Existentialism and Absurdism
Existentialism is a term applied to a group of attitudes current to philosophical, religious, and artistic thought during and after WW II. In modern expression it had its beginning in the writing of the nineteenth century Danish Theologian Soren Kierkegaard. The German Philosopher Martin Heidegger is important in its formulation, and the French novelist-philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre has done most to give it its present form and popularity. Existentialism has found art and literature to be unusually effective methods of expression in the novels of Franz Kafka, Dostoyefski, Camu, and Simone de Beauvoir, and in the plays and novels of Sartre; it has found its most persuasive media.
Basically, the Existentialist assumes that existence precedes essence, that the significant fact is that we and things in general exist, but that these things have no meaning for us except as we through acting upon them give them meaning. The ramifications of the theory is this: that one must imagine a world in which man is set adrift is a sea of chaos and expected to find his own way through it.
That is, there is no real meaning in any event or group of events except what the individual gives it.
Obviously, we are born into a world of "meaning," but the existentialist would argue that such meaning is a social construction; that is, that culture assigns meaning to random events through the systems of thought it develops, represented in religion and other philosophy. In this case, "truth" and every other moral and academic stand is no more that a human fabrication--just some form in which we construe things and events in order to lend them some degree of meaningfulness for us. Therefore, existence is absurd--it actually has no meaning at all except as each individual chooses to give...