ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

What Is the Existential Perspective?

Updated on June 29, 2018


It emphasizes our uniqueness during our quest for values and meaning and in our freedom for self-direction and self-fulfillment. It is seemingly similar to the humanistic perspective and many existential psychologists are referred to as humanists.

This perspective does, however, represent a less optimistic view of human beings and focuses on the irrational tendencies in human nature and the difficulties inherent in self-fulfillment. The concept of day to day living seems more of a confrontation for these existentialists, especially in a bureaucratic and dehumanizing mass society. Furthermore, they place less faith in modern science and more in the inner experience of the individual in his or her attempts to understand and deal with the deepest human problems.


What are the central themes and concepts of the existential perspective?

Existentialism is essentially a highly systemized school of thought but is, however, unified around a central concern with the ultimate challenge of human existence, namely, to found sound values, to grow as a person and to build a meaningful and socially constructive life. Existential concepts were inspired by the work of European philosophers such as Heidegger, Jasper, Kierkegaard and Sartre. Furthermore, the theologies of Paul Tillich and the psychologists Rollo may were quite influential in the development of existential thought in the United States.

Existence and essence

A central theme of existentialism is that our existence is given but what we make of it, or essence, is based on our decisions that we make. Whether we are asked to be born or not we are in this world and answerable for ourselves, for one human life. It becomes our responsibility to shape the kind of person we are to become and to live a meaningful and constructive life.

This does not become easy in an age of profound change in which many traditional values and beliefs are being questioned. We tend to experience deep and spiritual strain concerning the kind of people we should be and become and the way of life we should try to build for ourselves. We should therefore give up the quest and find some satisfaction in blind conformity and submergence in the group. The other alternative is to strive for increased self-definition in the reality of our own existence to finally find self-fulfillment.

Choice, freedom and courage

Essence is created by our choices as they reflect the values on which we base and order our lives. When we choose to become the person we want to be we exercise absolute freedom – even refusing to choose represents a choice.

Choice, however, requires the courage to break away from old patterns if need be and to stand on your own. Many lack this courage and do not want their essence to be left up to them, rather they seek some outside authority such as religion or their social group to advise them on what to believe and how to act. To flee from one’s freedom and responsibility does lead to a life that is unauthentic, showing bad faith and a tendency to live in despair.

Meaning, value and obligation

Will-to-meaning is another central theme to existential perspective which is considered to be a basic human characteristic and is essentially a matter of finding satisfying values and guiding your life to them.

The emphasis on individual value patterns should not be confused with moral nihilism as there is a basic unity in humankind. There will thus be an underlying continuity in the value patterns chosen by different individuals who are trying to live authentically.

Regarding obligations, the important consideration is not what we can get out of life but what we can contribute to it. Our lives will only become fulfilling if it involves socially constructive values and choices.

Existential anxiety and the encounter with nothingness

Human beings are the only creations who live with the constant awareness of the possibility of non-being. This awareness allows us to fully grasp what it means to “be” and adds a crucial dimension to our existence and immediate experience.

Introduction to Existentialism


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)