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Existentialism Summary

Everything you need to understand or teach Existentialism.

  • Existentialism Summary & Study Guide
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Existentialism Summary


Existentialism is a philosophical approach that rejects the idea that the universe offers any clues about how humanity should live. A simplified understanding of this thought system can be found in Jean-Paul Sartre's often-repeated dictum, "Existence precedes essence." What this means is that the identity of any one person—their essence—cannot be found by examining what other people are like, but only in what that particular person has done. Because no one can claim that his or her actions are "caused" by anyone else, existentialist literature focuses on freedom and responsibility.

Existentialism attained the height of its popularity in France during World War II. While the German army occupied the country, the cluster of philosophers and writers who gathered together to discuss and argue their ideas at the cafes of Paris captured the attention of intellectuals around the world. The oppressive political climate under the Nazis and the...

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Existentialism Study Guide

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