From the very little I know about existentialism as a movement and as a philosophy, the one thing I am sure of is that I am unsure on where existentialism came from. Why, and from where, did this “absurd”, radical, somewhat pessimistic mindset arise? And why was it portrayed through art, literature, plays, etc.?
Since the claims existentialists make- and the mindset they embody- seems to be so “absurd” and different from all philosophies that preceded it, I find it hard to pinpoint the exact roots of where the philosophy came. To me, one of the largest differences between existentialism and other philosophies is that existential philosophers are mere artists (writers, painters, play writes, sculptors, etc.), rather than logicians or mathematicians. Because of this, the method in which existential attitudes are unveiled is unorthodox to most of philosophy. Considering this, and the idiosyncrasies of existential notions, I am unsure on the philosophy’s roots; and therefore, in this journal, I will try with the very little I know to locate the mother of this apparently motherless child, and try to uncover why existentialism is better seen through literature and art than rigorous, philosophical proofs.
It is somewhat clear to me that existentialism is a baby of its time. Jean-Paul Sartre and many of his contemporaries lived through the rise and fall of the Third Reich. From this they experienced first hand the oppressive forces of a totalitarian regime and the horrors of a near annihilation of a race of people; but most importantly, many late existentialists lived through the long and grueling dehumanization process put forth by the Nazi’s.
But why art? Why literature?
An overwhelming feeling of liberation must have swept over Europe when Hitler’s regime fell. And from this rejoice in freedom, a creative energy so strong it birthed a new idea of philosophy must have flowed through Europe as well. These free men and women, the existentialists, didn’t wan’t to communicate their new out-look on life via modus tollens, they wanted to express themselves; they wanted to communicate through art!