what is my purpose? what is the meaning of my life?

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  • What is my purpose?What is the meaning of my life?

  • Your AssignmentPlease take time to carefully read the information in this presentation.Take notes on your handout as you go, and please jot down questions you may have.The information contained herein is complex and will require thought on your part.Please take your time, read carefully, and think thoughtfully about the information.The presentation is about 70 slides long, it should take you about one to two hours to carefully review it.

  • Vocabulary to Know

  • Existentialism: A philosophy that began in the 19th century and became fashionable in the 20th century, post World War II years, as a way to reassert the importance of human individuality and freedom. Philosophy: (1) The rational investigation of the truths and principles of being, knowledge, or conduct; (2) Any system of belief, values, morals, or tenets; (3) A personal outlook or viewpoint.

    Belief: A state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing.

    Morals: Perception of what is right or wrong according to religion, society, or the individual.

  • Understanding Existentialism

  • No Excuses!The message of Existentialism [] is that every one of us, as an individual, is responsible responsible for what we do, responsible for who we are, responsible for the way we face and deal with the world, responsible, ultimately, for the way the world is. It is, in a very short phrase, the philosophy of 'No excuses!' We cannot shift that burden onto God, or nature, or the ways of the world.- Professor Robert Solomon

  • Fundamental Question: What do youknow withabsolute certainty?

  • I think, therefore, I am.Existentialism begins with the idea that your existence is the only original certainty.You might not know anything else, but you at least know you exist (in some way) because you are thinking.Existentialism holds that your existence is your pre-eminent truth and reality.

  • Existentialism Main IdeasThe individual has the sole responsibility for finding meaning in lifeDespite absurdity, alienation and boredom, one must live life with passion and sincerity.Any life-view with a condition outside it is despair."

  • For exampleIf a dancer loses her leg in an accident, her despair is overwhelming unless she realizes that her existence and reason for being was never dependent on her identity as a dancer. Once this crisis is resolved, she can continue life without despairing.It is possible to despair without despairingIdentification as a dancer was not true reality

  • Existentialism is not nihilism. "Nihilism" is the belief that nothing matters. Existentialism is the attempt to confront and deal with meaninglessness...to not succumb to nihilism or despair: to not give up or avoid responsibility.

  • So Existentialism is the opposite of nihilism: the nihilist says "There is no god, no heaven or hell, so screw it: there can be no right or wrong. Let's party!" The Existentialist says "There is no god, no heaven or hell, so you and I alone must figure out how to make life meaningful and good -- we must, in fact, work without cosmic aid to figure out what 'good' itself is.Note: Not all existentialist are atheists. Many existentialists do believe in God, but they look to themselves, not God, to find their own meaning and purpose.Many existentialists argue that only through a return to faith can we battle nihilism.

  • So/But, if there is any room in this harsh human reality for any meaning at all, it exists strictly and only at a human level, rather that at a cosmic or metaphysical one. And it must be created. But the existentialist realizes that even our greatest, most beautiful, most heroic creations live and die with us as individuals, as cultures.If my love for my spouse or child has any meaning at all, it is because I make it so -- I will such meaning into existence -- but that meaning dies with us; if a moral or ethical life or society has any meaning, that meaning dies off with that life or society.

  • Thus, any meaning in our lives, our world will be:Created through our own free willFleeting, transitory, individual, subjectiveStill ultimately meaningless in terms of some ultimate "big picture, because there is no bigger picture.

  • But does this matter? Does the fact that you and your loved ones only exist for 100 years, tops, really negate the value of that life, while it is lived? The Existentialist says "no, of course not; if this is all the meaning there is, it logically follows it is the only value there is -- thus it is of the utmost value and importance. Life is rendered more valuable, not less."

  • This is vital to note: Existentialists are looking for a way out of mans inhumanity to man. Our suffering may not have any higher or ultimate cosmological value, but it is suffering none-the-less. The Existentialist says, even if there is no higher meaning, even if existence is ultimately absurd, we are still forced by existence (the fact that we are alive) and chance to live out our days. We cannot blame God for tragedies and events like the Holocaust; thus, we must blame ourselves when horror (or "the horror, the horror...") occurs, and we must look to ourselves to ensure such horror happens rarely.

  • Existentialist Philosophers

  • SorenKierkegaard 1813-1854Danish LutheranKierkegaard is considered to be the first existential philosopher. However, unlike other existentialists who do not believe in God, Kierkegaard did. His work deals with the issues of how one lives as a "single individual," giving priority to concrete human reality over abstract thinking, highlighting the importance of personal choice and commitment. The scientist can learn about the world by observation, but Kierkegaard denied that observation could reveal the inner workings of the spiritual world. He wrote: What I really need is to get clear about what I must do, not what I must know []. What matters is to find a purpose, to see what it really is that God wills that I shall do; the crucial thing is to find a truth which is truth for me, to find the idea for which I am willing to live and die."

  • OBJECTIVE TRUTH:Comes from Externals (Things Beyond Us)SUBJECTIVE TRUTH:Comes from Within UsKierkegaards writings are the beginning of modern existentialism. For him, the individuals existence is where it all starts.Kierkegaard believed people in the 19th Century to be in despair over being human. People didnt want to exist outside of the crowd. He argued that a person who follows the crowd does not choose his or her own identity and therefore can not live life passionately as an individual. This amounted to not existing.

  • The problem for the individual is (in Kierkegaards view) that God has physically hidden himself from us. There is an infinite abyss between us and God. Therefore, we must struggle to make decisions in absolute isolation from God.BUT HOW?Objective reason is of no value: when God deals with us as individuals, His commands are often irrational and unique to the individual.Kierkegaard refers to such episodes as the: Teleological Suspension of the Ethical: Instances where individuals are commanded by God to act irrationally and/or in ways outside the ethical norm for a specific purpose.

  • Teleological Suspension of the Ethical Example:Gods Command to Abraham to Sacrifice his son, Isaac.If you remember the Abraham and Isaac story: Abraham really loved his son Isaac, and God asked him to sacrifice Isaac. Kill him for faith. And Abraham, despite loving his son and otherwise being a perfect dutiful father, swings the knife down on his son at the altar.Basically, Abraham has a rational duty to his son. Killing him for God is completely irrational and unethical. Yet, in his faith, Abraham suspends ethics and rationality and gives himself up completely to God. (At that moment Abraham had no logic, no past, no future, no telos) It is a Leap Of Faith.(BTW, if you don't know how the story ends, God sends an angel down to save Isaac just in time from under the knife.)

  • Therefore, according to Kierkegaard, since Gods commands are often irrational and unique to the individual:TRUTH IS SUBJECTIVEFAITH IS IRRATIONAL (not based on reason & logic).While some would argue that God only occasionally commands some to act outside the norm, Kierkegaard holds that this is the way all religious experience operates.

  • Then how am I supposed to know what to do?

    If Kierkegaard is right, we must make decisions without any means of justifying our choices.

    This uncertainty then creates ANGUISH and ANXIETY in us.

  • I must find the truth that is true for me. the idea for which I can live or die.

    Since objective reason is not a guide in making decisions, we cannot know before hand which choices will be right therefore, we must act by taking a blind leap of faith.

  • Subjective Morality is BestObjective Morality coming from outside ourselves (religion, society, rules, etc.) may help us to be good or moral, but they also allow us to make excuses or look to someone else for the answers.Subjective Morality coming from inside ourselves is preferred.

  • Existentialists Moral beliefs example: Religion barrier (moral) vs. Own responsibility (moral) Greater belief in God = Greater Corruption in Country Less belief in God = Less Corruption in Country


  • Jean-PaulSartre(sahr-truh)1905 1980French - Atheist Jean-Paul Sartre is one of a group of existentialists who stress that the natural state of the universe is chaos and that order, created by man, is artificial. According to these existentialists, we must create our own order out of this inherent c