3 Chief Exponents of Existentialism in Education
3. Martin Heidegger
1. Soren Aabye Kierkegeard (1813-1855):
Kierkegaard is regarded as the father of existentialism. Through his writings and papers he gave expression to his philosophical viewpoints regarding existentialism. Socrates had also raised a voice for the protection of individuality of the individual. Kierkegaard has only reestablished the ideas of Socrates. Kierkegaard’s basic ideas are as below:—
1. Truth is introvert and subjective.
2. The existence of individuality is reliable and it comes prior to thinking.
3. Existentialists emphasize the meaning and nature of subjectivity.
4. Existential self-experience is necessary.
Kierkegaard tried to make objective and extrovert thinking as introvert and subjective. He advocated that the truth should be really experienced in one’s life. The existence of individuality will be powerful only when the truth gives self-satisfaction.
In the modern age of industrialization people want to get mental satisfaction through the truth. In fact, the truth should give self-satisfaction.
The individual should be given such a freedom that he may lead a life of his own choice. Through logical reasoning one must not be compelled to lead a life like that of another person. In fact, “my life is that, my individuality is that which I think to be. My existence is that which I do.”
Realization of truth from the viewpoint of logic:
Kant rightly said that to know through intellect is not knowledge. Self-realization alone is real knowledge. Hegel places an opposite viewpoint. He sees the world as ideas-centered. To him the entire universe is only ideas. So according to him ideas alone are reality.
But Kierkegaard does not agree with Hegel, he does not like to be lost in the world of ideas. He wants to lead a real life on this earth. He emphasizes ‘doing’ and not ‘knowing’. He emphasizes will-power. To him knowledge is not real. It is the work which is real.
Existence of Individuality Reliable and Prior to Thinking: Kierkegaard says “My existence is there because I think so. I think ‘because my existence is there.’ From this it is clear that the existence of “I” is there. This existence is subjective, i.e., it is related with “I’ this is not objective. It is through subjectivity that the reality of “I” i. clear. The existence of “I” makes us introvert. If in place of “I” the term “We” is used, “I” will be finished. Due to industrialization of today is becoming individuality is lost.
Emphasis on nature:
Subjective existence means “existence of the self’. Here Kierkegaard, in order to find self-existence, forgets objectivity altogether. He is not so much interested in knowing things about the world as he is -interested in experiencing the same and feeling the pleasure of the same.
He wants that through “being introvert” the “self’ gets security through attention, interest and effort. The individuality gets support from this position. Due to subjectivity a relationship is established between “the self and God. Because of this relationship we begin to see God in all and we accept the existence of all. Thus we adopt a path towards general welfare.
Emphasis on existential self-realizations:
According to Kierkegaard existential experience is very necessary for “self- existence”. Subjective thinking gives a basis to the self-existence of the individual. This is not possible in objective thinking.
The objective man always thinks about others. He does not think about himself. For example, when someone dies, we mourn his death due to objectivity, but we ourselves do not want to experience death. But when the individual thinks about death in relation to his own existence, he is shaken by the very idea of death.
Our ideas, imaginations and behaviors are influenced by the fear of death. By this our self- existence becomes active and we become conscious about our “self’. Then a practical change comes in our behavior and we become conscious about our existence.
The inner conflicts shade an individual. When one begins to think “Why did I come in this world?” “What am I to do in life?” All these are examples of our self-consciousness. For getting rid of these conflicts, one begins to determine the goal of life and applies himself for the fulfillment of the same. Thus self-realization functions as a motivating force of the conflicts of the inner mind.
2. Karl Jaspers:
Karl Jaspers, a German philosopher, was born in 1883. He has been an existentialist. His views are balanced. We are hinting below at his main viewpoints:—
Karl jaspers’ existensive human viewpoint:
Karl Jaspers, as an existentialist, has a wide human viewpoint. His views have been a part of his life. He struggled after realizing the eternal truth. In this process he studied the philosophies of India, China and of Western countries of the last three thousand years.
He thinks that in ancient days an attempt was made to understand the relationship between “self’ and God in this attempt some success was achieved, but there remained some inadequacies. Karl Jasper’s wants to draw our attention towards these inadequacies.
He believes that the modern scientific developments act so much against the existence of individuality that it appears that industrialization and mechanization have finished (or murdered) the man. Self-existence of the individual has been lost
Karl Jaspers’s Comprehensive Principle of Self-Existence of the Living Being: Karl Jaspers has given more importance to Kant’s philosophy. He looks at the concept of existence of individuality both from objective and subjective viewpoints.
He recognizes the impact of time and place on this concept. He does not regard the existence of the “being” fully either as an “object” or “self-form”. He thinks that the existence of “being” is more comprehensive.
He is prepared to accept the existence of self-existence both from the intellectual viewpoint and from the viewpoint of the “inner insight”, simply because only the intellectual viewpoint or only “inner insight” is not enough to realize the existence of “self’, so in order to understand the self the cooperation of the two is necessary.
Ultimately “the objective knowledge” must be transferred into subjective knowledge. When this is done the individual is no more interested in knowing “the object”, then he harbors the desire to know “the self’. Jaspers believes that at all times “objective knowledge” has been changed into subjective knowledge.” This change comes through the “inner sight” of the individual.
Karl Jaspers seeks a relationship between philosophy and science, but he does not regard the two as one. Science is of objective and universal character, but philosophy is subjective and not universal because changes come into it due to change of time and place.
Jaspers sees a relationship between science and philosophy because science gives us objective knowledge without which we cannot obtain subjective knowledge. Philosophy transforms the objective knowledge into subjective knowledge.
Philosophy is ever in search of eternal truth and in this search it tries to change the objective knowledge into a subjective one
Karl jaspers’s existentialism and its aim:
Unlike Kierkegaard, Jaspers does not want to realize the self being away from the world. He wants to make objective knowledge the basis for subjective knowledge. He does not want to run away from social responsibilities for the sake of self-experience.
He regards the world as a reality. Without struggle with the world the existence of the individual will not be possible. It is only on the basis of objective knowledge that one may obtain subjective knowledge for “experiencing his self’.
The material world suppresses the “self’, but due to self-realization the individual becomes conscious of his “self’ and his spiritual efforts protect it Jaspers believes that the existence of “self’ is omnipresent and eternal and it is the originator of self-strength and self-confidence. This experience of the “self’ may be realized through struggles in this world.
For the protection of one’s own ‘self’ we shall have to respect the ‘self of others also. If by being self-centered, we break the relationship with the outer world, then it will be difficult for us to adjust ourselves in the external world.
The existence of the “self’ is always possible through recognizing the “self’ of others. So we must show love, tolerance, and friendly behavior for others, only then our “self’ may go on developing. T and ‘the other’ are only parts of the one ‘Divine Existence’. All must realize the ‘Divine Existence’, only then the ‘self may be protected.
3. Martin Heidegger:
Martin Heidegger does not accept himself as an existentialist but from the philosophical viewpoint he is an existentialist. He made a deep study of history, but Greek history has been the main source of his philosophical ideas. Martin Heidegger is like other philosophers in certain matters, but in some others he is different from them.
Heidegger’s views regarding existence and time of existence of living being:
Like Kierkegaard, Heidegger accepts the views that the individual through introversion may accept the existence of a living being and thus may experience self-consciousness. The expressions of “self-existence in a man may be seen through his efforts and behavior.
Science gives objective knowledge by analyzing the physical nature of the ‘living beings’ but metaphysics makes a subjective study of the living being and establishes its existence.
According to Heidegger the individual may experience his ‘self’ by living in the world itself. The following two kinds of things are found in the world:—
1. Those things those were present in the world before man was born.
2. Those things that man uses as a means.
An individual establishes his relationship with the various parts of the world according to his interest and need. This conduct of the individual is the main basis of his “self-existence”. By seeing his mood, it may be inferred as to which type of things of the world he is establishing his relationship with.
Because of this relationship the individual experiences at times fear, happiness or curiosity and accordingly he gives expression to the same. His changing mood indicates the kinds of things with which he is being influenced.
For example, if he expresses indifference, then it may stand for his disinterestedness in things of the world due to fear of death, he may at once begin to think about “what am I or what my purpose is?” Thus he becomes active towards establishing the existence of his “self’.
Nature of Truth and Freedom According to Heidegger: According to Heidegger man’s knowledge is a result of interaction between the mind and objects of the world. Knowledge comes through the insight of the individual.
This knowledge expands further, through “self”. Freedom is necessary for obtaining this knowledge. Freedom is the essence of truth. The practical life of man is based on essence of truth and on freedom.