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Arguments against Existentialism


Arguments against existentialism often focus on its perceived nihilism and pessimism, suggesting it leads to a sense of meaninglessness and despair. Critics argue that existentialism's emphasis on individual freedom and responsibility can be overwhelming and isolating, neglecting the importance of social and communal aspects of human life. Additionally, some claim it lacks objective moral guidelines, making ethical decision-making subjective and potentially chaotic.

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What arguments can be made against Existentialism?

I think that one particular point that can be made in arguing against Existentialism is that it clings to the similar, false sense of reasoning that it claims of other modes of though.  Existentialism is certain in its belief that there is nothing outside of the individual.  It clings to this belief with absolute certainty.  A point can be made that Existentialism offers little in way of proof or evidence about this.  It simply asserts it as truth.  Its rejection of totality or transcendent notions of the good is only evident because of a perceived understanding.  Like its criticisms of transcendence as "bad faith," it does not offer anything of verifiable means.  To a great extent, Existentialism does not want to do so because in offering such a grounding, it would succumb to an embrace of totality, something that it does not wish to do.  In not offering anything other than assertion, it becomes victim to the same thing it criticizes.

I think that another significant point to make in the critique of Existentialism is that it is reductive.  Its reductive thought makes clear the idea that there is nothing else out there.  Yet, in asserting that there is nothing out there and firmly asserting it with a sense of totalizing certainty, I think that Existentialism might be asserting a totalizing notion.  This would be an example of "bad faith," a situation in which the individual takes sanctuary in order to avoid facing the complex and intricate notion of reality.  It is reductive in making the case that there is "nothing" out there.  It is far more complex to embrace the potential reality that there might be some force of transcendence with as much certainty in how there might not be one.  If the Existentialist is concerned with not giving the individual a way out through "bad faith," being able to hedge all bets of totality (whether it exists or not) would facilitate this.  In doing so, Existentialism might yet again find itself guilty of the same that it critiques in other theories of being in the world.

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What is an argument against existentialism?

The tough part about generating an argument against Existentialism is that any potential critique can be labeled as "bad faith," the Sartrean idea of wanting something to be true even though it is not.  Existentialism is the only element that escapes bad faith because it concludes that there is nothing. With this in mind, I would suggest that one of the fundamental challenges in Existentialism is that it tends to "deify nothingness."  If Existentialism is right in that human beings are alone, existence precedes essence, and that there is nothing that binds, then there can be no overarching totality.  There can be nothing transcendent because there is nothing.  The Existentialist might deify his own nothingness and thus view it as a form of totality. If the Existentialist constantly believes and thus preaches their own condition of isolation, this might move into a realm of making it transcendent, something that applies to all human beings, and thus rejected by the premise of existentialism in that nothing can apply to all human beings because there is no transcendence.  I think that this might be an argument against Existentialism in that it puts the individual into a box, which by the philosophy's own definition, does not exist.

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