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Sartre`s Existentialism (1020 words)

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.

Sartre introduced a great number of philosophical concepts in Existentialism.

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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.

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


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