Existentialism Is a Humanism

by

Jean-Paul Sartre

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Existentialism

The philosophical movement Sartre espouses. Its fundamental proposition is the notion that existence precedes essence, which means that people are born without a fixed identity or purpose, and they form themselves and their lives… read analysis of Existentialism

Humanism

Conventionally, a belief system is considered “humanistic” if its worldview and theory of value focus on humans, rather than God(s). Sartre’s existentialism is humanist in the sense that he believes that “the only universe… read analysis of Humanism

Anguish

The first of the three concepts that Sartre clarifies in the middle portion of his lecture, anguish refers to the emotional pain that comes from the necessity to act under the condition of moral responsibility. read analysis of Anguish

Abandonment

“Abandonment” is Sartre’s term describing the fact that people are “condemned to be free.” Without objective moral laws from God or another authoritative source, people cannot avoid moral responsibility for all their choices, including… read analysis of Abandonment

Despair

In Sartre’s usage, “despair” (désespoir or literally dis-hope in French) does not carry the connotations of darkness and resignation that it generally carries. Rather, Sartre literally means that people should not hope for miracles… read analysis of Despair
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Human Condition

Instead of seeking a constant human nature that could form the basis of human morality (like earlier atheists during the Enlightenment), Sartre rejects the notion of a universal human nature and instead focuses on the… read analysis of Human Condition

Human Project

Sartre conceives each individual as a “project” because everyone must actively work to build their identity through their actions and commitments throughout their life. The best analogy is a work of art: artists and human… read analysis of Human Project

Subjectivity

Broadly, subjectivity means the fact of being a subject—someone who experiences the world and acts from their own distinct, individual perspective. It contrasts with objectivity, which suggests a universal and impartial perspective on the world… read analysis of Subjectivity

Intersubjectivity

Sartre argues that all subjectivity is intersubjectivity. Whenever a person comes to understand their own existence, in the process they must see that “the other is essential to my existence, as well as to… read analysis of Intersubjectivity

Will

Sartre says that will is usually conceived as a “conscious decision that most of us take after we have made ourselves what we are.” Under this conventional picture, identity precedes action—someone is something in particular… read analysis of Will

Essence

The essence of humanity would be the set of traits that make people distinctively human, setting them apart from other things in the world. Sartre, however, argues that there is no predefined human essence… read analysis of Essence

Bad Faith

Bad faith, the cardinal sin for Sartre, is choosing one’s values in a way that denies human freedom. Generally, this happens as a means to hide anguish; a person refuses to accept… read analysis of Bad Faith

Authenticity

Authenticity is the opposite of bad faith: it requires deliberately choosing one’s moral commitments and actions in order to transform oneself into a coherent moral subject. It also requires honesty about the correspondence between… read analysis of Authenticity

A Priori

When Sartre talks about “a priori morality,” he means a morality that is purely intellectual and could be determined without looking at any concrete evidence or experience from the world. An a priori morality would… read analysis of A Priori

Optimism

Sartre responds to his critics, who accuse existentialism of being pessimistic, by declaring that it is actually the most optimistic philosophy for humankind. He calls it optimistic in the sense that it demonstrates people’s control… read analysis of Optimism

Freedom

Sartre believes that freedom is the “foundation of all values” because it is what makes human moral choice and responsibility possible. Moral freedom means that there is no predetermined “correct” or “incorrect” course of action… read analysis of Freedom