What Are the Four Tenets of Existentialism?


Jane Flores

Existentialism is a philosophical approach that emphasizes individual existence, freedom, and choice. It is a worldview that recognizes the search for meaning in human life and acknowledges the unique experiences of individuals.

There are four tenets of existentialism that define this philosophy. These tenets include:

The First Tenet: Existence Precedes Essence

This tenet means that individuals do not have a predetermined essence or nature. Instead, they create their own essence through their choices and actions.

In other words, individuals are born without any inherent meaning or purpose in life. They must create their own meaning by making choices and taking responsibility for those choices.

For example: A person may choose to pursue a career in medicine because it aligns with their personal values and interests. This choice gives them a sense of purpose and meaning in life.

The Second Tenet: Freedom and Responsibility

Existentialism places great emphasis on freedom and responsibility. Individuals have the freedom to make choices, but they must also take responsibility for the consequences of those choices. In other words, individuals are responsible for shaping their own lives.

For example: If someone chooses to skip work to go on a vacation, they must accept the consequences of missing work – such as losing pay or facing disciplinary action from their employer.

The Third Tenet: Authenticity

Authenticity refers to being true to oneself. It means living in accordance with one’s beliefs, values, and desires rather than conforming to societal expectations or norms. Essentially, authenticity means being true to oneself even if it goes against what others think or expect.

For example: A person may choose not to follow societal norms regarding gender roles because they do not align with their personal values or beliefs.

The Fourth Tenet: Search for Meaning

The search for meaning is at the core of existentialism. Individuals must actively search for meaning in their lives, as it is not something that is predetermined or given to them. This search for meaning may involve exploring one’s personal beliefs, values, and experiences.

For example: A person may find meaning in their life by pursuing a career that aligns with their values and allows them to make a positive impact on the world.


Existentialism is a philosophy that emphasizes individual existence, freedom, responsibility, authenticity, and the search for meaning. By understanding these four tenets of existentialism, individuals can gain insight into their own lives and make choices that align with their personal values and desires.