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This question is in a sense ironic, since many existentialist philosophers would deny that there is much of an inherent purpose in our lives, including our intellectual pursuits. Basically, existentialism represents a philosophical attempt to respond to what existentialists viewed as a world devoid of meaning and underlying moral codes. By and large rejecting religion, rationalism, and traditional social mores as irrelevant to the real world, existentialists tended to view people as alone in the universe. Having pointed out the human dilemma, their responses varied. Many, including Jean-Paul Sartre, pointed to individual responsibility and agency as the only constructive response, an escape from what can best be described as nihilism. So in terms of purpose, existentialists grappled with what seemed to many in the aftermath of advancing secularism and two catastrophic world wars, to be a new reality.
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