Historical and Philosophical Roots

Existentialism is a philosophical term which is used to describe how human live in the world from the time they find themselves existing. According to this theory, human first exists, and then each person finds a unique way in which they live in the world. The theory suggests that the novel way in which people finds their way into life is determined by the free will accorded to each person (Singer, 2006). Such free will help them to have diverging choices about their lives, and thus, in the end, there is a substantial heterogeneity on how humans endure on earth. Since its introduction in the late 19th century, existentialism theory has developed in different stages, and even in the modern society; it forms a big foundation is evaluating and solving human existence issues. The current paper aims at analyzing historical and philosophical roots of existentialism, modern extensions in this theory, and recent theoretical support.

The Emergency of the Concept Existentialism

The original idea of the theory of existentialism is argued to have commenced in the late 19th century from philosophers Soren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsches. Notwithstanding that their work did not introduce the term existentialism, it covered the most important issue inscribed in this theory. Kierkegaard work presented the idea of human existence; where he argued that outcome of personal life are circumscribed by how people make choices with regards to aesthetic, ethical, and the religious issues. Nietzsches, on the other hand, submitted the idea of life-affirming. He stated that human existence was determined by all doctrines which drain life’s energies. Thus, aspects of evil, death and bad faith were some of those that would be used to define the life of a person.


Development of the Term Existentialism and the Theory

After the introduction of the concept in late 19th century, more scholar started debating the issue in the early 1900s. Martin Heidegger was the first philosopher at the beginning of the 20th century to write about human existence. His approach was anchored on the idea of consciousness where the human life was assumed to be determined by the inherent consciousness nature of each person. Other philosophers who followed Heidegger introduced other approaches like intentionality; where they stated that personal intentions were significant in the configuration of individual life. The climax of all this work was registered by Jean-Paul Sartre who is now distinguished as the leader of existentialism theory.

In his work, Jean-Paul Sartre introduced the term existentialism as it is used today, and also presented it as a philosophical approach. First, he submitted the idea that existence precedes essence. To explain this concept, Sartre argued that humans are born with no purposes, they thus exist without any substance in their life. The essence thus occurs after the existing takes place; hence, people are responsible for their essence or purpose of existence. He also emphasized that human can be described as nothingness at the point they come into existence because at this point, they have nothing of an essence to them.

The major philosophical issues that lead to the development of essence in human life as per Sartre are defined by facticity and transcendence, alienation, and authenticity. Concerning facticity and transcendence, he stated that human nature was designed to have a personal perfection and excellence. All human have a conscious and intent within them that guide them to create a life that is best for them. The humans’ desires are thus always to the best of self, and people try to avoid all the bad evils which affect their lives.

Humans also does not like alienation, and thus they exist with other individuals in the society. The problem with this existence is that a person has no control of other people’s minds and thus they must learn to live together. Hence, human always create relationships with other for the benefit of their existence. Lastly, for to define authenticity in personal life, Sartre states that freedom is quite essential. All human must have the liberty to choose what is facticity and transcendence to them so as to fulfill their desires. If humans have that space of free will, then they can have authenticity in their lives.

Modern Extensions in Existentialism

After the development of the original theory on existentialism, the modern philosophers in the field have also extended the initial concept. The extensions of the primary work started in the late mid-20th century, and have endured to the present times. Some of these expansion includes the feminism, existential ethics, and deconstruction. Most of these extensions still from major issues in the modern existentialism.

Existentialism and Feminism

The extension of existentialism and feminism began in the 1950s when Simone de Beauvoir wrote a paper that was linking Sartre work with the issue of women rights. In her work, Beauvoir first demonstrated that women are affected in the society due to the bad evils. She stated that aspects of the adventurer and the passionate man were demeaning the desire and the nature of women thus making them less of what they are supposed to be. Other evil that she found included the wicked man and the attitude of seriousness which also acts against the interest of the women in the society.

She added that females in the society are affected by the evils mentioned above because of the overarching causes which deny women freedom across the world. Among those reasons she outlined includes the religion in which women are viewed as subordinates to and requires them to be used as a mans object thus denying the freedom they need. Money is also another causes of women oppression because men have created institutions that help them gain more money, thus forcing women to rely on them in getting those funds. She thus states that women could not create essence to their lives if complete freedom were not given to them.

Even in the modern society, this new extension still affects the feminism movements. The rational feminism is the leading idealist movement in this theory as they ask for equality so as each gender can achieve its maximum potentials. Despite that they have been such effort in place for over half a century, the feminism equality based on existentialism freedom has not be attained and thus its relevance will continue to endure till the equality is achieved.

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Existentialism and Deconstruction

In the early modernization period, the idea of existentialism was also extended to the deconstruction phase. In this new approach, all the past notions about life which were preventing the development of human nature were overlooked thus focusing on free will as the only determined in which life was based on. The main idea of this new approach was to eliminate factors that were causing conflict in humans in the European region which even lead to the development of world war.

In the modern society, these concepts of deconstruction have resulted in the development of politics to more democracy and liberty. Most governments have reconstructed their politics to encompass the idea of human freedom thus showing the effect of deconstruction in the human societies. The concept of ethics in the society is also a strong issue which also has a deep connection with the existentialism and deconstruction approach to social behaviors.

Recent Theoretical Support

In the recent past, the philosophical theory behind existentialism has been used to support several arising issues in the society. This support includes modern journalism, sexuality, religion, artificial intelligence program, and educational choices among others. The application of this philosophical approach in the above areas has helped change the existence of human behaviors to what they are today.

Existentialism and Journalism

In the past few years several scholars in the social sciences field have suggested that in the contemporary world, the idea of existentialism should be used in journalism. This is because, the traditional professional journalism no longer hold grounds, because nowadays dissemination of information is done by anybody from anywhere in the world. People thus need to apply the idea of free will when disseminating this kind of information and also the social responsibility theory. One area that existentialism covers is no ethics of free will; the society thus needs to apply their autonomy and values in disseminating the information in the modern world thus showing professionalism from any sources of information.

Existentialism and Sexuality

The theoretical concept of existentialism that suggests free will for every human has also be applied in the justification of human sexuality. The main area of discussion in this subject has been on the sexual orientation of the people. Nowadays, most nations in the world have already given their citizens the liberty to choice their sexual orientations without been coerced or discriminated. Such freedom is in line with existentialism which suggests that each person creates meaning to his/her life through the satisfaction of their desires. The theory thus argues that they are no need for limiting people ways of relating with others by dictating their sexual orientation because that violates the idea of satisfying human desire. The modern trend of giving people the free will to choice if they want to be in a heterosexual, homosexual, or any other relationship thus fully satisfy the philosophical foundation of existentialism.

Existentialism and Educational Choices

Another way that existentialism have modified the human society life is by helping individuals determine freely on their life career choices based on the education they pursue. The existentialism theory has a central idea that each human has a role to play in the world, and it is up to them to evaluate and determine such position as they exist on earth. Choosing an educational career with personal liberty is among the primary ways in which this theory is impacting in the society today because education determines what people become in their future lives. The contemporary society thus gives individuals the ability to choose their career choices when they are big enough to select for themselves, without any government, societal, or parental coercion.

Existentialism and Artificial Intelligence Program

Existentialism has also been in the forefront is criticizing the adverse in science where artificial intelligence (AI) is created. The main argument in the challenge of this advisement is that it fails to meet the requirement of humans world, where functions are determined by practice rather that logically structured system. Despite that this philosophical theory has not fully modified people behavior toward artificial intelligence, it has, however, placed caution which in addition to ethical reasoning which has lowered the pace of having AI.


In conclusion, the above exegesis has evaluated historical and philosophical roots of existentialism, modern extensions in this theory, and its recent theoretical support. It has been revealed that this approach focuses on human existence and their life on earth and that it originated in late 19th century and became a philosophical issue in the 20th century. In the contemporary world, the theory has extended to cover issues n feminism and deconstruction of previous philosophical norms. Concerning the theoretical support application it has been demonstrated that the approach has been applied to sexuality, journalism, artificial intelligence, career choices among other areas.