Existentialism is the title of the set of philosophical ideals that emphasizes the existence of the human being, the lack of meaning and purpose in life, and the solitude of human existence. Existentialism maintains existence precedes essence: This implies that the human being has no essence, no essential self, and is no more that what he is. He is only the sum of life is so far he has created and achieved for himself. Existentialism acquires its name from insisting that existence precedes essence.
Existentialist thinkers are of the view that the metaphysical explanation of existence as given by the traditional schools of philosophy fails to produce satisfactory results. They also maintain that the problem of being ought to take precedence in all philosophical inquiry. Existence is always particular, unique and individual. Existentialist are opposed to the view laws explaining human freedom and activity can be formulated.
Existence is essential and fundamental: Being cannot be made a topic of objective study. Being is revealed to and felt by the human being through his own experience and his situation. So it is maintained existence is the first and central problem. Existentialism stresses the risk, the voidness of human reality and admits that the human being is thrown into the world, the world in which pain, frustration, sickness, contempt, malaise and death dominates.
It was during the Second World War, when Europe found itself in a crisis and faced with death and destruction, the existentialist movement began to flourish. The dark portrait of such a sickness could be found even in the optimistic and confident nineteenth century in the works of authors as diverse as the communist German Karl Marx (1818-1883), the religious Dane Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), the German Fredich Nietzche (1844-1900).
Existentialism as a contemporary philosophical trend reached the zenith of its popularity in the years following the war, the time when Europe was in a despairing mood, perhaps not without the hope of social reconstruction but pessimistic and morbid enough to accept the existentialist outlook of the lack of design and intention in the universe and the nausea of human existence and its frustration.
The most important philosopher of existentialist in its celebrated form was the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980), recognized as the most powerful intellectual force in France in the mid-20th century. Existentialism originated from the works of Kierkegaard, Nietzche, and the Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevoski (1821-1881).
Kierkegaard had reacted against the idealism of G. F. W. Hegel (1770–1831), whose doctrines developed from the classical idealism of Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). The existentialist stand that is opposed to the view of reducing existence to reason can be seen in the polemic of the idealist F. W. J. von Schelling, a contemporary of Hegel. Nietzche was influenced deeply by Arthur Schopenhauer (1778-1860), whose views were strikingly pessimistic. The influence of Blaise Pascal (1632-1662) on the existentialists should also not be overlooked.