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What is Existentialism and Why Does It Matter?

What is Existentialism and Why Does It Matter?

Existentialism is a philosophical movement that emerged in the 19th and 20th centuries, mainly in Europe. It focuses on the question of human existence and the meaning of life. Existentialists believe that humans are free and responsible for their own choices and actions, and that they must create their own values and purpose in a world that has no inherent meaning or order.

Some of the main themes of existentialism are: the absurdity of existence, the anxiety of freedom, the authenticity of the self, the death of God, the importance of individuality, and the possibility of transcendence. Some of the most influential existentialist thinkers are: Søren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Simone de Beauvoir, and Martin Heidegger.

Existentialism matters because it challenges us to confront the fundamental questions of our existence and to take responsibility for our lives. It invites us to explore our own values and passions, to create our own meaning and purpose, and to live authentically and courageously. It also encourages us to be aware of the limits and possibilities of our human condition, and to seek ways to overcome our alienation and despair.

Existentialism is not a dogmatic or pessimistic philosophy, but rather a diverse and optimistic one. It offers us a rich and inspiring vision of what it means to be human in a complex and uncertain world.

How can we apply existentialism to our everyday lives? Here are some practical tips:

  • Be honest with yourself and others. Don’t pretend to be someone you are not, or to believe in something you don’t. Don’t follow the crowd or conform to social expectations. Be true to your own values and convictions.
  • Be creative and adventurous. Don’t be afraid to try new things, to experiment, to learn, to grow. Don’t limit yourself by your past or your future. Live in the present and enjoy the journey.
  • Be compassionate and respectful. Don’t judge or harm others, or yourself. Don’t impose your views or values on others, or let others impose theirs on you. Recognize the dignity and freedom of every human being.
  • Be hopeful and resilient. Don’t give up or despair, even when faced with difficulties or challenges. Don’t let fear or anxiety paralyze you. Find ways to cope and overcome. Seek support and solidarity from others who share your vision.

Existentialism is not a final answer, but a starting point. It is a way of thinking and living that invites us to discover our own potential and to make the most of our existence.

If you are interested in learning more about existentialism, here are some resources you can check out:

  1. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Existentialism. A comprehensive and accessible overview of the history, themes, and thinkers of existentialism.
  2. Crash Course Philosophy: Existentialism. A fun and engaging video series that introduces the main ideas and concepts of existentialism.
  3. The Guardian: How to Believe. A series of articles that explore the works and lives of some of the most influential existentialist writers and philosophers.
  4. Goodreads: Existentialism. A list of books that are related to existentialism, from novels and memoirs to essays and biographies.
  5. Reddit: Existentialism. A community of people who are interested in discussing and sharing their thoughts and experiences on existentialism.

Existentialism is not a static or fixed philosophy, but a dynamic and evolving one. It is open to new interpretations and applications, and to dialogue and debate with other perspectives. It is a philosophy that invites us to question, to reflect, and to act.

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