Existentialism is a philosophical movement that emphasizes individual freedom and choice. It is a way of thinking that focuses on the human experience, and it deals with questions about the meaning of life, death, and existence. There are six common themes in existentialism that are often explored by philosophers, writers, and artists.
1. Freedom and Choice
One of the most important themes in existentialism is freedom and choice. Existentialists believe that individuals have complete freedom to choose their own path in life. This means that people are responsible for their own actions and must take responsibility for the consequences of those actions.
“Man is condemned to be free” – Jean-Paul Sartre.
Another theme in existentialism is authenticity. This refers to the idea that individuals must be true to themselves and their own experiences. Existentialists argue that people should not conform to social norms or expectations but should instead create their own meaning in life.
“The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely” – Carl Jung.
Existentialists often explore anxiety as a theme because they believe it is an inherent part of the human experience. They argue that anxiety arises from our awareness of our own mortality and our responsibility for our choices.
“Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom” – Søren Kierkegaard.
Death is another common theme in existentialism because it raises fundamental questions about the meaning of life. Existentialists argue that awareness of our own mortality can help us live more fully in the present moment.
“To be aware of the possibility of the worst happening brings a sense of freedom” – Friedrich Nietzsche.
Existentialists often explore the theme of absurdity because they believe that life is inherently irrational and meaningless. They argue that individuals must create their own meaning in a world that lacks inherent purpose.
“The only way to deal with the absurdity of life is to laugh at it” – Albert Camus.
6. Isolation and Alienation
Finally, existentialists explore themes of isolation and alienation because they believe that individuals are fundamentally alone in the world. They argue that our experiences are unique and cannot be fully understood by others.
“In order to be open to creativity, one must have the capacity for constructive use of solitude. One must overcome the fear of being alone” – Rollo May.
In conclusion, these six themes are often explored in existentialism: freedom and choice, authenticity, anxiety, death, absurdity, and isolation and alienation. These themes reflect fundamental questions about the human experience, and they continue to inspire thinkers across disciplines today.