existential primer

Beyond Existentialism
the evolution of philosophy continues

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Before Existentialism
Beyond Existentialism
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Philosophy is always evolving, with new thinkers drawing on the works of the past.

Revising Never Ends, Nor Should It…

Do not use this site as a study guide. The Existential Primer is a “living” academic project, unlike a static text. This primer is only a shallow introduction to the thinkers profiled. The incomplete nature of this website might result in misunderstanding the profiled individuals. These pages are revised often because scholarship is never ending. Consult any citations included because within them is where you will find the experts. Read their works!

NOTE: Citations are not in MLA or APA format to prevent “borrowing” from The Existential Primer. Full lists of citations appear at the end of each page. Present tense is used when referencing a published work, while past tense is favored on these pages because the major figures are… dead. Inline citations take the form (Author p. page) with no year. A title is included if there might be confusion as to the work. Quoted long passages appear indented with the <blockquote> tag and cited in the format:

Work; Author, p. Page

General Trends in Philosophy

Continental philosophies are the schools of modern philosophical thought which developed on the continent of Europe, primarily France and Germany. Analytic philosophy, often associated with “deconstruction” and linear approaches, is associated with the United Kingdom and the United States. The two major approaches to philosophy diverged with the rise of phenomenology, founded in Germany by Edmund Husserl. Phenomenology attempts to describe the structures of consciousness in the constitution of reality.

Continental schools of philosophy tend to move beyond the natural sciences. Modern continental thinkers moved into metaphysical studies and theories of experience. Phenomenology led to the existentialism of Jean-Paul Sartre and Martin Heidegger. Other continental thinkers were influenced by linguistics and the post-structuralism of Derrida. Continental philosophy is central to the very issues of language, communication, meaning, and reference which currently dominate analytic philosophy, ironically.

Philosophical Schools


Continental Movements

Analytical Movements


Because of this emphasis on radical individualism, existentialism is sometimes compared to Ayn Rand’s objectivism or political libertarianism. Like existentialists, Rand and her followers used the arts to further a philosophy. However, objectivism claims there are basic, universal truths of human nature and experience. Rand’s works and objectivism embody a neo-liberal philosophy of personal self-interest and, by some, of greed. Most of the existential thinkers of the twentieth century are associated with left-leaning democratic socialism and even communism. Yes, this is also contradictory on its face, reflecting the complexity of any attempt to unravel existentialism.

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