Existentialism And Humanism

There are many different types of philosophies widely regarded throughout society, in different cultures, religions, and faiths. Many are vastly different, and many are quite similar in some core characteristics. Existentialism is the approach in which the individual is a free person and may determine their own development through free will. Humanism does not necessarily contrast with this, but focuses on the goodness and characteristics of humans overall. While there are many different schools and types of philosophy, humanism and existentialism are two of the widely popular and debated theories, or outlooks.

What is Existentialism?

Existentialism housed many popular philosophers, including Nietzsche, Sartre, and Dostoyevsky. In a broader sense, this philosophy maintains focus on analyzing the nature of existence and existence itself. The notion that existentialists hold is that humans exist first, and then throughout life, their nature, personality, thoughts and essence alter and change. Most existentialists will consider the following to be concepts they agree with:

  • The act of free will

  • The futility of desire

  • Irrationality does exist

  • Discipline is important

  • Personal responsibility is important

  • Stress, ultimatums and consequences exist when decision making

  • Society is unnatural and holds unnatural and senseless traditions and rules

And broadly, existentialists will agree that they do not support these notions:

  • People are generally good

  • Individuals are controlled by social values

  • Science can and will improve things

  • Wealth is essential

  • Pleasure is necessary

What is Humanism?

Humanism is often regarded not as a philosophy but a general stance in life, which focuses on upholding reason, ethics and justice. Humanism focuses on the good for and of all people, and to many humanists, the ultimate goal is human flourishing, meaning doing good and exiting the world as a better place than when they entered it. Since Humanism is so broad in its applications and beliefs and certainly varies from person to person, it’s difficult to assign any attributes to those who follow or agree with it.

Humanists are generally focused on an ethical doctrine, however. This means that in humanism, all people are given dignity and worth, and their ability to determine what is right and wrong are based off of rationality. Humanism also focuses on morality and truth, but does so through human means and interests. A great example of humanist thought would be Gautama Buddha, from the Buddhist religion, or Confucius as well. Many different countries and people follow humanism, but it is most widely known relevant to Western philosophy.


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