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Jean-Paul Sartre and Existentialism


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Jean-Paul Sartre and Existentialism

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Jean-Paul Sartre and Existentialism

A Few Basics


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Kierkegaard

Nietzsche

Hegel

Husserl

Heidegger

Dostoevsky

Kafka

Camus

The Seeds of Existentialism


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Basic Sartre

  • Objects

    • Objects exist and simultaneously have an “essence” (identity, nature)

    • All objects have an essence: “A rock is a rock”

    • Sartre called this “being in itself”


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Basic Sartre

  • Human Beings

  • "existence precedes and rules essence"

  • Sartre calls this “being for itself”

    • As human beings we are conscious of our complete free will

    • Human beings have existence but no essence except for what we make for ourselves

  • End result – All responsibility for what we are is our own!


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Concise Summary

  • “Existentialism maintains that in man, and in man alone, existence preceded essence. This simply means that man first is, and only subsequently is this or that. In a word, man must create his own essence: it is in throwing himself into the world, suffering there, struggling there, that he gradually defines himself. And the definition always remains open ended: we cannot say what this man is before he dies, or what mankind is before it has disappeared.”

    - From "A propos de l'existentialisme: Mise au point," Action Magazine, December 29, 1944


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Bad Faith

  • Denial of personal responsibility resulting in blaming our situation on something else

    • To Sartre all religions are bad faith because they seek to blame human despair on something else

    • Sartre used this reasoning to argue there was no God.

  • Bad faith leads to an “inauthentic” life.

    • No Self-definition


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The Un-Meaning of Life

  • No God = No Truth

    • For Sartre there is no universal Truth (purpose, meaning) beyond what we create ourselves. This “despair” is a necessary consequence of our freewill.

  • Life is a meaningless void until we create what we want of it (anything is okay as long as it is really okay with ourselves)…then we die, having finally achieved our essence. Yea!


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Sartre’s Intentions?

  • How might this knowledge of Sartre’s Existentialism help us to better understand his play?

  • Find three examples of Sartre’s philosophy at work in the play. Explain why you see them as being existential.


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The Mirror

A Bar at the Folies-Bergere Edouard Manet 1881-82, oil on canvas