What Is the Central Concept of Existentialism?


Vincent White

Existentialism is a philosophical movement that emphasizes individual existence, freedom, and choice. The central concept of existentialism is the idea that humans create their own meaning in life, rather than having it predetermined by external factors such as religion or society.

What Is Existentialism?

Existentialism emerged as a philosophical movement in the 20th century, largely in response to the horrors of World War II. Its roots can be traced back to the works of philosophers such as Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche.

At its core, existentialism is concerned with the nature of human existence and the meaning of life. It rejects the idea that there is any inherent purpose or meaning to life, arguing instead that individuals must create their own meaning through their actions and choices.

The Four Themes of Existentialism

While existentialism is a broad and diverse philosophical movement, there are several key themes that are common to many existentialist thinkers.

1. Freedom

One of the central themes of existentialism is the importance of individual freedom. Existentialists argue that individuals are free to choose their own path in life, but this freedom also comes with responsibility. They believe that individuals must take responsibility for their choices and actions, even in the face of difficult or uncertain circumstances.

2. Authenticity

Another key theme in existentialist thought is authenticity. This refers to living an honest and genuine life, free from external pressures or expectations. According to existentialists, individuals must be true to themselves and live according to their own values and beliefs.

3. Anxiety and Despair

Existentialism acknowledges that human existence can be fraught with anxiety and despair. This stems from our awareness of our own mortality and the knowledge that our lives are ultimately finite. However, existentialists argue that it is precisely this awareness that allows us to create meaning and purpose in our lives.

4. Absurdity

Finally, existentialists often explore the idea of the absurdity of human existence. They argue that life is inherently meaningless, but that this does not mean we should despair or give up. Instead, existentialists see this as an opportunity to create our own meaning and purpose in life.

  • Conclusion

Existentialism is a complex and multifaceted philosophical movement that has had a significant impact on modern thought. Its central concept – the idea that humans create their own meaning in life – challenges many traditional notions about the nature of existence and offers a unique perspective on the human experience. By embracing themes such as freedom, authenticity, anxiety, and absurdity, existentialism encourages individuals to take responsibility for their own lives and to find their own path in an uncertain world.