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Jones, "Chapter 10: Sartre"


(Partial) Outline of Existentialism is a Humanism, from anonymous source

Existentialism is a Humanism

I. Objections to Existentialism

II. Definition of Existentialism

A. Central Ideas

1. Existence Precedes Essence

Atheistic existentialism is consistent with the belief that there is NO PRE-EXISTING CONCEPT OF MAN (either outside him or inside him).

There is no "human nature" as such...

Human beings are thrown into a world: we DEFINE OURSELVES through our ACTIONS AND CHOICES. In this sense, we "exist" first and then become who we are (our "essence"):

Thus, for Human Beings as radically free, EXISTENCE PRECEDES ESSENCE.

2. We must begin with the Subjective

Sartre understands the 'subjectivism' of the subject on two levels:

A. The freedom of the individual subject

This relates to our individual freedom ("that each must choose himself")

B. The realization that we cannot pass beyond 'human subjectivity'

This refers to something like Nietzsche's demand for a REVALUATION OF ALL VALUES.

For Sartre, this "collapse of all values into man" brings into existence the ethical dimension of our fundamental choices: Our radical freedom becomes bound to a radical responsibility.

B. Key Terms

The existentialist's understanding of "subjectivity" -- based on both a radical sense of freedom and the collapse of all values into the human sphere -- is the context for understanding the following terms:

1. Anguish

While I "choose for all mankind," I am aware that I am the ultimate ground for my choice. That is, I am radically responsible at the same time that I am aware of the total absence of any (objective) justification for my choice/action.

I carry out my choices in "the mood of anguish..."

2. Abandonment

One of the consequences of the Death of God is that we have been "left to ourselves." There is no longer any "external command" or "inner law" to guide us in our choices/actions.

Abandoned in the complexity and ambiguity of human situations, we are forced to "invent" our solutions. As with Sartre's example of the student, we accomplish this ultimately through our anguished choices.

3. Despair

By "despair" Sartre means, as in the example of the student, that it is not at all clear how things will "work out" -- that in the future he may come to view his decision in a different way, etc.

This uncertainly with regard to the future -- an uncertainly guaranteed by our state of abandonment -- is the condition of our state of despair. Our responsible choices occur within a world void of ulterior design and in this sense we must have the courage to conquer ourselves and act "without hope" (that, for instance, God knows the outcome, etc.).

III. Overcoming the Objections

IV. Definition of Humanism

A. Classical Humanism

B. Existentialist Humanism

V. Conclusion: Existentialism is a Humanism