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Existentialism

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Existentialism, 20th-century philosophical current that stresses personal responsibility and the relation of the individual to the universe or to God. In general, existentialists emphasize the fear and despair that isolated individuals feel. An important precursor of existentialism was Søren Kierkegaard, who held that one's sense of dread and despair arose from one's responsibility for one's own decisions and for one's relationship with God. Theologians influenced by Kierkegaard include Karl Barth, Martin Buber, Karl Jaspers, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Paul Tillich. Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger are often considered existentialists, but the only major philosopher to accept that designation was Jean-Paul Sartre, who argued that there was no God and that human nature was infinitely variable: humans were free to make their own destiny and therefore responsible for their own lives.

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