Expository essay on existentialism
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The fundamental reason why students should devote hours of their weeks to novels, philosophy, art, music, or history is not so that they can hone their communication skills or refine their critical thinking. It is because the humanities offer students a profound sense of existential purpose. The real challenge that we face today, then, lies in explaining to a perplexed, but not necessarily hostile audience -- and perhaps even to ourselves -- why it is that the study of literature, anthropology, art history, or classics can be so meaningful, and why this existential rationale is equally important as other, more utilitarian ones.
So how might we go about defining this existential value?
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- Abstract of "No Exit" by Jean Paul Sartre;
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A good place to start would be with existentialism itself. A premise of existentialist philosophy is that we live in a world without inherent meaning.
For atheists, this is often understood as the human condition following the death of God. Abraham had to decide for himself whether the angel who commanded him to halt his sacrifice was genuinely a divine messenger. While it may feel as though a humanities vocation is a calling, you still have to decide to answer the call. We are, existentialists insist, creatures of purpose, a thesis that psychological research has also confirmed. Now what does this have to do with the humanities? At the same time, we also know that some people do find it deeply meaningful to peruse these works, and even to dedicate their careers to studying them.
What is it, then, that lovers of literature -- to consider but them for the moment -- find so existentially rewarding about reading? In a recent book , my colleague Joshua Landy argues that one of the more satisfying features of literature is that it creates the illusion of a meaningful world. If art offered only illusions of necessity, it would hardly satisfy existential longing.
So why does the semblance of an orderly universe enchant us so? Well-ordered, fictional worlds attract us, it seems, because we, too, aspire to live lives from which contingency is kept at bay. But what do we pursue?
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Behind the beautiful object -- sonnet, style, or sculpture -- we reach for the idea of order itself. The promise of happiness made by art is a promise of purpose. But a promise of purpose is still a bird in the bush: it can disappear when you put down the book, or leave the concert hall. But Kant may have underestimated how the sense of artistic purpose can also seep into our own lives. For instance, as Plato and every teenager know well, instrumental music can give voice to inexpressible feelings without the help of language.
These emotional frameworks can convey a potent sense of purpose. Its somber, resolute progress, punctuated by brief moments of respite, helped to keep my vacillating emotions under control. As in films, sometimes it is the soundtrack that gives meaning to our actions. The promise of order found in beautiful works of art, then, can inspire us to find purpose in our own lives. The illusion of a world where everything is in its place helps us view reality in a different light. This process is particularly clear -- indeed, almost trivial -- in those humanistic disciplines that do not deal primarily with aesthetic objects, such as philosophy.
We aren't attracted to the worldviews of Plato, Kant, or Sartre, purely for the elegance of their formal structure.
Sometimes, when you read philosophy, it seems as though the whole world has snapped into place. So where art initially appeals to us through intimations of otherworldly beauty, a more prolonged engagement with the humanities can produce a sense of order in the here and now. And while particularly evident with philosophy, this sensation of finally making sense of the world, and of your own place in it, can come from many quarters of the humanities.
Existentialism Essay Bartleby. When discussing existentialism, the man responsible for this quote is always attached to the.
Essay on Sartre's "No Exit" | Ultius
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