Existentialism Essay

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The first Existentialist idea is the belief in "existence before essence." This emphasizes the individuality of man, reasoning that every person is unique because of his/her past experiences in life.

This unique view on mankind is reflected in literature in that the authors of the time now dealt with the question "who am I? " The second common theme is that of "reason's impotence in dealing with the depths of human life." Contradicting Plato who separated reason from the rest of the human psyche because of its importance and higher state of existence, this idea unifies all the parts of man, brining"wholeness" and a larger sense of unity to one's life.

Long before I read French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, I had a clear idea of who he was. I knew all about the turtleneck-wearing, chain-cigarette-smoking, moody sort of soul, with a melancholy philosophy to match.

After I opened his books, though, it became clear to me that this brooding reputation didn’t match the reality.

Artists such as Alberto Giacometti and Francis Bacon wrestled with existentialist themes, as have writers from Samuel Beckett to Graham Greene.

In this way Sartre’s philosophy has rippled out through creative works and infiltrated broader society.

Bigelow, Gordon E., "A Primer of Existentialism." In his essay "A Primer of Existentialism," Gordon Bigelow acknowledges the impact of this "ism" on literature, art, philosophy, theology and social science.

Furthermore, he goes on to state the six major themes common in Existentialism, exploring each in great detail.

His words, to me, didn’t read like those of a poet in crisis, but like something that would not look out of place in a self-help book.

In his peppiest work, the 1946 lecture Sartre takes issue with the notion that existentialism—the philosophy that asserts humans must search for and create their own identities and meaning—encourages despair.


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