Sartre’s Existentialism

Sartre`s Existentialism Sartres essay on existentialism was relatively an easy reading mostly becauseof his frequent use of examples. His ideas on existentialism are in a way backedup and explained through his examples. Morality and the responsibility ofmaintaining morality through free will seem to be the predominant point Sartewants us to understand. He explains the reasons through existentialism.

Thereare basically two types of existentialism: Christian and atheistic. They bothbelieve that existence precedes essence. Sarte believes in the atheisticapproach and therefore believes in mans free will.

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Sarte states that man isnothing else but what he makes of himself. Man will be what he will have plannedto be not what he will want to be. Man is able to do whatever he wants accordingto the free will approach. However, Sarte believes that man is responsible forfar more than just himself. Mans responsibility encompasses all men. Ideally,I feel that this is a morally good concept.

Suppose before we throw a piece ofgarbage out the car window we ask ourselves what it would be like if everybodythrew garbage out the window. Then we decide not to because we would then livein a huge garbage dump. Im mostly in agreement with the ideas expressed bySarte. Like Ponge saidman is the future of man. We all should be moreaware of our broader responsibilities, not just our individual ones. If we dothat then this world would be a much better place to live in. Quietism is aconcept I do not agree with. Sartes emphasis on action is a good one.

I dobelieve that nothing ventured is nothing gained.Philosophy

Sartres Existentialism

Sartre`s Existentialism John Paul Sartre is known as one of the most influential philosophers of the twentieth century.

He wrote many philosophical works novels and plays. Much of his work is tied into politics. The essay Existentialism is a Humanism is just one of his many works. Existentialism is a Humanism is a political essay that was written in 1945. Its purpose was to address a small public during World War II in Nazi occupied France.This essay stressed the public not to conform.

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Sartre introduced a great number of philosophical concepts in Existentialism. Two of these concepts are anguish and forlornness. They are simply defined, as anguish is feeling responsible for yourself as well as others and knowing that your actions affect others and forlornness is realizing that you are alone in your decisions. These two concepts are interwoven throughout the essay and throughout many of Sartre’s other works. Sartre’s view of anguish and forlornness in Existentialism is a Humanism addresses his view of life and man.Sartre based his views on the basic ideas of existentialism. The idea that existence precedes essence is the central factor in the atheistic view of man.

The belief that existence precedes essence states that there is “no pre-existing concept of man.” (2) In the existentialist view, man is what he makes of himself. They believe that man was indefinable at first; “he first appears, then defines himself.

” (1) There are no set plans as to how a man must live. He must make his own decisions and move towards his future with no help [from the outside world. The main idea of existential is what Sartre simply stated as..”I am responsible for myself and for everyone else.I am creating a certain image of my own choosing. In choosing myself is choose man.” (1) He is saying that man creates his own image of the self and it is different for all men.

The belief that existence precedes essence directly ties into the fact that the atheistic existentialist believes that there is no god. They believe that there is no human nature and that humans are inherently free. The concept of anguish is one of Sartre’s central ideas in Existentialism as a Humanism.It involves the realization that the choices and decisions a person makes not only affect the self, but they affect everyone. Anguish is getting over the selfishness that has become so prevalent in our society. A person must make decision while looking as society as a whole. Anguish is being concerned with the impact of your decisions on others.

Dealing with responsibility is just one form of anguish. A person must be responsible for themselves and others.The essay Existential is a Humanism gives the example of a military officer.

All leaders and military officers feel anguish. They have the responsibility to themselves as well as others. A military officer preparing to send his troops into battle must fulfill his responsibilities to himself, his superiors and his troops. He realizes that his “interpretations of the orders from above” directly impact the fate of his troops.(1) The fact that he continues to make decisions even faced with anguish shows that a military officer feels responsible.

“All leaders know this anguish”, but they continue to make decisions. (1) Anguish that they feel does not dissuade their action, but “on the contrary” it makes them stronger, “it is the very condition of their action.” The anguish that a military officer feels is what makes them responsible. Sartre saw anguish as a necessary component of life.

It is what makes a person aware of their choices and responsibilities. The concept of forlornness in Sartre’s eyes is coming to grips with the fact that we are alone in our decision making.We have “no excuses, determinism or omens”, that influence our decisions. The atheistic existentialist fells that we are alone in our decision making because there is no god. They feel that the decisions we make are only up to us. Man is free to make his own choices and man is condemned in the fact that he is free. “Everything is choice.”(1) Knowing that you are alone in your decisions can raise some very interesting questions.

People must look into themselves and make the choices base on their own interpretations and experiences. The example of a young boy forced to make the choice between staying with his mother of joining the Free French forces illustrates forlornness. In his heart he knows that the decision is up to him and as a result he is forlorn. In staying with his mother the young boy is making a choice towards a “sympathetic sets of ethics and a concrete action.” He may be giving up opportunities but feels that staying with his mother is the right decision. On the other hand if he chooses to leave his mother and join the Free French Forces, he is making the choice according to a “broader set of ethics and an action dealing with a national collectivity.” If he chooses the second option it is what he feels is the right and just decision. |There is one problem no matter what path he chooses.

He will soon be caught in a “vicious circle”. He must make his own choice. Many people seek advice and they choose who will give it to them. A person chooses an advisor who will give them the answers and advice that they want to hear.

If this young boy were to ask Sartre for advice, he would simply say, the choice is yours. Anguish and forlornness are connected by the fact that all men are responsible for their own actions.Every choice a person makes or action he takes is totally up to the individual. A person is entirely free with no outside sources having an impact on them. Sartre embraced the views and concepts of the atheistic existentialist.

The concepts he introduced will continue to be discussed throughout time. While reading Existentialism is a Humanism, one must remember that it was intended for only a small public. Sartre never intended it to be read by the masses. It addresses his political views of the war.

He wanted the French people not resist conformity. He wanted them to remember that they were free even though they were repressed. He also wanted the public to realize that the actions and choices they made affected the country as a whole.

Bibliography 1) John Paul Sartre. “Existentialism is a Humanism.” 1945. 2) John Paul Sartre.

Sartres Existentialism


. as both right-wing and left-wing parties shunned him and his revolutionary attitude. He became immensely popular both in France and in America.

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Sartre died on April 15, 1980, having lived a completely inconsistent and disorderly life. However, his outlandish ways had spread the fame of Existentialism and he had left his ineraseable mark on the world forever.His works Sartre wrote several books, plays, and articles on several subjects, primarily political and philosophical. Some are listed below: Nausea (1938) A novel which dealt with one character, Roquentin, on his search to understand existence and essence. He finds himself unable to associate things as commonly known, and the reader is left to determine whether this is a breakthrough or a fault.

The Transcendence of the Ego (1937) A phenomenological study of human consciousness Being and Nothingness (1943) Sartre’s famed dissertation on the relationship between being-in-itself and being-for-itself. The first part of his non-fictional works on Existentialism. Here he delved briefly into the idea of human “existence preceding essence” and more in depth into the concept of forlornness and anguish as they relate to consciousness and freedom. Existentialism and Human Emotion / Existentialism is a Humanism (1946) Apparently two translations of the same title, his most famous work in America.In this text he dealt in greater depth with the idea that humanity has the unique position of existence which precedes essence, and here he basically disqualifies the concept of God. The Critique of Dialectical Reason (1960) His essay in support of “pure” Marxism as it ideally protects human freedom. Meant to be two volumes, he abandoned the second before completion.

Emotions: Outline of a Theory (1936) An essay The Flies (1943) His anti-Nazi play produced during WWII. No Exit (1944) A play The Age of Reason (1945) A novel Anti-Semite and Jew (1946) An essay The Respectful Prostitute (1947) A play Dirty Hands (1948) A text Saint Genet (1952) A biography The Family Idiot (1982) A critique Sartre and Existentialism It is true that Sartre did not originate Existentialism, he merely popularized it. Without Sartre, Existentialism, today many people may never have heard of the philosophy and it certainly would not have become ingrained in the pop culture that it helped to define. An explanation of Existentialism is appropriate. Existentialism is defined as the “term used to refer to any philosophy that emphasizes fundamental questions of meaning and choice as they affect existing individuals” (Soccio, 477). Pojman outlines “three theses of Existentialism” on pages 351-355: 1.Existence precedes essence.

In other words, man is the only species that can define himself. We can decide our own definitions by the choice we make and the actions we take. 2. The Absurdity of Existence.

Existence is absurd, as we can make any choice and most people make inferior choices in life. The amount of possibilities at any time is countless; if nothing else, we always have the option of life or death. There is no meaning apart from humanity.3.

Freedom. As Sartre says, we are “condemned to freedom.” We have ultimate choice in everything.

Because of this we feel ungrounded, a sense of anguish. Because we have existence before essence, we must create our essence with the freedom we have. We must define ourselves. Existentialist themes often include “choice, freedom, identity, alienation, inauthenticity, despair, and awareness of our own mortality” (Soccio, 477).There are two main schools of Existentialism: religious Existentialism, which would include the principles of Kierkeegard and Heidegger, and secular Existentialism, which includes the philosophy of Nietzsche and Sartre. Obviously, the religious existentialists did not dismiss the existence of God but rather attributed the absurdity of existence to the inner voice of God calling us to higher forms of self. The secular Existentialists, or atheist Existentialists, totally disavowed the existence of God and dismissed the importance of one, implying that such a being is impossible – a being “in-itself-for-itself” in the words of Sartre – and paradoxical as well as useless.

In reality, all Sartre did was take the ideas of Nietzsche and other great Existentialists and use it to fuel his works of fiction and his essays. It was these works that earned popularity for the school of thought, and that can be considered his greatest achievement: the promotion of Existentialism.Problems with Existentialism and Modern Applications So what are the weaknesses of his theory? How would we apply his thoughts to contemporary social issues? Let’s try to take a stab at these issues . . . One problem with Existentialism has come into the spotlight as of late: genetics.

The study of genetics is a widely expanding field.Through science we have learned that genes and DNA are responsible for traits from hair color and height to alcoholism and probably homosexuality. What were once considered “choices” are now being found to be much more hereditary than we have been comfortable to admit. There may be a certain degree of freedom of choice, but as time passes we learn that more and more of our behavior is genetically coded into our DNA and we are merely acting it out. And if this is the case, how do we philosophize on the issue of other primates? Some primates have 97-99% and possibly greater similarity of genetic sequences compared to humans.

How much of their behavior is choice? The topic of genetic engineering could be a point for either side: on one hand, we can define ourselves on a much greater scale, but on the other hand we are admitting that we are patterned after our genes, as all other creatures are.How would Sartre feel about the topic of genetic engineering? How would Existentialism deal with it? I think that Existentialists would say that such freedom would lead us to a greater sense of anguish as we are faced with a greater sense of freedom to define ourselves and mankind. But since Sartre says that “as we Daphne ourselves we define all of humankind,” we should likely avoid the pursuit of such a field, as we have a responsibility to our fellow humanity. As most human life is absurd and most people make inferior choices, it would be best to avoid the topic, although we have the freedom to pursue it if we desire. How would he feel about abortion? Since in choosing for ourselves we choose for humanity, our responsibility should dictate that abortion is wrong. This part of the philosophy is reminiscent of Kant’s categorical imperative, but it does not imply that we should necessarily do what is right.

However, for the proliferation of mankind as the only species where existence precedes essence, it would only make sense that (secular) Existentialists should decide against abortion. But again, we must never forget that the option exists.Likewise, the secular Existentialists would decide on various issues. As Sartre averred, we always have the choice of life or death. However, through his actions it is apparent that we should choose life, because to choose death would exterminate consciousness. A being can not be conscious in death, as there is nothing to be conscious of.

Consciousness can only exist as it is conscious of something. A being conscious of its own unconsciousness is impossible to Sartre. Thus sums up the life and philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre.Although this essay can in no way be considered a thorough examination of his life and of the philosophy of Existentialism or even secular Existentialism, it serves the purpose of identifying the general ideas the man popularized in his works and spread into an entire world and consciousness.


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