In the long chain of comments following Kleiner’s “Are we alone?” post, Vince suggests that there are some basic truths any human can recognize, if they are paying attention, and recognizing them forces a move in one direction or another:
1. I am not who I want to be.
2. I cannot change things of my past.
3. I have a dead end in the future.
4. I cannot completely control my relationship with others.
5. The world around me is full of terror and sadness that I cannot erase.
… I sound a bit like Schopenhauer (”the worst of all worlds”).
But these conditions bring angst when a finite person reflects on his very large and (mostly) uncontrollable environment. The Buddhist hopes to remove the desires that bring this angst. The Christian hopes to receive forgiveness and an new life to remove this angst. Sartre hopes to remove angst by being free to choose his experience (his estimate of freedom is rather optimistic). Nietzsche, who seemed to be full of alienation and despair, required of himself the complete embracing of his actions in the presence of his alienation and despair — to live his actions (and angst) eternally.
I still hold that anyone with a human self-consciousness experiences angst over something or they are not working as a complete human in some way. The existentialists seem to be saying that these discoveries and decisions of the finite self in the midst of this large world are the essence of a human. I don’t believe this is necessarily metaphysics. It is observational sociology. Once the existentialists start relating the human condition to Other or Being or No Other, then this is metaphysics.
This does seem to me to be a plausible list of items we typically try to ignore in our day-to-day lives, but once we recognize them, we can either try to do something or try to forget. And “doing something” means, in part, doing philosophy.