The Many Guises of the Absurd- Week 2 notes (In bold at the bottom my feedback)

Recap of last week,

Camus said ‘unreasonable silence of the world’ talking about absurdity. Existentialism- lack of meaning in the universe, free will,big questions, how life is lived, doing not thinking about it.

The concepts of Existentialism-

  • Existence precedes Essence
  • Facticity and transcendence
  • Alienation
  • Authenticity
  • Freedom and value
  • Anxiety, nothingness and the Absurd

Existence Precedes Essence

Sartre says ‘ man first of all exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world- and defines himself afterwards. If man as the existentialist sees him is not definable, it is because to begin with he is nothing. He will not be anything until later, and then he will be what he makes of himself’

What sartre is saying is we are born without an essence only when we grow up and experience the world and life around us we form our essence.

Atheist existentialists believe that man just is until he forms the essence of himself through his own endeavour in existing, thus existence precedes essence.

The freedom and responsibility of this produces anxiety and fear because, without God providing us with values and meanings, humanity is left alone without an external source of direction or purpose. Religious existentialists propose that god gave us free will and choice this gives us the notion that we are responsible.

Sartre proposes that it is wrong to categorise human existence with that of inanimate objects, he calls the difference between the two types of existence, unconscious being (being in itself) and conscious being (Being for itself). (We think therefore we are)

Facticity and Transcendence

Facticity is the fixed information by which things exist, date of birth, physical attributes.

Transcendence-the stance one takes towards their own facticity and the attitude towards ones self that is characteristic of engagement with the world or choice and free will, transcendence ‘goes beyond’

essence towards existentialism- facticity and transcendence has a balance- managed properly, calm and happy being in the world.

Children, are born and their essence developes by what they are taught, from teachers, parents family, we influence that.

Adolescence- brings and unsettling awareness that the comforting framework of values taken for granted as children is not fixed and unchanging…This moment is crucial. If, on realizing this, people refuse to accept their freedom in the face of the collapse of their childhood faith, they choose a life of self-deception. They choose to deny their freedom.” Robert Holmes, Professor of Philosophy, Rochester – Ethics, Social Philosophy and Philosophy of War.

Anarchy in the uk, sex pistols, outside of the established norms, authentic to your own beliefs.


third layer to this being, through transcendence we can only be subjective, we can only know the singularity of our own existence Only another can see the individual as an objective component of the world, it is not possible for him to see this for himself – he can only know his own subjective transcendence

We only know ourselves, so we only experience the life in our own world. In our head and how we are in the world, According to Sartre, emotional alienation occurs when we avoid experiencing our own subjectivity by identifying only with “the look” of the other. The consequence can only be conflict.

Shame, Peeping through the keyhole to listen in to a conversation about you, I have free will I waned to listen in and have responded to by doing so, but I am involved only in the subjective (my own desire and the resultant act) but if someone else appears behind me I am suddenly aware of my place within the context of the world, they can judge me and I can feel shame. Our own perspective cannot be objective for the notion of being for all of mankind.


For the existentialists this names the attitude in which an individual applies their facticity and transcendence or their conscious being to the objective world in which they exist. God cannot provide norms for us to live by Philosophy cannot provide norms for us to live by Free will and choice. Authenticity is the attitude with which an individual develops his essence through managing his facticity and transcendence in his engagement with the world around him.

A person’s behaviour becomes in authentic if their actions are for the sake of duty only and not thought about. Choosing to act in the same way changes things, we must own the dutiful act and commit to it. By doing so this is how we develop our essence. For Sartre any ruptures in the management of Facticity and Transcendence constitute “Bad Faith” or self deception This impacts on the individual’s ability to have meaning in their life and within the world. Existentialism approaches the question of value through the possibility of authenticity being an indicator of freedom of choice or ‘free will’.

Freedom and Value

According to the existentialists, existence is self making through our essence, and a value system has arisen entirely from a combined human essence or human behavior. How we engage with the world. Varying levels of consciousness, Alex the African Grey Parrot asked what colour am i? How do we know that animals are not asking these questions?

Anxiety, nothingness and the Absurd

Familiar existential themes of anxiety, nothingness and the Absurd need to be understood within the context of the worry about inauthenticity leading to a lack of moral values and the abuse of free will. Walking man, dragging his feet, firmly stuck to the ground. ‘Losing humanity and becoming a thing amongst the things he produces’.

Born of fear, feeling threatened or vulnerable but Sartre and Heidegger both separate fear from anxiety. Fear of a direct object within the world. Anxiety no direct threat. Anxiety occurs when there is a withdrawal from the practical engagement from the world, a retreat, if it is the practical engagement with the world and others that gives the individual a role and an identity and therefore gives meaning to life, then it stands to reason that the removal of this meaning leads to anxiety. According to Heidegger this anxiety comes from an individual’s lack of understanding of his own world view or his own self view. In other words… …If I have reached a point where I cannot maintain my essence then my own existence is meaningless… …Acknowledging that I am ‘not anything’ thus involves contemplating my own death…

Sartre argues that this anxiety produces a very vivid experience of the enormous responsibility of absolute freedom for the individual. Existentialism argues therefore, that human beings will expend enormous efforts in avoiding the anguish of freedom, which results in ‘bad faith’ or self-deception. According to the existentialists then, we are “condemned to be free,” which means that we can never simply exist. We must attend to our ‘essence’ continually make choices and continually commit in order to maintain authenticity. If we are inauthentic then there is nothingness.

I really enjoyed today’s lecture, I found it interesting to discover the concepts of the existentialism’s, I found it a lot to take in but when I re-read the powerpoints a lot more will make sense. I found the concepts to be quite true. I think I need more time to look over these points again, I struggled with the concept of being authentic and inauthentic because it could contradict itself sometimes. We have some reading for next week and I hope I can understand it as I struggle to read the longer words.


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