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Existentialism and Geography

  • By: Audrey Kobayashi
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

The term existentialism was coined by Jean-Paul Sartre, the most famous of the existentialists, to refer to a range of mid-20th-century European philosophers who studied the conditions of humanity: Sartre, Albert Camus, and Gabriel Marcel in France; Martin Heidegger, Karl Jaspers, and Martin Buber in Germany; and Oretega y Gasset in Spain, as well as myriad novelists and playwrights who promoted a historical genre based on the “existential condition.” These thinkers shared a belief that established philosophical frameworks were insufficient to understand or improve human conditions. The basic premise is that human beings bring their existence into the world or become human by engaging a world peopled with other humans. A common referent is Sartre's idea that “existence precedes essence,” that is, we make ourselves ...

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