a philosophical attitude associated especially with Heidegger, Jaspers, Marcel, and Sartre, and opposed to rationalism and empiricism, that stresses the individual's unique position as a self-determining agent responsible for the authenticity of his or her choices.
a modern philosophical movement stressing the importance of personal experience and responsibility and the demands that they make on the individual, who is seen as a free agent in a deterministic and seemingly meaningless universe
1941, from German Existentialismus (1919), replacing Existentialforhold (1849), ultimately from Danish writer Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), who wrote (1846) of Existents-Forhold "condition of existence," existentielle Pathos, etc. (see existential), and whose name means, literally, "churchyard."
A movement in twentieth-century literature and philosophy, with some forerunners in earlier centuries. Existentialism stresses that people are entirely free and therefore responsible for what they make of themselves. With this responsibility comes a profound anguish or dread. Søren Kierkegaard and Feodor Dostoyevsky in the nineteenth century, and Jean-Paul Sartre, Martin Heidegger, and Albert Camus in the twentieth century, were existentialist writers.