Do you often find yourself criticizing, and relentlessly arguing with yourself about— why we are trapped in this world like a hamster on a wheel, who is forced by its owner to run in the name of fun. Whilst for the hamster, who is confined within its solitary chamber, it’s no fun, and games.
Though the creature may not speak, but whenever the owner accidentally forgets to shut the door, the creature tries its best to flee from the cage.
This strong urge for freedom, that every animal possesses is rooted in its entire being, and the same can be said for humans.
When we are at school, we want the bell to ring to be free. When at office we wait for the clock to struck 6, and when old age arrives we wait for death in order to be free from pain, and suffering.
But what about the time, when we first learn about how the world functions, which usually starts from teenage, and continues until youth.
It is when we think the most about, why we are here? What is so precious about life when death is the ultimate goal?
If we only live to survive, then why we are so anxious to step on the ladder of success, only to leave name, and fame behind, which exists only in this time, and world.
Are we here for a bigger purpose? or just to deplete the earth of its resources, and species that co-exist with us. Why we are forced to procreate when nobody is free, and is burdened by the responsibilities of society as a whole.
The one who wishes to be free is often boycotted by the society. Since the society’s purpose at large is dismantled, because of the germination of a new line of thought, or a new way of living.
If you are in a frenzy going up, and down the existential ladder only to find out— there’s nobody you can share such thoughts with.
Then you are at the right place, because I have compiled a list of existential quotes by famous philosophers, who share different views about existentialism.
Philosophers like Camus think life is absurd, and we must continue doing what we do. We must continue pushing the giant rock up the hill as Sisyphus did without questioning Because we have no other way out, and survival is our ultimate goal.
Camus and other existentialists believed there is no creator or God. It is our responsibility to live our life on the basis of morals, and ethics defined by us.
While other philosophers such as Soren Kierkegaard considered as the ‘Father of Existentialism’ believed in God, but wasn’t satisfied with the dubious theories that aimed at validating it with proof. This is why Kierkegaard believed taking the leap of faith, as it is the only choice we have.
If you want to know what other Existentialists believed, and how they dealt with existential crisis then here are— 100 Existential Quotes by famous Philosophers to let you know, you aren’t alone in this struggle.
Danish philosopher and theologian Søren Aabye Kierkegaard (1813–1855) is regarded as the founding father of existentialism.
Though the author never associated himself with this term. However, his work highly speaks about individual existence, which often gets overshadowed by— what we learn as a whole from society.
Kierkegaard is also referred to as a Christian existentialist because his work mainly focuses on Christian ethics, Christendom, and Philosophy of religion, Psychology.
Many of his famous works were written under different pseudonyms, which includes:
Søren Kierkegaard’s work has been revered by many critics, and had a major influence on the development of 20th century philosophy, and existential philosophy.
His work laid the foundation for other existentialist, and postmodern philosophers to carry forward their work in these domains.
According to Kierkegaard a person is solely responsible for his life, and how he wishes to experience it, and religion or society has no hold on it.
He believed in order to achieve God we should be committed, responsible for our actions, and be wise enough to make difficult decisions, and sacrifices.
Kierkegaard questioned religious dogmas, and was a stern critic of the religious, and philosophical establishments that misguided people.
He believed that Christianity has lost its simplicity as a faith. Since it has been diluted with religious dogmas, and our modern lifestyle, where humans are so involved in society, that they have lost their connection with God. Therefore, we must take a leap of faith.
2. “Once you label me you negate me.
3. “Personality is only ripe when a man has made the truth his own.”
4. “A man who as a physical being is always turned toward the outside, thinking that his happiness lies outside him, finally turns inward and discovers that the source is within him.”
5. “It was completely fruitless to quarrel with the world, whereas the quarrel with oneself was occasionally fruitful and always, she had to admit, interesting.”
6. “I feel as if I were a piece in a game of chess, when my opponent says of it: That piece cannot be moved.”
7. “Far from idleness being the root of all evil, it is rather the only true good.”
8. “People understand me so poorly that they don’t even understand my complaint about them not understanding me.”
9. “What is a poet? An unhappy person who conceals profound anguish in his heart but whose lips are so formed that he sighs and cries pass over them they sound like beautiful music.”
10. “Since my earliest childhood a barb of sorrow has lodged in my heart. As long as it stays I am ironic if it is pulled out I shall die.”
11. “The greatest hazard of all, losing one’s self can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all. No other loss can occur so quietly; any other loss – an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife, etc – is sure to be noticed.”
12. “Our life always expresses the result of our dominant thoughts.”
13. “Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.”
14. “There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true, the other is to refuse to believe what is true.”
15. “The highest and most beautiful things in life are not to be heard about, nor read about, nor seen but, if one will, are to be lived.”
16. “Life has its own hidden forces which you can only discover by living.”
Irish novelist Samuel Barclay Beckett (13 April 1906 – 22 December 1989) lauded for his literary gem ‘Waiting for Godot’ is considered as one of the last modernist writers.
He was one of the main and famed writers, whose work was the centerpiece of Martin Esslin’s “Theatre of the Absurd,” which focused on existentialism themes.
Beckett was a man with many talents, he juggled between playwriting, theatre, direction, poetry, short story writing, and literary translation. He was fluent in both French and English, and finessed his craft in both languages.
Beckett’s work at large focuses on the themes of existentialism like facticity, despair, freedom, and authenticity.
In 1969 Beckett was conferred with the Nobel Prize in Literature for his exemplary work in the field of literature, drama, and arts. His wife Suzanne called the award a “catastrophe” as her solitude loving husband would be haunted by paparazzi from then on.
Although Beckett didn’t devote much time to interviews, but he seldom met artists, scholars, and admirers in the anonymous lobby of the Hotel PLM St. Jacques in Paris, near the author’s home.
He was also elected Saoi of Aosdána in 1984, which is the highest honour conferred upon a person by Aosdána– an Irish association of creative artists.
17. “We are all born mad. Some remain so.”
18. “Dance first. Think later. It’s the natural order.”
19. “You’re on Earth. There’s no cure for that.”
20. “The tears of the world are a constant quantity. For each one who begins to weep somewhere else another stops. The same is true of the laugh.”
21. “The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new.”
22. “My mistakes are my life.”
23. “The only sin is the sin of being born”
24. “Perhaps my best years are gone. When there was a chance of happiness. But I wouldn’t want them back. Not with the fire in me now. No, I wouldn’t want them back.”
25. “There’s man all over for you, blaming on his boots the faults of his feet.”
26. “The end is in the beginning and yet you go on.”
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (15 October 1844 – 25 August 1900) was a coveted German philosopher, essayist, cultural critic, poet, and philologist. At age 24, he became the youngest person ever to hold the Chair of Classical Philology at the University of Basel in 1869.
Nietzsche’s work had a great influence on modern intellectual history. Before changing his career path towards philosophy, Nietzsche worked as a classical philologist.
Nietzsche battled with health problems throughout his life, and hit rock bottom when he suffered a collapse at age 44, which left him mentally impaired. After which, he continued living under the care of his mother and sister, and finally said goodbye on August 25, 1900.
Nietzsche’s opposed the belief that there is a universal truth, which is true for every living being, and even time. He believed that what is true for us, might be untrue from another person’s perspective, backing the philosophical idea known as perspectivism.
According to Nietzsche every individual must form his/her own identity through self-realisation, and learning through self-inquiry rather than relying on God or a soul.
Through his psychological analysis, Nietzsche introduced original theories about the nature of self, and provocative proposals suggesting new values to bring a cultural renewal.
Which he believed would improve social, and psychological life of humans. And will be a better living model as compared to the traditional value system, that he opposed.
27. “One repays a teacher badly if one always remains nothing but a pupil.”
28. “Convictions are more dangerous foes of truth than lies.”
29. “Regarding life, the wisest men of all ages have judged alike: it is worthless.”
30. “All modern philosophizing is political, policed by governments, churches, academics, custom, fashion, and human cowardice, all off which limit it to a fake learnedness.”
31. “The desire for a strong faith is not the proof of a strong faith, rather the opposite. If one has it one may permit oneself the beautiful luxury of skepticism: one is secure enough, fixed enough for it.”
32. “If we possess a why of life we can put up with almost any how.”
33. “No shepherd and one herd! Everybody wants the same, everybody is the same: whoever feels different goes voluntarily into a madhouse.”
34. “In the consciousness of the truth he has perceived, man now sees everywhere only the awfulness or the absurdity of existence and loathing seizes him.”
35. “You look up when you wish to be exalted. And I look down because I am exalted.”
French philosopher Albert Camus (7 November 1913 – 4 January 1960) is known for contributing his efforts to the rise of absurdist philosophy. Camus believed that every individual should embrace the absurd condition of human existence.
For his out-standing literary production, Camus was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature at age 44 in 1957. He also holds the title of being the second-youngest recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature, ever in history.
Some of his widely acclaimed works include The Stranger, The Plague, The Myth of Sisyphus, The Fall, and The Rebel.
Although Camus wasn’t a philosopher in the strictest sense, but his philosophical ideas, and queries widely expressed in his novels, especially “The Myth of Sisyphus” had a similar approach to existentialism.
The main theme in Camus’s novels revolves around the idea that human life is absurd and meaningless.
Therefore, many readers regard him as an existentialist philosopher. Even though Camus always denied being labelled as an existentialist but was considered to be one entire his life.
36. “After a while you could get used to anything.”
37. “Should I kill myself, or have a cup of coffee?”
38. “I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world.”
39. “It is necessary to fall in love… if only to provide an alibi for all the random despair you are going to feel anyway.”
40. “The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”
41 “The literal meaning of life is whatever you’re doing that prevents you from killing yourself.”
42. “Seeking what is true is not seeking what is desirable.”
43. “All that remains is a fate whose outcome alone is fatal. Outside of that single fatality of death, everything, joy or happiness, is liberty. A world remains of which man is the sole master. What bound him was the illusion of another world.”
44. “At that time, I often thought that if I had had to live in the trunk of a dead tree, with nothing to do but look up at the sky flowing overhead, little by little I would have gotten used to it.”
45. “But what are a hundred million deaths? When one has served in a war, one hardly knows what a dead man is, after a while. And since a dead man has no substance unless one has actually seen him dead, a hundred million corpses broadcast through history are no more than a puff of smoke in the imagination.”
46. “Everything is true, and nothing is true!”
47. “I rebel; therefore I exist.”
48. “The tragedy is not that we are alone, but that we cannot be. At times I would give anything in the world to no longer be connected by anything to this universe of men.”
Franz Kafka born into a German-Jewish family in Prague was a path-breaking novelist and short-story writer. He was known for eccentric style of writing that involved elements of realism, and existentialism.
His writing style comprised themes of alienation, existential anxiety, symbolism, guilt, and absurdity, which came to be known as ‘Kafkaesque’, a term particularly coined for such writing.
Kafka’s work shaped 20th century literature, some of his well-received works include— Die Verwandlung (The Metamorphosis), Der Process (The Trial), and Das Schloss (The Castle).
His outlandish themes, and plots surprised the readers with its deeper symbolism with important matters pertaining to the society, and human existence. His writing reflects that humans are trapped in a hopeless world, and one can only escape it through death.
49. “Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.”
50. “I am a cage, in search of a bird.”
51. “I am in chains. Don’t touch my chains.”
52. “I cannot make you understand. I cannot make anyone understand what is happening inside me. I cannot even explain it to myself.”
53. “A first sign of the beginning of understanding is the wish to die.”
54. “The meaning of life is that it stops.”
55. “A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity.”
56. “I am free and that is why I am lost.”
57. “You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.”
58. “By believing passionately in something that still does not exist, we create it. The non-existent is whatever we have not sufficiently desired.”
59. “Slept, awoke, slept, awoke, miserable life.”
60. “I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound or stab us. If the book we’re reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow to the head, what are we reading for? So that it will make us happy, as you write? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to.
But we need books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. That is my belief.”
61. “It’s only because of their stupidity that they’re able to be so sure of themselves.”
62. “Writing is utter solitude, the descent into the cold abyss of oneself.”
63. “He is terribly afraid of dying because he hasn’t yet lived.”
64. “There is an infinite amount of hope in the universe … but not for us.”
65. “I usually solve problems by letting them devour me.”
66. “I am constantly trying to communicate something incommunicable, to explain something inexplicable, to tell about something I only feel in my bones, and which can only be experienced in those bones. Basically it is nothing other than this fear we have so often talked about, but fear spread to everything, fear of the greatest as of the smallest, fear, paralyzing fear of pronouncing a word, although this fear may not only be fear but also a longing for something greater than all that is fearful.”
― Franz Kafka, Letters to Milena
67. “I have the true feeling of myself only when I am unbearably unhappy.”
68. “I have spent all my life resisting the desire to end it.”
69. “Now I can look at you in peace; I don’t eat you any more.”
― Franz Kafka to fish
Jean-Paul Sartre (1905–1980) was a famous French novelist, playwright, and 20th century philosopher. He advocated the philosophy of existentialism, and believed there is no such thing as a creator.
Sartre was nominated for the Nobel Prize, upon hearing this news, he wrote a letter to the panel telling them to scrape off his name from the list, because he didn’t wish to accept it.
The letter went unread, and eventually Sartre won the 1964 Nobel Prize in Literature but declined it, because he didn’t his life to be transformed by it. To escape the media he hid in the house of Hélène de Beauvoir, who his girlfriend’s sister.
Sartre believed that humans live in constant anguish not because life is miserable, but because they are condemned to be free.
Sartre proposed that the concepts of authenticity, and individuality have to be earned but not learned. Some of his notable works include— Nausea (1938), Being and Nothingness (1943), and Existentialism and Humanism (1946).
70. “If you’re lonely when you’re alone, you’re in bad company.”
71. “Man is nothing else but what he makes of himself.”
72. “He was free, free in every way, free to behave like a fool or a machine, free to accept, free to refuse, free to equivocate; to marry, to give up the game, to drag this death weight about with him for years to come. He could do what he liked, no one had the right to advise him, there would be for him no Good or Evil unless he thought them into being.”
73. “Do you think that I count the days? There is only one day left, always starting over: it is given to us at dawn and taken away from us at dusk.”
74. “I want to leave, to go somewhere where I should be really in my place, where I would fit in… but my place is nowhere; I am unwanted.”
75. “Hell is—other people!”
76. “Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.
It is up to you to give [life] a meaning.”
77. “Freedom is what we do with what is done to us.”
78. “We are our choices.”
79. “Life has no meaning the moment you lose the illusion of being eternal.”
80. “Anything, anything would be better than this agony of mind, this creeping pain that gnaws and fumbles and caresses one and never hurts quite enough.”
81. “We do not know what we want and yet we are responsible for what we are — that is the fact.”
82. “Everything has been figured out, except how to live.”
83. “Every existing thing is born without reason, prolongs itself out of weakness, and dies by chance.”
84. “We must act out passion before we can feel it.”
85. “I am alone in the midst of these happy, reasonable voices. All these creatures spend their time explaining, realizing happily that they agree with each other. In Heaven’s name, why is it so important to think the same things all together. ”
86. “Man is not the sum of what he has already, but rather the sum of what he does not yet have, of what he could have.”
87. “There may be more beautiful times, but this one is ours.”
88. “Three o’clock is always too late or too early for anything you want to do.”
89. “One is still what one is going to cease to be and already what one is going to become. One lives one’s death, one dies one’s life.”
90. “God is absence. God is the solitude of man.”
91. “Man is a useless passion.”
92. “Life begins on the other side of despair.”
93. “My thought is me: that’s why I can’t stop. I exist because I think… and I can’t stop myself from thinking. At this very moment – it’s frightful – if I exist, it is because I am horrified at existing. I am the one who pulls myself from the nothingness to which I aspire.”
94. “Smooth and smiling faces everywhere, but ruin in their eyes.”
― Jean-Paul Sartre
95. “I know. I know that I shall never again meet anything or anybody who will inspire me with passion. You know, it’s quite a job starting to love somebody. You have to have energy, generosity, blindness. There is even a moment, in the very beginning, when you have to jump across a precipice: if you think about it you don’t do it. I know I’ll never jump again.”
96. “I am no longer sure of anything. If I satiate my desires, I sin but I deliver myself from them; if I refuse to satisfy them, they infect the whole soul.”
97. “One always dies too soon — or too late. And yet, life is there, finished: the line is drawn, and it must all be added up. You are nothing other than your life.”
98. “Our responsibility is much greater than we might have supposed, because it involves all mankind.”
99. “Don’t you feel the same way? When I cannot see myself, even though I touch myself, I wonder if I really exist.”
100. “I exist, that is all, and I find it nauseating.”
Let thy spirit be high in love, Namaste.