I witness the world through my own subjectivity.

Lesson Objectives

Appreicate the modern German roots of Existential Philosophy

Understand Kierkegaard's concern for authenticity and the role of Christianity

Understand Nietzsche's goal to affirm life by creating new art and ideas

Understand how Heidegger wants us to reflect on our own existence

Understand what Sartre means by essence, freedom, and living in Bad Faith

Understand what Camus means by living life as an Absurd Hero

Key Terms



Crowd of Untruth

Three Stages to Authenticity

Apollo vs Dyonisus

Affirmation of Life



Amor Fati






Bad Faith

Negative Ecstacy

Doomed to be Free

Existence precedes Essence

The Myth of Sisyphus

Absurd Hero

The German Road to Existentialism


• Kant shows us that we see the world through our own subjectivity

• And the path to knowledge is built through our individual experiences


• Hegel shows us that our highest aspiration is to be free (cf. Locke)

• And the path to our freedom is built by reason through art and culture


• Marx shows us that our lives are determined by our material conditions

• And the path to our freedom is blocked by Capitalists who wish us to conform

What gets lost in the Second Industrial Revolution is the personal, the individual, as humanity is made to conform to the machinery of urban, capitalist industry. So the questions raised in modern Europe are: how can my life have meaning? How do I live authentically? What is my significance in all this? Am I just another brick in the wall?

Key Points of the Existentialists

• Essence: we are not born with an essence (cf. Plato & Aristotle); rather we create our essence dynamically over a lifetime. "Existence precedes essence" (cf. Sartre)

• Nihilism (Gr. nihil: nothing): there is no inherit meaning to your life or the world

• Angst: the dread one feels at their limitless freedom to create their own life

• Authenticity: how much one's actions align with their desires (opposed to conformity)

Existential Co-Founders: Søren Kierkegaard & Friedrich Nietzsche

• Both find modern bourgeois life to be an absurd morass of meaningless inauthenticity

• Kiekegaard: a Christian who finds modern religion a problem for authenticity

• Nietzsche: an Atheist who finds modern religion a problem for authenticity

• Strangely, the two contemporaneous men never met or read each other's work