Existentialism Is a Humanism


Jean-Paul Sartre

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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 that exists is the human one.” He argues that people’s existence depends on their “pursuing transcendent goals”—working to improve themselves or achieve things beyond their current abilities by transforming what they are into what they will be—and that, in this sense, anyone’s human existence involves a humanist pursuit of the person they wish to be. He contrasts his own humanism with a kind of doctrine that declares that “man is amazing!” and he worships humanity as containing an inherent and infinite value.

Humanism Quotes in Existentialism Is a Humanism

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

Many will be surprised by what l have to say here about humanism. We shall attempt to discover in what sense we understand it. In any case, let us begin by saying that what we mean by “existentialism” is a doctrine that makes human life possible and also affirms that every truth and every action imply an environment and a human subjectivity.

Page Number: 18
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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Humanism Term Timeline in Existentialism Is a Humanism

The timeline below shows where the term Humanism 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
Existentialism and Its Critics Theme Icon
Sartre finally turns to the lecture’s title by addressing existentialism’s relationship to humanism. He says there are two things “humanism” can mean. The first is taking humans as... (full context)
Existence, Essence and the Human Condition Theme Icon
Abandonment and Atheism Theme Icon
Existentialism and Its Critics Theme Icon
The second meaning of “humanism” is Sartre’s universal human condition, in which people act in the pursuit of goals and... (full context)