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Posted on May 31st, 2012, by

It has always been hard to define the notion Continental philosophy, F. Nietzsche remarks in his work On the Genealogy of Morals that only that which is without history can be defined, continental philosophy is rich in facts and history on the whole. Continental philosophy appeared in European countries, such as Germany, France, etc. long before the nineteenth century, as a reaction to the idealism of Georg Hegel. Existentialism was included into the concept of Continental philosophy, and was biased on the principle that a person creates the purport of his life, its nature by himself. The philosophic movement is represented by such thinkers as Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, etc. Sartre stated that existence precedes essence, and became the basic slogan, which means that person’s existence foreruns and is the most important in his life. In his work Essays in Existentialism, Sartre comments it the following way: If man, as the existentialist conceives him, is indefinable, it is because at first he is nothing. Only afterward will he be something, and he himself will have made what he will be.

Existentialism’s adherents found the traditional philosophy inapplicable to a human, as it must be concentrated on an individual and his or her interconnection with the irrational world. They analyzed the roots of behavior and being one of the founders of existentialism Soren Kierkegard concluded that far from idleness being the root of all evil, it is rather the only true good. At the same time together with F. Nietzsche and Arthur Schopenhauer he supposed that life without problems and difficulties, would make the human existence purposeless. Kierkegard turned down the idealism of Hegel, who stated: Mere goodness can achieve little against the power of nature. His views were influenced by Emmanuel Kant and considered the world to be irrational.

Nietzsche stated that the world depended on cosmic will. He believed in the fact that superman is the one who can live full life. Philosophical views of Kierkegard, Nietzsche and Schopenhauer formed existentialism as a separate movement. They were directed against the social disorders. Some more representatives of the movement were Camus and Sartre. In spite of the fact that the leading principle of Camus’s philosophical works was finding the reason why one should not commit suicide, he wrote in his Myth of Sisyphus: I see many people die because they judge that life is not worth living. I see others paradoxically getting killed for the ideas or illusions that give them a reason for living (what is called a reason for living is also an excellent reason for dying). I therefore conclude that the meaning of life is the most urgent of questions. He believed that few people know what life is, and that is the reason for their misery.

Jean-Paul Sartre was atheistic; he was influenced by Husserl and Heidegger. Sartre supposed that there is no definite standard of values, as an individual is not bound to God. His work Being and Nothingness is by far a significant contribution into the world philosophy. Phenomenology has existed for many centuries. The most prominent figure in phenomenology is Edmund Husserl, developing transcendental phenomenology. He stated that phenomenology is the study of consciousness.

To sum it up, Continental philosophy created a so called argumentative opposition to Hegelian idealism, and it has already become obvious that phenomenology has common roots with existentialism.

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