The main themes of existentialism
The basic themes of existentialism include isolation, freedom of choice, meaninglessness, and death. A person’s life is not predetermined. Isolation, one’s struggle to become a person in the world, is one source of anxiety; responsibility of choice is another. A person has the freedom to choose and is accountable for the life that results from these choices. Therefore, people are responsible for creating their meaning. Rather than avoiding or denying death, since it is unknown, existentialism recommends that people should live with the knowledge of living well (Yalom, 1980).
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Why Kierkegaard and Dostoyevsky are considered predecessors of existentialism
One of the reasons Kierkegaard is said to have an impact on existentialism was that he lived with intense passion to solve his question of how to be (Yalom, 1980). Kierkegaard aim was to answer the question that he pursued relentlessly: “How can you become and individual?” Dostoevsky’s writings had an impact on ways that man lived in the world. Dostoevsky’s novels demonstrate what sense the leading characters seem to have made themselves be, what they freely decide to be, under the condition in which they live, and they are fully aware of the accountability they had to hold for the choices they had decided.
Husserl’s phenomenology and how it informed existentialism
Edmund Husserl attempted to revive philosophy within the humanism. He believed that the ideas guiding the positivist paradigm would lead to a dehumanized society (Yalom, 1980). Husserl’s alternatively to this paradigm developed a philosophy based on a return to things themselves; return to the world of lived experience. It is by a return to the lifeworld that people can comprehend the human condition. His phenomenology is based on the notion consciousness.
The meaning of being and nothingness according to Sartre
A person is a being whose consciousness is directed to the world; however there is always a gap between the world and consciousness, nothingness (Sartre, 1965). People as conscious beings, bring nothingness into the world because they can imagine situations that are not present, but absent. This means that people imagine situations not of the world of being, but of non-being, or of nothingness.
Sartre, J. (1965). The philosophy of existentialism. New York: Philosophical Library Inc.
Yalom, I. (1980). Existential Psychotherapy. New York: Basic Books.