Existentialism Existentialism has been defined as a philosophical movement or tendency, emphasizing individual existence, freedom and choice that influences many diverse writers in the 19th and 20th centuries. The philosophical term existentialism came from Jean Paul Sartre, a French philosopher. He combined the theories of a select few German philosophers, the phenomenology of Edmund Husserl, the metaphysics of G.W.F. Hegel and Martin Heidegger, and the social theory of Karl Marx. This philosophy became a worldwide movement.
One phenomenon of this theory is its proliferation. Since its creation it has remained a part of contemporary thought. One explanation for this is its applicability to contemporary life and society. It focuses on the utter existence of man itself. According to Sartre, a true existentialist believes there is no God and thus man becomes alone with only ourselves as a guide to making the decisions that define our existence. Our existence not only defines, but also must be defined.
Subjectivism provides this definition. Subjectivity refers to the radical freedom to choose with or without a God, but also that this radical freedom becomes a responsibility to use or not use. Another definition, provided by Websters dictionary defines existentialism as a philosophical movement especially of the 20th century that stresses the individual position as self determining agent responsible for his or her own choices. It becomes very clear through the definitions provided, that existentialism focuses on two things, the individual and choice. Breaking apart the word itself, you come up with another word, exist, to have actual being, and also existent, which is to have existence. The suffix ism denotes and action or practice.
A minimal definition of existentialism might be, an individual practicing his or her right to make choices for him/herself, not communally, during their existence. The acceptance of responsibility for the decisions made must also be a part of this practice since making choices comes with the implication of responsibility. This way of thinking is similar to the teachings of Socrates and his theory of objective reality. He taught to many students his belief of , what we think is true, is true and what we think is right, is right. Both theories stress the importance of individual responsibility and decision making. Existentialism continues to be used in contemporary society.
Expressions of existentialism can be found in different literary pieces, novels, plays and films. Woody Allens film, Crimes and Misdemeanors and Peter Shaffers play, Equus are examples of existentialism in contemporary society.