Existentialism vs. Nihilism Existentialism The basic definition is “the philosophy that individuals create their own meaning in their lives, as opposed to having a deity or higher power creating it for them.” An existentialist will find “self” and the meaning of life through free will, choice, and personal responsibility. (i.e. creating one’s own system of beliefs) A brief history Existentialism developed in the 20th century, particularly after World War II, when many writers were beginning to look at the realities of war. While there have been many writters who have held existential views, JeanPaul Sartre is considered the main voice of existentialism. Existentialism takes into consideration the underlying concepts: * Human free will * Human nature is chosen through life choices * A person is best when struggling against their individual nature, fighting for life * Decisions are not without stress and consequences * There are things that are not rational * Personal responsibility and discipline is crucial * Society is unnatural and its traditional religious and secular rules are arbitrary * Worldly desire is futile Existentialism does not support any of the following: wealth, pleasure, or honor make the good life social values and structure control the individual accept what is and that is enough in life science can and will make everything better people are basically good but ruined by society or external forces “I want my way, now!” or “It is not my fault!” mentality (WHAT DO ALL OF THESE HAVE IN COMMON?) Famous existentialists basically agree that human life is in no way complete and fully satisfying because of suffering and losses that occur when considering the lack of perfection, power, and control one has over their life. (What forces DO have control over our lives?) Even though they do agree that life is not optimally satisfying, it nonetheless has meaning. Existentialism is the search and journey for true self and true personal meaning in life. Existentialism’s biggest objection is when someone or society tries to impose or demand that their beliefs, values, or rules be faithfully accepted and obeyed. Existentialists believe this destroys individualism and makes a person become whatever the people in power desire thus they are dehumanized and reduced to being an object. Existentialism then stresses that a person's judgment is the determining factor for what is to be believed rather than by arbitrary religious or secular world values. Therefore…… The individual > the group mentality What are societal/religious factors that keep us “in line”? Why do we follow the “code” of society? How do we know society is correct? (Why do we believe the “truth” that society presents?) Existentialist movies Nihilism The definition of nihilism is “a viewpoint that traditional values and beliefs are unfounded and that existence is senseless and useless.” So…. It’s a rejection of any moral code (where an existentialist would create their own) because “morals” simply do not exist. It is also a rejection of “truth.” Let’s talk about this whole “truth” rejection thing…. Humans cling to truths. Why? They provide us with a sense of order and logical perception. A nihilist will argue that there are no truths whatsoever, which can become problematic when someone first wraps their mind around that idea. Truths provide comfort; humans prefer to feel safe. Rejecting all forms of truth will result in a tail-spin for a person; the person will feel lost, unsure and hopeless. Logic and nihilism Using logic results creates truth. 1) Stoves are hot. 2) Heat can burn my skin 3) The stove can burn my skin if I touch it. However, logic can be faulty and lead to a non-truth 1) Muslim extremists flew planes into the World Trade Center. 2) My neighbor is Muslim. 3) My neighbor must be an extremists. PERCEPTION IS NOT ALWAYS REALITY - TRUTH IS NOT ALWAYS TRUTH Ante up! And the idea of truth Let’s say you’re playing poker- you are dealt A♠ K♠ Q♠ J♠ 10♠ You’re a winner, right! Right? Those five cards, obviously, are inherently worthless. Their only value comes from what poker players arbitrarily assign to it. They're all, essentially, pretending the cards have value or meaning. Once a person realizes there is no meaning in the cards, suddenly the “truth” of them doesn’t exist. Oh my…..now what? Nihilism is the constant questioning, the constant fight to settle that anything is the truth, the constant battle that “what I perceive is not the truth.” Nietzsche characterized nihilism as emptying the world and especially human existence of meaning, purpose, comprehensible truth, or essential value. This observation stems in part from Nietzsche’s perspectivism, or his notion that "knowledge" is always by someone of some thing: it is always bound by perspective, and it is never mere fact. So if I have no meaning, then what am I?? This is the struggle with nihilism, which is why some characterize nihilism as a pessimistic, suicidal philosophy. But nihilism is more than that- it is the “after question” that is more important. “Can I be okay with the fact that I may have no meaning or existence at all?” (or for that matter, can I be okay that nothing really has any meaning or truth?) An existentialist may CREATE a new existence that is meaningful to him or her- but an existentialist will still believe that a meaning for their life is possible. A nihilist will accept that humans are a random product of the universe and therefore have no real value or meaning, which makes anything the humans create meaningless as well. There is no truth because our perceptions and systems of logic are flawed. No truth = no point to human existence. What do you believe? Whether you are an existentialist or a nihilist, the common denominator is that you QUESTION truth. You do not accept “life” at face value or believe that life should be dictated from an arbitrary (i.e. old dudes who wrote the early religious texts…and then changed it as they saw fit) source.