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There are at least two senses in which the term philosophy is used: a formal and an informal sense. In the formal sense, philosophy is an academic study of the fields of aesthetics, ethics, epistemology, logic, metaphysics, as well as social and political philosophy. One's "philosophy of life" is philosophy in the informal sense, as a personal philosophy, whose focus is resolving the existential questions about the human condition.
The term also refers to a specific conception of philosophizing as a way of life,endorsed by the German Lebensphilosophie movement whose main representative is Wilhelm Dilthey and several other Continental philosophers such as Henri Bergson and Pierre Hadot.
The human situation appears to be a struggle between what is (existence) and what ought (essence) to be.
There are at least three prevailing theories on how to respond to the existential question.
There are two basic forms of existentialism:
Religious existentialism is best exemplified by St. Augustine, Blaise Pascal, Paul Tillich, and the philosophy of Søren Kierkegaard. Religious existentialism holds that there are two levels of reality, essence, which is the ground of being, and existence. Religion is the ultimate concern in this view.
Atheistic existentialism is best exemplified by Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, and Jean-Paul Sartre. It holds that there is one level of reality, existence. In this view, each person constructs his own unique and temporary essence.
Existentialism is a tradition of philosophical enquiry which takes as its starting point the experience of the human subject—not merely the thinking subject, but the acting, feeling, living human individual. It is associated mainly with certain 19th- and 20th-century European philosophers who, despite profound doctrinal differences, shared the belief in that beginning of philosophical thinking.
A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The term "philosopher" comes from the Ancient Greek, φιλόσοφος (philosophos), meaning "lover of wisdom". The coining of the term has been attributed to the Greek thinker Pythagoras.
Søren Aabye Kierkegaard was a Danish philosopher, theologian, poet, social critic and religious author who is widely considered to be the first existentialist philosopher. He wrote critical texts on organized religion, Christendom, morality, ethics, psychology, and the philosophy of religion, displaying a fondness for metaphor, irony and parables. Much of his philosophical work deals with the issues of how one lives as a "single individual", giving priority to concrete human reality over abstract thinking and highlighting the importance of personal choice and commitment. He was against literary critics who defined idealist intellectuals and philosophers of his time, and thought that Swedenborg, Hegel, Fichte, Schelling, Schlegel and Hans Christian Andersen were all "understood" far too quickly by "scholars".
In philosophy, "the Absurd" refers to the conflict between the human tendency to seek inherent value and meaning in life, and the human inability to find any in a purposeless, meaningless or chaotic and irrational universe. The universe and the human mind do not each separately cause the Absurd, but rather, the Absurd arises by the contradictory nature of the two existing simultaneously.
Paul Johannes Tillich was a German-American Christian existentialist philosopher and Lutheran Protestant theologian who is widely regarded as one of the most influential theologians of the twentieth century. He also wrote several Christian-themed historical works.
Christian existentialism is a theo-philosophical movement which takes an existentialist approach to Christian theology. The school of thought is often traced back to the work of the Danish philosopher and theologian Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855).
Existential humanism is humanism that validates the human subject as struggling for self-knowledge and self-responsibility.
The phenomenology of religion concerns the experiential aspect of religion, describing religious phenomena in terms consistent with the orientation of worshippers. It views religion as made up of different components, and studies these components across religious traditions in order to gain some understanding of them.
Existential psychotherapy is a form of psychotherapy based on the model of human nature and experience developed by the existential tradition of European philosophy. It focuses on concepts that are universally applicable to human existence including death, freedom, responsibility, and the meaning of life. Instead of regarding human experiences such as anxiety, alienation and depression as implying the presence of mental illness, existential psychotherapy sees these experiences as natural stages in a normal process of human development and maturation. In facilitating this process of development and maturation, existential psychotherapy involves a philosophical exploration of an individual's experiences stressing the individual's freedom and responsibility to facilitate a higher degree of meaning and well-being in his or her life.
An existential crisis is a moment at which an individual questions if their life has meaning, purpose, or value. It may be commonly, but not necessarily, tied to depression or inevitably negative speculations on purpose in life. This issue of the meaning and purpose of human existence is a major focus of the philosophical tradition of existentialism.
Concluding Unscientific Postscript to the Philosophical Fragments is a major work thought to be by Søren Kierkegaard. The work is a poignant attack against Hegelianism, the philosophy of Hegel, especially Hegel's Science of Logic. The work is also famous for its dictum, Subjectivity is Truth. It was an attack on what Kierkegaard saw as Hegel's deterministic philosophy. Against Hegel's system, Kierkegaard is often interpreted as taking the side of metaphysical libertarianism or freewill, though it has been argued that an incompatibilist conception of free will is not essential to Kierkegaard's formulation of existentialism.
French philosophy, here taken to mean philosophy in the French language, has been extremely diverse and has influenced Western philosophy as a whole for centuries, from the medieval scholasticism of Peter Abelard, through the founding of modern philosophy by René Descartes, to 20th century philosophy of science, existentialism, phenomenology, structuralism, and postmodernism.
In philosophy, facticity has a multiplicity of meanings from "factuality" and "contingency" to the intractable conditions of human existence.
The proposition that existence precedes essence is a central claim of existentialism, which reverses the traditional philosophical view that the essence of a thing is more fundamental and immutable than its existence. To existentialists, human beings—through their consciousness—create their own values and determine a meaning for their life because the human being does not possess any inherent identity or value. That identity or value must be created by the individual. By posing the acts that constitute them, they make their existence more significant.
Meaning in existentialism is descriptive; therefore it is unlike typical, prescriptive conceptions of "the meaning of life". Due to the methods of existentialism, prescriptive or declarative statements about meaning are unjustified. The root of the word "meaning" is "mean", which is the way someone or something is conveyed, interpreted, or represented. Each individual has his or her own form of unique perspective; meaning is, therefore, purely subjective. Meaning is the way something is understood by an individual; in turn, this subjective meaning is also how the individual may identify it. Meaning is the personal significance of something physical or abstract. This would include the assigning of value(s) to such significance.
Lebensphilosophie is a philosophical school of thought which emphasises the meaning, value and purpose of life as the foremost focus of philosophy.
Atheistic existentialism is a kind of existentialism which strongly diverged from the Christian existential works of Søren Kierkegaard and developed within the context of an atheistic world view. The philosophies of Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche provided existentialism's theoretical foundation in the 19th century, although their differing views on religion proved essential to the development of alternate types of existentialism. Atheistic existentialism was formally recognized after the 1943 publication of Being and Nothingness by Jean-Paul Sartre and Sartre later explicitly alluded to it in Existentialism is a Humanism in 1946.
Jewish existentialism is a category of work by Jewish authors dealing with existentialist themes and concepts, and intended to answer theological questions that are important in Judaism. The existential angst of Job is an example from the Hebrew Bible of the existentialist theme. Theodicy and post-Holocaust theology make up a large part of 20th century Jewish existentialism.
Existential nihilism is the philosophical theory that life has no intrinsic meaning or value. With respect to the universe, existential nihilism suggests that a single human or even the entire human species is insignificant, without purpose and unlikely to change in the totality of existence. According to the theory, each individual is an isolated being born into the universe, barred from knowing ‘why’. The inherent meaninglessness of life is largely explored in the philosophical school of existentialism, where one can potentially create their own subjective ’meaning’ or ’purpose’. Of all types of nihilism, existential nihilism has received the most literary and philosophical attention.
This is a list of articles in continental philosophy.