Existentialism (/ˌɛɡzɪˈstɛnʃəlɪzəm/[1] or /ˌɛksəˈstɛntʃəˌlɪzəm/[2]) is a form of philosophical inquiry that explores the problem of human existence and centers on the experience of thinking, feeling, and acting.[3][4] In the view of the existentialist, the individual's starting point has been called "the existential angst," a sense of dread, disorientation, confusion, or anxiety in the face of an apparently meaningless or absurd world.[5] Existentialist thinkers frequently explore issues related to the meaning, purpose, and value of human existence.[6]

Clockwise from top left: Søren Kierkegaard, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Jean-Paul Sartre, Friedrich Nietzsche

Existentialism is associated with several 19th and 20th-century European philosophers who shared an emphasis on the human subject, despite profound doctrinal differences.[7][4][8] Many existentialists regarded traditional systematic or academic philosophies, in style and content, as too abstract and remote from concrete human experience.[9][10] A primary virtue in existentialist thought is authenticity.[11] Søren Kierkegaard is generally considered to have been the first existentialist philosopher.[7][12][13] He proposed that each individual—not society or religion—is solely responsible for giving meaning to life and living it passionately and sincerely, or "authentically".[14][15]

Furthermore, existentialism has influenced many disciplines outside of philosophy, including theology, drama, art, literature, and psychology.[16]