The existential theory is a 20th-century philosophy that is concerned with the scrutiny of human existence in the world. The fundamental existentialist viewpoint is that humans exist first, and everyone spends their lives changing their nature and essence. Humans are conscious entities, and it is this consciousness that determines their existence.

The second nature of the theory is that of anxiety, anguish, dread, and fear. Anguish is the dread for the emptiness of human life and an underlying universal condition. Existentialism views human existence as lived in suffering, guilt, and anxiety and rejects the ideas of optimism, happiness, and a sense of wellbeing (Gregory and Donna 143).

The third nature of existential ethics is that of absurdity. Human existence is incomprehensible and absurd. Each person is here but without reason for their presence at a particular place or time.

The theme of nothingness is also part of existential ethics. With this ideology, existentialists believe that since essence does not define humanity, all notions, be it scientific, religious, political, that fail to recognize humans as conscious beings are incorrect. Lastly, and related to nothingness is the idea of death. It is a form of nothingness and regarded as the most significant moment that is suffered individually.

Another subject within existentialism is Beauvoir’s definition of women and the tensions involved in her arguments. In answering the question of what is a woman, Beauvoir argues that men are regarded as default while women viewed as the ‘other.’ This is because humanity is male-dominated, and the provided definition of a woman is not relative to ‘herself’ but ‘him’ (Gregory and Donna 302).

She further uses the description of the association between sperm and ovum in various animals and puts it in the context of humans. Beauvoir argues that the female being is subordinate in terms of reproduction by making a comparison of the male and female physiology.

She concludes that it is not right to base values on physiology and that biological facts need to be understood relative to the social, psychological, ontological, and economic context. Such arguments would receive criticism, including claims that Beauvoir disparages women by loathing their bodies. 

Beauvoir also postulates that “one will be one’s own freedom.” She makes this claim in The Ethics of Ambiguity, which is published just two years after the end of the Second World War. The theory attempts to explain the existentialist tension between the existing life limits and freedom of choice. In other words, its focus is on the meaning of freedom and its relation with ethics.

With this theory, Beauvoir offers an ethical structure that can be applied in trying to comprehend the choices humans have made. The focus of the theory is humanity, and she offers a description of the role of individuals in securing their freedom. The significance of earthly destiny relies on how humans perceive their importance.

It is an individual responsibility to assess the importance of their freedom and feel if they have succeeded or failed to achieve it. This is an assertion that humans are accountable for finding the meaning of their existence. In doing this, Beauvoir defends humanity against past mistakes like the world war by offering an ethical path out. 

Works Cited

Gregory, Wanda Torres, and Donna Giancola. World Ethics. Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, 2003.

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William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team)
William completed his Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts in 2013. He current serves as a lecturer, tutor and freelance writer. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, walking his dog and parasailing. Article last reviewed: 2022 | St. Rosemary Institution © 2010-2024 | Creative Commons 4.0

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