Essay by aishabhatti78High School, 11th grade October 2014

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Existentialism is in essence a belief that the world we live in is fundamentally meaningless and absurd. A philosophical theory or approach that emphasizes the existence of the individual person as a free and responsible agent determining their own development through acts of the will. Existentialism believes that individuals are entirely free and must take personal responsibility for themselves (although with this responsibility comes angst, a profound anguish or dread). It therefore emphasizes action, freedom and decision as fundamental, and holds that the only way to rise above the essentially absurd condition of humanity (which is characterized by suffering and inevitable death) is by exercising our personal freedom and choice (a complete rejection of Determinism) Often, Existentialism as a movement is used to describe those who refuse to belong to any school of thought, repudiating of the adequacy of any body of beliefs or systems, claiming them to be superficial, academic and remote from life.

Although it has much in common with Nihilism, Existentialism is more a reaction against traditional philosophies, such as Rationalism, Empiricism and Positivism that seek to discover an ultimate order and universal meaning in metaphysical principles or in the structure of the observed world. It asserts that people actually make decisions based on what has meaning to them, rather than what is rational. Existentialism originated with the 19th Century philosophers Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche, although neither used the term in their work. In the 1940s and 1950s, French existentialists such as Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus (1913 - 1960), and Simone de Beauvoir (1908 - 1986) wrote scholarly and fictional works that popularized existential themes, such as dread, boredom, alienation, the absurd, freedom, commitment and nothingness. Existentialistic ideas came out of a time in society when there was a deep sense of despair following the...