A Philosophical Look at Grendel

A Philosophical Look at
Some Background to Contemplate
Also Known As: Ouch! My Head Hurts!
Existentialism – A Definition
Existentialism in the broader sense is a
20th century philosophy that is
centered upon the analysis of existence
and of the way humans find
themselves existing in the world. The
notion is that humans exist first and
then each individual spends a lifetime
changing their essence or nature.
The Working Definition
In simpler terms, EXISTENTIALISM is a
philosophy concerned with finding self and the
meaning of life through free will, choice, and
personal responsibility. The belief is that people
are searching to find out who and what they are
throughout life as they make choices based on
their experiences, beliefs, and outlook. And
personal choices become unique without the
necessity of an objective form of truth. An
existentialist believes that a person should be
forced to choose and be responsible without the
help of laws, ethnic rules, or traditions.
The Working Definition
An existentialist could either be a religious
moralist, agnostic relativist, or an amoral
atheist. Kierkegaard, a religious
philosopher, Nietzsche, an anti-Christian,
Sartre, an atheist, and Camus an atheist,
are credited for their works and writings
about existentialism.
The Founding Existentialists
The existential founders [Camus, Nietzsche,
etc.] 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. 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.
The Founding Existentialists
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
◦ 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 – What It Is and
Existentialistic ideas came out of a time in
society when there was a deep sense of
despair following the Great Depression
and World War II. There was a spirit of
optimism in society that was destroyed by
World War I and its mid-century
calamities. This despair has been
articulated by existentialist philosophers
well into the 1970s and continues on to
this day as a popular way of thinking and
reasoning (with the freedom to choose
one’s preferred moral belief system and
Existentialism – Impact on Society
Most importantly, it is the arbitrary act that
existentialism finds most objectionable-that 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.
 the philosophical theory that the self is all
that you know to exist
A form of SCEPTICISM. Solipsism is the
belief that nothing exists except my mind
and the creations of my mind.
Solipsism: It’s All About ME!
Nihilism – Abandoning Values and
Nihilism derives its name from the Latin root
nihil, meaning nothing, that which does not
exist. This same root is found in the verb
“annihilate” -- to bring to nothing, to destroy
completely. Nihilism is the belief which:
labels all values as worthless, therefore,
nothing can be known or communicated.
associates itself with extreme pessimism and
a radical skepticism, having no loyalties.
Nihilism: Nothing is Good Enough
The German philosopher, *Friedrich Nietzsche
(1844-1900), is most often associated with
nihilism. In Will to Power [1883-1888], he
writes, “Every belief, even considering
something true, is necessarily false because
there is simply no true world.” For Nietzsche,
there is no objective order or structure in the
world except what we give it.
*you may recognize his name from
Nihilism: Nothing is Good Enough
Philosophers’ predictions of nihilism’s impact on
society are grim. Existentialist, Albert Camus (19131960), labeled nihilism as the most disturbing
problem of the 20th century. His essay, The Rebel1
paints a terrifying picture of “how metaphysical
collapse often ends in total negation and the victory
of nihilism, characterized by profound hatred,
pathological destruction, and incalculable death.”
Helmut Thielicke’s, Nihilism: Its Origin and Nature,
with a Christian Answer2 warns, “Nihilism literally has
only one truth to declare, namely, that ultimately
Nothingness prevails and the world is meaningless."
All for Nothing?
Ethical nihilism (moral nihilism) rejects
the possibility of absolute moral or ethical
values. Good and evil are vague, and
related values are simply the result of
social and emotional pressures.
 Existential nihilism, the most wellknown view, affirms that life has no
intrinsic meaning or value.
Stop the Insanity
Nihilism – A Meaningless World
Shakespeare’s Macbeth eloquently
summarizes existential nihilism's
perspective, distaining life:
 Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking
shadow, a poor player That struts and
frets his hour upon the stage And then is
heard no more; it is a tale Told by an
idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying
What does it all mean? Nothing.
Camus, Albert, The Rebel: An Essay on
Man in Revolt, Random House, Inc.,
New York, 1991.
Thielicke, Helmut, Nihilism: Its Origin and
Nature, with a Christian Answer,
Greenwood Press Reprint, Westport,
CT, 1969.
Works Cited