Free «Existence Precedes Essence» Essay Sample

Jean-Paul Sartre used to be one of the finest philosophers. He was a real French author, because he combined a talent of philosopher and litterateur. He used to write more than 20 pages per day. That means that he loved his work. Not only was he interested in it, but also lived in it. Comparing to the ancient world, when philosophers agitated for the observing position, or comparing to the stoic philosophy to “live unnoticed”, Sartre believed, that intellectuals must meddle in everything that is not related to them. This is the type of an active intellectual. About himself he said, that he was “a bad child of bourgeoisie”, because he grew up in a bourgeois family, but followed the idea of individualism and recusancy. He was against the assimilation to the advertising ideals. He worked with phenomenology, and later he came to the existence of a theory.

The existential philosophy is the main work of his life. He made a great contribution to this sphere. He created his unique variant of “classical existentialism”. He did much to make him famous in the immediate postwar period, and appeared in the lecture Existence and Humanism (The Encyclopedia Americana, 270). Sartre thought that existence – a fact of being – is more important, because people are thrown into this world to determine their essence by making choices. Essence means what people are. They define what they are by the way they are living.

Existence is subject-active in definite life situations. The essence of action is not important. Important is in what relation is the subject of action with this action. The individual always accomplishes himself with the help of essence. He creates the essence. Without individual this world would be just a raw substance of passive and active circumstances. On the other hand, this world is not neutral. The surrounding things are a reason for choosing people. That is why an individual is always a bearer of restless consciousness.

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So, the idea that “existence precedes essence” means that there is no plan, model or aim of personality, because an individual decides what he or she will be. The person is the one, who creates an action. He meant that the world is a mirror of freedom, and, first of all, freedom of choice. Moreover, if a man wants to be something else, for example animal, he can “wish” and be it. However, as soon as man defines his acts, he becomes responsible for them. The positive aspect sounds like an encouragement to be a good person and not the cruel one. The most important in this responsibility is the fact, that people are responsible not only for themselves, but also for the whole world. Since man has chosen, whether he is cruel or good, he is neither of these things essentially. Sartre considered that the man, first of all, exists and only afterwards defines himself. He was saying that to became individual to grow up to be ourselves, is to differentiate ourselves from our parents, take their care of us for granted, sink our identity in common allegiances with our mates (Dilman, 125). Sartre saw an attempt to find the world’s objective knowledge, and, thus, of oneself, trying to avoid responsibility for choosing one’s project (Dilman, 58). Sartre illuminates the character of human existence by contrast with the existence of things and animals (Dilman, 58). A thing or an animal is defined by the properties or characteristics it happens to have. This is true, in case of a human being (Dilman, 59). There is no defined reason why anything has happened or why things are like they are and not other. Person is what she makes of herself. There is no plan that determines what will happen, “there is no determination”, so human is free, “human is freedom”. Nothing forces people to do what they do. If they are alone without excuses, it means they cannot excuse their actions. People find themselves in this world without a God-given “essence” or “human nature” (Moore/Bruder, 164). People must invent their own values. In choosing for themselves, they choose for all. Their responsibility is more immense than it was supposed to be. All mankind is involved. In addition to that, freedom without responsibility is impossible. According to Sartre, people create themselves through their choices. However, one should be aware that such self-creating choices cannot be found in “philosophical” abstractions or speculations. “Man is nothing other than the whole of his actions” (Moore/Bruder, 165-167).

There are two types of existence, kinds of being, according to Sartre,. The first one is the world “in itself”, when there is no reason for this being. This is the world of external objects. The second being “for itself” is characterized by the former fir in its existence. One of the central conceptions for the whole philosophy of Sartre is the conception of freedom. Sartre meant it like something absolute, given once and forever. Freedom precedes essence. Sartre meant freedom not like freedom of the spirit, but like the freedom of the choice, which cannot be taken away by anyone. The prisoner is free to accept the solution or to fight for his discharge. The rest is dependent on the circumstances which cannot be influenced by philosopher. This concept develops like a theory of “project”, and according to it, an individual makes a project of himself. A man is a future of the man. A human activity is always free and creative, but prescinding from the essence of the objective culture. An individual should escape from this chaotic aimless absurd world. He proved this statement by his own life. With his life partner, Simone de Beauvoir, they confirmed that even marriage is an offense of an individual freedom. Their principles and basis of their relations were traveling, polygamy and revelation. On the other hand, an individual must assimilate. However, he differs by his own intentions and aims, oriented to the future. Absurd moral of the absurd world. Everyone is doomed to fail, because each life is a failure. Absurd is the person’s life, absurd is his death. The death is not a border; the death is just a fact. A human life is just useless suffering. A human being is a useless passion, an unfortunate creator. All projects are miserable. A man is nothingness.

Sartre declared afterwards that the lecture about existentialism and humanism was “a mistake”, and his later plays and novels continued to insist on his early vision of man as a “useless passion” (The Encyclopedia Americana, 270). Adopting the “existentialist” attitude towards rationality and objectivity common to Sartre makes sense in case people do so in a conscious departure from the well-understood norm (Jacquette, 730).


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