A brilliant young man, he was appointed professor at the University of Basel aged 24 having not even finished his degree. His evanescent philosophical life ended 20 years later when he went insane and died shortly afterwards.
Nietzsche’s argued that the Christian system of faith and worship was not only incorrect, but harmful to society because it allowed the weak to rule the strong - it suppressed the will to power which was the driving force of human character.
Nietzsche wanted people to throw of the shackles of our misguided Christian morality and become supermen - free and titanic.
German philosopher Martin Heidegger addressed the central question of human existence full on, by examining how human self-awareness depends on concepts of time and death.
His preoccupation with ontology - the form of metaphysical inquiry concerned with the study of existence itself - dominated his work. The central idea of his complex Sein und Zeit (Being and Time) (1927) could be summed up in the phrase ‘being is’.
Man had to ask himself ‘what is it to be?’ and only by doing this, and standing back from absorption into objects and other distractions, could he actually exist.
For Heidegger, the constant fear of death and the anxieties of life helped man to ask this central question – the mystery of life was intimately linked to the individual’s confrontation and consideration of the temporary nature of their own existence.
To be told, “you are responsible for the period of history that you are living in. You have not only the right to choose, but the duty to choose and if you are now surrounded by poverty, by war, by oppression, by cruelty - that is what you have chosen.”
Sartre was the leading advocate of atheistic existentialism in France but he was also interested in the novel, drama, literary criticism and politics.
He is best remembered for his philosophical works and his idea of communistic existentialism which he expressed in novels and plays such as his debut novel Nausea (1939), which depicted man adrift in a godless universe, hostage to his own freedom.
He had a long term affair with the feminist philosopher, Simone de Beauvoir, and together they were at the center of French intellectual life from the late 1920s onwards.