Jean-Paul Sartre and Existentialism. A Few Basics. Kierkegaard Nietzsche Hegel Husserl. Heidegger Dostoevsky Kafka Camus. The Seeds of Existentialism. Basic Sartre. Objects Objects exist and simultaneously have an “essence” (identity, nature)
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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”
"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!
“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
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.
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!
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.
A Bar at the Folies-Bergere Edouard Manet 1881-82, oil on canvas
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