Because of the diversity of positions associated with Existentialism, the term is impossible to define precisely. Basically Existentialism is the philosophical movement or tendency emphasizing individual’s existence, freedom and choice. Existentialism influenced many diverse writers of 19th and 20th centuries, first of whom was a Danish philosopher Kierkegaard. He reacted against the traditions by insisting that highest good for the individual is to find his or her own unique vocation. Other Existentialist writers echoed his belief that one must choose one’s way without the aid of universal or objective standards. According to traditional view moral choice involves objective judgments for right and wrong while Existentialists have argued that no objective, rational basis can be found for moral decisions. Here it creates a contradictory situation as objective judgments are very much necessary for a better conclusion.
Subjectivity of Existentialism lays in the concept that personal experience and one’s own convictions are essential for arriving at truth. According to Existentialist school of thought the understanding of a particular situation by a person directly involved in that situation is superior to that of detached objective observer. But there is no specific systematic reasoning for such statement, which makes the Existentialists suspicious. It is true up to some extent that a person suffering from a particular situation can feel the depth of it but not necessary that he’ll make better decision to get rid of it, on the contrary an objective observer may formulate a strategy without getting into the situation.
Kierkegaard, Nietzsche and other existentialists have expressed their philosophies in aphorisms, dialogues, parables and other literary forms and acquired an “antirationalist” position. However all the existentialists can not be said to be antirationalist. As some of them have held that rational clarity is desirable wherever possible but more important questions in life are not accessible to reason or science. They have argued that science is not as rational as is commonly supposed. Nietzsche, for instance asserted that the scientific assumptions of an orderly universe is for the most part of useful fiction.
Existentialists have held that human beings do not have a fixed nature, or essence, as other animals and plants do; each human being makes choices that create his or her own nature. In the formulation of the 20th-century French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, existence precedes essence. Choice is therefore central to human existence, and it is inescapable; even the refusal to choose is a choice. Freedom of choice entails commitment and responsibility. Because individuals are free to choose their own path, existentialists have argued, they must accept the risk and responsibility of following their commitment wherever it leads.
Sartre first gave the term existentialism general currency by using it for his own philosophy and by becoming the leading figure of a distinct movement in France that became internationally influential after World War II. Sartre’s philosophy is explicitly atheistic and pessimistic; he declared that human beings require a rational basis for their lives but are unable to achieve one, and thus human life is a “futile passion”. I disagree with the statement given by Sartre as I believe that Human life is not a “futile passion” at all. We all believe that among all the creatures man is the most loveable one. God gave desire to the animals, wisdom to the angels and both to the man. And man is to control and attain the satisfaction of his desires by using the wisdom. Along with this nothing in the world is useless. Every thing and each creature of God has some purpose of its life.
According to Islamic point of view the Universe comprises of many secrets and Man has to find those secrets by using his wisdom. Thus considering human life as futile passion will be equal to refusal of blessings of Allah. He made universe for his most loveable creature Man.
According to another existentialist Heidegger , Human beings can never hope to understand why they are here; instead, each individual must choose a goal and follow it with passionate conviction, aware of the certainty of death and the ultimate meaninglessness of one’s life. I disagree to this statement also. Certainty of death does not make the life meaningless; instead it makes the life more meaningful, passionate and free of greed. Individual having true intentions and deeds doesn’t get afraid of the death. What I believe is that death is a natural phenomenon to be occurred to each and every creature. Of course thought of death makes the life meaningless for those who think that achievement of only materialistic needs is life.
Existentialism is defined by the slogan Existence precedes Essence. This means:
1. We have no predetermined nature or essence that controls what we are, what we do, or what is valuable for us.
2. We are radically free to act independently of determination by outside influences.
3. We create our own human nature through these free choices.
4. We also create our values through these choices.
The Existentialist View (We create our own nature.): We are thrown into existence first without a predetermined nature and only later do we construct our nature or essence through our actions. This slogan is opposed to the traditional view that Essence precedes Existence, according to which we are seen as having a given nature that determines what we are and what our ultimate purpose or value is. We are understood by analogy to artifacts which are made with a pre-existing idea or concept of what they will be and what they will be good for.