Existentialism - Research Article from Encyclopedia of Science, Technology, and Ethics

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Existentialism

Existentialism came to prominence shortly after World War II as a philosophical and literary movement stressing individual human experience in a hostile or indifferent world and highlighting freedom of choice and personal responsibility. As a word, existentialism has roots in the Latin existere, meaning to stand forth. Indeed existentialists argue that human beings stand out from other things because of the way humans stand consciously and freely in relation with things and with one another. Existentialists developed criticisms of science and technology especially insofar as they deny or obscure this uniqueness.

Historical Development

In the nineteenth century, Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855) first used the word existence to designate a deep individuality that escaped the grip of bourgeois society and religion, and rationalistic philosophy. Though Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) did not use the word, his radical analyses and demands for self-creation influenced later existentialist thinkers. Nineteenth-century Romanticism can...

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This section contains 2,876 words
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Existentialism from Macmillan. Copyright © 2001-2006 by Macmillan Reference USA, an imprint of the Gale Group. All rights reserved.