The 1958 International Congress of Psychotherapy chose existential psychology as its theme.And the twentieth-century existentialists themselves were all still alive: Heidegger, Sartre, and Camus, Martin Buber and Gabriel Marcel and Paul Tillich. Though the term is so broadly and loosely used that an exact definition is not possible, existentialists assume as a significant fact that people and things in general exist, but that things have no meaning for us except as individuals, through acting upon them, can create meaning.“In a universe that is suddenly deprived of illusions and of light, man feels a stranger. This divorce between man and his life, the actor and his stage, truly constitutes the feeling of Absurdity.”─ Albert Camus, (has being or essence), that every person’s experience of life is different from another’s, and that individuals’ lives can be understood only in terms of their commitment to living responsibly. ” with its suggestion of the uniqueness and mystery of each life and an emphasis upon the personal rather than the impersonal.
What Existentialism Is and Is Not Camus spoke of a dialectical tension between, on the one hand, human beings, desperate for a sense of coherence to their lives, who cry out to the heavens for answers, and, on the other hand, the stubborn silence that greets such pleas. To start with the former, Maurice Friedman began his introduction to magazine may have been on to something in 1958: “There is no sign that [existential psychology] will become a frothy success like Freudian analysis or hula hoops…[because] any understanding of it requires the most rigorous intellectual exercise.” A book on the subject likely to sell today would have to be entitled .
This may serve as a somewhat strained metaphor for the quest to understand existentialism itself. Indeed, I was reminded of Rabbi Hillel, asked for the meaning of life while standing on one foot, when a middle-aged student of mine conceded recently that she wanted to learn about philosophy so long as she did not have to read too much.
Existentialism is difficult to define primarily because its essence, so to speak, is to oppose the kind of analytic reduction that definition entails.
It is not a system of philosophy to be learned or subscribed to (I am always at a loss to answer the question “Are you an existentialist?
“: The optimism of the 18th and 19th centuries gives way, after WW I, to the Great Depression, WW II and the Holocaust, to a feeling of pessimism, fear and anxiety.
Another kind of anxiety facing individuals in the 20th C when the philosophy of existentialism develops is “the anguish of Abraham,” the necessity which is laid upon people to make “moral” choices on their own sense of responsibility.
The emphasis of the existentialist is not on idea, but .
Existentialism accepts not only people’s power of thought, but their fallibility, frailty, body, etc. People are felt to find their true selves not in the detachment of thought but in the involvement and agony of choice and in the pathos of commitment to choice.: Existentialism holds that, since the Renaissance, people have slowly been separated from concrete earthly existence.
Individuals have been forced to live at ever higher levels of abstraction, have been collectivised out of existence, and have driven God from the heavens, (or, what is the same thing to the existentialist), from the hearts of men.
It is believed that individuals live in a fourfold condition of alienation: from God, from nature, from other people, and from our own “true” selves. At a time in our history when mankind’s command over the forces of nature seems to be unlimited, existentialism depicts human beings as weakened, ridden with nameless dread.4.