Portal:Existentialism

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Introduction

Existentialism (/ˌɛɡzɪˈstɛnʃəlɪzəm/) is a tradition of philosophical inquiry associated mainly with certain 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, confusion, or dread 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. 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.

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Phenomenology is a philosophical method developed in the early years of the twentieth century by Edmund Husserl and a circle of followers at the universities of Göttingen and Munich in Germany. Subsequently, phenomenological themes were taken up by philosophers in France, the United States, and elsewhere, often in contexts far removed from Husserl's work.

"Phenomenology" comes from the Greek words phainómenon, meaning "that which appears," and lógos, meaning "study." In Husserl's conception, phenomenology is primarily concerned with making the structures of consciousness, and the phenomena which appear in acts of consciousness, objects of systematic reflection and analysis. Such reflection was to take place from a highly modified "first person" viewpoint, studying phenomena not as they appear to "my" consciousness, but to any consciousness whatsoever. Husserl believed that phenomenology could thus provide a firm basis for all human knowledge, including scientific knowledge, and could establish philosophy as a "rigorous science".

Husserl's conception of phenomenology has been criticised and developed not only by himself, but also by his student and assistant Martin Heidegger, by existentialists, such as Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Jean-Paul Sartre, and by other philosophers, such as Paul Ricoeur, Emmanuel Levinas, and Dietrich von Hildebrand.

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Martin Buber (8 February 1878 – 13 June 1965) was an Austrian-Israeli-Jewish philosopher, translator, and educator, whose work centered on theistic ideals of religious consciousness, interpersonal relations, and community. Buber's evocative, sometimes poetic writing style has marked the major themes in his work: the retelling of Hasidic tales, Biblical commentary, and metaphysical dialogue. A cultural Zionist, Buber was active in the Jewish and educational communities of Germany and Israel. He was also a staunch supporter of a binational solution in Palestine, instead of a two-state solution, and after the establishment of the Jewish state of Israel, of a regional federation of Israel and Arab states. His influence extends across the humanities, particularly in the fields of social psychology, social philosophy, philosophical anarchism, and religious existentialism.

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