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    Questions on existentialism

    I am trying to understand existentialism, and so have been trying to understand some of the founders of the movement. So I have some questions on it:


    1) Two of the big founders of this school of thought, I think most would agree, are Heidegger and Sartre.

    There is a story about someone visiting Heidegger in his country home late in his life, and he saw a copy of Sartre's "Being and Nothingness" on his desk. Sartre had written the book after having read Heidegger's "Being and Time", was very inspired by it, and very consciously chose his title to show the influence of Heidegger's book on his own thought. But apparently Heidegger had not been impressed, and called it something like "dreck" when the visitor asked about it.

    My understanding of the difference between the two is that Heidegger thought humans could never escape their "throwenness" into the world. We were all born into a culture, a historical period, certain circumstances, certain possibilities, which always limited our freedom. Sartre, on the other hand, believed in radical freedom, that we were completely free to choose at any given time, and any attempt to appeal to our background, or culture, or history, etc... were evidence of "bad faith"- excuses we made to try to avoid the overwhelming freedom that we really have in choosing our essence.

    Is this an accurate understanding of the main difference between the two? Are there other big differences between the two? If so, what?

    2) I have heard Heidegger described as the "father of modern existentialism". But I have also heard that a much earlier thinker, Soren Kierkegaard. What is "modern existentialism", and why is that different than that of Kierkegaard?

    How does Nietzsche fit into all this?

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    Re: Questions on existentialism

    I have even heard heard St. Augustine referred to as an existentialist. How is that?

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    Re: Questions on existentialism

    Quote Originally Posted by ataraxia View Post
    ...
    2) I have heard Heidegger described as the "father of modern existentialism". But I have also heard that a much earlier thinker, Soren Kierkegaard. What is "modern existentialism", and why is that different than that of Kierkegaard?

    How does Nietzsche fit into all this?
    Sartre and Heidegger were systematic in their existentialism. Kierkegaard and Nietszche were temperamentally existentialist in their writing, but did not offer a system.
    <a href=http://i.imgur.com/u68aMie.jpg target=_blank rel=nofollow>http://i.imgur.com/u68aMie.jpg</a>
    "I'm not 100% sure that you and I exist, but I'm surer that God exists than that you exist, and I'm as sure God exists as I am that I exist."
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    Re: Questions on existentialism

    Quote Originally Posted by ataraxia View Post
    I am trying to understand existentialism, and so have been trying to understand some of the founders of the movement. So I have some questions on it:


    1) Two of the big founders of this school of thought, I think most would agree, are Heidegger and Sartre.

    There is a story about someone visiting Heidegger in his country home late in his life, and he saw a copy of Sartre's "Being and Nothingness" on his desk. Sartre had written the book after having read Heidegger's "Being and Time", was very inspired by it, and very consciously chose his title to show the influence of Heidegger's book on his own thought. But apparently Heidegger had not been impressed, and called it something like "dreck" when the visitor asked about it.

    My understanding of the difference between the two is that Heidegger thought humans could never escape their "throwenness" into the world. We were all born into a culture, a historical period, certain circumstances, certain possibilities, which always limited our freedom. Sartre, on the other hand, believed in radical freedom, that we were completely free to choose at any given time, and any attempt to appeal to our background, or culture, or history, etc... were evidence of "bad faith"- excuses we made to try to avoid the overwhelming freedom that we really have in choosing our essence.

    Is this an accurate understanding of the main difference between the two? Are there other big differences between the two? If so, what?

    2) I have heard Heidegger described as the "father of modern existentialism". But I have also heard that a much earlier thinker, Soren Kierkegaard. What is "modern existentialism", and why is that different than that of Kierkegaard?

    How does Nietzsche fit into all this?
    During my studies in philosophy Kierkegaard was consider the father of existentialism in philosophical thought. Here is quote regarding that:

    "Although existential attitude can be seen in past thinkers like Saint Augustine and Blaise Pascal, Kierkegaard is almost undisputedly accepted as the founder of the movement."

    Here is the link:
    An Amateur's History of Modern Philosophy: Existentialism and Jean-Paul Sartre

    Existentialism has played a prominent role in my philosophical thinking in that elevates the notions of the human experience that we hold most dear: love, hate, good, evil, justice, forgiveness, etc. My personal beliefs have been more influenced by watching documentaries on people like Ted Bundy, and Mother Teresa, along with watching movies like A Walk to Remember than all the logical and scientific arguments I've studied and considered.

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    Re: Questions on existentialism

    Quote Originally Posted by ataraxia View Post

    How does Nietzsche fit into all this?
    Nietzsche wasn't exactly existentialist, more like full blown nihilist with some macho twist. In nut shell: whole idea of existentialism is to solve nihilism, get over it - without jumping into dark hole and screaming like a fool. You didn't include Camus (a bit weird?) as he's one of those main existentialists (1913-1960). Because I'm not expert on this subject I can't tell how he differ from Sartre - but as far as I know, there's differences how they saw existentialism.

    Soren's existentialism come with some religious twist - if I remember right.

    Sartre's first novel (Nausea, published 1938) is golden, must read if you're interested in existentialism.
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