Existentialism in brief

Just in case you’re not willing or able to take on the whole of Sarah Blakewell’s At the Existentialist Cafe, (New York, 2016) I thought I’d provide you easy access to some points from her summary on page on page 34.  Sometimes it’s good to just have a solid reference point to play your ideas against, particularly if you are reading works by Sartre or Camus.  These, remember, are her ‘take’ on some important facets that she sees in the philosophical stance; certainly such complexity cannot be reduced to 7 points, but having read so many student essays on works by these and other writers allied to this view of life, I think we’d all profit from getting down some reliable basic ideas. And certainly if you are going to produce Written Assignments in which you include consideration of existentialism, you might test some of your perceptions against this list.

Here are her first 7 points, verbatim:

-Existentialists concern themselves with individual, concrete human existence.

-They consider human existence different from the kind of being other things have.  Other entities are what they are, but as a human I am whatever I choose to make of myself at every moment.  I am free-

-and therefore I’m responsible for everything I do, a dizzying fact which causes

-an anxiety inseparable from human existence itself.

-On the other hand, I am only free within situations, which can include factors in my own biology and psychology as well as physical, historical and social variables of the world into which I have been thrown.

-Despite the limitations, I always want more: I am passionately involved in personal projects of all kinds.  (This point is my personal favorite, very much allied to the IB, I think).

-Human existence is thus ambiguous: at once boxed in by borders and yet transcendent and exhilarating.

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