Existentialism Is a Humanism


Jean-Paul Sartre

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Essence Term Analysis

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; rather, each person develops their own essence through their actions and commitments.

Essence Quotes in Existentialism Is a Humanism

The Existentialism Is a Humanism quotes below are all either spoken by Essence or refer to Essence. For each quote, you can also see the other terms and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Existence, Essence and the Human Condition Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Yale University Press edition of Existentialism Is a Humanism published in 2007.
Existentialism Is a Humanism Quotes

When God creates he knows exactly what he is creating. The concept of man, in the mind of God, is comparable to the concept of the paper knife in the mind of the manufacturer: God produces man following certain techniques and a conception, just as the craftsman, following a definition and a technique, produces a paper knife. Thus each individual man is the realization of a certain concept within this divine intelligence.

Related Characters: Jean-Paul Sartre (speaker), The Christian Critics, God
Related Symbols: Paper Knife
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:

What do we mean here by “existence precedes essence”? We mean that man first exists: he materializes in the world, encounters himself, and only afterward defines himself. If man as existentialists conceive of him cannot be defined, it is because to begin with he is nothing. He will not be anything until later and then he will be what he makes of himself.


Related Characters: Jean-Paul Sartre (speaker)
Page Number: 22
Explanation and Analysis:

There is another meaning to the word “humanism.” It is basically this: man is always outside of himself, and it is in projecting and losing himself beyond himself that man is realized; and, on the other hand, it is in pursuing transcendent goals that he is able to exist. Since man is this transcendence, and grasps objects only in relation to such transcendence, he is himself the core and focus of this transcendence. The only universe that exists is the human one—the universe of human subjectivity.

Related Characters: Sartre’s Audience at the Club Maintenant (speaker)
Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:
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Essence Term Timeline in Existentialism Is a Humanism

The timeline below shows where the term Essence appears in Existentialism Is a Humanism. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Existentialism Is a Humanism
Existence, Essence and the Human Condition Theme Icon
Radical Freedom, Choice, and Responsibility Theme Icon
Existentialism and Its Critics Theme Icon
...existentialists like himself, but he declares that their commonality is the concept that “existence precedes essence.” What he means is that human existence is the opposite of the existence of a... (full context)
Existence, Essence and the Human Condition Theme Icon
Abandonment and Atheism Theme Icon
Existentialism and Its Critics Theme Icon
...atheist philosophers, despite dispensing with the idea of God, nevertheless maintained the traditional view that essence precedes existence by trying to explain people through a primordial “human nature” that defines people’s... (full context)