Monthly Archives April 2015

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Existentialism vs Nihilism

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[–]Lazarus5214 7 points 3 years ago

it’s pretty difficult to be an existentialist without being an existential nihilist

No, existentialism means “existence precedes essence” for an individual. For example, any tool I wish to create has essence before existence; I imagine the tool and it purpose(essence), then I create it(existence). Existentialists believe humans have no inherent purpose; they exist, and must create meaning, thus essence is secondary.

An existential nihilist believes we have no predetermined purpose/meaning to life and it is useless to try to create one. I happen to be an existentialist who enjoys life, because I create meaning, through furthering my education and the relationships I develop with people. It’s not difficult at all.

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Existentialism and Nihilism

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Introduction to Existentialism

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Explain Like I’m Five: Existentialism and Friederich Nietzsche

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Read existentialist literature from an existentialist’s point of view and try to relate.
Even if you are religious or believe in a higher order, try and put yourself in the shoes of someone who doesn’t believe, and see how existentialism helps them to continue living in a world that is inherently amoral.

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Relate the themes of existentialist literature to your own life.
The feeling of waiting at a bus stop with nothing to do might help you relate to Waiting for Godot, while remembering a time when you were punished for a good deed or rewarded for a bad one will help you understand how people can believe the universe is amoral.

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Understand that Existentialism can be liberating as well as frightening or depressing. With no higher power or philosophical Truth governing the world, we have the ability to make our own meaning for ourselves. Existentialism posits that we are defined by how we act, not by how we are supposed to act, so to a great extent you choose who you want to be.

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Understand absurdism, or at least the principles behind it. Realize that existentialism posits that there is no sort of ‘karmic’ reward system, and so everything that happens is chance and bad things can easily happen to good people. Again, this probably stems from the social context of post-WWII. This inherent meaninglessness is sometimes exaggerated in Absurdist theatre such that nothing makes any sense– the characters don’t understand one another and the environment doesn’t follow the usual laws of space and time. This can be comedic to watch, but also depressing as it is supposed to reflect the inherent lack of justice or karma in the real world.

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Understand the proposition ‘Existence precedes essence’. Earlier philosophies, and many religions, posit that there is an ideal human form or some inherent human nature that exists above or before the individual, to which the individual should strive. Existentialism posits the opposite- there is no higher purpose or ‘essence’ to existence, except what we make of it. In other words, we make our own purpose. Existence preceding essence assumes that there is no God or higher being that brings some form of Just Order to the cosmos- it is generally an atheistic statement.

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