Existentialism is a philosophical movement that emphasizes individual existence, freedom, and choice. It is often associated with the works of Jean-Paul Sartre, Martin Heidegger, and Friedrich Nietzsche. Existentialists believe that individuals create their own meaning in life and are responsible for their actions.

History of Existentialism

Existentialism emerged in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as a reaction to traditional philosophical systems such as rationalism and empiricism. The movement gained popularity in Europe during the aftermath of World War II. Many intellectuals turned to existentialism as a way to make sense of the destruction and chaos that had occurred.

The Key Tenets of Existentialism

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

Existentialists also emphasize individual freedom and choice. They reject any notion of predetermined fate or destiny and assert that individuals have complete control over their lives.

Another important aspect of existentialism is authenticity. Existentialists believe that individuals must be true to themselves and their own values rather than conforming to societal expectations or norms.

The Role of Anxiety in Existentialism

Anxiety plays a significant role in existentialist thought. According to this philosophy, anxiety arises from our awareness of our mortality and the uncertainty of our future. This anxiety can be paralyzing, but it can also motivate individuals to take action and create meaning in their lives.

Existentialist Views on Religion

Existentialists generally reject traditional religious beliefs because they view them as attempts to avoid confronting the fundamental questions about human existence. However, some existentialists have explored spirituality outside of organized religion as a way to find meaning and purpose.


Existentialism is a complex philosophical movement that emphasizes individual freedom, choice, and responsibility. It encourages individuals to create their own meaning in life and to be true to themselves. By embracing anxiety and uncertainty, existentialists believe that individuals can find motivation to take action and shape their own lives.