Existentialism

Existentialism In the stranger, Camus uses Mersaults’ experiences such as his mothers’ death, killing the Arab, the trial, and his interaction with other characters throughout the novel to convey his philosophy, which satisfies all principals of existentialism. The existentialism idle proposes that man is full of anxiety and despair with no meaning in his life, just simple existing, until he’s made a decisive being. To convey his existentialism philosophy, Camus use the death of Mersaults’, mother in the beginning of the novel. On the first page, Mersault is more concerned about the time of his mothers’ death, and not the fact that he had recently lost a loved one. This shows that Mersault felt that there is no reason to mourn for his mothers’ death, and also conveys the existentialist idea that reason is powerless to the idea with the depths of human life.

The fact that Mersault shows no compassion ultimately conveys Camus’ philosophy. Also, at Mersaults’ mothers funeral Mersault does not cry or behave the way that society expects him to act. This is because Mersault is an existentialist, and does not act in the appropriate manner in which society expects, which makes him a stranger from the people around him. The murder of the Arab is clearly the central event of the novel, therefore, Camus placed it right in the middle of the book. This violent crime interrupts the routine of the story. It is the last incident recounted in part one, so its importance is underscored by a structural break in the story. It is related in one of the longer chapters, which records in fine detail the events of the day, even when their relevance is not an obvious for example, several paragraphs are devoted to describing how Marie and Mersault frolic in the sea.

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The murder marks an obvious change in Mersaults’ life, from free man to prisoner, and more subtle associated changes, such as his increasing introspection and concern with memory. Mersault himself describes the shooting in terms that emphasize both the destruction of a past and the start of something new: “and there, in that noise, sharp and deafening at the same time, is where it all started’ I shook off the sweat and the sun. I know that I had shattered the harmony of the day, the exception silence of a beach where I’d been happy.”(pg. 59) Until the murder, nothing very dramatic has happened and nothing dramatic seems likely to happen. Partly, of course, this air of normality results from the way Mersault tells the story.

His mothers’ death could have been a momentous event, but he begins the novel with the statement: “Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don’t know”.(pg. 1) The tone and the uncertainty combine to make us feel that this is not a significant event. Mersault agreeing to marry Marie, could have been presented as a turning point in his life; however he relates their engagement as if it were a routine decision: “That evening Marie came by to see me and asked me if I wanted to marry her. I said it didn’t make much difference to me and that we could if she wanted to” Mersault expresses very much the same attitude toward the murder as he has previously; his actions have no conscious motives.

In the event leading up to the point when Mersault kills the Arab, the heat, sun, and the light begins to affect him more and more, at which point his sensual feeling overwhelms him and causes him to pull the trigger and kill the Arab. I was walking slowly towards the rocks and I could feel my forehead swelling under the sun. All that heat was pressing down on me and making it hard for me to go on.. But the whole beach, throbbing in the sun, was pressing on my back..The sun was the same as it had been the day I’d buried Maman, and like then, my forehead especially was hurting me. ( pg. 57-58) This part of the novel shows how Mersault is a stranger from nature, in the way that for the first time the sun and his sensual pleasures begin to act against him, and cause him to lose control.

During the trial, Camus begins to ridicule the legal system, and make apparent the fact that Mersault is truly an outsider. Camus does this by making Mersault feel out of place at has trial; also by showing that Mersaults’ case is rushed, due to the fact that there is an exciting parricide case next. All throughout the trial the prosecutors try to make a case that, because Mersault did not cry at his mothers’ funeral, he was guilty. The distortion is that society believes that if you don’t cry or show grief in some outward way, you have no soul. The prosecutor in his closing arguments says that: But here in the wholly negative virtue of tolerance must give way to the sterner but loftier virtue of justice. Especially when emptiness of a man’s heart becomes, as we find it has in this man, an abyss threatening to swallow up society.

(Pg.101) As if to say that the murder of the Arab was a direct result of the fact that he did not cry at his mothers’ funeral. Society has distorted the facts of the case, he is actually being tried for the fact that he did not cry at his mothers’ funeral rather than the actual crime at hand. This reveals Camus’ philosophy by making Mersault a stranger from society, and the legal system. During the time in which Mersault is imprisoned, he begins to feel as though he is unable to accept death and wants to escape the inevitable. This is how Camus uses Mersault to explain other principles of existentialism, which is fear, anxiety, and angst. The reason that Mersault feels this way is that he’s denied everything in prison and has nothing to deal with but himself, which makes him able to consider what is doing to happen to him.

In the novel, Mersault deals with people such as his friends or acquaintances that were not readily accepted in the society of that time. When Salomano comes to talk to Mersault about his dog, instead of being compassionate and consoling the old man, Mersault tells him that the pound keeps the dogs for a few days until it is put down. This shows that Mersault feels no reason to lie to Salamano or tell him something to comfort him; Mersault does not feel pity for the old man. This is also an existentialist viewpoint in the way that Mersault has no need to conform to society how most people would. In conclusion, Camus writes the novel in order to explain the absurdities of life, with the actions of Mersault to portray his existentialist beliefs.

By showing that Mersault goes against everything that is defined as appropriate in society, Camus has managed to do well enough that one who did not have much knowledge about existentialist may gain an insight of what it is, and the belief that an existentialist has.

Existentialism

Existentialism When the word “existentialism” is mentioned, what comes to mind? Lack of faith? Secular beliefs? It is a belief in living life. Could it be any simpler than that? Existentialists believe in free will, making choices, and living with those consequences. This is not some kind of weird “hippy” philosophy; it makes sense. Existentialistic thought is predominately a 20th century revelation. As a philosophy, it states that man possesses free will over his fate and the direction he wants his life to take. Those who follow this believe they are in a world that does not always make sense, a world that is filled with uncertainty where well-intended actions can become obscure and chaotic. In basic existentialist beliefs, man is the only animal defining itself through life.

Without life, there is no meaning. Existentialists believe in life and fighting for it (Wyatt, 1999). Mankind has a free will of choices, causing stress. First, conscious beings exist, and then they spend a lifetime defining an individual essence. All conscious life forms, namely humans, have free will. Every action, expression, or thought is the result of a decision (Wyatt, 1999).

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The most important decisions are those affecting the free will of other individuals, other matters are less important. Some may be affected negatively, their choices reduced by a decision, so decisions must promote freedom among the greatest number of beings (Wyatt, 1999). Decision-making can be a stressful, solitary act, even when made as part of a group. All decisions are individual; everyone is responsible for his or her choices. Limiting the number of options available to an individual in any situation reduces that being’s freedom to express a free will. There is no such thing as a demand, since one can always accept death as a choice (Wyatt, 1999). According to the existentialistic belief, “I am nothing but my own conscious existence” (Lavine, 1999, p.

1). Human existence has fallen, and is lived in suffering and sin, guilt and anxiety. Existentialists reject happiness and optimism because they “only reflect a superficial understanding of life, or a nave and foolish way of denying the despairing, tragic aspect of human existence” (Lavine, 1999, p. 1). Human beings are here by chance. Somehow we came to be on earth, thrown into this time and place. Why? How? Existentialists do not know the answer to those questions, but believe “I am my own existence, but my existence is nothingness.

I live then without anything to structure my being and my world, and I am looking into emptiness and the void, hovering over the abyss in fear and trembling and living the life of dread” (Lavine, 1999, p. 1). The very concept of existentialism denies the very essence of a God, otherwise known as agnosticism (a sense of apathy regarding the question of an existence of a supreme being or God) or atheism (denying the existence God). Essentially, if there is no infinite, omnipresent, creator-God who transcends all boundaries, then there can be no infinite reference point that provides life with meaning. Man is an insignificant being, alone in the cosmos and existing within his awareness of himself. The individual creates his own reality and meaning within his head, because no higher power outside him exists.

(Roberts, 1959, p. 76). When a man is alive (conscious), he maintains power over his life. When he is dead, he is an object. No soul exists, no life after death – as there is nowhere to go.

This is all there is (Cooper, 1999). Existentialists emphasize passion and will. They do not stress ideals, but rather the thinker maintaining the ideas. Freedom is more important than determinism, and subjectivity than objectivity. Man’s feelings and passions are what make him a man-feelings are the standard for truth (Roberts, 1959). Existentialism is opposed to rationalism, yet most writers pen very rational books using all the laws of logic to persuade readers that irrationalism is the way to meaning. Assuming values are relative, how can any society cohere? Would not everyone simply follow his particular mindset, therefore causing chaotic disputes? (How can people band together for a common cause?) The existence of any absolutes is denied, but not the assertion human subjectivity and freedom as absolutes (Barrett, 1964). Existentialism is not a “hippy thing;” rather, it is a philosophy that stresses the importance of the individual in deciding questions of morality and truth.

One can decide for himself, yet must be willing to face the consequences of his choices. God does not exist in existentialism due to the pessimistic nature of the philosophy; atheism and agnosticism coincide with it. However, existentialism is still just a philosophy, one of millions. Choose for yourself. Bibliography Barrett, W. (1964).

What is existentialism. New York: Grove Press, Inc. Cooper, D. E. (1999). Existentilism (2nd ed.).

Oxford: Blackwell Publishers. Lavine, T. Z. (1999). Existentialism defined and Basic themes of existentialism [Online].

Available: http://members.aol.com/KatharenaE/private/PhilozKd aextheme.html and http://members.aol.com/KatharenaE/private/PhilozKd aexist.html [1999, November 23]. Roberts, D. E. (1957). Existentialism and religious beliefs. New York: Oxford University Press.

Wyatt, C. S. (1999). Existentialists: a primer to existentialism [Online]. Available: http://www.tameri.com/csw/exist/exist.html [1999, November 23].

Existentialism

Existentialism
Like “rationalism” and “empiricism,” “existentialism” is a term that belongs to intellectual history. Its definition is thus to some extent one of historical convenience. The term was explicitly adopted as a self-description by Jean-Paul Sartre, and through the wide dissemination of the postwar literary and philosophical output of Sartre and his associates notably Simone de Beauvoir, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Albert Camus existentialism became identified with a cultural movement that flourished in Europe in the 1940s and 1950s. Among the major philosophers identified as existentialists (many of whom for instance Camus and Heidegger repudiated the label) were Karl Jaspers, Martin Heidegger, and Martin Buber in Germany, Jean Wahl and Gabriel Marcel in France, the Spaniards Jose Ortega y Gasset and Miguel de Unamuno, and the Russians Nicholai Berdyaev and Lev Shestov. The nineteenth century philosophers, Soren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche, came to be seen as precursors of the movement. Existentialism was as much a literary phenomenon as a philosophical one. Sartre’s own ideas were and are better known through his fictional works (such as Nausea and No Exit) than through his more purely philosophical ones (such as Being and Nothingness and Critique of Dialectical Reason), and the postwar years found a very diverse coterie of writers and artists linked under the term: retrospectively, Dostoevsky, Ibsen, and Kafka were conscripted; in Paris there were Jean Genet, Andre Gide, Andre Malraux, and the expatriate Samuel Beckett; the Norwegian Knut Hamsen and the Romanian Eugene Ionesco belong to the club; artists such as Alberto Giacommeti and even Abstract Expressionists such as Jackson Pollock, Arshile Gorky, and Willem de Kooning, and filmmakers such as Jean-Luc Godard and Ingmar Bergman were understood in existential terms. By the mid 1970s the cultural image of existentialism had become a cliche, parodized in countless books and films by Woody Allen.

It is sometimes suggested, therefore, that existentialism just is this bygone cultural movement rather than an identifiable philosophical position; or, alternatively, that the term should be restricted to Sartre’s philosophy alone. But while a philosophical definition of existentialism may not entirely ignore the cultural fate of the term, and while Sartre’s thought must loom large in any account of existentialism, the concept does pick out a distinctive cluster of philosophical problems and helpfully identifies a relatively distinct current of twentieth- and now twenty-first century philosophical inquiry, one that has had significant impact on fields such as theology (through Rudolf Bultmann, Paul Tillich, Karl Barth, and others) and psychology (from Ludwig Binswanger and Medard Boss to Otto Rank, R. D. Laing, and Viktor Frankl). What makes this current of inquiry distinct is not its concern with “existence” in general, but rather its claim that thinking about human existence requires new categories not found in the conceptual repertoire of ancient or modern thought; human beings can be understood neither as substances with fixed properties, nor as atomic subjects primarily interacting with a world of objects.

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On the existential view, to understand what a human being is it is not enough to know all the truths that natural science including the science of psychology could tell us. The non-reductive dualist is no better off in this regard than is the physicalist. Nor will it suffice to adopt the point of view of practice and add categories drawn from moral theory: neither scientific nor moral inquiry can fully capture what it is that makes me myself, my “ownmost” self. Without denying the validity of scientific categories (governed by the norm of truth) or moral categories (governed by norms of the good and the right), “existentialism” may be defined as the philosophical theory which holds that a further set of categories, governed by the norm of authenticity, is necessary to grasp human existence. To approach existentialism in this categorial way may seem to conceal what is often taken to be its “heart” (Kaufmann 1968:12), namely, its character as a gesture of protest against academic philosophy, its anti-system sensibility, its flight from the “iron cage” of reason. But while it is true that the major existential philosophers wrote with a passion and urgency rather uncommon in our own time, and while the idea that philosophy cannot be practiced in the disinterested manner of an objective science is indeed

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