentialists, understands philosophy as praxis: It is out of this understanding that The Second Sex is born. In English in it appeared as The Second Sex in an abridged translation.
- Jean Paul Sartre: Existentialism
The Second Sex is an exemplary text showing how a philosophical movement can have real, tangible effects on the lives of many people, and is a magnificent exercise in what philosophy could be. The subject is irritating, especially for women The Second Sex begins with the most obvious but rarely posed question: De Beauvoir finds that at present there is no answer to that question. The reason is that tradition has always thought of woman as the other of man.
It is only man that constitutes himself as a subject as the Absolute de Beauvoir saysand woman defines herself only through him. But why is it that woman has initially accepted or tolerated this process whereby she becomes the other of man? It is indeed easier for one — anyone — to assume the role of an object for example a housewife 'kept' by her husband than to take responsibility for creating him or herself and creating the possibilities of freedom for others. Naturally the condition of bad faith is not always the case.
Often women found themselves in a sociocultural environment which denied them the very possibility of personal flourishing as happens with most of the major religious communities. A further problem that women face is that of understanding themselves as a unity which would enable them to assume the role of their choosing.
Women primarily align themselves to their class or race and not to other women. One of the most celebrated moments in The Second Sex is the much quoted phrase: For some feminists this clearly inaugurates the problematic of the sex-gender distinction where sex denotes the biological identity of the person and gender the cultural attribution of properties to the sexed body. Thus the sex assignment a doctor pronouncing the sex of the baby is a naturalized but not at all natural normative claim which delivers the human into a world of power relations.
Albert Camus as an Existentialist Philosopher Albert Camus was a French intellectual, writer and journalist. His multifaceted work as well as his ambivalent relation to both philosophy and existentialism makes every attempt to classify him a rather risky operation.
A recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature primarily for his novels, he is also known as a philosopher due to his non-literary work and his relation with Jean-Paul Sartre. And yet his response was clear: The issue is not just about the label 'existentialist'. It rather points to a deep tension within the current of thought of all thinkers associated with existentialism. With how many voices can thought speak? As we have already seen, the thinkers of existentialism often deployed more than one.
Almost all of them share a deep suspicion to a philosophy operating within reason as conceived of by the Enlightenment. Camus shares this suspicion and his so called philosophy of the absurd intends to set limits to the overambitions of Western rationality.
Reason is absurd in that it believes that it can explain the totality of the human experience whereas it is exactly its inability for explanation that, for example, a moment of fall designates.
Five tips for relationship happiness from existential philosophers
In a similar fashion Camus has also repudiated his connection with existentialism. Camus accuses Hegel subsequently Marx himself of reducing man to history and thus denying man the possibility of creating his own history, that is, affirming his freedom. Philosophically, Camus is known for his conception of the absurd.
Perhaps we should clarify from the very beginning what the absurd is not. The absurd is not nihilism. For Camus the acceptance of the absurd does not lead to nihilism according to Nietzsche nihilism denotes the state in which the highest values devalue themselves or to inertia, but rather to their opposite: In a world devoid of God, eternal truths or any other guiding principle, how could man bear the responsibility of a meaning-giving activity?
The absurd man, like an astronaut looking at the earth from above, wonders whether a philosophical system, a religion or a political ideology is able to make the world respond to the questioning of man, or rather whether all human constructions are nothing but the excessive face-paint of a clown which is there to cover his sadness.
This terrible suspicion haunts the absurd man. In one of the most memorable openings of a non-fictional book he states: Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy. All the rest — whether or not the world has three dimensions, whether the mind has nine or twelve categories — comes afterwards.
The problem of suicide a deeply personal problem manifests the exigency of a meaning-giving response. It would mean that man is not any more an animal going after answers, in accordance with some inner drive that leads him to act in order to endow the world with meaning. The suicide has become but a passive recipient of the muteness of the world. At the end one has to keep the absurd alive, as Camus says. But what does it that mean? In The Myth of Sisyphus Camus tells the story of the mythical Sisyphus who was condemned by the Gods to ceaselessly roll a rock to the top of a mountain and then have to let it fall back again of its own weight.
The lucidity that was to constitute his torture at the same time crowns his victory. One must imagine then Sisyphus victorious: Scorn is the appropriate response in the face of the absurd; another name for this 'scorn' though would be artistic creation. Such madness can overcome the absurd without cancelling it altogether. Almost ten years after the publication of The Myth of Sisyphus Camus publishes his second major philosophical work, The Rebel Camus continues the problematic which had begun with The Myth of Sisyphus.
Previously, revolt or creation had been considered the necessary response to the absurdity of existence. Here, Camus goes on to examine the nature of rebellion and its multiple manifestations in history. The problem is that while man genuinely rebels against both unfair social conditions and, as Camus says, against the whole of creation, nevertheless in the practical administration of such revolution, man comes to deny the humanity of the other in an attempt to impose his own individuality.
Take for example the case of the infamous Marquis de Sade which Camus explores. In Sade, contradictory forces are at work see The Days of Sodom. On the one hand, Sade wishes the establishment of a certainly mad community with desire as the ultimate master, and on the other hand this very desire consumes itself and all the subjects who stand in its way.
Camus goes on to examine historical manifestations of rebellion, the most prominent case being that of the French Revolution. Camus argues that the revolution ended up taking the place of the transcendent values which it sought to abolish.
An all-powerful notion of justice now takes the place formerly inhabited by God. Camus fears that all revolutions end with the re-establishment of the State.
Camus is led to examine the Marxist view of history as a possible response to the failed attempts at the establishment of a true revolutionary regime. Camus examines the similarities between the Christian and the Marxist conception of history. They both exhibit a bourgeois preoccupation with progress. In the name of the future everything can be justified: History according to both views is the linear progress from a set beginning to a definite end the metaphysical salvation of man or the materialistic salvation of him in the future Communist society.
This is, Camus argues, essentially nihilistic: Because historical revolutions are for the most part nihilistic movements, Camus suggests that it is the making-absolute of the values of the revolution that necessarily lead to their negation. On the contrary a relative conception of these values will be able to sustain a community of free individuals who have not forgotten that every historical rebellion has begun by affirming a proto-value that of human solidarity upon which every other value can be based.
The Influence of Existentialism a. The Arts and Psychology In the field of visual arts existentialism exercised an enormous influence, most obviously on the movement of Expressionism. Expressionism began in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century. Abstract expressionism which included artists such as de Kooning and Pollock, and theorists such as Rosenberg continued with some of the same themes in the United States from the s and tended to embrace existentialism as one of its intellectual guides, especially after Sartre's US lecture tour in and a production of No Exit in New York.
German Expressionism was particularly important during the birth of the new art of cinema.
Existentialism - Wikipedia
Perhaps the closest cinematic work to Existentialist concerns remains F. Expressionism became a world-wide style within cinema, especially as film directors like Lang fled Germany and ended up in Hollywood. Jean Genet's Un chant d'amour is a moving poetic exploration of desire. European directors such as Bergman and Godard are often associated with existentialist themes.
Godard's Vivre sa vie My Life to Live, is explicit in its exploration of the nature of freedom under conditions of extreme social and personal pressure. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries existentialist ideas became common in mainstream cinema, pervading the work of writers and directors such as Woody Allen, Richard Linklater, Charlie Kaufman and Christopher Nolan.
Given that Sartre and Camus were both prominent novelists and playwrights, the influence of existentialism on literature is not surprising. However, the influence was also the other way. Novelists such as Dostoevsky or Kafka, and the dramatist Ibsen, were often cited by mid-century existentialists as important precedents, right along with Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. Dostoevsky creates a character Ivan Karamazov in The Brothers Karamazov, who holds the view that if God is dead, then everything is permitted; both Nietzsche and Sartre discuss Dostoevsky with enthusiasm.
Within drama, the theatre of the absurd and most obviously Beckett were influenced by existentialist ideas; later playwrights such as Albee, Pinter and Stoppard continue this tradition.
One of the key figures of 20th century psychology, Sigmund Freudwas indebted to Nietzsche especially for his analysis of the role of psychology within culture and history, and for his view of cultural artefacts such as drama or music as 'unconscious' documentations of psychological tensions. But a more explicit taking up of existentialist themes is found in the broad 'existentialist psychotherapy' movement.
A common theme within this otherwise very diverse group is that previous psychology misunderstood the fundamental nature of the human and especially its relation to others and to acts of meaning-giving; thus also, previous psychology had misunderstood what a 'healthy' attitude to self, others and meaning might be.
Key figures here include Swiss psychologists Ludwig Binswanger and later Menard Boss, both of who were enthusiastic readers of Heidegger; the Austrian Frankl, who invented the method of logotherapy; in England, Laing and Cooper, who were explicitly influenced by Sartre; and in the United States, Rollo May, who stresses the ineradicable importance of anxiety.
Philosophy As a whole, existentialism has had relatively little direct influence within philosophy. In Germany, existentialism and especially Heidegger was criticised for being obscure, abstract or even mystical in nature. The criticism was echoed by many in the analytic tradition. Heidegger and the existentialist were also taken to task for paying insufficient attention to social and political structures or values, with dangerous results.
In France, philosophers like Sartre were criticised by those newly under the influence of structuralism for paying insufficient attention to the nature of language and to impersonal structures of meaning. In short, philosophy moved on, and in different directions. Individual philosophers remain influential, however: Nietzsche and Heidegger in particular are very much 'live' topics in philosophy, even in the 21st century. However, there are some less direct influences that remain important.
Let us raise three examples. Both the issue of freedom in relation to situation, and that of the philosophical significance of what otherwise might appear to be extraneous contextual factors, remain key, albeit in dramatically altered formulation, within the work of Michel Foucault or Alain Badiou, two figures central to late 20th century European thought.
Likewise, the philosophical importance that the existentialists placed upon emotion has been influential, legitimising a whole domain of philosophical research even by philosophers who have no interest in existentialism.
Similarly, existentialism was a philosophy that insisted philosophy could and should deal very directly with 'real world' topics such as sex, death or crime, topics that had most frequently been approached abstractly within the philosophical tradition.
Mary Warnock wrote on existentialism and especially Sartre, for example, while also having an incredibly important and public role within recent applied ethics. References and Further Reading a.
General Introductions Warnock Mary. Oxford University Press, Barrett William. Anchor House, Cooper E. Wiley-Blackwell, Reynolds Jack. Acumen, Earnshaw Steven.
A Guide for the Perplexed London: Existentialism from Dostoevsky to Sartre New York: Penguin, Paul S. Edinburg University Press, Solomon C. Oxford University Press, c. Primary Bibliography Beauvoir de Simone.
The Ethics of Ambiguity New York: Citadel Press, Beauvoir de Simone. The Second Sex London: Jonathan Cape, Camus Albert. The Myth of Sisyphus London: Penguin, Camus Albert. Penguin, b Camus Albert. Yale University Press, Heidegger Martin. Routledge, Heidegger Martin. Being and Time Oxford: Blackwell, Heidegger Martin. Identity and Difference Chicago: Unlike Pascal, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche also considered the role of making free choices, particularly regarding fundamental values and beliefs, and how such choices change the nature and identity of the chooser.
Nietzsche's idealized individual invents his own values and creates the very terms they excel under. By contrast, Kierkegaard, opposed to the level of abstraction in Hegel, and not nearly as hostile actually welcoming to Christianity as Nietzsche, argues through a pseudonym that the objective certainty of religious truths specifically Christian is not only impossible, but even founded on logical paradoxes.
Yet he continues to imply that a leap of faith is a possible means for an individual to reach a higher stage of existence that transcends and contains both an aesthetic and ethical value of life.
Kierkegaard and Nietzsche were also precursors to other intellectual movements, including postmodernismand various strands of psychotherapy. However, Kierkegaard believed that individuals should live in accordance with their thinking. Dostoyevsky[ edit ] The first important literary author also important to existentialism was the Russian Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Jean-Paul Sartrein his book on existentialism Existentialism is a Humanismquoted Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov as an example of existential crisis.
Sartre attributes Ivan Karamazov's claim, "If God did not exist, everything would be permitted"  to Dostoyevsky himself, though this quote does not appear in the novel. Dimitri mentions his conversations with Rakitin in which the idea that "Then, if He doesn't exist, man is king of the earth, of the universe" allowing the inference contained in Sartre's attribution to remain a valid idea contested within the novel.
Martin Heidegger In the first decades of the 20th century, a number of philosophers and writers explored existentialist ideas. The Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno y Jugoin his book The Tragic Sense of Life in Men and Nations, emphasized the life of "flesh and bone" as opposed to that of abstract rationalism. Unamuno rejected systematic philosophy in favor of the individual's quest for faith. He retained a sense of the tragic, even absurd nature of the quest, symbolized by his enduring interest in Cervantes ' fictional character Don Quixote.
A novelist, poet and dramatist as well as philosophy professor at the University of Salamanca, Unamuno wrote a short story about a priest's crisis of faith, Saint Manuel the Good, Martyrwhich has been collected in anthologies of existentialist fiction.
Another Spanish thinker, Ortega y Gassetwriting inheld that human existence must always be defined as the individual person combined with the concrete circumstances of his life: Sartre likewise believed that human existence is not an abstract matter, but is always situated "en situation".
Although Martin Buber wrote his major philosophical works in German, and studied and taught at the Universities of Berlin and Frankfurthe stands apart from the mainstream of German philosophy. Born into a Jewish family in Vienna inhe was also a scholar of Jewish culture and involved at various times in Zionism and Hasidism.
Inhe moved permanently to Jerusalem. His best-known philosophical work was the short book I and Thoupublished in