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MA. CRISTINA A.

LABAY, MM, SPBE

EXISTENTIALISM AND POSTMODERNISM

Existentialism is a term applied to the work of certain late 19th- and 20th-century
philosophers who, despite profound doctrinal differences, shared the belief that
philosophical thinking begins with the human subjectnot merely the thinking subject,
but the acting, feeling, living human individual. In existentialism, the individual's starting
point is characterised by what has been called "the existential attitude", or a sense of
disorientation and confusion in the face of an apparently meaningless or absurd world.
Many existentialists have also regarded traditional systematic or academic philosophies,
in both style and content, as too abstract and remote from concrete human experience.

Existence precedes essence


A central proposition of Existentialism is that existence precedes essence, which means
that the most important consideration for individuals is that they are individuals
independently acting and responsible, conscious beings ("existence")rather than what
labels, roles, stereotypes, definitions, or other preconceived categories the individuals fit
("essence"). The actual life of the individuals is what constitutes what could be called
their "true essence" instead of there being an arbitrarily attributed essence others use to
define them. Thus, human beings, through their own consciousness, create their own
values and determine a meaning to their life. [21] Although it was Sartre who explicitly
coined the phrase, similar notions can be found in the thought of existentialist
philosophers such as Heidegger, and Kierkegaard:

It is often claimed in this context that people define themselves, which is often
perceived as stating that they can wish to be somethinganything, a bird, for instance
and then be it. According to most existentialist philosophers, however, this would
constitute an inauthentic existence. Instead, the phrase should be taken to say that
people are (1) defined only insofar as they act and (2) that they are responsible for their
actions. For example, someone who acts cruelly towards other people is, by that act,
defined as a cruel person. Furthermore, by this action of cruelty, such persons are
themselves responsible for their new identity (cruel persons). This is as opposed to their
genes, or human nature, bearing the blame.
As Sartre writes in his work Existentialism is a Humanism: "... man first of all exists,
encounters himself, surges up in the worldand defines himself afterwards." Of course,
the more positive, therapeutic aspect of this is also implied: A person can choose to act
in a different way, and to be a good person instead of a cruel person. Here it is also
clear that since humans can choose to be either cruel or good, they are, in fact, neither
of these things essentially.[22]

The Absurd

The notion of the Absurd contains the idea that there is no meaning in the world beyond
what meaning we give it. This meaninglessness also encompasses the amorality or
"unfairness" of the world. This contrasts with the notion that "bad things don't happen to
good people"; to the world, metaphorically speaking, there is no such thing as a good
person or a bad person; what happens , and it may just as well happen to a "good"
person as to a "bad" person.

Because of the world's absurdity, at any point in time, anything can happen to
anyone, and a tragic event could plummet someone into direct confrontation with the
Absurd. The notion of the absurd has been prominent in literature throughout history.
Many of the literary works of Sren Kierkegaard, Samuel Beckett, Franz Kafka, Fyodor
Dostoyevsky, Eugne Ionesco, Luigi Pirandello,[24][25][26][27] Jean-Paul Sartre, Joseph
Heller and Albert Camus contain descriptions of people who encounter the absurdity of
the world.

It is in relation to the concept of the devastating awareness of meaninglessness


that Albert Camus claimed that "there is only one truly serious philosophical problem,
and that is suicide" in his The Myth of Sisyphus. Although "prescriptions" against the
possibly deleterious consequences of these kinds of encounters vary, from
Kierkegaard's religious "stage" to Camus' insistence on persevering in spite of absurdity,
the concern with helping people avoid living their lives in ways that put them in the
perpetual danger of having everything meaningful break down is common to most
existentialist philosophers. The possibility of having everything meaningful break down
poses a threat of quietism, which is inherently against the existentialist philosophy. [28] It
has been said that the possibility of suicide makes all humans existentialists. [29]

Facticity

Facticity is a concept defined by Sartre in Being and Nothingness as the in-itself,


of which humans are in the mode of not being. This can be more easily understood
when considering it in relation to the temporal dimension of past: one's past is what one
is, in the sense that it co-constitutes oneself. However, to say that one is only one's past
would be to ignore a significant part of reality (the present and the future), while saying
that one's past is only what one was, would entirely detach it from oneself now. A denial
of one's own concrete past constitutes an inauthentic lifestyle, and the same goes for all
other kinds of facticity (having a bodye.g. one that doesn't allow a person to run faster
than the speed of soundidentity, values, etc.).

Facticity is both a limitation and a condition of freedom. It is a limitation in that a


large part of one's facticity consists of things one couldn't have chosen (birthplace, etc.),
but a condition in the sense that one's values most likely depend on it. However, even
though one's facticity is "set in stone" (as being past, for instance), it cannot determine a
person: The value ascribed to one's facticity is still ascribed to it freely by that person.
As an example, consider two men, one of whom has no memory of his past and the
other remembers everything. They have both committed many crimes, but the first man,
knowing nothing about this, leads a rather normal life while the second man, feeling
trapped by his own past, continues a life of crime, blaming his own past for "trapping"
him in this life. There is nothing essential about his committing crimes, but he ascribes
this meaning to his past.

However, to disregard one's facticity when, in the continual process of self-


making, one projects oneself into the future,that would be to put oneself in denial of
oneself, and would thus be inauthentic. In other words, the origin of one's projection
must still be one's facticity, though in the mode of not being it (essentially). Another
aspect of facticity is that it entails angst, both in the sense that freedom "produces"
angst when limited by facticity, and in the sense that the lack of the possibility of having
facticity to "step in" for one to take responsibility for something one has done also
produces angst.

Another aspect of existential freedom is that one can change one's values. Thus,
one is responsible for one's values, regardless of society's values. The focus on
freedom in existentialism is related to the limits of the responsibility one bears as a
result of one's freedom: the relationship between freedom and responsibility is one of
interdependency, and a clarification of freedom also clarifies that for which one is
responsible.

Authenticity
Many noted existentialist writers consider the theme of authentic existence
important. Authentic existence involves the idea that one has to "create oneself" and
then live in accordance with this self. What is meant by authenticity is that in acting, one
should act as oneself, not as "one" acts or as "one's genes" or any other essence
requires. The authentic act is one that is in accordance with one's freedom. Of course,
as a condition of freedom is facticity, this includes one's facticity, but not to the degree
that this facticity can in any way determine one's choices (in the sense that one could
then blame one's background for making the choice one made). The role of facticity in
relation to authenticity involves letting one's actual values come into play when one
makes a choice (instead of, like Kierkegaard's Aesthete, "choosing" randomly), so that
one also takes responsibility for the act instead of choosing either-or without allowing
the options to have different values. [33]

In contrast to this, the inauthentic is the denial to live in accordance with one's
freedom. This can take many forms, from pretending choices are meaningless or
random, through convincing oneself that some form of determinism is true, to a sort of
"mimicry" where one acts as "one should." How "one" should act is often determined by
an image one has of how one such as oneself (say, a bank manager, lion tamer,
prostitute, etc.) acts. This image usually corresponds to some sort of social norm, but
this does not mean that all acting in accordance with social norms is inauthentic: The
main point is the attitude one takes to one's own freedom and responsibility, and the
extent to which one acts in accordance with this freedom.

Postmodernism
That postmodernism is indefinable is a truism. However, it can be described as a
set of critical, strategic and rhetorical practices employing concepts such as difference,
repetition, the trace, the simulacrum, and hyperreality to destabilize other concepts such
as presence, identity, historical progress, epistemic certainty, and the univocity of
meaning.
The term postmodernism first entered the philosophical lexicon in 1979, with
the publication of The Postmodern Condition by Jean-Franois Lyotard. I therefore give
Lyotard pride of place in the sections that follow. An economy of selection dictated the
choice of other figures for this entry. I have selected only those most commonly cited in
discussions of philosophical postmodernism, five French and two Italian, although
individually they may resist common affiliation. Ordering them by nationality might
duplicate a modernist schema they would question, but there are strong differences
among them, and these tend to divide along linguistic and cultural lines. The French, for
example, work with concepts developed during the structuralist revolution in Paris in the
1950s and early 1960s, including structuralist readings of Marx and Freud. For this
reason they are often called poststructuralists. They also cite the events of May
1968 as a watershed moment for modern thought and its institutions, especially the
universities. The Italians, by contrast, draw upon a tradition of aesthetics and rhetoric
including figures such as Giambattista Vico and Benedetto Croce. Their emphasis is
strongly historical, and they exhibit no fascination with a revolutionary moment. Instead,
they emphasize continuity, narrative, and difference within continuity, rather than
counter-strategies and discursive gaps. Neither side, however, suggests that
postmodernism is an attack upon modernity or a complete departure from it. Rather, its
differences lie within modernity itself, and postmodernism is a continuation of modern
thinking in another mode.

Postmodernism, also spelled post-modernism, in Western philosophy, a late


20th-century movement characterized by broad skepticism, subjectivism, or relativism; a
general suspicion of reason; and an acute sensitivity to the role of ideology in asserting
and maintaining political and economic power.

Postmodernism and modern philosophy

Postmodernism as a philosophical movement is largely a reaction against the


philosophical assumptions and values of the modern period of Western (specifically
European) historyi.e., the period from about the time of the scientific revolution of the
16th and 17th centuries to the mid-20th century. Indeed, many of the doctrines
characteristically associated with postmodernism can fairly be described as the
straightforward denial of general philosophical viewpoints that were taken for granted
during the 18th-centuryEnlightenment, though they were not unique to that period. The
most important of these viewpoints are the following.

1. There is an objective natural reality, a reality whose existence and properties


are logically independent of human beingsof their minds, their societies, their
social practices, or their investigative techniques. Postmodernists dismiss this
idea as a kind of naive realism. Such reality as there is, according to
postmodernists, is a conceptual construct, an artifact of scientific practice
and language. This point also applies to the investigation of past events by
historians and to the description of social institutions, structures, or practices by
social scientists.

2. The descriptive and explanatory statements of scientists and historians can, in


principle, be objectively true or false. The postmodern denial of this viewpoint
which follows from the rejection of an objective natural realityis sometimes
expressed by saying that there is no such thing as Truth.
3. Through the use of reason and logic, and with the more specialized tools
provided by science and technology, human beings are likely to change
themselves and their societies for the better. It is reasonable to expect that future
societies will be more humane, more just, more enlightened, and more
prosperous than they are now. Postmodernists deny thisEnlightenment faith
in science and technology as instruments of human progress. Indeed, many
postmodernists hold that the misguided (or unguided) pursuit of scientific and
technological knowledge led to the development of technologies for killing on a
massive scale in World War II. Some go so far as to say that science and
technologyand even reason and logicare inherently destructive and
oppressive, because they have been used by evil people, especially during the
20th century, to destroy and oppress others.

4. Reason and logic are universally validi.e., their laws are the same for, or
apply equally to, any thinker and any domain of knowledge. For postmodernists,
reason and logic too are merely conceptual constructs and are therefore valid
only within the established intellectual traditions in which they are used.

5. There is such a thing as human nature; it consists of faculties, aptitudes, or


dispositions that are in some sense present in human beings at birth rather than
learned or instilled through social forces. Postmodernists insist that all, or nearly
all, aspects of human psychology are completely socially determined.

6. Language refers to and represents a reality outside itself. According to


postmodernists, language is not such a mirror of nature, as the
American pragmatist philosopher Richard Rorty characterized the Enlightenment
view. Inspired by the work of the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure,
postmodernists claim that language is semantically self-contained, or self-
referential: the meaning of a word is not a static thing in the world or even an
idea in the mind but rather a range of contrasts and differences with the
meanings of other words. Because meanings are in this sense functions of other
meaningswhich themselves are functions of other meanings, and so onthey
are never fully present to the speaker or hearer but are endlessly deferred.
Self-reference characterizes not only natural languages but also the more
specialized discourses of particular communities or traditions; such discourses
are embedded in social practices and reflect the conceptual schemes and moral
and intellectual values of the community or tradition in which they are used. The
postmodern view of language and discourse is due largely to the French
philosopher and literary theorist Jacques Derrida (19302004), the originator and
leading practitioner of deconstruction.

7. Human beings can acquire knowledge about natural reality, and this
knowledge can be justified ultimately on the basis of evidence or principles that
are, or can be, known immediately, intuitively, or otherwise with certainty.
Postmodernists reject philosophical foundationalismthe attempt, perhaps best
exemplified by the 17th-century French philosopher Ren Descartess
dictum cogito, ergo sum (I think, therefore I am), to identify a foundation of
certainty on which to build the edifice of empirical (including scientific)
knowledge.
8. It is possible, at least in principle, to construct general theories that explain
many aspects of the natural or social world within a given domain of knowledge
e.g., a general theory of human history, such as dialectical materialism.
Furthermore, it should be a goal of scientific and historical research to construct
such theories, even if they are never perfectly attainable in practice.
Postmodernists dismiss this notion as a pipe dream and indeed as symptomatic
of an unhealthy tendency within Enlightenment discourses to adopt totalizing
systems of thought (as the French philosopher Emmanuel Lvinas called them)
or grand metanarratives of human biological, historical, and social development
(as the French philosopher Jean-Franois Lyotard claimed). These theories are
pernicious not merely because they are false but because they effectively impose
conformity on other perspectives or discourses, thereby oppressing,
marginalizing, or silencing them. Derrida himself equated the theoretical
tendency toward totality with totalitarianism.

Brian Duignan
Synthesis/Conclusion

1. Existentialism

I am a kind of professor who always helps my students develop a sense of self.


Feels that I am practicing existentialism because in an existentialist education I provide
pathways to my students explore their own values, meanings and choices. I let them
feel empowered and free to determine their own values and identities and they need
more experiences to enhance their self awareness. I want my students to feel
encouraged and to express and choose study areas.

I would like my students to show their creativity in different styles or strategies of


teaching. They will then develop their creativity and soon learn some ideas in relation
to that activity.

As a registrar, I am giving freedom to my staff, I let them use their own strategy
on how they are going to work and present their report on time. I will just check on their
on their accuracy and correctness. Although somewhere along the way, I met a hard
headed staff. A staff who is a trouble maker. Why is she acting that way? Based on my
readings again, this has something to do with her past. She and her family was
abandoned by her father. She was very angry with his father because of the latters
behavior towards the formers mother.

In my readings of existentialism, our past has something to do with what we are


now. I remember my Uncle Junior Datinguinoo. He always made us laugh, smile and
play with us during our childhood days (my sister, my cousins and I). He invested in us
beautiful memories of childhood. Why, because according to him, being a childhood is
only for a short period of time. Still I can recall all his invented short stories like Tatlong
Maria, Mariang Ipis, Pedrong Paminta etc. Because of those stories I learned from
him, I became a script writer during High School and College, inspired by my Uncle.

What we are at present has something to do with our past. But of course, if our
past is not as colorful as the others, we must think positive enough to forget the past.
Although it has relationship with present, we must learn to take it as a lesson that we
have to understand.

Sometime I have this kind of question, Why is it Unfair? Unfair to those people
who works well, do what is right, behave the way he should be, but all of a sudden, he
will be envied by others. Why is some other people, misunderstood other people?
The reason why we have to mold our students with good values and teach them to
become a better person.
Postmodernism

Postmodernism is a realization of all that was not proven does not exist. I am
afraid for the Christian Theory of knowledge. As Christian, we believe in God, that is
God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. But in the philosophy side of
Post modernism, that they will consider something to be true only of it could be proven
by reason. So there will be questions and issues again regarding our creator.

But based on my readings, the chief strengths of Postmodernism is what it


corrects and its chief weakness is what it over corrects. In politics for instance , people
will not vote anymore if the basis of the politicians are their speeches only, only
promises. Filipinos will be wiser in their decision. For me, I have to check if this
candidate is not corrupt. If this candidate has his own words and I have to check his
background, his family . In other words, in post modernism, we will be very careful not
to make the same mistakes again. But these is an over reaction to that. Because for all
the candidates to discern, study their bibliography. But, how can we do that? So there
is an over reaction.

There are people (superior, subordinates, peers and students) whom I feel can
be trusted but then later I found out that they are not, since then I become very careful
as to whom I will place my trust and confidence. Over reacting that almost everybody
will become my suspect of unfriendly acts. And that is because of my past
experiences.

Past experiences has something to do with the current situation. The reason
why we should always understand the behavior of our students. Their attitude has
something to do with their past experiences. Were they loved by their families or they
were abandoned and left to the care of their grandparents? Were they been accepted
by their peers, or they were left alone? Are their childhood colorful and exciting or very
dull and sad? From the saying that past is your lesson, the present is your gift, while
the future is your motivation. In other words, we must learn from our past. What we are
having right now is the gift from the past lessons.

Thank you Dr. Donny Magpantay for giving me such researches. I have a great
time reading my topics. God bless us all
REFERENCES:

http://www.britannica.com/topic/postmodernism-philosophy
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glossary_of_philosophy
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_rights
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capitalism,_Socialism_and_Democracy