Existentialism is a philosophical movement that emphasizes individual existence, freedom, and choice. It originated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in response to the cultural, social, and political changes that were happening at that time. The term “existentialism” was coined by the French philosopher Gabriel Marcel in the 1940s.
At its core, existentialism is concerned with the meaning of life and how individuals can find purpose and fulfillment in a world that often seems meaningless and chaotic. It asserts that human beings are free to make choices and create their own values, but this freedom also comes with responsibility.
One of the most famous examples of existentialism is Jean-Paul Sartre’s play “No Exit.” In this play, three characters are trapped in a room together for eternity.
As they struggle to come to terms with their situation, they realize that the true hell they are experiencing is not physical torture but rather each other’s company. The play highlights the idea that human beings are fundamentally alone in the world and must create their own meaning.
Another example of existentialism can be found in the literature of Franz Kafka. In his novel “The Trial,” Kafka portrays a man who is accused of a crime but never told what it is or given a chance to defend himself.
The man struggles to understand his situation and find meaning in it, but ultimately fails. The novel reflects Kafka’s belief that life is absurd and meaningless.
Existentialism also has implications for ethics and politics. Existentialists argue that there are no objective moral values or universal principles that can guide human behavior.
Instead, individuals must make choices based on their own subjective experiences and values. This means that there can be no one-size-fits-all approach to ethics or politics.
In conclusion, existentialism is a philosophical movement that emphasizes individual existence, freedom, choice, responsibility, and the search for meaning in an often meaningless world. Its influence can be seen in literature, theater, and philosophy, and it continues to be a powerful force in contemporary thought.