Throughout history, existentialism philosophy theories have become widely popular amongst the philosophical community.
The first of the existentialism philosophy theorists were few and far between. The first ‘existentialist’ problem was developed by Jean-Paul Sartre, but the theory itself had not yet been born. The entire question centred around what does it mean to be me?
This question was developed by Søren Kierkegaard and into existentialism and Friedrich Nietzsche into nihilism. Existentialism locates its basis in the absurdity of the world we live in. We cannot determine for definite what might occur, as much as we may try. Therefore, whatever happens is down to us.
What is the main idea of existentialism philosophy?
Existentialism is the philosophical theory which emphasizes the individual as completely free. The individual is, therefore, a responsible agent, determining their own development through acts of free will.
This means that the laws of nature and morality do not actually exist, and we as human beings must be responsible for their own behaviour. This is not to say that the world is irrational and morality does not exist at all. It simply means that we must make our own rational decisions amongst the irrational world we live in.
The key phrase in existentialism philosophy is that “existence precedes essence”. This phrase posits the idea that we are responsible for our own character development.
However, just because existence is seemingly meaningless, that is not to say that life is also meaningless. There are a number of profound thoughts that existentialism has inspired, some of which may be quite unexpected.
We do not find meaning, we create it
According to existentialism philosophy, there is not a greater meaning of life. A lot of people take this to mean that life is pointless, but this simply isn’t true.
It means that to find meaning in life, we have to create it. We create things which are meaningful to ourselves and others to please and inspire. It could be artwork, writing or charity. Whatever is meaningful to you is where you create meaning for others. It doesn’t exist as an abstract out there in the world.
Your experiences are unique to you
Due to the fact that the world is in constant absurdity, no two people can experience exactly the same thing. his means that no one can judge you because they don’t know what you have been through. They will never understand your history or motivations because your experiences are not the same.
It also inspires us not to judge or to criticize others because we don’t know their history, their motivations, and their experiences.
Your morality is up to you
Since you are free and responsible for your own actions, your morals and your character are rest on your shoulders. This means that the development of your character, whether you are moral or immoral, is down to your own judgement.
You must do what you believe to be right and refrain from what you believe to be wrong. Your actions will be influenced by the set of beliefs you are yourself in charge of.
The responsibility is 100% yours
Since your morality is yours, that means the responsibility for your actions is also yours. You can hold people accountable for their poor actions, but you must also be held accountable for your own.
Likewise, when you act morally well or for the benefit of others, this should be recognized because you have developed a good enough character to do so. It places a high degree of obligation on us to develop good characters for ourselves because it is our duty to do so.
Nothing is stopping you
If there is something you feel inspired to do but something is holding you back, that thing is a figment of your imagination. In some ways, this can be incredibly freeing because it means that all we have to do is do. We have nothing to blame for us not just starting.
However, alternatively, this can be intimidating because it means that we are responsible for our own failures. Nothing is controlling whether we are successful or if we fail. We are the only beings in charge of our own success and we are, therefore, to blame if we happen to fail.
The key thing to take away from existentialism philosophy is that we are in charge of our own actions.
We cannot blame external forces for our morals, and we are not living up to an abstract moral code which is difficult to decipher. We are highly responsible for our own actions, our own moral code, and accountable for the consequences which come from it.
When we are young, we are morally neutral, which means that as we grow, we must endeavour to cultivate a good character. How we do this is up to us.
We may do so through literature and learning, or through selfless acts of charity. No matter how we choose to do it, it is all down to us because the universe is too abstract and confusing to give us a helping hand.
Image: Kierkegaard-Dostoyevsky-Nietzsche-Sartre (from top left)
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