Why are we here?Why are we here? What is our purpose?What is our purpose? Do our lives have meaning?Do our lives have meaning? How has humankind attempted.

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Why are we here?Why are we here? What is our purpose?What is our purpose? Do our lives have meaning?Do our lives have meaning? How has humankind attempted to answer these questions? (Willem de Kooning, Black Untitled, 1948) Slide 2 Do you believe in fate or destiny?Do you believe in fate or destiny? How do your beliefs affect your thoughts and actions? (Jackson Pollack, Ocean Greyness, 1953) Slide 3 What if life had no meaning?What if life had no meaning? What if religion or science could not provide meaning for why we are here?What if religion or science could not provide meaning for why we are here? What if we just happen to be here because the that s what happened?What if we just happen to be here because the that s what happened? How would this idea affect you? How would this idea affect you? (Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1893) Slide 4 EXISTENTIALISM Jackson Pollack, Untitled (Green-Silver), 1949 Slide 5 Existentialism : Not a specific school of philosophy; title given to set of ideas shared by intellectuals in academia, journalism, arts; most popular in post-WWII Europe. Not a specific school of philosophy; title given to set of ideas shared by intellectuals in academia, journalism, arts; most popular in post-WWII Europe. Major figures in 19th century (precursors): Soren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche. Major figures in 19th century (precursors): Soren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche. Major figures in 20th century: Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus. Major figures in 20th century: Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus. Slide 6 Existentialism: Concerned with the individual (personal): Who am I? and the existential (living, concrete): What does my life mean? How should I live my life? Concerned with the individual (personal): Who am I? and the existential (living, concrete): What does my life mean? How should I live my life? Inevitable in Modern Age? Post-Industrial, specialized, technical society: pressure to conform, threat to individuality; Questioning of traditional values: increasingly secular society, post-world wars, ideas of Marxism and Darwinism. Inevitable in Modern Age? Post-Industrial, specialized, technical society: pressure to conform, threat to individuality; Questioning of traditional values: increasingly secular society, post-world wars, ideas of Marxism and Darwinism. Slide 7 Major Ideas The individual: defined by choices and acts; solely responsible for those choices and acts. The individual: defined by choices and acts; solely responsible for those choices and acts. The absurd: there is no meaning in life besides what we give it. The absurd: there is no meaning in life besides what we give it. Freedom: aware of the nothingness of our identity (we exist but have no essence); choices we make create our identity; these decisions not determined by God, or pre-existing values or knowledge but by individual. Freedom: aware of the nothingness of our identity (we exist but have no essence); choices we make create our identity; these decisions not determined by God, or pre-existing values or knowledge but by individual. Anxiety (angst): complete freedom of choice is overwhelming responsibility. Anxiety (angst): complete freedom of choice is overwhelming responsibility. Despair: loss of hope when we realize life has no given meaning or our identity breaks down.Despair: loss of hope when we realize life has no given meaning or our identity breaks down. Slide 8 Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855; Denmark) Founder of existentialism? Founder of existentialism? Most important human activity is decision-making: through our choices, we create meaning in our lives and become ourselves. Most important human activity is decision-making: through our choices, we create meaning in our lives and become ourselves. Authenticity: individual makes choices without relying on groups or institutions for meaning or purpose. Authenticity: individual makes choices without relying on groups or institutions for meaning or purpose. In-authenticity: nature and needs of the individual are ignored, denied or made less important than norms of institutions, abstractions, or groups. In-authenticity: nature and needs of the individual are ignored, denied or made less important than norms of institutions, abstractions, or groups. Slide 9 Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900; Germany) God is dead. God is dead. Morals and values we attribute to God are human creations; free to choose what we value. Morals and values we attribute to God are human creations; free to choose what we value. Life is meaningless: full of suffering and striving; Life is all there is; live it to the fullest. Life is meaningless: full of suffering and striving; Life is all there is; live it to the fullest. How do we live a full life in a godless, meaningless world? How do we live a full life in a godless, meaningless world? Will to power: the drive to reach our full potential (Superman); leads to great human achievement.Will to power: the drive to reach our full potential (Superman); leads to great human achievement. Conflicts and destruction of the weak should be welcomed.Conflicts and destruction of the weak should be welcomed. Slide 10 Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980; France) : Existence precedes essence.Existence precedes essence. We have no given nature; we become who we are through choices we make. We have no given nature; we become who we are through choices we make. Bad faith: when people are afraid to face the freedom and responsibility of choice and revert to old existing norms and rules (religion, science, nature). Bad faith: when people are afraid to face the freedom and responsibility of choice and revert to old existing norms and rules (religion, science, nature). Commitment: Choosing and living in accord with the choice. Commitment: Choosing and living in accord with the choice. Slide 11 Albert Camus (1913-1960) Author of existential novels: The Stranger (1942), The Plague (1947), The Fall (1956). Author of existential novels: The Stranger (1942), The Plague (1947), The Fall (1956). Coined term Absurd: human beings want their lives to have significance in an indifferent universe which is without meaning or purpose. Coined term Absurd: human beings want their lives to have significance in an indifferent universe which is without meaning or purpose. Believed we must refuse to give into the despair caused by the realization of lifes meaningless; instead, we must rebel against our cosmic circumstances by choosing to live life to the fullest. Believed we must refuse to give into the despair caused by the realization of lifes meaningless; instead, we must rebel against our cosmic circumstances by choosing to live life to the fullest. Slide 12 Camus (cont.): Born in Algeria to working-class parents. Father was killed in WWI. Born in Algeria to working-class parents. Father was killed in WWI. Studied at the University of Algeria until diagnosed with tuberculosis. Later completed studies. Studied at the University of Algeria until diagnosed with tuberculosis. Later completed studies. Joined French Communist Party in 1935 to fight inequities in treatment of native Algerians by French colonists. Later criticized communism, which led to break with Sartre. Joined French Communist Party in 1935 to fight inequities in treatment of native Algerians by French colonists. Later criticized communism, which led to break with Sartre. In Paris during WWII, joined French Resistance cell called Combat; wrote for underground publication. In Paris during WWII, joined French Resistance cell called Combat; wrote for underground publication. Awarded Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957. Awarded Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957. Died in car accident in 1960. Died in car accident in 1960. Slide 13 The Myth of Sisyphus Camus 1942 essay; introduces the idea of the absurd. Camus 1942 essay; introduces the idea of the absurd. The myth. The myth. The punishment is both frustrating and pointless; to Camus, life is similarly absurd in that it, too, is pointless. The punishment is both frustrating and pointless; to Camus, life is similarly absurd in that it, too, is pointless. In the essay, he offers his solution to this situation. In the essay, he offers his solution to this situation. Slide 14 The Plague (1947) Novel set in North African city of Oran. Novel set in North African city of Oran. A plague hits the city; the city is eventually quarantined. A plague hits the city; the city is eventually quarantined. Thought to be based on cholera epidemic that hit Oran in 1849. Thought to be based on cholera epidemic that hit Oran in 1849. Existential themes presented in novel. Represents humanitys response to the absurd. Existential themes presented in novel. Represents humanitys response to the absurd. Also read as metaphorical treatment of French Resistance to Nazi Occupation in WWII. Also read as metaphorical treatment of French Resistance to Nazi Occupation in WWII. Slide 15 The Plague Impersonal; represents death, the absurd. Poses question: How does one live in the face of the plague? Poses question: How does one live in the face of the plague? Examines how society reacts to existential crisis.Examines how society reacts to existential crisis. Slide 16 Responses to The Plague Fight it, but how?; futile. Fight it, but how?; futile. Escape it, but what exactly is one escaping from? Where to? Escape it, but what exactly is one escaping from? Where to? Take advantage of it; Consequences: Each of us gets the war we deserve. Take advantage of it; Consequences: Each of us gets the war we deserve. Novel examines how different characters cope with absurdity of plague; how characters conceive of themselves and their lives in the face of it. Novel examines how different characters cope with absurdity of plague; how characters conceive of themselves and their lives in the face of it. Slide 17 Dr. Rieux: committed to fighting plague (human suffering) even though unlikely he will find cure; existential hero. Dr. Rieux: committed to fighting plague (human suffering) even though unlikely he will find cure; existential hero. Grand: Rieux calls hero; ordinary and simple (unlike name); committed to novel even though is going nowhere; Sisyphus of novel. Grand: Rieux calls hero; ordinary and simple (unlike name); committed to novel even though is going nowhere; Sisyphus of novel. Rambert: caught; tries to escape and get away; chooses to live for love rather than a cause. Rambert: caught; tries to escape and get away; chooses to live for love rather than a cause. Tarrou: saintly and cynical; one must fight it, but with complete awareness of absurdity. Tarrou: saintly and cynical; one must fight it, but with complete awareness of absurdity. Cottard: through criminal activity benefits during plague; true cynic. Cottard: through criminal activity benefits during plague; true cynic. Paneloux: plague is Gods vengeance for our guilt. Paneloux: plague is Gods vengeance for our guilt. Characters & Responses to the Plague Slide 18 Conclusions We must face the absurd together; theme: solidarity. We must face the absurd together; theme: solidarity. I rebel; therefore, we exist. (The Rebel, 1957). I rebel; therefore, we exist. (The Rebel, 1957). Attempts to deny absurd are philosophical suicide: Attempts to deny absurd are philosophical suicide: Appeal to afterlife: not taking responsibility for this life; not living life to the fullest. Appeal to afterlife: not taking responsibility for this life; not living life to the fullest.