Existentialism Is a Humanism

by

Jean-Paul Sartre

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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. Sartre argues that every person is a moral subject and, therefore, all human experience is subjective. A person’s subjectivity involves their projection of self, or their image of themselves, as well as the consciously-chosen actions and concerns that make them who they are. For Sartre, subjectivity is one of the defining characteristics of the human condition; it results directly from the fact that existence precedes essence because people’s lack of a predetermined essence means they must conceive themselves as subjects constantly building toward their essences.

Subjectivity Quotes in Existentialism Is a Humanism

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

Man is indeed a project that has a subjective existence, rather unlike that of a patch of moss, a spreading fungus, or a cauliflower. Prior to that projection of the self, nothing exists, not even in divine intelligence, and man shall attain existence only when he is what he projects himself to be—not what he would like to be.

Related Characters: Jean-Paul Sartre (speaker)
Page Number: 23
Explanation and Analysis:

Contrary to the philosophy of Descartes, or of Kant, when we say “I think,” we each attain ourselves in the presence of the other, and we are just as certain of the other as we are of ourselves. Therefore, the man who becomes aware of himself directly in the cogito also perceives all others, and he does so as the condition of his own existence. He realizes that he cannot be anything (in the sense in which we say someone is spiritual, or cruel, or jealous) unless others acknowledge him as such.

Page Number: 41
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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Subjectivity Term Timeline in Existentialism Is a Humanism

The timeline below shows where the term Subjectivity 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
...is an action-averse, merely contemplative philosophy, and secondly, that it remains caught in the “pure subjectivity” of Descartes—in other words, that existentialism’s focus on the meaning of the individual self leads... (full context)
Existence, Essence and the Human Condition Theme Icon
Abandonment and Atheism Theme Icon
Existentialism and Its Critics Theme Icon
...being determined by some nebulous “human nature.” He calls this power to define the self ‘subjectivity.’ (full context)
Existence, Essence and the Human Condition Theme Icon
Radical Freedom, Choice, and Responsibility Theme Icon
Sartre turns to the concept of subjectivity and argues that a human subject is a “project”—both in the sense of a continuous... (full context)
Radical Freedom, Choice, and Responsibility Theme Icon
Existentialism and Its Critics Theme Icon
...commitment” and turns to the next objection: the notion that existentialists “imprison” people in their subjectivity. (full context)
Existence, Essence and the Human Condition Theme Icon
Radical Freedom, Choice, and Responsibility Theme Icon
Sartre agrees that existentialism starts with individual subjectivity and specifies that its foundational truth is Descartes’s famous I think, therefore I am. He... (full context)
Existence, Essence and the Human Condition Theme Icon
Abandonment and Atheism Theme Icon
Existentialism and Its Critics Theme Icon
...in the sense that “the only universe that exists is […] the universe of human subjectivity.” (full context)