Existentialism Is a Humanism

by

Jean-Paul Sartre

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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, no outside force compelling them to pick one course of action rather than another. Therefore, Sartre argues, people must choose their own path, but also be held responsible for what they choose to do. Sartre argues that an existentialist can morally condemn those whose actions do not respect the inescapable freedom inherent to the human condition.

Freedom Quotes in Existentialism Is a Humanism

The Existentialism Is a Humanism quotes below are all either spoken by Freedom or refer to Freedom. 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

It makes me wonder if what they are really annoyed about is not its pessimism, but rather its optimism. For when all is said and done, could it be that what frightens them about the doctrine that I shall try to present to you here is that it offers man the possibility of individual choice?

Page Number: 19-20
Explanation and Analysis:

In choosing myself, I choose man.

Related Characters: Jean-Paul Sartre (speaker)
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

If a voice speaks to me, it is always I who must decide whether or not this is the voice of an angel; if I regard a certain course of action as good, it is I who will choose to say that it is good, rather than bad.

Related Characters: Jean-Paul Sartre (speaker), God
Page Number: 26
Explanation and Analysis:

Man is condemned to be free: condemned, because he did not create himself, yet nonetheless free, because once cast into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.

Related Characters: Jean-Paul Sartre (speaker)
Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:

People would prefer to be born a coward or be born a hero.

Related Characters: Jean-Paul Sartre (speaker)
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:

Historical situations vary; a man may be born a slave in a pagan society or a feudal lord or a member of the proletariat. What never varies is the necessity for him to be in the world, to work in it, to live out his life in it among others, and, eventually, to die in it. These limitations are neither subjective nor objective; rather they have an objective as well as a subjective dimension: objective, because they affect everyone and are evident everywhere; subjective because they are experienced and are meaningless if man does not experience them—that is to say, if man does not freely determine himself and his existence in relation to them. And, as diverse as man’s projects may be, at least none of them seem wholly foreign to me since each presents itself as an attempt to surpass such limitations, to postpone, deny, or come to terms with them.

Related Characters: Sartre’s Audience at the Club Maintenant (speaker)
Page Number: 42
Explanation and Analysis:

If someone were to ask me: “What if I want to be in bad faith?” I would reply, “There is no reason why you should not be, but I declare that you are, and that a strictly consistent attitude alone demonstrates good faith.” What is more, I am able to bring a moral judgment to bear. When I affirm that freedom, under any concrete circumstance, can have no other aim than itself, and once a man realizes, in his state of abandonment, that it is he who imposes values, he can will but one thing: freedom as the foundation of all values.

That does not mean that he wills it in the abstract; it simply means that the ultimate significance of the actions of men of good faith is the quest of freedom in itself.

Related Characters: Sartre’s Audience at the Club Maintenant (speaker)
Page Number: 48
Explanation and Analysis:
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Freedom Term Timeline in Existentialism Is a Humanism

The timeline below shows where the term Freedom appears in Existentialism Is a Humanism. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Existentialism Is a Humanism
Abandonment and Atheism Theme Icon
Radical Freedom, Choice, and Responsibility Theme Icon
Existentialism and Its Critics Theme Icon
...for mistakes, nor a God to say what is right, people are “condemned to be free.” Sartre argues that we are responsible for all our choices, even those that seem to... (full context)
Abandonment and Atheism Theme Icon
Radical Freedom, Choice, and Responsibility Theme Icon
Existentialism and Its Critics Theme Icon
...rather an error—acting in bad faith means lying to oneself about the fact that one freely chooses one’s values. Bad faith is the error of blindly believing that one is necessarily... (full context)
Radical Freedom, Choice, and Responsibility Theme Icon
...relationships. Sartre says these are “equivalent” moralities because both characters act for the sake of freedom. He contrasts these characters with versions that act out of bad faith: a woman who... (full context)