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Likeradar's avatar

Explanation of existentialism?

Asked by Likeradar (19580points) October 18th, 2008

I would like some help understanding existentialism. I’m wondering about the basic beliefs, ontology, practical practices, etc.

Please feel free to use the most basic language possible- feel free to insult my intelligence (to a point, at least.)

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14 Answers

Vincentt's avatar

If the normal Wikipedia doesn’t use language simple enough, you might be interested in the Simple English version of the article on existentialism.

LostInParadise's avatar

The only existentialist with whom I am familiar is Sartre, so I may be influenced by his particular viewpoint. I also recommend reading Sartre’s Being And Nothingness, but be prepared to skim over sections, because the book is in bad need of editing.

Existentialists believe that we know that we are but not what we are. They believe that there is no inherent meaning in life. We are forced to define ourselves and to create our own meanings.

Some view existentialism as bleak and others as liberating.

When I was younger, I was greatly influenced by Sartre. My feeling now is that much of what he says is brilliant, but he focuses too much on the individual. Sartre considers others as a threat to an individual’s integrity. This makes for a rather lonely life. Surely some of the best times most of us have is in communicating with and sharing experiences with others.

Lightlyseared's avatar

try reading Simone de Beauvoir. She is a lot easier to get into than Satre who tends to be some what obtuse.

I can’t remember the name of any of the books, and I’m fairly confident I’ve miss spelled her name, sorry

gailcalled's avatar

Also, if you wish to try Existentialism for Dummies, read Albert Camus (Sartre and Camus preferably in the original French.)

If you are serious, take an evening class, a class at a community college or an online class. We would be insulting your intelligence if anyone encapsulated the ideas (probably impossible) in a few paragraphs here. (de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex was her most famous and most accessible book.)

sndfreQ's avatar

What does it matter to you?

“Maman ést mort.”

gailcalled's avatar

Aujourdui, Maman ést encore vivante…check email this afternoon

sndfreQ's avatar

Marveilleux! Bonne chance ;)

gailcalled's avatar

If you are referring to moi, it would be merveilleuse. (Which Je am.) Later….

sndfreQ's avatar

Le situation, mais à toi bien sûr!

haven’t used “la langue” in 20 years btw; forgive me

MarcIsMyHero's avatar

A few great existenialist movies to check out:

Waking Life
I Heart Huckabees
Garden State

sndfreQ's avatar

Second “I ♥ Huckabees” and “Waking Life” and add to that Linklater’s follow-up “A Scanner Darkly.” Come to think of it, some other films along those same themes:

Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner”
Jean Luc Godard’s classic “Breathless” (“A bout de souffle)
Joel Shumacher’s “Falling Down”
Roman Polanski’s “Chinatown”

Hopefully these don’t depress you too much…some great filmmaking there.

tiffyandthewall's avatar

second a scanner darkly. such an intriguing movie.

majamin's avatar

From “Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar”:

A man is making love to his best friend’s wife when they hear the husband’s car in the driveway. He dives into the closet. The husband comes in, goes to the closet to hang up his jacket, sees his friend standing there naked, and says, “Lenny, what are you doing here?”
Lenny sheepishly shrugs and says, “Everybody’s gotta be somewhere.”

(... a Hegelian response to an existentialist question)

gailcalled's avatar

@sndfreQ: Long time no see. (Au bout de…)

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