Jean Paul Sartre developed his existential philosophy back in the 1940’s. For him that was a gloomy time because his home city Paris, France, was captured by Adolph Hitler’s German Nazis. Sartre wrote, Life has no meaning a priori… It is up to you to give it a meaning, and value is nothing but the meaning that you choose.
It would seem that a society of people espousing that philosophy would soon come to despair; and yet, seventy years later after he wrote that, northern Europeans have transitioned from being mostly devout believers in God to mostly non-religious atheists; they also transitioned from nationalistic homicidal maniacs, killing tens of millions of their fellow Europeans, into an idealistic people sharing their lands with foreign people fleeing distant wars.
Sartre had gloomy periods and his worst self-criticism was a condemnation of his whole universe, And it was true, I had always realized it; I hadn’t the right to exist. He obviously worked his way through those suicidal thoughts because he lived to age seventy-five, and he laid the groundwork for a whole society to find meaning in a godless world, even worse than a godless world, an inherently meaningless world.
How can a whole continent of billions of individual people, half of them below average intelligence, find meaning in life when the most brilliant philosophers of the world fail to do so? Obviously most people don’t have the time or the inclination to explore the infinity of subtle ideas to choose the ideal transcendent purpose for their lives, and even when they do, they must find their individual meaning within their local social groups.
If even Sartre can’t find a valid reason for his existence, what can the average man do?