Existentialism and existential thought has been one of the most influential intellectual and cultural movements of the 20th century. After its heyday in the 1940’s and 1950’s it gradually lost its impact on social and cultural life, but it never entirely disappeared. After structuralism and post-modernism´s celebration of the death of subjectivity, existential themes have reoccurred in literature, philosophy and theology. One of the central issues of existential thought has been the idea of human existence having the structure of an in-between. Human life takes place in a constant struggle between the relative and the absolute, the finite and the infinite, the mundane and the extra-mundane. Human existence is situated between the openness of existence and the idea of absolute meaning. Conversely, much of cultural, political and scientific life seems to obscure this conflict, turning humans into one–dimensional creatures.
The aim of the conference is to examine how existential thought has been formulated, and to explore how it could be rearticulated at the beginning of the 21st century. Is it possible to articulate an existentialism of the 21st century? Part of such a rethinking could involve tracing existential thought back to Protestantism, and especially the idea of human existence as an in-between. In protestant thought two ideas are equally important: the celebration of everyday life and the urge and striving for the extra-mundane. Is there a protestant heritage in existential thought, and could it help us to rearticulate human existence?