ethics and being
PART B August 13, 2009
teaching and learning, EDFD 201
curriculum, critique Dr. Mike Muega
College of Education
Existentialism, broadly defined, is a set of
philosophical systems concerned with free
will, choice, and personal responsibility.
It is also an act of philosophizing; a
• Mankind has free will.
• Life is a series of choices, creating stress.
• Few decisions are without any negative
• Some things are irrational or absurd, without
• If one makes a decision, he or she must
- The Existentialist Primer
Søren Kierkegaard Karl Jaspers
Friedrich Nietzsche Martin Heidegger
Albert Camus Jean-Paul Sartre
Simone de Beauvoir Gabriel Marcel
“Faith is the highest
passion in a human
being. Many in every
generation may not
come that far, but none
Danish religious philosopher. A
precursor of modern existentialism,
he insisted on the need for individual
decision and leaps of faith in the
search for religious truth.
“I know my fate.
One day there will be
associated with my
name the recollection
of something frightful
…I am not a man, I
German philosopher who refused to
belong to any school of thought,
renounced the adequacy of any body
He opposed philosophic systems,
and was dissatisfied with traditional
philosophy as superficial, academic,
and remote from life.
“Experience is not
adequate per se, for it
becomes significant only
by virtue of him who
German psychiatrist, philosopher, and
theologian. He encouraged active
He merged the basic ideas of Kierkegaard
and Nietzsche. This grew into modern
existentialism or, as he prefers to say,
“We mean that man
first of all exists,
surges up in the world-
and defines himself
French philosopher, playwright, novelist
and the leading exponent existentialism.
His writings examine man as a
responsible but lonely being, burdened with
a terrifying freedom to choose, and set adrift
in a meaningless universe.
He coined the term “existentialism”.
The thing is to find
a truth that is true
- Søren Kierkegaard
Assumes that the individual is
responsible for his own knowledge… It
originates in, and is composed of, what
exists in the individual’s consciousness
and feelings as a result of his
experiences and the projects he adopts
in the course of his life.
- Kneller, p. 59
Experiences result to
Existentialist epistemology emerges
from the recognition that human
experience and knowledge are
subjective, personal, rational and
- Gutek, p. 119
Man is condemned
to be free.
- Jean-Paul Sartre
The highest morality is a recognition
of freedom; the lowest morality is the
subjection of individual consciousness
to standards or principles which have
- Karl Jaspers as quoted by Kneller, p. 65
I am therefore ultimately responsible
for my own choices. The individual is
the author of his own good. He can
make himself accountable to no other
moral force or factor.
- Morris, p. 277
What is good? -- All that
heightens the feeling of power,
the will to power, power itself in
- Friedrich Nietzsche
Who is the authentic man?
I am that which must
overcome itself again
- Friedrich Nietzsche
- prior to puberty, elementary period
- not yet conscious of personal identity
- awareness of presence in the world
- insight into his own consciousness and
- Van Cleve Morris in Gutek, p.118
- life is a series of choices
- our choices will define us
- we are only accountable to ourselves
- we are responsible for the choices we make
- we choose for all
- that death is the inevitable conclusion for
existing (called angst or anxiety)
A self-aware and self-choosing individual.
realization that he freedom to decide
exist, and he is who and what he
conscious of this is; the ultimate
fact; the “is-ness” power of choice
Gutek, Gerald. Philosophical and Ideological Perspective on Education,
Second Edition. USA: Allyn and Bacon, 1997.
Kneller, George F. Existentialism and Education. New York: John Wiley &
Morris, Van Cleve. Philosophy and the American School: An Introduction to
the Philosophy of Education. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1961.
Morris, Van Cleve. “Personal Choice.” Teaching and Learning. Ed. Donald
Vandenberg. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1969
Palmer, Joy A. (Ed.) Fifty Major Thinkers on Education (From Confucius to
Dewey). London: Routledge, 2001.
Stokes, Philip. Philosophy 100 Essential Thinkers. New York: Enchanted
Sartre, Jean-Paul. Existentialism is Humanism. Online. http://scribd.com. 1
Soccio, Douglas J. The Archetypes of Wisdom, Sixth Edition. California:
Thomson Wadsworth, 2007.
Thibadeau, Gene. Existentialism and Open Education: Divorce American
Style. Paper presented at the National Conference American of the
Educational Studies Association,. San Francisco, October 31, 1975.
Existentialism and its
Implications on Education
- Teaching and Learning
- Curriculum Development