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Existentialism Resources: Home

A collection of resources for Mr. Intermaggio's "I Am Writing a Paper, Therefore, I Am."

Getting started

Here is some basic information about Existentialism to get you started.  Use the tabs at the top to find databases, websites, and books selected for this project.

Components of Existentialist Thought

Existentialism has had a long history and has given rise to several schools of thoughts, so it can be hard to define. At its core, Existentialism argues that each person is empty of any defining traits when they are born. Existentialists are concerned with six main themes:

  • Existence: Existentialists deal with the nature and meaning of human existence.
  • Anguish: The feeling a person gets when they're faced with having to define their own existence and realize they're alone in this task.
  • Authenticity: This means living with your real self - that is, living with the knowledge that you're alone in facing existential anxiety/anguish. 
  • FreedomEach person is alone and free in defining the meaning of their lives.
  • Absurdity: This deals with how absurd and irrational human existence is.
  • The Crowd: The idea that people must be authentic with each other.


Here are some common terms in existentialism: 

Absurdity: Absurdity deals with the idea that human existence is itself irrational; in fact, many existentialists would argue that is no reason for existence at all. 

Anguish: Also known as dread or anxiety, existential anguish occurs when someone is faced with the task of having to define the meaning of their life, and that they are utterly alone in this task with no one to help or guide them. 

Authenticity: Living authentically means being able to face existential anguish and coming to terms with the concept of freedom. 

Bad Faith: This concept is closely linked to to the concept of authenticity and was a concept used often by Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. Bad Faith refers to when someone bends to pressure from society and adopts false values. They refuse to accept their own freedom and is, therefore, living in an inauthentic manner. 

Being-for-itself: This term comes from Sartre's Being and Nothingness and means a being that is active and dynamic. For Sartre, it is the antithesis of being-of-itself. 

Being-of-itself: This term also comes from Being and Nothingness and means a being that is conscious of its own consciousness but lacks definite meaning. For Sartre, this is the being that simply is and a being that is passive. 

Dasein: This term comes from Heidegger's Being and Time and was used by Heidegger to represent human existence; that is, existence that is unique to humans. 

Freedom: This is the concept that people are alone in taking responsibility for their life and for their actions. 

The Crowd: Also known as "the other", this is the social element of existentialism, and it applies the concept of authenticity to society as a whole. 


A Philosophy of Despair?

Existentialism has often been mischaracterized as a philosophy of despair. At first glance, it does appear so - realizing that life itself is meaningless sounds depressing! But actually, existentialism is an hopeful philosophy. Existentialists believe that each person has the power to create the meaning of their own lives on their own terms. They would view this as an empowering and optimistic idea.





de Beauvoir






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