Section Four: Existentialism, Nihilism's Weaker Sister


Existentialism is, in a sense, an offshoot of nihilism. It accepts the premise that there is no meaning in life. God ay be dead, or better put, whether he is or not, it doesn’t really matter. He’s irrelevant. But unlike nihilism, existentialism offers nothing more, no opportunity for creation, no Overman, nothing to evolve into. Life has no meaning, and for that reason, life is absurd. See, for example, Jean-Paul Sarte's play "No Exit (1944)."

The good news is that we are absolutely free; the bad news is that we are absolutely free: we have no one to help us live out that freedom and we are completely responsible for the way we use our freedom. No one else is to praise or to blame for the way we live our life.

For that reason existentialists argue that life is characterized by despair, angst, anguish, alienation, absurdity—but it can also be a life of dignity if we face up to our situation and live as a good man or woman should.

A moral life, then, is one in which an individual lives as nobly as possible; an immoral life is one in which an individual misuses his freedom and does not make the choice to live as well as possible. See for example, the novel The Plague by Albert Camus,  (also a movie with William Hurt (1992).

Existentialists argue that life has no purpose, in a sense 2 plus 2 does not equal four. There are no rewards or punishments in life. One thing that some find attractive about existentialism is that there is no room for excuses or for blaming others.

For whatever reason, contemporary music inspired by existentialism is sometimes hauntingly beautiful. Such music also sometimes draws upon the ocean or the sea as its theme.


“Dust in the Wind" (Kansas, 1977).

“Dust in the Wind” (video performance)

"Get Over It”  (1994) (The Eagles)

“This Is Your Life,” (2008) (The Killers)

“This River is Wild,” (2006) (The Killers)

“Spaceman,” (2008) (The Killers)

“Spaceman” Official Video

“God Says Nothing Back” (2005) The Wallflowers

"One Headlight” (1996) The Wallflowers

“On the Ocean” (2011) Guster


"The Plague” (1992)


"A Clean Well Lighted Place"  Ernest Hemingway HERE

Combine several of the songs, the movie and the short story and use them in an essay to explain  the moral doctrine of existentialism. Do you find existentialism appealing? Why or why not?


June 24th, 11:59pm