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Existentialism: What Is It and What Does It Mean to You?


Existentialism is a philosophical movement that emphasizes individual freedom and responsibility. It deals with the nature of existence, particularly concerning the meaning of life. 

People often associate existentialism with Western philosophers such as Soren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche, but there are many Eastern philosophies that share some similar beliefs, including Muslim, Tao and Buddhist philosophies.

The term "existentialism" was coined by Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard who used it in 1843 when he wrote an essay titled “On Angst” to identify his positioning as a Christian thinker who embraces both faith and reason. 

The existentialists believe that authenticity comes from living an authentic life and meeting one's true self. This will then lead to a better connection with others, more fulfilling relationships, and higher levels of happiness.

The modern idea behind this philosophy is that people are products of their choices in life, therefore we must make our own decisions about who we are as individuals.

The Problems We Face

An existential problem is a type of problem that can only be solved through an individual's decision, and not through what they have or where they stand in life, or any other object or entity. This means it is up to the individual to interpret the meaning and significance of this existential challenge.

An existential problem is a situation that causes meaninglessness among an individual. Often, it is something that has happened or a condition in which one feels lost and confused.

Existential problems can be the result of a bad relationship, stressful work environment, or even losing someone you love.

Some examples of existential problems include: What is the meaning of life? What is the difference between good and evil? What is God?

Existential problems are important because they are intrinsically linked with how humans think, feel, act and live their lives. Existential crises can lead to psychological disorders like depression.

Who is the Existentialist?

Existentialists believe that human beings are like a ship that is tossed by the stormy sea of life without any definite direction or course to follow. They take this idea to the extent where some argue that it does not make sense to try to fix humanity's problems as it is impossible for one person to do so.

Existentialists also take into account the importance of freedom in order for people to choose their own path or define themselves according to their own values, beliefs, and opinions.

Existentialists believe in the fulfillment of life through actions beyond what is considered normal or expected. They believe that humans are faced with a choice: either be bored or be brilliant.

The existentialists argue that people have an innate need to find meaning in life through their own experiences. They believe in personal responsibility and motivation for one's actions. This contrasts with the classical idea of fate where people must follow rules set by others.

Being and Nothingness

The philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre was a key theorist of existentialism. He wrote the work Being and Nothingness which focuses on the idea that there is no true self because it is created by society rather than biology. 

Sartre's existentialism is based on the belief that humans have freedom of choice in life. This could be achieved by overcoming social and cultural influences that would otherwise lead to conformity.

In his writings, he explored the idea of freedom in all its aspects such as choice and responsibility. He also explored how people make choices with knowledge of what they want but without knowing what will happen to them as a result.

Sartre’s existentialism has influenced many disciplines from history to literary studies, sociology, political science, feminism, psychotherapy, art movements like Surrealism and post-modern architecture.

Existentialism Across Cultures

Existentialist thought has appeared in different forms across many cultures and periods. 

For example, Zhuangzi, the author of one of the largest collections of Taoist philosophical literature, wrote about the concept of happiness as an inner state that cannot be achieved by anything outside oneself. His work has had a significant impact on Western philosophy and literature.

Mulla Sadra was an Iranian philosopher who held the view that "existence precedes essence." He taught philosophy at the Nizamiyya School.

Mulla Sadra's existential philosophy is primarily concerned with the nature of reality, and how humans can interact with it effectively. He rejects both intellectualist forms of spirituality, which are not grounded in experience, as well as skeptical forms that rely on reason alone. Mulla Sadra's work also had a huge impact on Western thought and influenced a large number of philosophers including Immanuel Kant and Hegel

Muhammad Iqbal is a Pakistani philosopher and poet of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He wrote about how we are all ultimately responsible for our actions. Iqbal’s philosophy holds that humans should strive to achieve their full potential without any fear or concern for what may come. 

The Existentialist philosophy of Iqbal is based on the idea that human beings are not just material beings that exist in the world. They are also spiritual beings with an inner core. Iqbal believed that our feelings and emotions were the most essential part of our existence.  

The Idea of Authenticity

The existentialists believe that authenticity comes from living an authentic life. This will then lead to a better connection with others, more fulfilling relationships, and higher levels of happiness.

The modern idea behind this philosophy is that people are products of their choices in life, therefore we must make our own decisions about who we are as individuals.

Existentialism holds that life is based on a choice between two fundamental values: authenticity and inauthenticity. The former refers to living according to one's true nature or inherent identity, while the latter refers to living according to what society expects from an individual.

The idea of authenticity in life can be traced back to ancient Greece and it can be found all over the world. The idea of authenticity has been applied in literature, art, television, music, and film among other areas of culture.

Why Does Existentialism Matter?

Existentialism is one of the most important and influential philosophies of the 20th and 21st centuries. It deals with questions about human existence, freedom, and purpose. It posits that only by engaging in a dialogue about these subjects can we make sense of our lives.

Existentialism is built on the idea that only through free will do people have any chance at meaning and fulfillment in life.

Existentialism takes into account an individual’s personal experiences with life; it does not just focus on society or political discourse, but instead focuses on an individual’s relationships with other humans and nature.

Existentialism is not merely just a philosophy but rather an attitude towards life. Existentialists focus on creating meaning in their lives through actions and relationships with others that have meaning for them. The existentialists' philosophy can also be seen as dramatic towards society in general because it calls for individuals to take control over their lives instead of waiting.


Existentialism is based on the premise that individuals are responsible for their own actions and choices, and they must live with the consequences of these choices. 

Authenticity is the core idea behind existentialism. People are most happy when they are most authentic.

The existentialists are people who see life as a game with no predetermined outcomes or rules. The game of life has no predetermined winning strategy, but instead, it's about finding your own way to play.

In order for people to be free, they must take responsibility for their actions and emotions while also learning how to find happiness regardless of circumstances or outcomes in life.

The greatest threat to humanity is the belief that someone else will save us.


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