Existence & experience

The wanderer above the sea of fog

The wanderer above the sea of fog
Caspar David Friedrich (1818)

Is one’s life absurd and meaningless?

Existentialism as a general philosophical orientation might be understood to cluster around a range of themes. Broadly, one might begin with a consideration of the ‘nothingness’ at the heart of human existence. The consciousness of being a something instead of nothing, and the dread of not being.

This nothingness is a kind of gap, or disappearance, relative to one’s existing, and not an absolute nothingness in which nothing whatsoever exists.

To exist provokes questions as to what exists, how it exists, why it exists, where and when it exists. One’s existence is specific, particular, and limited, rather than general, universal, and unlimited.

The themes of differentiation and of anxiety, and of its further shore, anguish, emerge here as responses to nothingness, and to one’s finitude.

Both the anticipation of death and the nature of freedom are key existentialist themes.