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PHIL304 Existentialism

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PHIL304 Existentialism

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PHIL304 Existentialism

1 Download5 Pages / 1,206 Words

Course Code: PHIL304
University: Saylor Academy

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Country: United States

Question 

Compare and contrast two examples (works) of architecture and philosophy and/or religion that detail the change in the medium influenced by Existentialism. Be sure to reference at least two specific examples (primary sources) of visual art, theater/film, etc., to illustrate your conclusions. You must discuss in detail the historical context of either architecture and philosophy and/or religion. 

Answer 

Influence of Existentialism on Architecture and Religion
Introduction
Existentialism is a philosophical ideology that is centered on human existence as opposed to essence. Existentialism holds that humans exist first and then define themselves later in life through their deeds and actions. Architecture and religion, the two creations of humans themselves, also display influences of existentialism that shall be discussed further in the essay.
The essay also aims to focus on the historical context of architecture and religion to find the changes the medium has undergone with the influence of existentialism. The essay will compare and contrast two examples from architecture and religion to demonstrate the influence of existentialism.  
Discussion
Philosophy and architecture are two fields that have long been contemplated as separated and having no connection between them. However, many instances prove that philosophy and architecture are related (Carvalho and Goodyear). One of the most renowned examples of philosophy meeting architecture is Haus Wittgenstein Vienna, which was designed by Ludwig Wittgenstein, a philosopher. Although initially, the project was offered to Paul Engelmann, an architect, he backed out due to too much interference from Wittgenstein. The building now stands as a fine example of existentialism as Ludwig Wittgenstein had built it from his own, free imagination. Margaret Stonborough-Wittgenstein had commissioned the house in 1925 and assigned Paul Englemann to design it. In order to make the house more aesthetic, Margaret decided to invite her brother Ludwig Wittgenstein to give insights (Polidori). Ludwig was a renowned philosopher who was known particularly for his work Tractatus, which was published in 1921. With a view to avoid court proceedings for a case of beating a student while he was a teacher at Otterthal, he joined his sister in constructing the house. It soon became his obsession, as he wanted everything to be done exactly as he wanted. The house reflected the existentialist nature of Ludwig as it reflected the life he had led and that described him as an individual.
Religion, on the other hand, could be said to be the most influenced by the philosophy of existentialism. Existentialists ranged from outright religious moralist, amoral atheist to agnostic relativist. Contrary to popular belief that existentialism diverts away from religion, it is not essentially atheist. Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Sartre and Camus – all these existentialists had different religious ideologies (Williams). Anita Brookner, a renowned British writer puts it, “Existentialism is about being a saint without God; being your own hero, without all the sanction and support of religion or society” (Janaki). Kierkegaard was a religious philosopher while Nietzsche was anti-Christian. Sartre and Camus were atheists or non-believers. These existentialists changed the way religion was viewed by the society in the ancient era. Films have projected the existentialist nature of religion through numerous films. Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal is one such work of art. Released in 1957, the film portrays the era of Black Death. It portrays the life of a disillusioned knight (portrayed by Max Von Sydow) who starts a game of chess with Death (personified by Bengt Ekerot) after returning from the Crusades to Sweden Isabel (González). The knight feels that he has led a meaningless life and desires to perform “one meaningful deed”. While on his path to find meaning in life, he and his band of followers come across different people who offer varied insights of the afterlife and death. The film references the Bible as the seventh seal comes from the holy book, “And when the Lamb had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour” (McCutcheon). It is thus evident from the film’s plot and the character’s journey that it has all the elements of existentialism. While the title of the film is taken from the Bible, the plot and character’s journey are a reflection of an individual’s own journey to find meaning in life.
It is evident from the discussion above that the architectural work of Wittgenstein and the film of Bergman have been influence heavily by existentialism. In both the works, the artists have tried to portray their individualism, which is reflected in the works. Haus Wittgenstein was almost entirely designed by Ludwig and he wanted to have it made in the way that would portray the life he had led. The doors, the windows and the ceiling, all spoke of Ludwig’s existence as an individual and not as someone from a rich European family. The Seventh Seal could be aligned to Ludwig’s architecture in this case as the film also reflects the individuality of its maker (Leiber). Existentialists believe that a building should be the way it is and not the way others perceive it. Further, buildings are artificial and static and should be treated in that way only, nothing else. Ludwig made sure that the Haus Wittgenstein was made the way he wanted with every minute detail was added to the building’s construction. Bergman also portrayed characteristics of existentialism through religion.
In terms of differences, while Ludwig’s work had certain elements that deviated from existentialism. One instance of that was Ludwig’s decision to move the ceiling higher by 30mm that demonstrated the influence of his strict and disciplined childhood. Bergman, on the other hand, was clear in his thoughts regarding his ideology, which is the existence of the individual free from any forced faith or spirituality. The disillusioned knight journeyed through life to find a meaningful deed before he dies. The characters of Jof and Mia further revealed the theme of the film that showed the importance of religion despite one being an existentialist.  
Conclusion
To conclude, it can be stated that the influence of existentialism especially during the 19th and 20th century on architecture and religion was largely visible. The essay did a comparison and contrast of two works mainly from architecture and religion. The first work was of architecture highlighting Ludwig Wittgenstein, a philosopher’s venture into existential architecture. The second work that was highlighted in the essay was that of Ingmar Bergman’s film The Seventh Seal that portrayed existentialism through religion. It was found that both architecture and religion were influenced by existentialism that states that individuals exist first and then find essence in life.
Works cited:
Carvalho, Lucila, and Peter Goodyear. The architecture of productive learning networks. Routledge, 2014.
Isabel González, Atenea. “The Demons of Modernity. Ingmar Bergman and European cinema.” (2014): 603-605.
Janaki, B. “Relationships Redefined: An Analysis of Anita Brookner’s The Bay Of Angels.” European Journal of English Language and Literature Studies 4.6 (2016): 25-30.
Leiber, Justin. “Linguistic Analysis and Existentialism.” Sartre’s French Contemporaries and Enduring Influences. Routledge, 2013. 87-96.
McCutcheon, Felicity. Religion within the limits of language alone: Wittgenstein on philosophy and religion. Routledge, 2017.
Polidori, Troy. “Philosophical Hermeneutics Reinterpreted: Dialogues with Existentialism, Pragmatism, Critical Theory and Postmodernism. By Paul Fairfield. Pp. 263, London, Continuum 2011, $120.00.” The Heythrop Journal 55.4 (2014): 745-746.
Williams, Dan. “Sartre’s Theory of Imagination and The Seventh Seal.” Klein, Sartre and Imagination in the Films of Ingmar Bergman. Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2015. 67-95.

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