existentialism Also called existential philosophy, existentialist philosophy, a relatively modern view in philosophy (although with historical roots as far back as Greek and medieval philosophy) associated in its inception with Sören Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche. Its primary and best-known exponent in contemporary philosophy is the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. Other existentialists: Camus, Jaspers, Heidegger, Marcel. There are many varieties of existentialism ranging from atheism to theism, from phenomenalism and phenomenology to forms of Aristotelianism. Some of the following themes are common to existentialists: 1. existence precedes essence. Forms do not determine existence to be what it is. Existence fortuitously becomes and is whatever it becomes and is, and that existence then makes up its essence. 2. an individual has no essential nature, no selfidentity other than that involved in the act of choosing. 3. truth is subjectivity. 4. abstractions can neither grasp nor communicate the reality of individual existence. 5. philosophy must concern itself with the human predicament and inner states such as alienation, anxiety, inauthenticity, dread, sense of nothingness, and anticipation of death. 6. the universe has no rational direction or scheme. It is meaningless and absurd. 7. the universe does not provide moral rules. Moral principles are constructed by humans in the context of being responsible for their actions and for the actions of others. 8. individual actions are unpredictable. 9. individuals have complete freedom of the will. 10. individuals cannot help but make choices. 11. an individual can become completely other than what he or she is. See bad faith; ontology.