Existentialism Is a Humanism

by

Jean-Paul Sartre

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Existentialism Is a Humanism Characters

Jean-Paul Sartre

The renowned French existentialist philosopher who gave the 1945 lecture transcribed in this book. Sartre gave the lecture to address his concern that, as his fame grew throughout France and the world, the term “existentialist”… read analysis of Jean-Paul Sartre

Sartre’s Audience at the Club Maintenant

Sartre’s unexpectedly large audience comprised a mix of laypeople interested in his philosophy and specialists (philosophers, other academics, and writers) who may have studied his work in more depth. Sartre carefully details the common misconceptions… read analysis of Sartre’s Audience at the Club Maintenant

The Christian Critics

One of the groups whose disapproval of existentialism Sartre was trying to address. These Christian critics worry that existentialism is a pessimistic doctrine that excludes the possibility of condemning people for evil. Sartre responds that… read analysis of The Christian Critics

The Communist Critics

Sartre’s other main group of critics. According to Sartre, they condemn his subjectivist philosophy’s aversion to action and its inability to create political solidarity. Sartre argues that, on the contrary, existentialism is actually an action-centered… read analysis of The Communist Critics

The Christian Existentialists

One group of existentialists Sartre discusses, which includes Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard and Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Since Christian existentialists believe (in Dostoyevsky’s words) that, “if God does not exist, everything is permissible,” they decide… read analysis of The Christian Existentialists
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The Atheist Existentialists

Another group of existentialists, which includes Sartre and his groundbreaking German predecessor Martin Heidegger. Sartre argues that atheistic existentialism is defined by the belief that, for humans, “existence precedes essence.” While Sartre rejects… read analysis of The Atheist Existentialists

Early Atheists

Sartre carefully differentiates himself from eighteenth-century atheists like “Diderot, Voltaire, and even Kant” who reject the existence of God but replace religious moral codes with moral codes based on particular views of human nature. For… read analysis of Early Atheists

Sartre’s Student

Sartre uses the anecdote of a former student’s moral dilemma during World War II to illustrate both the limits of making decisions based on a defined moral code and the erroneousness of blaming “passions” for… read analysis of Sartre’s Student

The Jesuit in the Prison Camp

Sartre uses the anecdote of a man he met in a German prison camp to demonstrate that people are responsible for the way they read “signs” in their environments and lives. The man went to… read analysis of The Jesuit in the Prison Camp
Minor Characters
God
For Sartre, God does not exist, and nobody could ever have probable evidence of God’s existence. Therefore, the belief that God sets moral codes for humans is a form of bad faith, because it prevents people from choosing their actions freely and on their own terms.