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Existence precedes essence.

A true existentialist believes there is no God and hence, man becomes alone with only ourselves as any kind of guide to making the decisions which will define our existence. Our existence not only defines, but also must be defined. Subjectivism provides this definition. Subjectivity refers to the radical freedom to choose that we have without any God, but also that this radical freedom becomes a responsibility to use or not use. The use of this subjectivity makes our choices, defines our existence, which in turn defines our essence. Existentialism describes a being who means nothing and is utterly alone in the world, except for his other empty associates.

Any self respecting existentialist will familiarise themselves with dostoevsky (esp. notes from the underground, crime and punishment, and the brothers karamov), albert camus (notably the myth of sisyphus and the stranger), nietzsche, kierkegaard, and jean-paul sartre. In Being and Nothingness, Sartre combined the phenomenology of Edmund Husserl, the metaphysics of G. W. F. Hegel and Martin Heidegger, and the social theory of Karl Marx. Sartre’s view of man described a man whose existence yes, preceded his essence. Fundamentally, Sartre was defining a being who has no instrinsic goodness, or "human nature."

And then of course there are those who may not be definitively existentialists, but whose work or philosophy revolves around the general feel. Namely, ayn rand, woody allen, director todd solondz, simone de beauvoir, and tom stoppard (read: rosencrantz and guildenstern are dead, a play), to name a few.

A few classic existentialist quotes for your perusal:

    • They were offered the choice between becoming kings or the couriers of kings. The way children would, they all wanted to be couriers. Therefore there are only couriers who hurry about the world, shouting to each other - since there are no kings - messages that have become meaningless. They would like to put an end to this miserable life of theirs but they dare not because of their oaths of service.
      -Kafka, Couriers

    • I feel so queer. Don't you ever get taken that way? When I can't see myself I begin to wonder if I really and truly exist. I pat myself just to make sure, but it doesn't help much.
      -Sartre No Exit

    • One always dies too soon - or too late. And yet one's whole life is complete at that moment, with a line drawn neatly under it, ready for the summing up. You are - your life and nothing else.
      -Sartre No Exit

    • Once you have mathematical certainty there is nothing left to do or to understand. There will be nothing left but to bottle up your five senses and plunge into contemplation. While if you stick to consciousness, even though the same result is attained, you can at least flog yourself at times, and that will, at any rate, liven you up. Reactionary as it is, corporal punishment is better than nothing.
      -Dostoevsky Notes from Underground

    • What do I know of man's destiny? I could tell you more about radishes.
      -Samuel Beckett

    • "The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy."
      Last words of The Myth of Sisyphus

    • Life is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury; signifying nothing.
      -Shakespeare MacBeth (Thank you Phyllis_Stein!)



More useful notes for cutesy teens wishing to turn into existentialists to be sexy:
always wear black and grey. Always carry a tattered philosophy book. Become either interminably bored, or an insatiable sensualist.
Hmmm. An editor 'corrected' my interminably, to 'terminally'. I wish they hadn't. Terminal means fatal and incurable. Interminably means endlessly, incessantly. That's why I chose that word. And that is why I changed it back.
p.s. cletus_the_fetus says it is worth pointing out that dostoyevsky and kierkegaard were considered christians as well as existentialists.