By Paul and Phillip Collins

Popular opinion tends to regard philosophical discourse as the province of academia’s hierophants. There is good reason for this self-imposed intellectual segregation. On the theoretical level, philosophy can be somewhat tedious. Given the field’s justifiable insistence upon the clarity of definitions, philosophy is replete with specialized terminology that typically requires explanation by theoreticians. As a result, few people are eager to engage in discussions concerning the various Weltanschauungs populating the marketplace of ideas. Yet, philosophical outlooks abound and they are held by both neophyte and adept. Thus, the question arises: How are belief systems engendered among pop culture’s novice-level thinkers? According to Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias, most people are not introduced to philosophy through the superstructure of theory. Instead, they are exposed through an infrastructure of the arts, which “has shaped the national mind-set in everything from determining war strategy to electing presidents, to finding one’s identity in cars and deodorants” (Can Man Live Without God? 12).

Such was the case with existentialism, a movement whose logically untenable foundations were camouflaged by cleverly employed artistic mediums. Existentialism presented a dysteleological depiction of the world as the basis for a libertine philosophy of self-definition. A central contention of the outlook was that because the world was supposedly meaningless, man was the ultimate arbiter of meaning and values. Unmoored from a God, purpose and all of its entailments became the province of the subjective conscious. Of this absolute autonomy, Soren Kierkegaard writes: