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The purpose of the IEP is to provide detailed, scholarly, peer-reviewed information on key topics and philosophers in all areas of academic philosophy. The Encyclopedia’s articles are written with the intention that most of the article can be understood by advanced undergraduates majoring in philosophy and by other scholars who are not working in the field covered by that article. The IEP articles are written by experts but not for experts in analogy to the way the Scientific American magazine is written by scientific experts but not primarily for scientific experts.
In this program, world-renowned author and professor Bryan Magee and William Barret of New York University examine the basic theory of existentialism as founded by Martin Heidegger, and later propagated by Jean-Paul Sartre. Barret discusses Heidegger’s notions of being, existence as task, cosmic roots, and alienation. Sartre’s concept of absolute human freedom is discussed as having promoted human dignity and individualism in the impersonal modern society.
In contrast to empiricist and rationalist traditions, existentialism proposes an orderless world, vaguely hostile, where people choose their character and goals, have an obligation only to be "authentic," and may only observe the truth (reality) in moments of anxiety. In this program, world-renowned author and professor Bryan Magee and University of California, Berkeley, philosopher Herbert Dreyfus trace the roots of existentialism from Edmund Husserl’s School of Phenomenology, to his pupil Martin Heidegger’s theories of das Sein, the threefold structure of activity, authenticity, and nihilism. Dreyfus relates the philosophies of both men to present-day schools of thought.