1. Pisces21
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    Pisces21 Member

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    Characteristics of truly existential characters?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Pisces21, Dec 21, 2013.

    So if anyone saw my intro post, I specialize in writing a brand of short stories I call "philosophical narrative" - not to sound like your average pretentious, post-modern hipster ( I'm not a hipster I promise), but if you were to set out to develop a persona who is truly existential, that is one who looks to his or her experiences for truth and genuine living, what sort of traits would they possess?

    for instance, there was a period in French film called "The New Wave (La Nouvelle Vague)" during the 50s and 60s and it showcased elements of classical Hollywood and Italian neorealism. Incredibly existential films- they're almost known for this... many of the main characters (if there even is one??) had the following characteristics:
    - Smoked ( considered sexy at the time)
    - Generally fashionable
    - Committed violent crimes ( if not homicides)
    - Lead double lives

    Of course this isn't the only period in history where there were archetypes pegged as "existential". I know the phrase "archetypes of existentialism" is actually a bit of an oxymoron, but what are some characteristics would you all add to this list?
     
  2. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Maybe I'm being thick and simplistic here, but, according to your definition, the person would live by whatever they've picked up during their lifetime? I mean, if everybody lives life according to their own experiences...

    Seems to me that trying to find common characteristics negates the whole exercise, unless you're talking about eating and breathing and all that stuff.

    Smoking, being fashionable, committing violent crimes and leading a double life certainly doesn't describe me! And if I were let free to devour the universe, these characteristics would STILL not define me!

    What am I missing here? o_O
     
  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Why would an existentialist look for truth?

    Out of the characteristics you've listed, I could see how the last three might apply. The first one (smoking) is more indicative of the time period than of existentialism.

    If I had to add one thing to the list, it would be being (or trying to become) an actor. As Camus says, man can live the lives of many other people when he is an actor, which can be very appealing to some. It's essentially a way of creating artificial meaning.
     
  4. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    So, I'm gonna go with a hunch here. Not familiar with the terms too much.

    As far as I know, existentialism is about living authentically, as in to the fullest and without modern social bullshit.

    So, the character would generally be goal driven and that goal is seldom normal but indulging and involves strong emotions.
    I figure they'd hold contempt for those unlike them as those who do not live life well, in their opinion, should be beneath them or wastes of time.

    Usually, they're criminals but for art or some sort of grand ideal.
    They aren't religious, so smoking isn't exactly a problem since they'd be quasi-nihilistic (no heaven, no grand purpose.. so what if ya die early?)
    It could be more of a periodical thing since this movement mainly surfaced in the 18-19th century when smoking was new and "cool" and the health issues weren't known.

    Umm...

    I think it would be a very self-reliant, independent, and strong character with clear ideals, goals, and a very strong understanding of themselves that would allow them to face any situation and not get confused or muddled with doubts.

    They'd be morally ambiguous and certain people might call them egoists, immoral, or even cruel.

    But that's just from the little I know.
     
  5. Pisces21
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    Brilliant! I like what you said. I like that you said that they're often goal-oriented and have contempt for those who don't live life well - they don't like seeing people who willingly put themselves in the chains of modernism or any pre-determined confines based in societal notions of what constitutes 'normalcy'. They especially dislike those attempting to place these chains on them. You're also sharp to note that they have a strong understanding of themselves and are morally ambiguous.

    You helped me realize that one thing I've noticed is that "normal" is considered insane by existentialists and the "normal" society find the existentialists insane and "egoist, immoral, or even cruel" as you said.

    Also, while it's certainly the "stereotype" that existentialists are non-religious or have nihilistic tendencies, it is important to note that Soren Kierkegaard (whom I have quoted in my sig. !) is widely considered the father of existentialism - and he was a Christian and very earnest about it. Of course not all existentialism is the same ( Kierkegaard is not Camus is not Sartre, etc.) but it arises an interesting point - existentialism ( and post-modern thought in general) calls into question the societal fetish of progress through math and science and above all the notion of certainty. Existentialism says that the truths we discover through math and science ought not to be the only truths that are valid. We must learn that there is value/validity even in that which we can't be certain about - (faith, religion, spirituality), some would say. One characteristic of truly existential characters, then might be that they hardly ever make any appeals to scientism or purely rational thought.

    I appreciate everyone's comments so far!
     
  6. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    Yay, I got something right :3

    I just kinda imagined Ayn Rand's characters when I wrote that.

    I don't like the sadistic parts of Nietzsche ideals so I stick to the more modern and realizable Rand.
     
  7. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Strictly speaking, Nietzsche didn't like that like the sadistic things that people pretended were his ideals either ;)

    And yes, I also disagree with him as much as the next guy does, I just don't think he was the Antichrist.
     
  8. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    Well the whole slave thing and enjoying being mean to those below you was rather... odd.
    I only read Zarathustra and Beyond Good and Evil. Might have missed a few things.
     
  9. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Specifically the part where he said that slavery-based morality was a bad thing. He was describing, not prescribing.
     
  10. A.M.P.
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    No that part.
    The part where inferior people should serve superior people and take the brunt of whatever they are given.
     

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