What You Need to Know About : Existentialism

Existentialism is difficult to define. This is due, in large part, to the fact that although it was conceived as a serious philosophical doctrine, it has been frequently vulgarized to the level of some loosely related styles of writing or, worse yet, to a fad, so that the existentialist label gets applied to authors or ideas that are only remotely, if at all, connected to existentialist philosophy. More significantly, a further complication derives from the fact that, as is the case with so many philosophies, the ideas proposed by various existentialist thinkers often do not share any one cardinal point. For example, Martin Heidegger, one of the major voices of the existential philosophy, vehemently chides Jean-Paul Sartre, a giant of existentialist thinking in his own right, for misunderstanding the term existence and thus debasing the label existentialism to mean some kind of nihilistic view on life and human history. Moreover, even when existential philosophers draw on the same author as a common source of their thinking, they disagree so substantially over the interpretation of this source that the end products are hard pressed to form a coherent system of thought.

Despite all the differences among existentialist thinkers, however, there is nevertheless a core theme around which their respective works orbit, a theme that gives what is called existentialism a recognizable contour and helps gather diverse writings as parts of a distinct philosophical perspective. This theme—also known as one of the battle cries of a general philosophical revolt taking place in Europe during the early decades of the 20th century—can be stated as follows: Existence precedes essence. If existentialism has made any significant contribution to philosophy, this contribution can be measured by what this statement means to suggest.

Littlejohn, Stephen W and Karen A.Floss. (2009). Encyclopedia of Communication Theory.USA:SAGE.654

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Gayes Mahestu
Edwina Ayu Kustiawan