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Existential Philosophy

Critical Essay Introduction

The contemporary world of philosophy has many theories, which have originated at the beginning of human development. Existentialism is one of the philosophical approaches, which aims to support the concept of ‘self’ along with individualism, freedom, responsibility, and autonomy. It is a part of human development, which plays an essential role in shaping moral values, ethical behavior, and the general nature of actions. The current paper discusses the main concepts that refer to existentialism, its role in counseling and psychotherapy, and the effectiveness of existential therapy. By the end of the paper, the reader will have a comprehensive point of view on the discussed topic based on personal perception of information and the primary idea of the concept.


Existential Philosophy and Phenomenological Side of It

Existentialism is a philosophical worldview, which focuses on an individual, his/her existence, freedom, and right to make a free choice. In a general meaning, it is the way of shaping a personal opinion on the meaning of life, which leads to rational choices despite the overall existence in the irrationally developed universe. Existentialism is a philosophy, which emphasizes the matter of human existence, and the associated idea that there is no purpose of existence rather than its embrace (Chan, Fung, & Chien, 2013).

This philosophy also rejects the existence of God or any other force, which is responsible for human creation. The main power of the philosophy is freedom, which means that every human being has full responsibility for every action and personal existence in general. In contrast to other philosophical points of view, such as Positivism or Rationalism, Existentialism does not seek to define an ultimate order in the structure of the surrounding world (Finlay, 2009).

Existence combined with freedom is the only source of optimal decision-making, which defines the outcomes of human choices. In addition, existentialism claims that every individual is responsible for defining the limits of morality according to their personal point of view (Stumm, 2005). It considers that every human can decide what is right or wrong according to his/her personal worldview.

A phenomenological part of existentialism is a philosophical attitude, which examines human life from the inside without paying attention to the external factors. Phenomenological existentialism is a part of the philosophical view, which considers that human creativity is the only source of human creation (van Deurzen, 2014). In addition, it suggests that there is no need to obey the laws regardless of their character (divine, human, or nature). The main peculiarity of existential phenomenology is that it rejects transcendental ego, which is the major peculiarity of transcendental phenomenology. A phenomenological part of the existential philosophy is that it suggests the full rejection of laws, principles, and standards of other philosophies (Vitali, 2014).

It rejects scientific and natural theories, which have no place in the way of the individual’s thinking due to one’s personal freedom of choice and creativity (Lyons & Lopez, 2015). In addition, it specifically considers science, which is believed to be a creative segment of human performance. Existential philosophy does not support the fact that science includes only facts based on investigations and experiments (Kondratyuk, 2011). Science is believed to be a way of learning about the world without any background of truth. In addition, existential philosophy claims that there is no meaning in life because of human temporality. From this point of view, existentialism and its phenomenological aspects support the idea that consciousness is the only source of human choice and freedom.

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The Development of Existential Philosophy and the Concepts of ‘Self’

The history of existential philosophy dates back to the earliest writings dedicated to Buddhism and Christianity. The concept of existentialism originated from the idea of Blaise Pascal, who suggested that life without God has no meaning (Ulrichov, 2012). It ignited the development of individual autonomy, freedom, and self-determination. However, the development of the current theory of existentialism took place in the 19th century. Friedrich Nietzsche and Fyodor Dostoevsky were the ones supporting the new philosophical point of view (Gordon, 2012).

The idea was that existentialism was a philosophical technique setting the new framework of freedom and absolute individualism (Tajima, 2014). Nietzsche started reflecting the essence of existentialism in his works by pointing at the lack of meaning in life. In the 20th century, a French writer Jean-Paul Sartre also continued to point at the nothingness and meaninglessness of life in his works (Mart, 2012).

In addition, the author was one of those who claimed that the human body is only a form of existence, which points to the lack of meaning in human life. In general, all authors of the 19th and 20th centuries dedicated their works to the integration of existentialism in the society providing a full understanding of the new concepts (Gordon, 2012). It is the primary target of the philosophers supporting the new wave of philosophic worldview to deny the existence of God and full dependence on individualism and autonomy.

‘Self’ is one of the concepts penetrating existentialism and explaining the essence of human existence. It is a definition of the peculiarities and outlining features of every human being. There are different ideas related to the understanding of the concept of ‘self’. However, the most rational and appropriate definition is that ‘self’ is a source of consciousness, which provides every human being with distinguishing features (Sebastian, Burnett, & Blakemore, 2008). Characteristics of the concept ‘self’ help to understand an individual’s identity and way of thinking. Oriental traditions consider an individual to live in the illusion of the world’s existence and separateness from other forms of ‘selves’ and creatures.

For example, the ‘ego’ has a direct connection of mind and the sense of the surrounding world with time and space. Self-knowledge is another element of existentialism, which means that a person gains nirvana by learning everything about a personal state of mind (Schalk, 2011). Later, Aristotle was a famous philosopher who continued the theory of ‘self’ by pointing at the idea that the soul was an activity. A famous comparison of a knife cutting anything is a representation of a soul. However, as soon as the knife becomes broken its soul stops to exist. The same idea is related to the concept of ‘self’ (Wild, 2011). In addition, there is a belief that ‘self’ and senses have different natures. Senses are not in any way related to ‘self’ or individual’s state of mind.

Existential Therapy in Counseling and Psychotherapy

Existential therapy is a way of thinking combined with a philosophical approach, which assumes that every individual has a free choice and personal responsibility for every decision (Schneider & Krug, 2010). Existential therapy is a required technique in working with people feeling helpless and useless (Claessens, 2009). It can be helpful in counseling a person suffering from a misunderstanding of the surrounding world. For example, a patient might feel trapped in his/her own problems and see no way out. Counseling with the help of existentialism can become a savior in terms of pointing at the freedom of thoughts and learning about the surrounding world (Prasko, Mainerova, Jelenova, Kamaradova, & Sigmundova, 2012).

Existential therapy aims at bringing peace of mind, patience, and self-knowledge. Patients who feel helpless often have a problem with the limited awareness of themselves, which is the main reason for fear and useless feeling in finding solutions to the problem (Price, 2011). Existential therapy aims at evaluating the patient’s subjective world by outlining the patient’s feelings, emotions, thoughts, and anxiety. In particular, the therapy strives to achieve harmony between the patient and the surrounding world. It is the key on the way to finding solutions and understanding of personal place in the world.

In terms of psychotherapy, existentialism is a part of the patient’s investigation of the world along with a personal understanding of ‘self’ (Ziv-Beiman, 2013). It considers human conditions revealing thoughts, fears, emotions, and problematic aspects of existence. It is the point, which helps an individual to find a solution to the problems, which seem to be too complicated and lead to the feeling of uselessness. Awareness of personal freedom is one of the targets of existentialism used in terms of psychotherapy. The inner conflict of thoughts and emotions requires the interference of a psychotherapist who can point at the current human condition and its meaning for the individual. Psychotherapy helps patients to avoid superficiality and live in terms of authenticity by realizing personal responsibility for every choice according to the right for freedom (Ryan, Lynch, Vansteenkiste, & Deci, 2010).

It aims to persuade patients that it is necessary to live fully at the present without regretting the past or worrying about the future. Realization of the outcomes of the decisions taken in the present should be the motivating point of the therapy teaching a patient to look beyond personal emotions or feelings (Marappan, Mustafa, & Ahmad, 2012). In addition, existentialism helps to evaluate the personal understanding of individualism and self-knowledge as the key terms in the definition of existence with its purpose. In general, psychotherapy and counseling essentially benefit from existentialism, which helps every patient to understand the world’s essence based on personal worldview and way of thinking.


Existential Therapeutic Effectiveness and the Limitations of Therapy

In terms of counseling and psychotherapy, it is essential to discuss the effectiveness of existentialism. First, it is possible to apply existential therapy to a wide range of patients including individuals, families, groups, or couples (Adams, 2013). The efficiency of therapy is that it is focused on the client and provides him/her with full responsibility for personal actions (Krug, 2009). It respects every choice and gives freedom of thinking to every client. However, it is difficult to measure an overall level of effectiveness of the therapy if an experienced therapist should perform it (Bull, 2013).

In this case, it is possible to talk about effectiveness thanks to the systematic approach. Otherwise, there would be no effect or development in the patient’s situation. The difficulty of measuring therapy’s effectiveness is the main limitation that prevents from considering this therapy as an ultimate tool for the improvement of the patient’s state of mind (Harris, 2013). However, in the general meaning, it is possible to claim that existential philosophy occupies a significant place in psychotherapy as a mandatory tool helping an individual to find a decision in a difficult situation. Expansion of boundaries without fears and anxiety helps to broaden the horizons of personal understanding and self-awareness (Hoffman, Vallejos, Cleare-Hoffman, & Rubin, 2014).

It has a positive influence on the human mind and overall awareness in the surrounding world. Patients interested in self-examination can essentially benefit from this approach. In addition, existential philosophy helps patients with suicidal intentions to overcome the problem of existence (Fegg et al., 2013). It means that it is a useful preventive technique, which sets free the most problematic thoughts of the patient. In addition, it becomes easy to look for the answers to the questions of existence and meaning of life.

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The Philosophical Investigation

The understanding of philosophical investigation focuses on the broad evaluation of the philosophy of mind, philosophy of psychology, logic, and philosophy of action. All these ideas were investigated in the work written by Ludwig Wittgenstein (McGinn, 1997). In particular, it is possible to extract the main ideas, which facilitate a personal understanding of each element. In general, it is necessary to claim that the philosophical investigation exceeds the boundaries of the primary way of thinking. It asks questions on whether the current existence has a sense and fills the life of an individual with meaning and purpose. The above-mentioned elements comprise human nature and determine the logical, psychological, and existential aspects of living. In addition, all elements help to outline the idea of personal belonging to the world and the ability to make a free choice with full responsibility for personal actions. However, it is always possible to extend the meaning of each concept by digging into the depths of the philosophical aspect.

Critical Essay Conclusion

The paper analyzed the essence of existentialism and its development, existential theory, counseling and psychotherapy, and the overall meaning of the philosophical investigation. It is possible to claim that existentialism forms a significant part of the philosophy, which points at the need to focus on existence rather than thinking about the purpose of life. Meaninglessness should be pushing an individual to think about the consequences of personal actions combined with freedom and full responsibility. In general, existentialism plays a significant role in shaping the individual understanding of the world, which helps to find appropriate solutions to any problem.

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Moreover, it is effective in terms of looking for answers within the boundaries of a personal mind with full self-awareness. Existential therapy tends to be effective regardless of the limiting factor in the form of complexity preventing from assessing the level of its effectiveness. An obvious advantage of existential therapy is that it motivates the patients to think about their current existence instead of thinking about the overall meaning of life. Self-awareness is one of the keys in the therapy, which reveals the problematic area and the diversity of solutions. In general, the paper successfully investigated the essence and concepts of existentialism from different points of view.

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