The Stack Overflow podcast is back! Listen to an interview with our new CEO.

A loose title covering : the individual, the experience of choice, and the absence of rational understanding of the universe with a consequent dread or sense of absurdity in human life.

A term actively used by Jean Paul Sartre to refer to the idea that "existence precedes essence". Sartre also attributed this view to others. Some were dead and unable to verify; others, such as Heidegger, rejected the title. The basic model is that an individual must make decisive choices in the absence of a complete understanding of the universe and these have consequences.

Used more generally, A loose title covering : the individual, the experience of choice, and the absence of rational understanding of the universe with a consequent dread or sense of absurdity in human life.

The combination suggests an emotional tone or mood rather than a set of deductively related theses.

Existentialism attained is zenith in Europe following the disenchantment of the Second World War. However, the first significant philosopher to stress such themes was Kierkegaard, whose work is generally regarded as the origin of existentialism. (he called Fear and Trembling for instance an "existential lyric").

Existentialist writing both reacts against the view that the universe is a closed, coherent, intelligible system, and finds the resulting contingency a cause for lamentation.

[Source : Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy]

history | excerpt history