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Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English
▪ A little epistemology and some existentialism.
▪ In literary theory they emerge as Marxism, phenomenology, existentialism, structuralism, poststructuralism, deconstruction.
▪ In the context of post-war uncertainty it is relatively easy to relate existentialism to abstract expressionism.
▪ Mr Murray has no time for the fashionable preoccupations of academic critics or for the dead-end road of existentialism.
▪ Objectivism thus turns existentialism inside out.
▪ Radical subjectivism brings the anguish and forlornness of existentialism to man at the close of dualism.
▪ That is the starting point for existentialism.
▪ There is a dominant sense of existentialism running through your books, beginning as far back as your first novel.
The Collaborative International Dictionary

existentialism \ex`is*ten"tial*ism\, n. (Philosophy) a philosophical theory or attitude having various interpretations, generally emphasising the existence of the individual as a unique agent with free will and responsibility for his or her own acts, though living in a universe devoid of any certain knowledge of right and wrong; from one's plight as a free agent with uncertain guidelines may arise feelings of anguish. Existentialism is concerned more with concrete existence rather than abstract theories of essences; is contrasted with rationalism and empiricism; and is associated with Kierkegaard, Heidegger and Sartre, as well as others.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

1941, from German Existentialismus (1919), replacing Existentialforhold (1849), ultimately from Danish writer Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), who wrote (1846) of Existents-Forhold "condition of existence," existentielle Pathos, etc. (see existential), and whose name means, literally, "churchyard."


n. 1 (context philosophy not countable English) A twentieth-century philosophical movement emphasizing the uniqueness of each human existence in freely making its self-defining choices. 2 (context philosophy countable English) The philosophical views of a particular thinker associated with the existentialist movement.


n. (philosophy) a 20th-century philosophical movement; assumes that people are entirely free and thus responsible for what they make of themselves [syn: existentialist philosophy]


Existentialism is a term applied to the work of certain late-19th- and 20th-century European philosophers who, despite profound doctrinal differences, shared the belief that philosophical thinking begins with the human subject—not merely the thinking subject, but the acting, feeling, living human individual. While the predominant value of existentialist thought is commonly acknowledged to be freedom, its primary virtue is authenticity. In the view of the existentialist, the individual's starting point is characterized by what has been called "the existential attitude", or a sense of disorientation and confusion in the face of an apparently meaningless or absurd world. Many existentialists have also regarded traditional systematic or academic philosophies, in both style and content, as too abstract and remote from concrete human experience.

Søren Kierkegaard is generally considered to have been the first existentialist philosopher, though he did not use the term existentialism.However he did title his 1846 book Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments, (Subtitle) A Mimical-Pathetic-Dialectical Compilation an Existential Contribution, and mentioned the term on pages 121-122, 191, 350-351, 387ff of that book. and he did, in fact, use it like this:

"All skepticism is a kind of idealism. Hence when the sceptic Zeno pursued the study of skepticism by endeavoring existentially to keep himself unaffected by whatever happened, so that when once he had gone out of his way to avoid a mad dog, he shamefacedly admitted that even a skeptical philosopher is also sometimes a man, I find nothing ridiculous in this. There is no contradiction, and the comical always lies in a contradiction. On the other hand, when one thinks of all the miserable idealistic lecture-witticisms, the jesting and coquetry in connection with playing the idealist while in the professorial chair, so that the lecturer is not really an idealist, but only plays the fashionable game of being an idealist; when one remembers the lecture-phrase about doubting everything, while occupying the lecture platform, aye, then it is impossible not to write a satire merely by recounting the facts. Through an existential attempt to be an idealist, one would learn in the course of half a year something very different from this game of hide-and-seek on the lecture platform. There is no special difficulty connected with being an idealist in the imagination; but to exist as an idealist is an extremely strenuous task, because existence itself constitutes a hindrance and an objection. To express existentially what one has understood about oneself, and in this manner to understand oneself, is in no way comical. But to understand everything except one’s own self is very comical." Soren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments 1846 p. 315-316 translated by David F. Swenson and Walter Lowrie 1941 Fifth Printing Princeton University Press

He proposed that each individual—not society or religion—is solely responsible for giving meaning to life and living it passionately and sincerely, or "authentically." Existentialism became popular in the years following World War II, and strongly influenced many disciplines besides philosophy, including theology, drama, art, literature, and psychology.

Usage examples of "existentialism".

Or: This is one strategy for indicating a kinship between Nietzsche and Sartre different from the one established by the invention of existentialism, and it is thus also a strategy for helping to prevent the philosophical gaze from objectifying Sartre.

We would perhaps no longer be reading the authentic Sartre, but this move might provide an opportunity to depart from the metaphysical negativity of authenticity and bad faith that linger as symptoms of the limitations of existentialism, and to see how Sartre contributes to the power of Nietzsche in philosophy today.

If there is a politics we can use in Sartre, it is neither in his existentialism nor in his Marxism, but in some fugitive, hybrid connections we can cultivate through the imposition of Nietzsche, who himself offers resources for political thought only if we think him through writers like Sartre and Foucault.

France in its relationship to the war years, between the spirit of Resistance during the German Occupation of France and the advocacy by Sartre, as the mouthpiece of post-war French Existentialism, of personal commitment as the primary means of living authentically, has not before been given the attention it deserves.

Sartrean existentialism and its political ramifications to Resistance writing.

At the completion of a lecture on existentialism about a year ago, I found many of the students enthusiastically taking the philosophy to heart.

You can trace his original attitude, when he was diagnosed with diabetes in 1950, at age 19, to his early flirtation with Kierkegaardian existentialism.

The first law of thermodynamics, among many other considerations, made this a kind of cosmological hallucination, a small god's existentialism.

At heart, what existentialism shows is the connection between the absolute character of free involvement, by virtue of which every man realizes himself in realizing a type of mankind, an involvement always comprehensible in any age whatsoever and by any person whosoever, and the relativeness of the cultural ensemble which may result from such a choice.