June 2014


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*A modern philosophical movement stressing the importance of personal experience and responsibility and the demands that they make on the individual.

*Humans are grounded in the world, in existence. A human condition, born without seeking to be born, dying without seeking death. We live between birth and death trapped within our body and our reason, unable to conceive of a time in which we were not or a time in which we will not be.

* We have no fixed human nature in the sense of determining who we are or what we may become. Humans first exist and then become something definite. The word "exist" comes from a Latin word meaning "stand out" or "stand forth." In short we make of ourselves what we will be. This is very different from the mode of being of a thing which is what it is as set by it's nature. Humans by contrast, first find themselves existing in a certain kind of world and then they decide what they want to do about it

* All choices are situated: that is they occur within a framework that includes both facticity and freedom. Facticity comprises whatever we can't change or control: the laws of nature, our biology, our personal heredity, the past, the behaviour of others. For existentialists the situation is the interface between elements of facticity and freedom. What I can do is partially restrained by the past but nevertheless unbounded in its possibilities.

* The self or our own self is a process of change an unfolding activity: it is what it does. The story that constitutes each person's life is only complete at her or his death, which is an ever present horizon. Human existence always remains in the realm of incompleteness. For the existentialist, a self or person is a process of creating a unique way of being by means of conscious on-going choices

* Whether or not there is a God, we are not handed life on a platter, ready-made. There are no certainties or objective moral truths to light the way.

* Human life could be described as a collective experiment in which each of us plays a part, exploring the possibilities open to all, in which we learn from our own experience and that of others.

While we may be united by our shared desire to realize freedom we are also alone. No one can live for or through anyone else and in the end each has his own death to face and deal with. Existentialism stands for the demand that we take charge of the human condition as we experience it and of our own unique situation at each moment.