I am not an Existentialist, though I do agree with quite a lot of the existential philosophy – especially in dealing with the meaning or purpose of life.
Existentialism is considered a ‘Continental Philosophy’ and is more interested in the experience of life as opposed to the rational and logical analysis of life that the ‘Analytic Philosophies’ found in UK and America are based on. I, personally, have little respect for the Analytic Philosophies, for they far too often seem to ignore the realities of life.
Many existentialists are atheist, but just as there is a religious branch of humanism, so, too, is there a spiritual branch of existentialism. But spiritual/religious existentialists do not try to explain religious phenomenon rationally, but rather realize that the spiritual experience is part of all of existence and the experience of existence. And that’s what existentialism is about, in a simplified form – the experience of existence.
Existentialists believe that there is no real purpose to existence. We live because we are alive. We die because it is natural for living things to die. And in the course of things we are responsible for our own actions and our own fates; and while some people may think my beliefs in deity differ from these beliefs, they really don’t in many ways.
I believe that the universe is essentially amoral. That life goes through it’s natural cycles, but that there is no real purpose to go through these cycles other than the fact that it is natural for us to do so. The concept of wyrd also emphasizes personal responsibility in forging their fate. And that is a very important part of life which most people seem to want to do away with, because personal responsibility is both freeing, but also very frightening. How horrible for people to be responsible for themselves… to have no one else to blame. But such is life…
And the purpose of life is to live it, and to experience it. One of my favorite philosophers in these realm is Jaspers – though he isn’t strictly an existentialist, which is probably one reason why I like him so much. He had a distaste for classical, formal philosophy and tried to get his students to engage in “philosophizing”. He believed that there were different levels to existence, and that the objective was but one of them – and he considered it a rather simplistic level at that.
Existentialism, in a sense, is about discovering the self… the true self… without delusion and through the experience of self. We define ourselves based on our social interactions, even if our definition of ourselves is to be anti-society. And our perceptions, our truths, our selves are constantly evolving as we learn and grow and adapt. Our realities change based on our perceptions of our selves, our place in life, and our experiences of life.
An Overview of Existentialism
Brief article with links to various other sources
"Conflicts may be the sources of defeat,
"You are alive.
~Neil Gaiman, as Dream from 'The Sandman'