As a formal philosophy, Existentialism began to take form in the 1800s, with the writings of Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard thought of life as an impossible choice between two conflicting attitudes: the aesthetic, which is based on immediate experience, or existence and the ethical, which is based on ideals. He presented the ethical life as false, based upon imaginary concepts, but the aesthetic life was not satisfying either. In fact, for Kierkegaard, the aesthetic life led only to despair, because human consciousness is not satisfied with the sheer, raw experience that might be enough to distract an unconscious being. His writings, particularly his book , were not essays or treatises. They had a literary style to them, presenting his ideas as character sketches, dialogs, and imaginary correspondences.
Harry's response to his experience in the cane patch subtly foreshadows the time of the explosive resurgence of Harry's own existential awareness during college: "I looked around and saw there wouldn't be any decent playing in here until maybe I was twenty." It is with the discovery of Geronimo in college that Harry fully realizes the Sartrean nature of his existence: that committed action always supersedes the bourgeois paralysis that results from overanalyzing options. In an absurd world, action must precede moral speculation upon action; committed action, in fact, becomes moral choice. Immediately following his experience in the cane patch, Harry places himself in a situation demanding just such action.
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A writer of short stories and novels, Kafka often portrayed a surreal world, touching upon themes of modern life such as alienation, absurdity, and the deeply felt dread that is often expressed in existential literature.
Existence is the awareness of our choices
From the start, existential literature was seen as little more than a forum in which the existential philosophers presented their ideas. For example, Charles I. Glicksberg, in his 1945 essay "Literary Existentialism," writes, "Though Existentialist literature, particularly in the field of fiction and drama, does exist, it has thus far contributed nothing by way of innovation in aesthetic form. By and large, it is a literature based upon a philosophy, a Weltanschauung, a method of interpreting the life of man upon earth, his character and destiny." It soon developed that the most important reason for reading the literature produced by the French existentialists was to prove, if only to oneself, that one belonged to their intellectual society. In 1951, James Collins introduced his book with an explanation about the relationship between Existentialism and how one lives. Stating his intention to focus on disagreements between members of the existential community, he noted that, in studying the people and not their writings, "the picture that [emerges] is drawn more in terms of methods and problems than of a common fund of doctrinal content." As with Glicksburg, the literature was deemed less important than the ideas and the people who lived those ideas.
Existentialism Is a Humanism Essay - 1716 Words
In a world without sense, all choices are possible, a situation which Sartre viewed as human beings central dilemma: "Man [woman] is condemned to be free." In contrast to atheist existentialism, Søren Kierkegaard theorized that belief in God (given that we are provided with no proof or assurance) required a conscious choice or "leap of faith." The major figures include Søren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre (sart or SAR-treh), Albert Camus (kah-MUE or ka-MOO) , Simone de Beauvoir (bohv-WAHR) , Martin Buber, Karl Jaspers (YASS-pers), and Maurice Merleau-Ponty (mer-LOH pawn-TEE).