The existentialism is a philosophical current that pursues the knowledge of reality through the immediate experience of one’s existence. However, no precise or exact theory has been developed that clearly defines this concept.

What is clear is that this movement of the philosophy it highlights the individual human being as creator of the meaning of his life. The temporality of the subject, its concrete existence in the worldIt is that which constitutes being and not a supposed more abstract essence.


For existentialism, the essence of a person is defined by his own existence.

What is existentialism

Existentialists do not believe that the individual is a part of a whole, but that each human being is a free integrity for himself. The very existence of a person is what defines your essence and not a general human condition.

In other words, the human being exists since he is capable of generating any type of thought. Thought makes the person free: without freedom, there is no existence.

This same freedom makes the individual responsible for his actions. There is, therefore, a ethics of the individual responsibility. The person must take charge of the acts he performs in the exercise of his freedom.

Emergence of this thought

This term was the result of an intense philosophical work developed between the 19th and 20th centuries; in a clear search for the reason for existence based on the individuality, emotions, actions and responsibility of each individual.

It is considered as father of existentialism to philosopher Soren Kierkegaard. It was he who determined that each individual is the one who must find meaning in their existence. And he added that the greatest responsibility of the human being lies in living his own life in a passionate and sincere way, despite the thousand obstacles that may arise.

Russian literature

In the field of literature, Fyodor Dostoyevsky is one of the main exponents of existentialism.

In any case, the term was not coined until the 1940s and it was the French who did. Jean-Paul Sartre (19051980) Y Albert camus (19131960). Considered today as the maximum exponents of existentialism.

As Sartre himself explained existentialism is a human way of understanding existence. Later, thinkers of earlier times such as Hedegger, Nietzche or Kierkegaard himself were included within this ideology.

This current can be divided into various schools; among them we can highlight: theistic existentialism (reflects on the existence of God and the Spirit), the atheist existentialism (denies the divine) and the agnostic existentialism (considers that the existence of God is irrelevant to human existence).

Existentialism in literature

In literature surely the greatest allies of this line of thought were Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Franz Kafka.

Among Dostoyevsky’s works we could mention “Subsoil Memories” as a clear existentialist treatise. In it, the life of a man who feels outside of his group is presented, unable to fit into society and find meaning in their existence. Another work by this author that could be named as existentialist is “Crime and Punishment.”

In Kafka’s work there are also several characters that allow locating the ideology of this author close to that of Dostoyevsky. Most of them are beings surreal and desperate who do not find meaning when breathing every day and who live condemned to an absurd system that represses them and does not allow them to be happy. His fundamental novels “The Metamorphosis” and “The Process” are considered two magnificent works within existentialist literature.

It is worth mentioning that the Sartre also wrote a novel, entitled “Nausea” that embodies the fundamental ideas of this current. It is recommended as a material to approach complicated philosophical reasoning. It is also a reference work that has inspired many post-French authors, such as Philip K. Dick and Chuck Palahniuk.