Existentialism and the Existential-Essence Problem in 20th Century PhilosophyJune 28, 2021
One of the important currents of 20th century philosophy is existentialism.
Beginning in the 15th century and 18-19. The scientific way of thinking, which gained momentum in the philosophy of the 19th century, greatly influenced philosophy. Existentialism emerged with the claim that human existence cannot be squeezed into this knowledge circle against the understanding that scientific knowledge is the most ideal way of knowing. According to existentialist thinkers, the 20th century brought along war and destruction as well as development and progress. This age has made it difficult for man to exist as an individual. Existentialism that emerged in such a process is the result of an effort to create a field of philosophical thought and to create attitudes towards practical life on the other.
Philosophers accepted as existentialists; They focused on some concepts and philosophical problems such as freedom, making choices (free will), the meaning of existence, existence-essence order. Especially II. The great suffering experienced in the World War II shook the confidence in the modern world and increased the interest in the philosophy of existentialism.
Existential philosopher Kierkegaard criticizes Hegel philosophy, with the thought that it diminishes the 19th century mentality and the importance of the individual, and lays the first foundations of existential philosophy. The basic problem of man is not knowledge and knowing, but existence itself. Existence is never ready; Being in a state of being, a person re-synthesizes himself by making new decisions and choices all the time. Man’s ability to choose is because he is free. Freedom requires taking responsibility for the consequences of elections.
Nietzsche also influenced existential philosophy from different angles. He criticizes the values of modern man formed with the idea of enlightenment He says that the principles on which the values of modern man are based have collapsed. According to Nietzsche, man must transcend society and himself. Transcending is meaningful with the process of transcending itself rather than towards the determined goal.
Jaspers says that with the mentality of the modern world, materialist and idealist philosophies are insufficient to explain the existence. He says that sciences cannot explain the existence of man, whereas philosophy can explain the subjective existence of man.
Sartre, one of the important representatives of existentialism, “Existence precedes essence.” He expresses an argument that is at the center of the philosophical system with his judgment. This judgment states that man does not exist in the world with a predetermined essence, but creates his essence and essentially himself with his choices. The power of man to form his essence in the face of life stems from his ability to choose, that is, his freedom. Human freedom is not innate, but through consciousness.
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook