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So tell me, what does it mean to be an Existentialist?

RealHuman 6 Oct 26

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It means you live in the moment. For others it can mean your existence is defined by what you do or that you ultimately decide what the meaning of your life.


We accept (embrace) 100% responsibility for our life and circumstances. We are not victims. We blame no one, hold no anger or grudges over the state of our lives.


"Existence precedes essence"

In short: what we do determines what we do.
It makes perfect sense 🙂

Our choices and actions determine/relect our own truth.


Have you ever played the "Game of Existentialism"?

Winning: You are not currently thinking about the "Game of Existentialism" in any way.
Losing: You are currently thinking about the "Game of Existentialism" in any way.

Congratulations and welcome to the game!! There is no leaving the game, the game is not optional and you cannot choose not to play. Now that you know of the game, you are a participant for the remainder of your life. Tell your friends so they can join in.

Status: You are currently [LOSING]

The Genie is out of the bottle...


What does it mean to you?

To me, take away the labels and the definitions, it is about what we actually experience as human beings. We find ourselves planted in this world, facing choices and a fundamental desire to find meaning. During our most trying of times, we experience overwhelming feelings of aloneness, uncertainty, and self-awareness. At these times we become acutely aware of the "Human Condition" or what might also be referred to as "The Dark Night of the Soul"

So this uncertainty that we face, presents a world seemingly empty of meaning, and so existentialism for me, at its root, about how this human predicament is interpreted and embraced.

For most, facing life in the face of this awareness is unfathomable, and therefore choose to deny responsibility, avoid looking into the abyss of the uncertainty, and alleviate the angst by inserting a God. While another choice is to embrace the uncertainty, the mystery of life, and as opposed to seeking an external truth, express their own truth through their choices. Truth is subjectivity, not words, but actions.


It means acceptance of reality, of the fact that life and existence has no inherent meaning. It meas that we are free to define our own meaning, to make our own choices, decisions, and actions and to be responsible for them.


To choose to be in disagreement with Predeterminism


To me, it means absolutely nothing.
I don't have a whole lot of use for most philosophy.
I find it gets in the way of actually dealing with the business of life.
What other people want to do, or think, is entirely up to them.
If immersing oneself in the various (and often contradictory) philosophies espoused by those who believe they "know better" works for you, have at it.

But Existentialism isn't about "knowing better" for someone else, in fact it is the acknowledgement that one CANNOT know what is better for someone else.

@RealHuman Perhaps.

Whether you believe you have no "philosophy" or not, you subscribe to a particular value system and worldview. If not wishing to examine your own beliefs works for you, have at it. 🙂

@KenChang That's the thing. What I examine, or don't examine, about what I believe (or don't) is not anything I wish to share with anyone else. I'm really tired of all the "sharing". Everybody has to share every damned thing, whether it's significant or not. All the over-sharing has absolutely diminished the concept for me. Whatever I choose to "share", most times, I do not wish to dissect with anyone. I generally don't question others on "why" they believe what they do. I find it to, more often than not, be an exercise in futility.

You don't believe knowledge comes from inter-mixing of ideas from different perspectives? Isn't that "sharing"?

Sure. There is a lot of noise nowadays thanks to internet. But we can choose which source of information we turn our attention to.

@KKGator I agree with you on the futility of certain discussions with many/most people. Need look no further than a political discussion on seems to be all about egos, winning, group think or preaching to the choir.

So I mostly resist. And religion and God...I am long past feeling any need to inject myself into those conversations either.

However, discussions around what it involves to be a human person in this world, the experience of living life...I am all in on that. Isn't that why most people are involved with social connect, share experiences, console, support and more? Almost universally people search for meaning in their lives in the face of much absurdity.


Sartre distinguishes the pour soi from the en soi, Heidegger uses the terms sein and da sein. This casts a distinction between things that exist as they are, and those that choose what they will become. Human beings are in the latter group. Other phenomena in the former. A rock is a rock. A bird is a bird. A human can be whatever the sum of his or her choices allow. That is a very short look at a complicated philosophical set of theses and proofs.


Existence precedes essence. To me, that means we show up on the scene through natural processes, and then we create meaning in our lives through our choices.

I totally agree with that as fundamental to Existentialism. However, I wonder if one could go even further to say that we don't actually know if this or that one precedes the other, and in either case essence is only unveiled via existential freedom, and that if essence preceded, it will manifest itself through our choices in the exact same way as if it arises from existence...if we can free ourselves from the influence of "The Other"...or the "Un-truth of The Crowd".


Existentialism = Existence precedes essence in human beings (Sartre’s definition)
Essentialism = Essence precedes existence in human beings

For example, what the sapling will become is already there in the acorn; it has to become an oak and cannot choose to become a pine or poplar. Likewise, what type of bird will hatch is already there in the fertilized egg, and the same for plants and animals universally—even for human beings according to the essentialist. For example, Aristotle contended that the human essence is rationality. Hence the definition, “Man is a rational animal.”

But existentialists contend the human beings come into existence without any essence to predetermine what they will become. Instead, they have free will, and therefore must choose what type of creature they will be. They may choose to become rational or not; they may choose to be gregarious or loners, truthful or dishonest, etc. for they (=we) have no essence that predetermines this.

The implications of this view for ethics, logic, and theory of knowledge are quite far-reaching.

Philosophy Professor...Awesome...I had effectively a double-major, one of which was Philosophy.

Thoughts on "The Human Condition"? For me this is fundamental, the idea that we all face "uncertainty" and that many/most try to relieve themselves of this uncomfortable state by God, or even science. But that to truly be human is to embrace the uncertainty, to say "Yes!" to life and relish the mystery, and by expressing and acting, thus affirming one's own authentic self, and therefore truth. We arrive here by no choice of our own, and the underlying question that haunts us all is: "what now shall I do?"

@RealHuman I think your summary of the existentialists' concept of "the human condition" is right on. I tried to say so in an earlier post but I don't see it here.

@Wallace what about the applicability of Kierkegaard's ideas about the "untruth of the crowd" as it relates to today's politicians and the political environment in general? Thoughts? Particularly, the difficulty of remaining authentic...

@RealHuman Sorry, I haven't read Kierkegaard in years and never read "The Crowd is Untruth," so this is a job for you!


Authenticity (philosophy)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Authenticity is a concept in psychology (in particular existential psychiatry) as well as existentialist philosophy and aesthetics (in regard to various arts and musical genres). In existentialism, authenticity is the degree to which an individual's actions are congruent with their beliefs and desires, despite external pressures; the conscious self is seen as coming to terms with being in a material world and with encountering external forces, pressures, and influences which are very different from, and other than, itself. A lack of authenticity is considered in existentialism to be bad faith.[2] The call of authenticity resonates with the famous instruction by the Oracle of Delphi, “Know thyself.” But authenticity extends this message: "Don’t merely know thyself – be thyself."[3]

To thine ownself be true? There is this poem by Cooley. " I am not what I think I am.
I am not who you think I am.
I am who I think you think I am." - Cooley

Live life on your terms. No one else has to look in the mirror at your face and like who they see but you.


You’re smoking some good weed !!


It means you can at least look like you can spell a really long word 🙂


"Existentialism" definition by



A philosophical attitude associated especially with Heidegger, Jaspers, Marcel, and Sartre, and opposed to rationalism and empiricism, that stresses the individual's unique position as a self-determining agent responsible for the authenticity of his or her choices.

Contemporary examples of existentialist

In the grips of existentialist angst, investors decided to sell stocks and start stowing money under their mattresses.

British Dictionary definitions for existentialist

A modern philosophical movement stressing the importance of personal experience and responsibility and the demands that they make on the individual, who is seen as a free agent in a deterministic and seemingly meaningless universe.

Existentialist in Culture

A movement in twentieth-century literature and philosophy, with some forerunners in earlier centuries. Existentialism stresses that people are entirely free and therefore responsible for what they make of themselves. With this responsibility comes a profound anguish or dread.

Søren Kierkegaard and Feodor Dostoyevsky in the nineteenth century, and Jean-Paul Sartre, Martin Heidegger, and Albert Camus in the twentieth century, were existentialist writers.

He who cannot obey himself will be commanded. That is the nature of living creatures.

-Friedrich Nietzsche


No one can tell you what it means to be an existentialist, you need to discover that for yourself.

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