Although major philosophers have discussed being since before Socretes, Soren Kierkegaard is usually considered the first existential philosopher. Differing from the philosophies of Kant and Hegel, Kierkegaard (1855) believed that meaning is the responsibility of the individual, and it is the individual’s responsibility to use this meaning to lead the authentic life, often in the face of the absurd.
The most influential existential thinkers of the twentieth century base their methodology and ontology on the phenomenological movement; Edmond Husserl’s version of phenomenology was particularly influential. Martin Heidegger was Husserl’s student and assistant, and although he broke from Husserl, Heidegger uses Husserl’s phenomenology as a tool to study being. Jean-Paul Sartre studied for a time with Husserl, and, although Heidegger was closer to Husserl, Sartre’s work, the philosophical study of being, also uses Husserl’s phenomenology as its major tool.
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