Existentialism is a philosophical movement that originated in the late 19th century and gained popularity in the mid-20th century. It emphasizes individual freedom, choice, and responsibility, as well as the search for meaning in life.

But who were the key figures that popularized existentialism? Let’s take a closer look.

Friedrich Nietzsche: Nietzsche was a German philosopher who lived from 1844 to 1900. He is often considered a precursor to existentialism because of his emphasis on the individual and his rejection of traditional morality. Nietzsche believed that individuals should create their own values and live according to their own will rather than following societal norms or religious doctrine.

Martin Heidegger: Heidegger was a German philosopher who lived from 1889 to 1976. He is known for his work on ontology, or the study of being. Heidegger’s philosophy emphasizes the importance of individual existence and experience, as well as the search for authenticity in life.

Jean-Paul Sartre: Sartre was a French philosopher who lived from 1905 to 1980. He is perhaps the most famous existentialist thinker and is known for his works such as ‘Being and Nothingness’ and ‘No Exit’. Sartre believed that individuals are responsible for creating meaning in their lives, but also acknowledged the anxiety and uncertainty that can come with this responsibility.

Albert Camus: Camus was an Algerian-born French writer who lived from 1913 to 1960. He is known for his novels such as ‘The Stranger’ and ‘The Plague’, which explore themes of alienation, absurdity, and morality. Camus rejected traditional philosophy and religion but believed that individuals could find meaning in their lives through acts of rebellion against oppressive systems.

These thinkers all contributed to the development of existentialism, but it was Sartre who popularized the movement in the mid-20th century. His writings and public appearances made existentialism a cultural phenomenon and influenced many artists, writers, and philosophers of his time. Sartre’s ideas about individual freedom and responsibility resonated with a generation that was questioning traditional values and authority.

In conclusion, while many philosophers contributed to the development of existentialism, it was Jean-Paul Sartre who popularized the movement and made it a cultural force in the mid-20th century. Today, existentialism continues to be an influential philosophy that emphasizes individual experience and responsibility.