Friday, December 02, 2011

Existentialism : A Philosophy of Life


What I really lack is to be clear in my mind what I am to do, not what I am to know, except in so far as a certain knowledge must precede every action. The thing is to understand myself, to see what God really wishes me to do: the thing is to find a truth which is true for me, to find the idea for which I can live and die. ... I certainly do not deny that I still recognize an imperative of knowledge and that through it one can work upon men, but it must be taken up into my life, and that is what I now recognize as the most important thing.
—Søren Kierkegaard


In 1835 the Danish philosopher Kierkegaard summarized his philosophy in this highly charged and emotional passage of a letter he wrote to his friend Peter Wilhelm Lund. When he first proposed his philosophy he had no idea how it would be received by other philosophers, especially philosophers of future generation. It is not uncommon to discover a relatively unknown philosopher and use his philosophy as a foundation or breeding ground to develop one’s own philosophy. Philosophers who are also men of knowledge do not materialize out of thin air. They owe their birth to some known or unknown philosopher. In that regard all other philosophers who can be placed in this broad category of existentialist are children of Kierkegaard.
Father of Existentialism

However, at present we are less concerned with how his philosophy evolved in future than what his philosophy without the label of existentialism means.

As I read his words again and again I understood a bit of what he is really trying to say


1. What I really lack is to be clear in my mind what I am to do, not what I am to know, except in so far as a certain knowledge must precede every action.…

Kierkegaard proposes that what he know like his knowledge of many little and big truths of life, for instance presence of good and evil characters in society, and abstract truths of natural sciences like  physics, chemistry, astronomy etc. is not that important if this knowledge does not help him in some way to understand his nature and gives him a clear idea about what he is to do in his life.  

Thus knowledge that serves my purpose and gives meaning to my life is worth aspiring for, as without it I would always be in an utter state of confusion and disorientation and would never be able give a definite direction to my life. 


2.       The thing is to understand myself, to see what God really wishes me to do: the thing is to find a truth which is true for me, to find the idea for which I can live and die. ...

Here he further elaborates his philosophy by saying that what is important is to understand myself i.e. importance of gaining  knowledge that would help him get a clear idea of how he is to act. Since he believed in God he say, “to see what God really wishes me to do” which adds weight to the same proposition about knowledge.


What he says next i.e., “to find a truth which is true for me, to find idea for which I can live and die…” seems to be a bit extreme as we can clear feel the connotation of  strong words used about “my truth.”

According to him finding the truth that is true to you and living and dying for it comprises a happy life. A life well lived, for which you would have no regret.

Thus philosophy, knowledge and everything else has meaning if it helps a person live a better life, a meaningful life, a happy life. This is the crux of existentialism; simple acknowledgement of the fact that my existence has meaning because I give it a meaning which is most suitable for me.

Thus everything has meaning in relation to me and for me. Existentialism means— I exist because there is something that gives meaning to my life. 

Continue your journey  read... Existentialism: A Perspective




1 comment:

nothingprofound said...

Yes. It's not what one knows that counts, but how one lives.

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