Mercurial Essays

Free Essays & Assignment Examples

Sartre`s Existentialism (1569 words)

Sartre`s ExistentialismThe word philosophy comes from Greek and literally means “love of
wisdom.” The Merriam- Webster dictionary defines philosophy as “a
critical study of fundamental beliefs and the grounds for them.” Because of
the diversity of positions associated with existentialism, the term is
impossible to define precisely. However, existentialism is a philosophical
movement of the 19th and 20th century that centers on the analysis of individual
existence and the given situation of the individual who must assume complete
responsibility for his acts of free will without any certain knowledge of what
is right or wrong or good or bad. Existentialism was started in the late 19th
century by philosophers who called themselves existentialists. These
existentialists, such as Pascal, Kierekegaard, and Heidegger, gave
existentialism its foundation. Jean-Paul Sartre first gave the term
existentialism general currency by using it for his own philosophy. He also
became the leading figure of the existentialist movement in France that became
internationally influential after World War II. Sartre insisted that his
existentialism is a form of Humanism, and he strongly emphasized human freedom,
choice, and responsibility. Sartre was born in 1905 in Paris and died in 1980.

He expressed his dedication to his philosophy in both what he wrote and in the
way he lived his life. During the 1930s he began to develop his existentialist
philosophy. In 1938 he published his first major work, the novel ?Nausea’,
which set forth his existentialist ideas. He was very active politically and
founded a monthly magazine which dealt with politics, philosophy, and art. He
wrote well-known plays and won the Nobel prize for literature. Existentialism is
a philosophy which deals with man; it states that man is that which he makes of
himself, that he has to make his own choices in a state of anguish. Man chooses
in anguish, because he has no external guidelines to help him and must rely on
his own morals and beliefs. Choice is a very large theme in the philosophy of
existentialism. One chooses completely want he wants to do; one’s existence
depends on this. Sartre even says that “man is freedom.” Sartre and
the modern existentialists contrast their position on morality to that of the
secular moralists of the end of the 18th century. They said that although there
is no God, that there are moral values that one should take seriously, such as
not lying, not beating one’s wife, bringing up children properly, and so forth.

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!

order now

The existentialist finds it extremely troubling that God does not exist because
“with Him disappear all possibility of finding values in an intelligible
heaven.” As Dostoevsky once said, “If God did not exist, then
everything would be permitted.” Sartre says that this is the existentialist
starting point. This is the reason that Sartre speaks of anguish, because
“one cannot find anything to depend upon either within or outside
himself.” It must necessarily follow that man is to be forlorn; he can’t
find anything to depend upon either internally or externally. He therefore lacks
excuses. We cannot explain our actions in terms of or in reference
to…”given and specific human nature.” This rules out of the
possibility of predetermination — …”man is free, man is freedom.”
For non-existentialists, passion and fate may be an excuse for their actions;
whereas for existentialists, responsibility for one’s passion is a central
belief. Fate is overruled, there is no power of passion. An existentialist will
never regard a great passion…”as a destructive torrent, upon which a man
is swept into certain actions as by fate.” Since existence precedes
essence, an existentialist will also deny the aid of a spiritual compass. As a
result there is an absence of an enlightened domain of values. The
existentialist world is by nature, one of being forsaken and abandoned. In this
sense, abandonment can mean that we ourselves decide our being. Part and parcel
with abandonment comes anguish. As an example of abandonment, one may consider
the case of the Frenchman who was considered a collaborator and his eldest son,
who were both killed in the German offense of 1940. The young man’s younger
brother had two choices: to take care of his mother (a concrete mode of action,
immediate, but directed to only one individual), or to go to England to join the
free French forces (an action addressed to an infinitely greater end). The
Kantian ethic warns not to regard another person as a means, but rather as an
end. In this case, for the young son to remain with his mother, he would be
treating her as the end and the French fighters as the means. On the other hand,
if he were to aid the free French, he would be treating them as the end at the
risk of treating his mother as the means. By this example, Sartre shows the
uncertainty of values; in this case he recommended to the young man to trust his
instincts. Sartre’s philosophy also deals with despair and the meaning of one’s
life. Marxists say, “Your action is limited by your death; but you can rely
upon the help of others.” However, Sartre says, “I must confine myself
to what I can see.” Existentialists doubt that others will carry on their
work after their death. An existentialist will not necessarily believe that the
revolution will lead to the triumph of the proletariat (working people). As for
socialism, it is important to Sartre is that people build it with their own
hands, and not why they choose it. “What is true,” said Hegel, a
philosopher, “is only what has become.” An analogy is that in
psychoanalysis, it would be harmful to reveal the secrets of a patient to the
patient himself; …”the patient must rather always search for it himself
and change himself by his very search,…. To carry this further, from the
individual case to the great collective movements, it is necessary for the
proletariat to free itself by its own means and forge its own arms; once again
going back to the idea that one must do everything on his own. Another tenet of
existentialism is that one must first commit and then act upon the commitment,
according to the formula that…”one need not hope in order to undertake
one’s work.” For the existentialist, hope is a passion that gets him
nowhere; he must face life in his abandoned state, with courage and
self-affirmation. Existentialism is unique in its individualistic outlook, its
objectivity, its lack of reliance of an outer code to govern behavior, and its
emphasis on man’s self-reliance. Philosophy is defined as “a critical study
of fundamental beliefs and the grounds for them.” Existentialism, as
exemplified in the work of Sartre, deals with fundamental issues of life in a
critical way that is relevant to modern man.

1. Marsak, Leonard, ed. French Philosophers from Descartes to Sartre. Cleveland
and New York: The World Publishing Company, 1961. Leonard Marsak’s French
Philosophers from Descartes to Sartre is an incredible book on philosophy. It
consists of forty-nine selections of sufficient length to introduce the reader
to the essential principles or features of the work of seventeen great thinkers:
Descartes, Pascal, Fontenelle, Montesquieu, Voltaire, Condillac, Diderot,
Rousseau, Condorcet, De Maistre, Saint-Simon, Comte, Renan, Taine, Bergson,
Marcel, and Sartre. Thus the entire range of French thought is followed from the
seventeenth century to the present day – in all its transformations and
tendencies – in this book. I got a huge amount of information on Sartre and
existentialism from this book. It devotes about twenty pages to existentialism
and thoroughly discusses all its main points and ideas. From this book, one can
get a huge amount of information on a philosopher’s philosophy and his life. It
is a fantastic book that helped me a huge amount. 2. Durbin, James.


This website is alright. It defines existentialism and explains some of its
important points, however, it focuses mainly on what James Durbin, the man who
wrote the site, himself wrote and what he himself thinks of existentialism. The
definitions and explanations are pretty good, however I had already gotten all
the information that he explains on the site. So, this site was of no help,
although it is ok. 3. Lafarge, Rene. Jean-Paul Sartre: His Philosophy. Indiana:
University of Notre Dame Press, 1970. In Jean-Paul Sartre: His Philosophy, Rene
Lafarge makes a valuable contribution to the understanding of modern philosophy
by presenting an objective account of the philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre,
existentialism. He also makes some writings of Jean-Paul Sartre more easily
understandable by taking excerpts and main points from Sartre’s major works as a
writer. This book helped me very much. It has a huge amount of information on
Sartre and his life, and explains many points of existentialism in general. If
something had to be called wrong with this book, it would be that the author
wrote too much of his opinion of the philosophy. However, the book overall is
very good and helped me especially in writing about Sartre specifically. 4.

Sartre, Jean-Paul. Being And Nothingness. The Major Text of Existentialism. New
York, Avenel: Gramercy Books, 1956. Jean-Paul Sartre’s Being And Nothingness is
a fascinating book, if you can understand it, that is. It is a
six-hundred-thirty-two page book written in tiny print, broken up into four
parts: the problem of nothingness, being-for-itself, being-for-others, and
having, doing, and being. I’m sure this would’ve been very helpful to me, had I
been able to understand it. Most sentences in this book have words that I’d
never seen before opening this book. By the looks of it, it seems as though it
completely explains existentialism, very thoroughly in six-hundred-thirty-two
pages. However, truthfully, I could not tell whether it is a good or bad book,
because of its incredible difficulty. However, if one is very smart, he may be
able to read, understand, and get the full value out of this book.


I'm Belinda!

Would you like to get a custom essay? How about receiving a customized one?

Check it out