I have done quite a bit of research into this and I simply cannot find much at all about arguments against existentialism aside from determinism, religious arguments and essentialism, let alone any philosophers who were anti-existentialist (I've heard that Blanshard was, but can't find anything about that). All help much appreciated!

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    Out of curiousity - who do you consider as existentialist philosophers? Commented May 10, 2014 at 8:51
  • I would consider the prime existentialist philosopher to be Sartre, but also Camus and, to a lesser extent, Kierkegaard (I say that because he was a founder and existentialism in the Sartrean sense hadn't yet evolved) Commented May 10, 2014 at 8:53
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    Out of curiosity- what are the philosophically interesting claims of existentialism?
    – sequitur
    Commented May 10, 2014 at 12:57
  • @sequitur the fundamental basis of existentialism is that existence precedes essence (at least for Sartrean existentialism) which is, AFAIK, unique. I suggest you read Existentialism and humanism by Sartre to get a good understanding of his teachings. Commented May 11, 2014 at 1:09

2 Answers 2


One simple example of a philosopher who would have disagreed with the "existence precedes essence bit" is Plato:

Plato's theory of Forms or theory of Ideas asserts that non-material abstract (but substantial) forms (or ideas), and not the material world of change known to us through sensation, possess the highest and most fundamental kind of reality.

He was obviously not contemporary to the modern Existentialists (so not "Anti-Existentialist" in that sense), but his works offer one possible opposite arguments from the Existentialists.

  • Even though it looks like Plato rejects present it is not argument against existentialism. Simply because only in this reality plato could grasp his ideas which means that this reality already intersects with plato's higher world. In modern words we can read/translate plato like this - Reality can transform from lower to higher states. And his ideas are these higher states. But it always exists, it is always here. So existentialism is really invincible.
    – Asphir Dom
    Commented May 13, 2014 at 21:06

Although he is usually considered an existentialist, (the later) Heidegger is against Sartre's claim that existence precedes essence in his Letter on Humanism:

Sartre expresses the basic tent of existentialism in this way: Existence precedes essence. In this statement he is taking existentia and essentia according to their metaphysical meaning, which from Plato’s time on has said that essentia precedes existentia. Sartre reverses this statement. But the reversal of a metaphysical statement remains a metaphysical statement. With it he stays with metaphysics in oblivion of the truth of Being (p. 250)

'Existentia' and 'essentia' are said of beings as they are ontotheologically thought by metaphysics, i.e. according to the paradigm of an artifact present for the eye. Sartre does not question this paradigm, but merely reverses it, claims Heidegger.

In his earlier Being and Time, which inspired Sartre's existentialism, Heidegger says the essence (Wesen) of Dasein is existence, but he means something different with 'Wesen' (verbally, i.e. the way a being is towards Dasein) and 'Existenz' (restricted to Dasein only: the way in which Dasein is towards itself).

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