What Are the Core Ideas of Existentialism?


Vincent White

Existentialism is a philosophical movement that emphasizes individual freedom and choice. It emerged in the 19th century and gained popularity in the 20th century, particularly after World War II. The core ideas of existentialism revolve around the following concepts.

The Absurd

Existentialists believe that human life has no inherent meaning or purpose. This belief is based on the idea that there is no objective standard for judging what is meaningful or valuable. Therefore, individuals must create their own meaning through their choices and actions.

The absurdity of human existence is a central theme in existentialist philosophy. It refers to the conflict between the human desire for order and meaning, and the chaotic and meaningless nature of the world.


Freedom is another key concept in existentialism. Existentialists believe that individuals have complete freedom to make choices and determine their own destiny. However, with this freedom comes responsibility and accountability for one’s actions.

According to existentialist philosophy, individuals must embrace their freedom and take responsibility for their lives. They must make choices based on their authentic selves rather than societal pressures or external influences.


Authenticity is a central value in existentialism. It refers to living in accordance with one’s true self rather than conforming to societal norms or expectations.

Existentialists believe that authenticity requires individuals to be honest with themselves about their values, desires, and beliefs. This can be difficult because it often requires individuals to confront uncomfortable truths about themselves.


Death is another key theme in existentialist philosophy. Existentialists believe that awareness of our mortality makes life more meaningful by forcing us to confront our finitude and make the most of our time.

According to existentialism, death gives life urgency and significance by reminding us that we have a limited amount of time on earth. It also emphasizes the importance of living authentically and making choices based on our own values rather than societal expectations.


In conclusion, existentialism is a philosophical movement that emphasizes individual freedom, authenticity, and the absurdity of human existence. It encourages individuals to embrace their freedom and take responsibility for their lives, and to live authentically by being true to themselves. By acknowledging the inevitability of death, existentialism reminds us to make the most of our time on earth and live a meaningful life.