Existentialism Is a Humanism


Jean-Paul Sartre

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Sartre says that will is usually conceived as a “conscious decision that most of us take after we have made ourselves what we are.” Under this conventional picture, identity precedes action—someone is something in particular and acts in accordance with their identity by willing some particular action. However, Sartre inverts this picture by arguing that will is actually constitutive of identity rather than the other way around—it is through decisions to act that a person becomes what they are and gains meaning in their life.

Will Quotes in Existentialism Is a Humanism

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

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:

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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Will Term Timeline in Existentialism Is a Humanism

The timeline below shows where the term Will 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
Abandonment and Atheism Theme Icon
Existentialism and Its Critics Theme Icon
...before one becomes anything—people have the power to define themselves through acts of their own will, rather than their essence being determined by some nebulous “human nature.” He calls this power... (full context)