German philosopher, post-Kantian, educated in France and the UK.  He taught at the University of Göttingen and, for a while, at the University of Berlin, where he learned to profoundly despise Hegel, the leading philosopher at the time.  His main work is Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung (The World as Will and Idea [or Representation]), published in 1818, amplified in 1844, and translated into English in 1886.  Therein he distinguishes between the two aspects of the self as he envisioned it: a) the self as it appears phenomenally as the object of perception, and b) the self as it is in itself (Ding-an-Sich), noumenally, as a manifestation of will. The Will or Thing-in-Itself stands outside space and time and all reason and knowledge is subject to it (for now think of the Will as Nature in its wild form).  Only in aesthetic contemplation do we escape subjection to the Will.  Conforming to the dictates of the Will (think of the Will now as the passions) leads to nothing but illusion and suffering.  Schopenhauer's philosophy is profoundly pessimistic, for the only way out from the Will is through death or denial, as in a Buddhist or Christian ascetic way.  Schopenhauer glamourizes despair and almost justifies suicide.  The reason why he fails to recommend it generally is because only one will would die but not Will generally (hence, an individual suicide is meaningless).  The mind is always subservient to the life of the organism (its needs, passions, frailty) and drives and desires are suppressed and distorted (in this fashion Schopenhauer anticipates Nietzsche and Freud, especially the latter's theory of the ego and the id, as well as the life and death drives).  Schopenhauer was very influential on many European writers (Tolstoy, Conrad, Proust, Mann) and on the Spanish Generation of 98 (especially Pío Baroja).  Schopenhauer knew Spanish fluently and read Spanish Renaissance mystics and Baroque dramatists like Calderón.  He had a volatile temper but in spite of his philosophical pessimism he lead a pleasant life, ate well, had afairs, and was very witty.  Beginners like his Parerga und Paralipomena (Comments and Omissions) of 1851, which is a collection of aphorisms.

  • "Nature is turbulent and tempestuous motion; semi-darkness through threatening black thunder-clouds; immense, bare, overhanging cliffs shurring out the view by their interlacing; rushing, foaming masses of water; complete desert; the wail of the wind sweeping through the ravines.  Our dependence, our struggle with hostile nature, our will that is broken in this, now appear clearly before our eyes. Yet as long as personal affliction does not gain the upper hand, but we remain in aesthetic contemplation, the pure subject of knowing gazes through this struggle of nature, through this picture of the broken will, and comprehends calmly, unshaken and unconcerned, the Ideas in those very objects that are threatening and terrible to the will. In this contrast is to be found the feeling of the sublime" (The World as Will and Representation).
  • "All satisfaction, or what is commonly called happiness, is really and essentially always negative only, and never positive. It is not a gratification which comes to us originally and of itself, but it must always be the satisfaction of a wish. For desire, that is to say, want, is the precedent condition of every pleasure; but with the satisfaction, the desire and therefore the pleasure cease; and so the satisfaction or gratification can never be more than deliverance from a pain, from a want" (The World as Will and Representation).

       A philosophical trend apparently started by Søren Kierkegaard which became influential in continental Europe in the second quarter of the 20th century. Existentialism is opposed to rationalist and empiricist doctrines that assume that the universe is a determined, ordered system intelligible to the contemplative oberver who can discover the natural laws that govern all beings and the role of reason as the power guiding human activity. In the existentialist view the problem of being must take precedence over that of knowledge in philosophical investigations. Being cannot be made a subject of objective enquiry; it is revealed to the individual by reflection on his own unique concrete existence in time and space. Existence is basic: it is the fact of the individual's presence and participation in a changing and potentially dangerous world. Each self-aware individual understands his own existence in terms of his experience of himself and of his situation. The self of which he is aware is a thinking being which has beliefs, hopes, fears, desires, the need to find a purpose, and a will that can determine his actions. Existence can only be significant in terms of the impact that experiences make on a particuar existent. No individual has a predetermined place or function within a rational system and no one can deduce his supposed duty through reasoning; everyone is compelled to assume the responsability of making choices. Man is in a condition of anxiety arising from the realization of his necessary freedom of choice, of his ignorance of the future, of his awareness of manifild possibilities, and of the finiteness of an existence that was preceded by and must terminate in nothingness.


(Denmark: 1813-55)

       Danish thinker and religious writer who stresses the importance of the "existing individual" and religious issues like faith, choice, despair, and dread. He affected many protestant theologians and existentialist theistic philosophers like Miguel de Unamuno, Martin Heidegger, Karl Jaspers, and Martin Buber. 


  • "Belief and doubt are not two forms of knowledge, determinable in continuity with one another, for neither of them is a cognitive act; they are opposite passions" (Philosophical Fragments). 
  • "It is subjectivity that Christianity is concerned with, and it is only in subjectivity that its truth exists, if it exists at all; objectively, Christianity has absolutely no existence" (Concluding Unscientific Postscript). 
  • "Without risk there is no faith. Faith is precisely the contradiction between the infinite passion of the individual's inwardness and the objective uncertainty. If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe. If I wish to preserve myself in faith I must constantly be intent upon holding fast to the objective uncertainty, so as to remain out upon the deep, over seventy thousand fathoms of water, still preserving my faith." (Concluding Unscientific Postscript). 
  • "The paradox in Christian truth is invariably due to the fact that it is truth as it exists for God. The standard measure and the end is superhuman; and there is only one relationship possible: faith." (The Journals of Søren Kierkegaard).



       German writer and philologist. He was professor of Classics at the University of Basel. Son of a Lutheran pastor. He is known for his contempt of democracy in favor of aristocratic ideals (the Übermensch or Overman), his atheism, his attacks on Christian and utilitarian ethics, his stress on the unconscious, voluntaristic, orgiastic, and self-destructive ("Dionysian") sides of human nature, seemingly at the expense of the calm, conscious, individuated, and rational ("Apollonian") sides, and his chauvinistic attitude towards women. He is a very radical thinker, a poet, a superb prose writer, and, stylistically, one of the great European moral essayists (in the style of Montaigne, La Rochefoucauld, and others). There are three central areas of his thought: 1) his perspectivism, which makes him see no facts (in a positivist, scientific sense) but only interpretations. This is a central idea of his posthumous work, The Will to Power (Der Wille zur Macht [1901]). 2) his psychologism, which makes him conjecture that the will to power is the basic drive behind all human endeavor, including all philosophizing. "Life-denying" (usually priests), decadent or physiologically weak individuals seek by ideological means to dominate the strong and healthy with conservative ideas. Appeals to reason and truth are merely one means among others (such as physical force) by which one "will" can, in appropriate circumstances, assert is power over another. All reasoning is rationalization, all "truth" a perspective issuing from the center of some ascendant "will." What actually matters about a belief is not whether it is true or not but whether it is "life-affirming," that is, capable of giving to those who entertain it feelings of strength, power, and freedom. 3) his philologizing, that is, his belief that thinking is inseparable from language and that language necessarily falsifies reality because through language we artificially order and simplify our raw experience. Reality for Nietzsche is a kind of ineffable flux that can be trapped within the categorical net of language only at the expense of fatal distortion. 


  • "Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market place, and cried incessantly: 'I seek God! I seek God! . . . 'Whither is God? he cried; 'I will tell you. We have killed him -- you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how did we do this? . . . Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? . . . God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him . . . There has never been a greater deed; and whoever is born after us -- for the sake of this deed he will belong to a higher history than all history hitherto.'" (The Gay Science). 
  • "What then is truth? A mobile army of metaphors, metonyms, and anthropomorphisms -- in short, a sum of human relations, which have been enhanced, transposed, and embellished poetically and rhetorically, and which after long use seem form, canonical, and obligatory to a people: truths are illusions about which one has forgotten that this is what they are; metaphors which are worn out and without sensuous power; coins which have lost their pictures and now matter only as metal, no longer as coins." ("On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense"). 
  • "There are no facts, only interpretations." (Afterthoughts). 
  • "What are man's truths ultimately? Merely his irrefutable errors." (The Gay Science). 
  • "Thoughts are the shadows of our feelings--always darker, emptier, and simpler." (The Gay Science). 
  • "Anything which is a living and not a dying body . . . will have to be an incarnate will to power, it will strive to grow, spread, seize, become predominant -- not from any morality or immorality but because it is living and because life simply is will to power . . . . 'Exploitation'. . . belongs to the essence of what lives, as a basic organic function; it is a consequence of the will to power, which is after all the will to live." (Beyond Good and Evil). 
  • "Every word is a prejudice." (The Wanderer and his Shadow). 
  • "I mistrust all systematizers and I avoid them. The will to a system is a lack of integrity." (Twilight of the Idols). 
  • "All psychology so far has got stuck in moral prejudices and fears; it has not dared to descend into the depths." (Beyond Good and Evil). 
  • "Philosophy, as I have so far understood and lived it, means living voluntarily among ice and high mountains -- seeking out everything strange and questionable in existence, everything so far placed under a ban by morality." (Ecce Homo). 
  • "I tell you: one must have chaos in one, to give birth to a dancing star." (Thus Spake Zarathustra).


  • "Descartes . . . arrives at the cogito ergo sum [I think, therefore, I am], which St. Augustine had already anticipated; but the ego implicit in this enthymeme, ego cogito, ergo ego sum, is an unreal -- that is, an ideal -- ego or I, and its sum, its existence, something unreal also.'I think, therefore I am', can only mean 'I think, therefore I am a thinker': the being of the 'I am', which is deduced from 'I think', is merely a knowing; that being is knowledge, but not life. And the primary reality is not that I think, but that I live, for those also live who do not think." (The Tragic Sense of Life). 
  • ". . . this personal and affective starting-point of all philosophy and all religion is the tragic sense of life." (The Tragic Sense of Life).



       Algerian-born French novelist and thinker, and winner of the 1957 Nobel Prize for literature. His existentialism deals with the experience of "absurdity" or metaphysical nihilism and the moral reaction that the experience demands. He is an atheistic existentialist and a nihilist. 

  • ". . . If God exists, all depends on him and we can do nothing against his will. If he does not exist, everything depends on us." (The Myth of Sisyphus).



       French philosopher and novelist. He is (with Heidegger) the leading exponent of atheistic existentialism. Sartre professed to be a Marxist (even though the French Communists didn't want or trust him) and believed that Marxism and existentialism were complementary in their critique of society and the aim to express in political liberty the freedom inherent in human nature. For Sartre, man is nothing at birth, and is condemned to be free in his choice of action and doomed to bear the burden of responsibility. In the attempt to deny this and alleviate the anxiety it occasions, he behaves as if his life and choices were predetermined by the situations and social roles in which he finds himself (Angst, bad faith). Being is transphenomenal, that is, its character is not fully revealed in the totality of its manifestations. There are two types of being: en-soi ("in-itself") and pour-soi ("for-itself"). Being-in-itself roughly corresponds to the being of an inert object, complete and fixed, expressing no relationship either with itself or with anything outside itself. It is uncreated, without reason for being, and absolutely contingent. Being-for-itself (human being or consciousness) is fluid, characterized by lack of determinate structure, by openness towards the future, and by potency. Man's intuition of nothingness makes judgements possible. 


  • "What do we mean by saying that existence precedes essence? We mean that man first of all exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world -- and defines himself afterwards . . . . there is no human nature, because there is no God to have a conception of it . . . . Man is nothing else but what he makes of himself." (Existentialism and Humanism). 
  • "It is necessary that we make ourselves what we are." (Being and Nothingness). 
  • "Man is condemned to be free" (Existentialism and Humanism).



       German existentialist philosopher. For him, existence is 1) the human condition, limited and revealed by ultimate situations of suffering, guilt, and death, which man experiences and is part of and thus cannot make objective. 2) Existence implies freedom, and the free existent is responsible for (and thus guilty of) his actions. 3) Existence means communication between existents, and man's search for truth becomes his striving to transcend his own existence and thus communicate. 


  • "Freedom is the most-used word of our time. What it is seems obvious to all . . . . Yet there is nothing more obscure, more ambiguous, more abused." (Future of Mankind). 
  • "I know I am free, and so I admit I am guilty." (Philosophy).



       Jewish philosopher and theologian. Born in Vienna, taught after 1933 at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. His main work is Ich und Du (I and Thou) [1923] where he designates the I-Thou relationship as one bertween subject and subject, hence involving action, recirpocity, and mutuality. The I-It is the relation between subject and object, involving some form of utilization or control, the object being wholly passive. Buber's notion of God is that of the eternal Thou, the only I-Thou situation that man can sustain indefinitely; in it God is recognized in all things as the wholly other, not observed but revealing itself. Like Kierkegaard and Unamuno, Buber is a theistic existentialist. 


  • "All real living is meeting." (I and Thou).



       German philosopher, rector of Freiburg University, where in 1933 he proclaimed his conversion to National Socialism. His main work is Sein und Zeit (Being and Time) [1927]. For Heidegger, existence can be apprehended only through the analysis and description of human "being" (Dasein), the basic mode of being in the world through participation and involvement. The environment (Umwelt) is constituted of objects that are accesible and utilizable for purposive action. Action and knowledge are inseparably related. Dasein is also communality. The "authentic" (eigenlich) self is potentiality for action, characterized by its orientation towards the future, entailing possibilities and the constant necessity of choice. Every choice is understood as the exclusion of the alternative, through which the "nothingness" aspect of existence is expressed. The past is significant in terms of unrealized possibilities that relate to the present and future; from these unrealized possibilities stem guilt and anxiety (Angst), recognizing the "nothingness" in present and future choices and the finiteness of the time allotted. Heidegger is an atheistic existentialist (although he talks about the "gods" at times). 


  • "The essence of Dasein (being) lies in its existence." (Being and Time). 
  • "Language is the house of Being. In its home man dwells. Those who think and those who create with words are the guardians of this home." ("Letter on Humanism"). 
  • "For, strictly speaking, it is language that speaks. Man first speaks when, and only when, he responds to language by listening to its appeal." ("Poetry, Language, Thought") 
  • "The end of philosophy proves to be the triumph of the manipulable arrangement of a scientific-technological world and of the social order proper to that world. The end of philosophy means the beginning of the world civilization based upon Western European thinking." ("The End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking"). 
  • "I saw in the movement that had gained power (the NSDAP) the possibility of an inner recollection and renewal of the people and a path that would allow it to discover its historical vocation in the Western world." ("The Rectorate 1933/4," Review of Metaphysics [1985] p. 483). 
  • "The will to the essence of the German university is the will to science as will to the historical mission of the German people as a people that knows itself in its state."("The Self Assertion of the German University" [an address to Freiburg University 1933], Review of Metaphysics [1985], p. 471).

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Última actualización:
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