Existentialism is a philosophical movement that developed in continental Europe during the 1800s and 1900s. Most of the members are interested in the nature of existence or being, by which they usually mean human existence. Although the philosophers generally considered to be existentialists often disagree with each other and sometimes even resent being classified together, they have been grouped together because they share many problems, interests, and ideas.
The most prominent existentialist thinkers of the 1900s include the French writers Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sarte, and Gabriel Marcel and German philosophers Karl Jaspers and Martin Heidegger. The Russian religious and political thinker Nicolas Berdyaev and the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber were also famous existentialists.
Existentialism is largely a revolt against traditional European philosophy which reached its climax during the late 1700s and early 1800s. Principles of knowledge that would be objective, universally true, and certain were produced. Existentialists rejected the methods and ideals of science as being improper for philosophy. They investigated what it is like to be an individual human being living in the world instead of making the traditional attempt to grasp the ultimate nature of the world and abstract systems of thought. They stress the fact that every individual is only a limited human being. Each must face important and difficult decisions with only limited knowledge and time in which to make these decisions.
Human life is seen as a series of decisions that must be made without knowing what the correct choice is. They must decide what standards to except and which ones to reject. Individuals must make their own choices without help from external standards. Humans are free and completely responsible for their choices. Their freedom and responsibility is thrust upon them and they are condemned to be free. Their responsibility for actions, decisions and beliefs cause anxiety. They try to escape by ignoring or denying their responsibility. To have a meaningful life one must become fully aware of the true character of the situation and bravely accept it.
Existentialists believe that people learn about themselves best by examining the most extreme forms of human experience. They write about such topics as death and extreme situations. This concentration upon the most extreme and emotional aspects of experience contrasts sharply with the main emphasis of contemporary philosophy in England and the United States. This philosophy focuses upon more common place situation and upon the nature of language rather than experience.
Jean-Paul Sarte was born in Paris in 1905, and died in 1980. In 1964, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. However he refused to accept the reward.
Sarte was a French existentialist philosopher who expressed his ideas in novels, plays, and short stories, as well as theoretical works. The mere existence of things, especially his own existence, fascinated and horrified him. To Sarte there seemed no reason why anything exists. He stated that only human existence is conscious of itself and of other things. He argued that non-living objects simply are what they are and people are whatever they choose to be. People exist as beings who must choose their own character. He agreed with the existentialists philosophy that people are completely free. Sarte said, People are afraid to recognize this freedom and to accept full responsibility for their behavior. Throughout his philosophical and literary works, he examined and analyzed the varied and subtle forms of self-deception.
In Sartes chief philosophical work, Being and Nothingness, he investigated the nature and forms of existence or being. In his essay, Existentialism and Humanism, he defined existentialism as the doctrine that, for humankind, existence precedes essence. In the Critique of Dialectical Reason, Sarte presented his political and sociological theories.
THEATER OF THE ABSURD MOVEMENT
The theater of the absurd refers to tendencies in dramatic literature that emerged in Paris during the late 1940’ss and early 1950s. Its roots can be found in the allegorical morality plays of the middle ages and the allegorical religious dramas. The term theater of the absurd derives from the philosophical use of the word absurd by such existentialists thinkers as Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sarte. A fully satisfying rational explanation of the universe was beyond its reach and the world must be seen as absurd. The images of the