Existentialist Views on Death Essay

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Existentialist Views on Death

What is Existentialism?
Existentialism is a philosophy developed chiefly in the 20th century that attempts find meaning in a seemingly meaningless world. The central theme of existentialism is that an individual must assume all responsibilities for his or her acts of free will without any absolute knowledge of what is right or wrong. Existentialism analyzes this somewhat dismal situation mankind has been thrown into, and produces a model for how an individual should live his or her life. However, why should someone attempt to live a life of morals and meaning in a cold and indifferent world? An analysis of existentialist views on death may lead to an answer to this question.

A Brief History of
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He postulated that feelings of dread and anxiety are God's way of calling each individual to make a commitment to a personally valid way of life (Akram).

A major contributor to modern existentialism is Martin Heidegger. His philosophy developed out of a reaction to the rationalistic ideas of Edmund Husserl. Heidegger maintained that humanity finds itself in a complicated and indifferent world, and an individual will never know why they exist. Instead, humans need to find a goal and follow it with passionate conviction, knowing that life is meaningless and that they will eventually die. Heidegger emphasized the idea of "being," particularly in his book Sein und Tode. He expanded Kierkegaard's idea of dread, by asserting that anxiety leads to an individual's confrontation with nothingness and the impossibility of justifying one's actions (Kemerling).

Jean Paul Sarte popularized the term existentialism by using it for his own philosophy, which began in France and became internationally popular after World War II. Sarte's philosophy is explicitly atheistic and pessimistic, declaring that human beings need a rational basis for their lives but are unable to achieve one. He defined nausea as an individual's recognition of pure contingency of the universe, and anguish as the recognition of the total freedom of choice that an individual is confronted with continuously. He strongly emphasized the freedom of choice and the