What are the 5 tenets of existentialism?

Answered by Ricardo McCardle

The 5 tenets of existentialism are fundamental principles that shape the philosophy and worldview of this philosophical school of thought. As an individual who has delved into existentialist thinking, I can offer you a detailed answer that incorporates personal experiences and situations.

1. Fear, trembling, and anxiety: One of the central tenets of existentialism is the acknowledgement and acceptance of fear, trembling, and anxiety as inherent aspects of human existence. Existentialists believe that these emotions arise from the awareness of our own mortality and the uncertainty of our existence. Rather than trying to escape or suppress these feelings, existentialism encourages us to confront and embrace them. In my own life, I have found that acknowledging and accepting my fears and anxieties has allowed me to navigate through them and find a sense of authenticity and freedom.

2. “Existence before Essence”: This phrase captures the existentialist belief that our existence precedes any predetermined essence or purpose. In other words, we are not born with a predetermined meaning or role in life; instead, we have the freedom to create our own meaning and purpose through our choices and actions. This tenet emphasizes the individual’s responsibility for shaping their own life and the importance of personal agency. Personally, I have experienced the transformative power of this tenet by realizing that I have the freedom to define my own values and goals, rather than feeling constrained by societal expectations or external pressures.

3. The encounter of nothingness and freedom: Existentialism explores the concept of nothingness or nihilism, which refers to the absence of inherent meaning or value in the world. Existentialists argue that in the face of this nothingness, we are confronted with our own freedom to create meaning and define our own values. This tenet highlights the existentialist belief in the individual’s capacity for self-determination and the responsibility that comes with it. I have personally grappled with the existentialist concept of nothingness and found that it has fueled my desire to seek out and create meaning in my life, even in the face of uncertainty and existential angst.

4. After despair: Existentialism recognizes the inherent human capacity for despair and acknowledges that it is a natural response to the struggles and challenges of existence. However, existentialists also emphasize the possibility of transcending despair through the exercise of freedom and the creation of meaning. This tenet encourages individuals to confront their despair head-on and actively engage with it, rather than avoiding or denying it. Personally, I have found that facing moments of despair and actively seeking out meaning and purpose has allowed me to navigate through difficult times and find a sense of resilience and fulfillment.

5. Alienation or estrangement: Existentialism acknowledges the sense of alienation or estrangement that individuals may experience in a world that often feels meaningless or disconnected. This tenet highlights the existentialist belief that true connection and authenticity can be achieved through genuine encounters with others and a recognition of our shared humanity. I have personally felt the deep longing for connection and authenticity, and have found solace in seeking out meaningful relationships and engaging in open and honest dialogue with others.

The tenets of existentialism encompass the acknowledgment of fear, trembling, and anxiety; the idea of “existence before essence”; the encounter of nothingness and freedom; the possibility of transcending despair; and the recognition of alienation or estrangement. These tenets encourage individuals to confront the inherent uncertainties and challenges of existence, take responsibility for shaping their own lives, and actively seek out and create meaning and connection.