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Continental Philosophy

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Continental Philosophy

The historical development of existentialism and phenomenology in Continental philosophy was in direct response to Hegel’s philosophy of idealism. Even though prominent in the nineteenth century, the history of the existentialism and phenomenology premise dates back to Socrates and the pre-Socratics era (Moore & Bruder, 2005). Each school of thought has played such a significant part within the other that it attracted two of the most influential Continental philosophers, Martin Heidegger and Jean-Paul Sarte.

Existentialism centers on the fact that traditional philosophy does not address the issues of true life. Philosophy has to center on each being’s understanding with the world, the world is not rational and is completely beyond understanding why it is the way it is and that humanity is plagued with illogicality and meaninglessness that only leads to despondency (Richardson, 1997). In following this, the person then confronts the obligation to decide how to exist in this strange and ridiculous world (Moore & Bruder, 2005). Soren Kierkegaard and Friedrech Nietzsche were two philosophers of the nineteenth century who had by now, had established themselves to several of these themes.

Both Kierkegaard and Nietzsche opposed Hegel’s idealism, believing that this optimistic philosophy did not address the true meaning of humanity and without dealing with the true nature of humanity, the individual will never be able to find purpose in life (Moore & Bruder, 2005). Both thought metaphysical systems took no notice of the individual dilemma.

Kierkegaard was mostly interested in the person and his or her resolve and need to make important alternatives. He was derisive of Hegel’s ideas in that the individual melded into a conceptual hollowness and he believed the individual inevitably felt despair when facing any real ethical or religious decisions of any lasting import (Rosen, 2001). Only in an individual’s commitments to the endlessness and to God will the person find reprieve. He lived with the idea that dread and despair were the central problems of his life and that his faith in God was the only way out of the predicament of despair (Moore & Bruder, 2005).

Nietzsche, on the other hand, thought that instead of turning to God and religious values, humanity determines its own values (Richardson, 1997). To Nietzsche, God is someone who the humble and sympathetic show adulation to.

Nietzsche became convinced after reading Arthur Schopenhauer, that cosmic will was what made the world go around, not reasoning. He believed the world was decided by “will to power” and only the exceptional superman could overcome the dissolute misguided state of mind of society to accept this type of power (Moore & Bruder, 2005). Nietzsche also held the beliefs that there is no truth, only one’s interpretations, and he subscribed to the theory that history repeats itself (Richardson, 1997).

Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, along with Schopenhauer, believed that nineteenth century European philosophy cloaked itself in single-mindedness, apathy, and abandon. The literary world soon noticed these beliefs and began spreading the existentialist philosophy movement as an unswerving response to all social ills (Moore & Bruder, 2005). Many authors such as Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre embraced these existentialistic views. In turn, they became known for their own contributions to the progress of society as a whole.

During World War II, both fought in the war because they thought that one should be accountable if social achievements are to be fulfilled (Moore & Bruder, 2005). Although Camus enjoyed life, he still felt humanity would never fulfill their true needs, no matter the effort put into accomplishing a good and significant life (Moore & Bruder, 2005). Perhaps this was because of the poverty and torment he faced in his past that made him love life but still maintain apprehensions toward it. Either way, Camus believed that many people live without truly appreciating the exact nature of life and the waste of life filled with false hope, even though their life is disintegrating with hopelessness. He believed that without the ability to recognize one’s own incapability in acquiring essential needs such as clear understanding, societal contact, and affection, one is unfamiliar to oneself (Moore & Bruder, 2005). He truly believed that everyone had goodness, despite the ever-looming violence that prevails and that good will win over bad.

Sartre, on the other hand, was an atheist who believed that with the absence of God, there is no divine creator of humans and man is condemned to be free (Moore & Bruder, 2005). By this, he meant one had to devise their own basic values and understand what the consequences of this desertion from God involved. He thought since there was no God, there is vital reason in why things are the way that they are, or there is no reasoning in why life exists (Moore & Bruder, 2005).

While existentialism was a theme that analyzed philosophy that seemed rational in an attempt to conquer misery and doubt, phenomenology concentrated itself in the important organization contained by the flow of conscious understanding. Phenomenology distances itself from any theory or assumption of science and can be defined as an occurrence, experience, event, or observable fact (Moore & Bruder, 2005). Edmund Husserl was the first phenomenologist to recognize that a different science was needed in order to study the organizations that are similar for every realization.

Husserl developed transcendental phenomenology, the investigation of phenomena devoid of any preconceived notions about the world (Moore & Bruder, 2005). Through phenomenological reduction, one gave up his or her presupposition about nature and was to look at the world in a more objective view (Moore & Bruder, 2005). Martin Heidegger, intrigued by Husserl’s work, decided that it was essential to look at one’s world with new eyes.

Heidegger wanted the grounding provided from deep certainty, but for Heidegger, it was Being not phenomena that provided this position. Heidegger believed that human beings are thrown into the world and when confronted by forces beyond their comprehension, soon experience uncontrollable fear and trepidation. This leads people into everydayness, which disallows them to accomplish their actual potential (Moore & Bruder,



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