andrew wyeth christina’s world (1948)

ANDREW WYETH Christina’s World (1948) A complex philosophy emphasizing the absurdity of reality and the human responsibility to make choices and accept

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EXISTENTIALISM. A complex philosophy emphasizing the absurdity of reality and the human responsibility to make choices and accept consequences!. ANDREW WYETH Christina’s World (1948). Big Ideas of Existentialism. - PowerPoint PPT Presentation



Christina’s World (1948)

A complex philosophy emphasizing the

absurdity of reality and the human

responsibility to make choices and accept



Untitled (1968)

Big Ideas of ExistentialismBig Ideas of Existentialism

Despite encompassing a huge range of philosophical, religious, and political ideologies, the underlying concepts of existentialism are simple…

Existence Precedes EssenceExistence Precedes Essence

Cogito ergo sum.

Existentialism is the title of the set of philosophical ideals that emphasize the existence of the human being, the lack of meaning and purpose in life, and the solitude of human existence… “Existence precedes essence” implies that the human being has no essence (no essential self).


• The belief that nothing can explain or rationalize human existence.

• There is no answer to “Why am I?”

• Humans exist in a meaningless, irrational universe and any search for order will bring them into direct conflict with this universe.


Love Song

It was during the Second World War, when Europe found itself in a crisis faced with death and destruction, that the existential movement began to flourish, popularized in France in the 1940s.

Choice and CommitmentChoice and Commitment

• Humans have freedom to choose.

• Each individual makes choices that create his or her own nature.

• Because we choose, we must accept risk and responsibility for wherever our commitments take us.

• “A human being is absolutely free and absolutely responsible. Anguish is the result.” –Jean-Paul Sartre


Les Larmes (Tears)

Dread and AnxietyDread and Anxiety

Dread and AnxietyDread and Anxiety• Dread is a feeling of general

apprehension. Kierkegaard interpreted it as God’s way of calling each individual to make a commitment to a personally valid way of life.

• Anxiety stems from our understanding and recognition of the total freedom of choice that confronts us every moment, and the individual’s confrontation with nothingness.


Night in Saint Cloud (1890)

NothingnessNothingness and Death and Death

• Death hangs over all of us. Our awareness of it can bring freedom or anguish.

• I am my own existence. Nothing structures my world.

• “Nothingness is our inherent lack of self. We are in constant pursuit of a self. Nothingness is the creative well-spring from which all human possibilities can be realized.” –Jean-Paul Sartre

Nothingness and DeathNothingness and Death


“L’absinthe” (1876)

Alienation or Alienation or EstrangementEstrangement

• From all other humans

• From human institutions

• From the past

• From the future• We only exist right now,

right here.

Edward Hopper “New York Movie” (1939)

Edward Hopper “New York Movie” (1939)

Human SubjectivityHuman Subjectivity

“I will be what I choose to be.”

It is impossible to transcend human subjectivity.

“There are no true connections between people.”

My emotions are yet another choice I make. I am responsible for them.

All existentialists are concerned with the study of being or ontology.

TO REVIEW: An existentialist believes that a person’s life is nothing but the sum of the life he has shaped for himself. At every moment it is always his own free will choosing how to act. He is responsible for his actions, which limit future actions. Thus, he must create a morality in the absence of any known predetermined absolute values. God does not figure into the equation, because even if God does exist, He does not reveal to men the meaning of their lives. Honesty with oneself is the most important value. Every decision must be weighed in light of all the consequences of that action.

Life is absurd, but we engage it!

GEORGIA O’KEEFFESky Above White Clouds I (1962)

Human existence cannot be captured by reason or objectivity –– it must include passion, emotion and the subjective.

Each of us is responsible for everything and to every human being.

–Simone de Beauvoir

Some Famous Some Famous ExistentialistsExistentialists

• Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)

• Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)

• Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980)

• Albert Camus (1913-1960)

“A woman is not born…she is created.”

de Beauvoir’s most famous text is The Second Sex (1949), which some claim is the basis for current gender studies.

Nietzsche and Nihilism

“Every belief, every considering something-true is necessarily false because there is simply no true world. Nihilism is…not only the belief that everything deserves to perish; but one actually puts one’s shoulder to the plow; one destroys. For some time now our whole European culture has been moving as toward a catastrophe, with a tortured tension that is growing from decade to decade: restlessly, violently, headlong, like a river that wants to reach the end… .” (Will to Power)

Out, out, brief candle!

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

And then is heard no more; it is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.


Albert Camus dissociated himself from the existentialists but acknowledged man’s lonely condition in the universe. His “man of the absurd” (or absurd hero) rejects despair and commits himself to the anguish and responsibility of living as best he can.

Basically, man creates himself through the choices he makes. There are no guides for these choices, but he has to make them anyway, which renders life absurd.

“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.”

“It was previously a question of finding out whether or not life had to have a meaning to be lived. It now becomes clear, on the contrary, that it will be lived all the better if it has no meaning.”