Existentialism


Introduction
Types of Existentialists
     Atheistic Existentialism
     Theistic Existentialism
     Nihilism
Soren Kierkegaard
Friedrich Nietzsche
Critics of Existentialism  

Introduction

'Existentialism is a philosophical movement which posits that individuals create the meaning and essence of their lives, as opposed to it being created for them by deities or authorities or defined for them by philosophical or theological doctrines. It emerged as a movement in twentieth-century literature and philosophy, though it had forerunners in earlier centuries, most notably Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche. Fyodor Dostoevsky and Franz Kafka also described existential themes in their literary works. It took explicit form as a philosophical current in Continental philosophy, first in the work of Martin Heidegger and Karl Jaspers in the 1930s in Germany, and then in the work of Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, and Simone de Beauvoir in the 1940s and 1950s in France. Their work focused on such themes as "dread, boredom, alienation, the absurd, freedom, commitment, and nothingness" as fundamental to human existence. Walter Kaufmann described existentialism as "The refusal to belong to any school of thought, the repudiation of the adequacy of any body of beliefs whatever, and especially of systems, and a marked dissatisfaction with traditional philosophy as superficial, academic, and remote from life". Although there are some common tendencies amongst "existentialist" thinkers, there are major differences and disagreements among them (most notably the divide between atheistic existentialists like Sartre and theistic existentialists like Tillich); not all of them accept the validity of the term.'

'Emphasizing action, freedom, and decision as fundamental, existentialists oppose themselves to rationalism and positivism. That is, they argue against definitions of human beings as primarily rational. Rather, existentialists look at where people find meaning. Existentialism asserts that people actually make decisions based on what has meaning to them rather than what is rational. The rejection of reason as the source of meaning is a common theme of existentialist thought, as is the focus on the feelings of anxiety and dread that we feel in the face of our own radical freedom and our awareness of death. Kierkegaard saw rationality as a mechanism humans use to counter their existential anxiety, their fear of being in the world: "If I can believe that I am rational and everyone else is rational then I have nothing to fear and no reason to feel anxious about being free." Like Kierkegaard, Sartre saw problems with rationality, calling it a form of "bad faith", an attempt by the self to impose structure on a world of phenomena - "the other" - that is fundamentally irrational and random. According to Sartre, rationality and other forms of bad faith hinder us from finding meaning in freedom. To try to suppress our feelings of anxiety and dread, we confine ourselves within everyday experience, Sartre asserts, thereby relinquishing our freedom and acquiescing to being possessed in one form or another by "the look" of "the other". In a similar vein, Camus believed that society and religion falsely teach humans that "the other" has order and structure.[4] For Camus, when an individual's "consciousness", longing for order, collides with "the other's" lack of order, a third element is born: "absurdity".'

'The notion of the Absurd contains the idea that there is no meaning to be found in the world beyond what meaning we give to it. This meaninglessness also encompasses the amorality or "unfairness" of the world. This contrasts with "karmic" ways of thinking in which "bad things don't happen to good people"; to the world, metaphorically speaking, there is no such thing as a good person or a bad thing; what happens happens, and it may just as well happen to a good person as to a bad person. This contrasts our daily experience where most things appear to us as meaningful, and where good people do indeed, on occasion, receive some sort of "reward" for their goodness. Most existentialist thinkers, however, will maintain that this is not a necessary feature of the world, and that it definitely isn't a property of the world in-itself. Because of the world's absurdity, at any point in time, anything can happen to anyone, and a tragic event could plummet someone into direct confrontation with the Absurd.'

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Existentialism 

Types of Existentialism

  Atheistic Existentialism:

'Atheistic Existentialism is the form of existentialism most commonly encountered in today's society. What sets it apart from theistic existentialism is that it rejects the notion of a god and his transcendent will that should in some way dictate how we should live. It rejects the notion that there is any "created" meaning to life and the world, and that a leap of faith is required of man in order for him to live an authentic life. In this kind of existentialism, belief in god is often considered a form of Bad Faith.'  Theistic Existentialism:

'Theistic existentialism is, for the most part, Christian in its outlook, but there have been existentialists of other theological persuasions (like Judaism). The main thing that sets them apart from atheistic existentialists is that they posit the existence of God, and that He is the source of our being. It is generally held that God has designed the world in such a way that we must define our own lives, and each individual is held accountable for his or her own self-definition. God is incomprehensibly paradoxical (this is exemplified in the incarnation of Christ); theism is not rationally justifiable, and belief in God is the ultimate leap of faith.'  Nihilism:

'Though nihilism isn't existentialism, and existentialism isn't nihilism, these two philosophies seem to have enough in common that people sometimes confuse them. In addition, a sort of nihilistic existentialism does indeed exist, but it isn't as radical as pure nihilism. Another reason why these philosophies are often confused is that Friedrich Nietzsche is a central philosopher in both. What sets existential nihilists apart from pure nihilists is the fact that, while nihilists don't believe in any meaning at all, existential nihilists only believe this in relation to any sort of meaning to life (though this position is implied in "regular" nihilism, and existential nihilists may also subscribe to the full nihilistic view, existential nihilism is a separate view). While other existentialists will allow for meaning in people's lives (that meaning they themselves inject into it), existential nihilists will deny that this meaning is anything but self-deception. Existential nihilists could thus seem to be more pessimistic than the other existentialists, but even here, conclusions vary: Some will claim that the best thing to do is to commit suicide while others will claim that the lack of objective meaning to life means you should just do as you wish - a hedonism of sorts.' 

Soren Kierkegaard



Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), 'was a prolific 19th century Danish philosopher and theologian. Kierkegaard strongly criticized both the Hegelianism of his time, and what he saw as the empty formalities of the Danish church. Much of his work deals with religious themes such as faith in God, the institution of the Christian Church, Christian ethics and theology, and the emotions and feelings of individuals when faced with life choices. His early work was written under various pseudonyms who present their own distinctive viewpoints in a complex dialogue. Kierkegaard left the task of discovering the meaning of the works to the reader, because "the task must be made difficult, for only the difficult inspires the noble-hearted". Subsequently, many have interpreted Kierkegaard as an existentialist, neo-orthodoxist, postmodernist, humanist, individualist, etc. Crossing the boundaries of philosophy, theology, psychology, and literature, Kierkegaard came to be regarded as a highly significant and influential figure in contemporary thought.'

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S%C3%B8ren_Kierkegaard

'Hegelianism is a philosophy developed by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel which can be summed up by Hegel's "the rational alone is real," which means that all reality is capable of being expressed in rational categories. His goal was to reduce reality to a more synthetic unity within the system of transcendental idealism.'

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hegelianism

'Christian existentialism relies on three major assumptions drawn from Kierkegaard's understanding of Christianity. The first is that the universe is fundamentally paradoxical, and that the greatest paradox of all is the transcendent union of God and man in the person of Christ. The second concerns having a personal relationship with God that supersedes all prescribed moralities, social structures and communal norms. The third asserts that following social conventions is essentially a personal aesthetic choice made by individuals.

Kierkegaard proposes that each of us must make independent choices that will then comprise our existence. No imposed structures - even Biblical commandments - can alter the responsibility of individuals to seek to please God in whatever personal and paradoxical way God chooses to be pleased. Each individual suffers the anguish of indecision until he makes a leap of faith and commits to a particular choice. Each person is faced with the responsibility of knowing of his own free will and with the fact that a choice, even a wrong choice, must be made in order to live authentically.

Kierkegaard also upholds the idea that every human being exists in one of three spheres (or on planes) of existence, the aesthetic, ethical, and religious. Most people, he observed, live an aesthetic life in which nothing matters but appearances, pleasures, and happiness. It is in accordance with the desires of this sphere that people follow social conventions. Kierkegaard also considered the violation of social conventions for personal reasons (e.g., in the pursuit of fame, reputation for rebelliousness) to be a personal aesthetic choice. A much smaller group are those people who live in the ethical sphere, who do their best to do the right thing and see past the shallow pleasantries and ideas of society. The third and highest sphere is the faith sphere. To be in the faith sphere, Kierkegaard says that one must give the entirety of oneself to God.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_existentialism

'One of the major premises of Christian existentialism entails calling the masses back to a more genuine form of Christianity, often identified with some notion of "early Christianity," or the type of Christianity that existed during the first three decades after the Resurrection of Christ in approximately AD 33. With the Edict of Milan, which was issued by Roman Emperor Constantine I in AD 313 , Christianity enjoyed a level of popularity among Romans and later among other Europeans. And yet, by the 19th century, Kierkegaard saw that the ultimate meaning of New Testament Christianity (Love) had become perverted. And thus, Christianity appears to have deviated considerably from its original threefold message of grace, humility, and love.

Another major premise of Christian existentialism involves Kierkegaard's conception of God and Love. For the most part, Kierkegaard equates God with Love. Thus when a person engages in the act of loving, he is in effect achieving an aspect of the divine. Kierkegaard also viewed the individual as a necessary synthesis of both finite and infinite elements. Therefore, when an individual does not come to a full realization of his infinite side, he is said to be in despair. For many contemporary Christian theologians, the notion of despair can be viewed as sin. And sin is something that Kierkegaard equated with the losing of one's self, the self being a free spirit that recognizes both the finite and infinite sides of his existence.

A final major premise of Christian existentialism entails the systematic undoing of evil acts. Kierkegaard claimed that once an action has been completed, it should be evaluated in the face of God, asserting that holding oneself up to Divine scrutiny is the only way to judge one's actions. Because actions constitute the manner in which something is deemed good or bad, one must be constantly conscious of the potential consequences of his actions. Kierkegaard believed that the choice for goodness came down to each individual. Unfortunately, most people do not choose. As a result, humanity will continue to relegate itself to self-imposed immaturity, thus living in both stunned apathy and agonizing inertia.'

Kierkegaard believed that Jesus' teachings were indirect in their style, they were aimed at individuals, and often told in parables, in answers to a person's specific question or circumstance. His point is often left unsaid for the purpose of letting the single individual confront the truth on their own. reading of the Bible demands that the reader recognize that he is an existing subject studying the words God communicates to him personally. This is in contrast to looking at a collection of "truths" which are outside and unrelated to the reader. Such a reader is not obligated to follow the commandments as if an external agent is forcing them upon him, but as though they are inside him and guiding him from inside. This is the task Kierkegaard takes up when he asks: "Who has the more difficult task: the teacher who lectures on earnest things a meteor's distance from everyday life-or the learner who should put it to use?" Existentially speaking, the Bible doesn't become an authority in a person's life until they authorize the Bible to be their personal authority.

Kierkegaard no doubt influenced other schools of Christian thought, such as Christian anarchism and progressive Christianity, and many others.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_anarchism

'Christian anarchism is any of several traditions which combine anarchism with Christianity. Christian anarchists believe that freedom is justified spiritually through the teachings of Jesus. This has caused them to be critical of government and Church authority. Some believe all individuals can directly communicate with God, which negates the need for a system of clergy. Leo Tolstoy's The Kingdom of God Is Within You is a key text in modern Christian anarchism.'

www.catholicworker.com/ah_anar.htm

www.catholicworker.com 

Friedrich Nietzsche



FriedrichNietzsche (1844-1900), a German Philosopher, believed in the theory of 'Will to Power', which underlied the motivation behind every human action. This could be interpreted as the need for significance, one of Six Fundamental Human Needs as described in the Psychology section. Perhaps his concept of 'Will to Power' was a response to Schopenhauer's concept of 'Will to Live' as the governing principle of human behaviour. Schopenhauer regarded 'the entire universe and everything in it as driven by a primordial will to live, thus resulting in all creatures' desire to avoid death and to procreate.'

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friedrich_Nietzsche

Nietzsche suggests however that people's main motivation is towards power, with living and survival being only a secondary aim, something necessary to promote one's own self-power. Nietzsche cites examples of combat, warfare and fighting as reflecting both humans' and animals' desire to willingly risk their lives in order to assert their power. Nietzsche took his inspiration from the ancient Greek texts of Homer, where Greek heroes and aristocrats or 'masters' did not merely desire life, but wanted power, glory, and greatness - and often dieing young and in battle in the process.

Nietzsche opposed Utilitarianism, the philosophy that held that all people are motivated by a desire to be happy - something he believed only applied to the 'English'. He also opposed Plato's concept that people ultimately want to achieve unity with the good or, in Christian neo-Platonism, unity with God through Gnosis. In each case, Nietzsche argues that the "will to power" provides a more useful and general explanation of human behavior.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utilitarianism

'Utilitarianism is the idea that the moral worth of an action is solely determined by its contribution to overall utility, that is, its contribution to happiness or pleasure as summed among all persons. It is thus a form of consequentialism, meaning that the moral worth of an action is determined by its outcome—the ends justify the means. Utility — the good to be maximized — has been defined by various thinkers as happiness or pleasure (versus sadness or pain), though preference utilitarians like Peter Singer define it as the satisfaction of preferences. It may be described as a life stance with happiness or pleasure as ultimate importance. It can be described by the phrase "the greatest good for the greatest number", though the phrase 'greatest number' gives rise to the problematic mere addition paradox. Utilitarianism can thus be characterized as a quantitative and reductionistic approach to ethics. Utilitarianism can be contrasted with deontological ethics (which disregards the consequences of performing an act, when determining its moral worth) and virtue ethics (which focuses on character), as well as with other varieties of consequentialism. Adherents of these opposing views have extensively criticized the utilitarian view, though utilitarians have been similarly critical of other schools of ethical thought.'

Nietzsche was once close friend with Richard Wagner, but fell out with him and others on account of differences over anti-Semitism. Nietzsche was against anti-Semitism.

Nietzsche was an atheist, and embodied both 'Nihilistic Existentialism' and 'Nihilism' itself. Kierkegaardian was arguably the founder of Existentialism, and Existentialism was from inception, ironically Theistic. Nietzsche took the ideas of Christian Existentialism, and reinterpreted it in an atheistic and Homeric manner. He reduced the 'fundamental human needs' down to one, the 'Power to Will'.

Nietzsche coined the phrase 'God is dead'. He saw the development of science and technology and the trend towards secularisation as effectively undermining theism and Christianity, which had served as a basis for Western society for two thousand years prior. He favoured Perspectivism, the 'death of God' eventually leading to the loss of any universal perspective and any coherent sense of objective truth. Instead, man would increasingly rely on his own multiple, diverse and fluid perspectives. The 'death of God' equally could lead to Nihilism, the belief that nothing has any importance and that life has no purpose.

Nietzsche called himself an 'immoralist' in his work 'Campaign against Morality'. He was very critical of Christianity, Kantianism, and Utilitarianism, the most popular philosophies of the time. Kantianism is defined below.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kantianism

'Kant's ethics are deontological, revolving entirely around duty rather than emotional feelings or end goals. All actions are performed in accordance with some underlying maxim or principle; it is this that the moral worth of an action is judged according to. Kant's ethics are founded on his view of rationality as the ultimate good and his belief that all people are fundamentally rational beings. This led to the most important part of Kant's ethics, the formulation of the Categorical Imperative, which acts as a test for whether a maxim is good or bad. Simply put, the test is that one must universalize the maxim (imagine that all people acted in this way) and then see if it would still be possible to perform the maxim in the world. For instance, holding the maxim kill anyone who annoys you and applying it universally would result in a world which would soon be devoid of people and without anyone left to kill. Thus holding this maxim is irrational as it ends up being impossible to hold it.'

Nietzsche according to some, did not want to destroy morality, but rather to initiate a re-evaluation of the values of the Judeo-Christian western world. However, his use of the term 'immoralist' perhaps contradicts this. Perhaps this is an example of his gratuitously inflammatory language and desire to offend. Some philosophers and occultists who draw on Nietzsche however interpret this literally.

He indicates his desire to bring about a new, more naturalistic source of value in the vital impulses of life itself - a desire in effect to return to the values of Homeric Greece. Nietzsche views the development of Judeo-Christian morality as 'master-slave' morality. Nietzsche presents master-morality as the original system of morality, perhaps best associated with Homeric Greece. Here, value comes about as a contrast between good and bad: wealth, strength, health, and power (the traits of the Homeric hero) being good; the poor, weak, sick, and pathetic (the traits of 'ancient Greek slaves') being seen as bad.

One can see the Homeric values of bravery, vitality, resilience against the odds, magnificence, amongst explorers, commercial divers and soldiers, and indeed anyone who has triumphed against extreme adversity and potential death. Through these experiences and ways of expressing the soul, one can really know oneself, and really appreciating one's life afterwards (assuming one has overcome the post-traumatic stress etc.!)

Neitzsche saw that Slave-morality could only come about as a reaction to master-morality. Nietzsche associates slave-morality with the Jewish and Christian traditions. Here, value emerges from the contrast between good and evil: good associated with charity, piety, restraint, meekness, and subservience; evil seen in the cruel, selfish, wealthy, indulgent, and aggressive. Nietzsche sees slave-morality as an ingenious ploy among the slaves and the weak (such as the Jews and Christians dominated by Rome) to overturn the values of their masters and to gain value for themselves: explaining their situation, and at the same time fixing themselves in a slave-like life.

Nietzsche saw the slave-morality as a sociological illness that had overtaken Western Europe - a derivative and resentful value that can only work by condemning others as evil. In Nietzsche's eyes, Christianity exists in a hypocritical state wherein people preach love and kindness but find their joy in condemning and punishing others for pursuing the impulses they themselves are not publicly allowed to act upon. Nietzsche calls for the strong in the world to break their self-imposed chains and assert their own power, health, and vitality upon the world.

Nietzsche's view of the slave-morality of Western Europe was in some respects flawed or limited in its application, as Western Europe, although nominally Christian, had a history of oppression of its citizens, imperialism and empire building, for example, the British, French, Spanish, Portugese, Dutch and also the Italians (attempts at anway under Mussolini!) Perhaps these empires can be seen in terms of the ruling elite, the rich, intellectuals and soldiers as being the 'masters' and the general populus as being the 'slaves'. This doesn't quite fit. Those soldiers going to war, willing to die for glory and significance, and because their enemy was 'subhuman' and 'inferior' were on some level embodying the 'master' morality of Homer. They were prepared to die for significance and 'power'; perhaps 'power' in a 'selfless' sense, a desire to contribute to their cause or society in some manner. The embodiment of Christian values was clearly quite perverted in Western Europe over the last two millennia, with religion and the Bible used as a tool for control (the Bible being available to the population to actually read themselves in their own language only occurring in the 14th Century onwards), displaying certain Master characteristics, with the religious establishment perhaps gratuitously polarising the Master-Slave psychological divide. This could be argued to be no fault of Jesus and his teachings per se.

Need one attribute beliefs to the stereotypical 'master-slave' morality? Need 'master' be good and 'slave' be bad (from Nietzsche's perspective)? Need 'master' be 'bad' and 'slave' be 'good' from a Christian perspective? Clearly these are stereotypes and one has to examine each situation on its own merits - very few people are either 'masters' in every situation or 'slaves' in every situation. Does it have to be all or nothing?

Social Darwinism held that the genetically deformed, weak and sick should be left to die. It could be argued that those who are disabled on account of genetic abnormalities, or develop incurable diseases and conditions, that they are special and gifted, in the sense that they bring out the best in people around them and because of their physical condition in many cases are able to achieve greatness that someone with all their faculties may never both with, e.g. Stephen Hawking. Being deaf or blind in some ways allows one to develop one's other senses more than someone who relies on their sight and hearing more. Having a disposition to being short-sighted could be considered a weakness, but many of the world's greatest thinkers have worn spectacles, e.g. Albert Einstein. This a philosophy that Nietzsche subscribed to, in direct opposition to Social Darwinism.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_Darwinism

'Friedrich Nietzsche's philosophy addressed the question of artificial selection, but it was built against Darwinian theories of natural selection. His point of view on sickness and health, in particular, opposed him to the concept of biological adaptation, forged by Spencer's "fitness". He criticized both Haeckel, Spencer, and Darwin, sometimes under the same banner. Nietzsche thought that, in specific cases, sickness was necessary and even helpful.'

In 'Human, All Too Human', Friedrich Nietzsche wrote:

'Wherever progress is to ensue, deviating natures are of greatest importance. Every progress of the whole must be preceded by a partial weakening. The strongest natures retain the type, the weaker ones help to advance it. Something similar also happens in the individual. There is rarely a degeneration, a truncation, or even a vice or any physical or moral loss without an advantage somewhere else. In a warlike and restless clan, for example, the sicklier man may have occasion to be alone, and may therefore become quieter and wiser; the one-eyed man will have one eye the stronger; the blind man will see deeper inwardly, and certainly hear better. To this extent, the famous theory of the survival of the fittest does not seem to me to be the only viewpoint from which to explain the progress of strengthening of a man or of a race.'

I believe that anyone who has the will and drive to really dig deeply into the health section of this web site, and really have the guts to apply it and the perseverance (the 'balls') to 'never say die' and to 'become magnificent' are in many ways embodying the spirit of Nietzsche's 'Will to Power'; or perhaps in this instance it is more 'Will to Life' and a reflection of 'Survival of the Fitness' - or perhaps those 'weak' that have the tools and wherewithall to become the 'strong', that they were born to be. I believe that there are no 'weak' as such, but just that some allow themselves to become that way by conditioning, abusive lifestyles (mentally and health-wise) and environmental toxicological influences.

Nietzsche is quoted as saying 'When you look into the abyss, the abyss looks back'. In other words, if you look upon something 'dark', some element of that 'darkness' changes you, depending on the strength of the core tenets of your personality/belief system and what 'attracts' or 'excites' you and why; changing you perhaps forever.

In Nietzsche's most famous novel, Thus Spoke Zarathusia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thus_Spoke_Zarathustra

'Copious criticisms of Christianity can be found in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, in particular Christian values of good and evil and its purported lie of an afterlife. Nietzsche sees the complacency of Christian values as fetters to the achievement of overman as well as on the human spirit. Contrasting sharply with Christianity, Nietzsche praises lust, selfishness, while reproaching the rewarded concepts of pity and love for neighbors.'

Nietzsche was a major influence on Adolf Hitler, although Hitler took selectively from Nietzsche's philosophy, combining it with Social Darwinist ideas and also Aryan Racial ideologies and mysticism, for example, those of Theosophy and Ariosophy, and the Thule Society.

In more modern times, Nietzsche has been a major influence on Neo-Nazi gangs (e.g. Aryan Brotherhood), Satanism, Gnostic Luciferianism and the Left-Hand Path, some of whom have taken Nietzsche's ideas in their entirety and others who have selectively taken from his philosophy and chosen to ignore some of his other ideas. It could be argued that whilst many who follow Nietzsche's philosophy object to the uptake by the Nazis and Neo-Nazis as a perversion of Nietzsche's ideas or as a selective uptake of Nietzsche's ideas with contradictory ideas of other philosophers, they are in many cases doing exactly the same thing. The Nazis adopted some of Nietzsche's philosophies, including the Power to Will, perhaps taking it out of context as a justification for global war and domination, but ignored Nietzsche's vehement anti-racism and anti-eugenics stance. LaVey Satanists who claim to draw on Nietzsche's philosophy of the Power to Will, are also ignoring the fact that Nietzsche was an actual atheist, and did not practice the occult, unlike LaVey Satanists who believe that 'black magic' is consistent with atheistic practice. In addition, Gnostic Luciferians or Bestian Gnostics who are highly influenced by Nietzsche have also neglected the fact that Nietzsche was an atheist and believed that 'God was dead', presumably meaning all Gods in effect, including the Judeo-Christian God. Gnostic Luciferians and Bestian Gnostics in many cases believe in multiple Gods and deities, which hardly consistent with Nietzsche's overall philosophy, even if they believe in the Power to Will. What would Nietzsche think if he could see how his ideas had been interpreted today? I imagine that he would be less than impressed that his ideas had been used to promote genocide, race hatred, the occult and polytheism! Nietzsche would have no doubt regarded Satanists and Gnostic Luciferians as just as superstitious as Christians, but at least not embodying the slave-morality. However, there is no reason why one cannot 'pick and mix' from a variety of different philosophies, taking on those ideas that one finds appealing and ignoring others that one does not, within a number of different philosophies, in a somewhat personalised, subjective and syncretic manner. Each to their own! 

Criticisms of Existentialism

'Herbert Marcuse criticized existentialism, especially Sartre's Being and Nothingness, for projecting some features of living in a modern, oppressive society, such as anxiety and meaninglessness, onto the nature of existence itself: "Insofar as Existentialism is a philosophical doctrine, it remains an idealistic doctrine: it hypostatizes specific historical conditions of human existence into ontological and metaphysical characteristics. Existentialism thus becomes part of the very ideology which it attacks, and its radicalism is illusory". Sartre had already responded to some points of the Marxist criticisms of existentialism in his popular lecture Existentialism is a humanism, held in 1946.'

'Roger Scruton claimed, in his book From Descartes to Wittgenstein, that both Heidegger's concept of inauthenticity and Sartre's concept of bad faith were self-inconsistent; both deny any universal moral creed, yet speak of these concepts as if everyone is bound to abide by them. In chapter 18, he writes, "In what sense Sartre is able to 'recommend' the authenticity which consists in the purely self-made morality is unclear. He does recommend it, but, by his own argument, his recommendation can have no objective force."'

'Logical positivists, such as Carnap and Ayer, claim that existentialists frequently become confused over the verb "to be" in their analyses of "being".[11] The verb is prefixed to a predicate and to use the word without any predicate is meaningless. Another claimed source of confusion in the existentialist metaphysical literature is that existentialists try to understand the meaning of the word "nothing" (the negation of existence) by assuming that it must refer to something. Borrowing Kant's argument[12] against the ontological argument for the existence of God, the logical positivists argue that existence is not a property.'

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logical_positivists

'Logical positivism (later and more accurately called logical empiricism) is a school of philosophy that combines empiricism, the idea that observational evidence is indispensable for knowledge of the world, with a version of rationalism, the idea that our knowledge includes a component that is not derived from observation.'

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empiricism

'In philosophy, empiricism is a theory of knowledge that is practical rather than abstract, and asserts that knowledge arises from experience rather than revelation. Empiricism is one view held about how we know things, and so is part of the branch of philosophy called epistemology, which means "theory of knowledge". Empiricism emphasizes the role of experience and evidence, especially sensory perception, in the formation of ideas, while discounting the notion of innate ideas. In the philosophy of science, empiricism emphasizes those aspects of scientific knowledge that are closely related to evidence, especially as discovered in experiments. It is a fundamental part of the scientific method that all hypotheses and theories must be tested against observations of the natural world, rather than resting solely on a priori reasoning, intuition, or revelation. Hence, science is considered to be methodologically empirical in nature.'

The most famous empiricist was John Locke, the founder of British empiricism.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rationalism

'In epistemology and in its broadest sense, rationalism is "any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification" (Lacey 286). In more technical terms it is a method or a theory "in which the criterion of the truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive" (Bourke 263). Different degrees of emphasis on this method or theory lead to a range of rationalist standpoints, from the moderate position "that reason has precedence over other ways of acquiring knowledge" to the radical position that reason is "the unique path to knowledge" (Audi 771).'

Socrates was arguably the founder of rationalism, influencing Neo-Platonism and Rene Decartes in later centuries.

Existentialism's concept of the Absurd, that no belief systems are solid or absolute, poses a contradiction, as this implies that existentialism must also on some level be a false doctrine or not apply depending on the exact situation or mood. Perhaps there is then a time and place for Existentialism, and to adopt it in its entirety and slavishly would be somehow missing the point?

© 2006-2014 Fabian Dee