Existentialism and Free Will

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Gray, Edward
thesis / dissertation description
In the mid- to late nineteenth century, two movements arose In Europe with apparently disparate intentions: one embodied a purely philosophical awareness of the human condition, while the other spurred the psychological study of the human mind and human behavior. The former, Existentialism, currently maintains nevertheless a profoundly intimate connection with psychology (so much so that one particular psychological school bears its name), which in turn embraces a number of philosophically important positions. Perhaps the most Important of these is that of freedom, and particularly, freedom of the will. Indeed freedom is arguably the very foundation of Existentialism. Yet, many of the theoretical implications of modern psychology would seem to restrict the claim that man is fundamentally free, attacking freedom by means of both psychodynamic and behavioral determinism. We may well inquire into the polarity of these Existentialist and psychological positions: is it possible that one actually refutes the other, or that the two claims are in fact reconcilable, or that neither is reasonable? Clearly, such an understanding is crucial to the foundations of Existentialism as a whole.