Existentialism Is a Humanism

by

Jean-Paul Sartre

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Optimism Term Analysis

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 over their own lives and their ability to become what they would like to be. Whereas “people would prefer to be born a coward or be born a hero,” Sartre argues that, in fact, people make themselves into cowards or heroes, which is optimistic because it suggests that people can become what they would like to be (rather than their character and life course being determined by inherent characteristics at birth).

Optimism Quotes in Existentialism Is a Humanism

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

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:
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Optimism Term Timeline in Existentialism Is a Humanism

The timeline below shows where the term Optimism appears in Existentialism Is a Humanism. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Existentialism Is a Humanism
Radical Freedom, Choice, and Responsibility Theme Icon
Existentialism and Its Critics Theme Icon
...that “reality alone counts” and recapitulates his contention that existentialism’s critics are actually attacking its optimism rather than its pessimism. This is because existentialism blames people for their own moral shortcomings... (full context)
Existence, Essence and the Human Condition Theme Icon
Abandonment and Atheism Theme Icon
Radical Freedom, Choice, and Responsibility Theme Icon
Existentialism and Its Critics Theme Icon
...anything or rescue anyone from the human condition. He closes by reasserting that “existentialism is optimistic” and his critics act in bad faith, “confusing their own despair with ours.” (full context)