Shortcutting… Existentialism

21 May

Just kidding! While sticking to the media’s ‘blank page’ idea of existentialism would be quite a shortcut for me, I would never let you down like that… Now, I know existentialism sounds a little bit scary and deep and pretentious but never fear: as is the purpose of this blog, I will provide you with a quick and easy way to make you sound like you know what you’re talking about. Here is a quick and easy way to sound deep and intellectual with only a surface knowledge of existentialism.

So the general point of existentialism is that we give our own lives purpose: your life has no meaning unless you give it one. This may sound a bit worrying but it’s actually pretty easy to choose a meaning for your life: mine is of course blogging, and yours is reading my blogs. Et voila, I have just given you meaning and purpose free of charge. You’re welcome.

There are some important names you should mention when faking knowledge of existentialism. Let’s start with Jean Paul Sartre. He’s pretty much the big daddy of existentialism, so be sure to slip his name in a few times. He thought that ‘existence precedes essence’, i.e. our reason for being comes after we are born. He also said that humans are ‘condemned to be free’: we have no choice but to be free and embrace our choice etc.

Friedrich Nietzsche was another big name. He was the guy who said ‘God is dead.’ I should probably mention at this point that existentialists weren’t big on religion. They thought that saying God gave your life purpose is a way of trying to get out of choosing your own purpose, and is not embracing individualism. They saw this as ‘bad faith’. By saying God is dead Nietzsche meant that as soon as people understand existentialism they’ll be able to discard religion. Agree with it or not, it’s one of those controversial little statements that make you seem like you mean business so bear it in mind if  conversation starts drying up.

I don’t know much about Soren Kierkegaard except that he is widely considered to be the first existential philosopher, so we should probably include him here. A lot of his work was about living as a ‘single individual’, which is clearly a bit of a theme in existentialism.

Hopefully you should now be able to B.S. your way through a conversation about existentialism. Just add chin stroking!

Keep shortcutting,



5 Responses to “Shortcutting… Existentialism”

  1. Alex Jones May 21, 2012 at 9:56 pm #

    Thanks for the quick introduction to existentialism, this was useful.

  2. Melanie May 21, 2012 at 11:11 pm #

    I call things existential all the time though I never knew exactly what it meant. But it seems like it can be used for anything anyway. Like telling people that my blog is existential. It has meaning because I give it meaning.

    • shortcutting May 23, 2012 at 4:01 pm #

      Yes, it would definitely work for something like that. You’ve exercised your free will by writing a blog!


  1. Existentialism « - May 30, 2012

    […] Shortcutting… Existentialism ( […]

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