When Did French Existentialism Start?


Martha Robinson

French existentialism is a philosophical movement that originated in the early 20th century in France. It is a unique school of thought that emphasizes individual freedom and choice, the meaning of life, and the human condition. The movement was influenced by several philosophers, including Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Albert Camus.

Existentialism began to take shape in France during the aftermath of World War I. The war had left a profound impact on French society, and many people were struggling to make sense of their lives in the wake of such destruction. The French people were looking for new ways to understand themselves, their place in society, and their purpose in life.

In 1945, Jean-Paul Sartre published his famous work “Existentialism is a Humanism,” which helped to define the movement. In this work, Sartre argued that human beings have no inherent nature or essence; instead, they are defined by their actions and choices. He claimed that individuals are free to choose their own paths in life and that they must take responsibility for those choices.

Another prominent figure in French existentialism was Albert Camus. In his works such as “The Stranger” and “The Plague,” Camus explored themes such as alienation, absurdity, and the search for meaning in life. He argued that humans are faced with an absurd world that has no inherent meaning or purpose but that we must create our own meaning through our actions.

Existentialism became a popular movement in France during the 1940s and 1950s. It was embraced by writers, artists, intellectuals, and students who were looking for new ways to understand themselves and their place in society. Existentialist ideas also influenced other movements such as feminism and civil rights.

In conclusion, French existentialism started to take shape after World War I when people were searching for new ways to understand themselves and their place in the world. It was defined by prominent philosophers such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus, who emphasized individual freedom, choice, and the search for meaning in life. The movement had a profound impact on French society and continues to be influential today.