One explanation for this may be that Sartre himself came to regret the publication of the book and later repudiated parts of it. My aim in this article is to give a straightforward introduction to the main themes of Existentialism and Humanism, pointing to its most obvious strengths and shortcomings. Paris, Existentialism and Humanism was first presented as a public lecture at the Club Maintenant in Paris in October This was a time of great intellectual ferment and guarded optimism:
One explanation for this may be that Sartre himself came to regret the publication of the book and later repudiated parts of it. My aim in this article is to give a straightforward introduction to the main themes of Existentialism and Humanism, pointing to its most obvious strengths and shortcomings.
Paris, Existentialism and Humanism was first presented as a public lecture at the Club Maintenant in Paris in October This was a time of great intellectual ferment and guarded optimism: Paris had been liberated from the Nazi Occupation and reprisals against collaborators were being meted out.
There was a sense of the need for a reexamination of the previously unquestioned foundations of society and morality. People who would otherwise have led relatively uneventful lives had been forced to think about issues of integrity and betrayal in relation to the Occupation, the Resistance and the Vichy Government.
The truth about the horrors of Auschwitz and Dachau was emerging; the atom bomb had been dropped for the first time — evidence of the human capacity for evil and destruction was everywhere. Philosophical, and in particular moral, questions were no longer of merely academic interest.
Only months before he had refused to accept the label: But what precisely is existentialism? What he meant by this was that, in contrast to a designed object such as a penknife — the blueprint and purpose of which pre-exist the actual physical thing — human beings have no pre-established purpose or nature, nor anything that we have to or ought to be.
Sartre was an ardent atheist and so believed that there could be no Divine Artisan in whose mind our essential properties had been conceived.
Nor did he believe there to be any other external source of values: The basic given of the human predicament is that we are forced to choose what we will become, to define ourselves by our choice of action: If man as the existentialist sees him is not definable, it is because to begin with he is nothing.
He will not be anything until later, and then he will be what he makes of himself p. So for the penknife essence comes before existence; whereas for human beings the reverse is true — Sartre has nothing to say about the status of non-human animals in this scheme of things.
This emphasis on our freedom to choose what we are is characteristic of all existentialist thinkers. Although Sartre was himself an atheist, some existentialists, including Gabriel Marcel, have been Christians: Humanism It is important to get clear what Sartre meant by humanism.
Humanism is a very general term usually used to refer to any theory which puts human beings at the centre of things: Humanism has the positive connotation of being humane and is generally associated with an optimistic outlook. One version of humanism that Sartre rejects as absurd is the self-congratulatory revelling in the achievements of the human race pp.
The humanism that he endorses emphasises the dignity of human beings; it also stresses the centrality of human choice to the creation of all values. Others chided the existentialists for being overly pessimistic and for concentrating on all that is ignominious in the human condition — Sartre quotes a Catholic critic, Mlle Mercier, who accused him of forgetting how an infant smiles p.
This criticism gains some substance from the fact that in Being and Nothingness Sartre had declared that man was a useless passion and that all forms of sexual love were doomed to be either forms of masochism or sadism.
From another quarter came the criticism that because existentialism concentrates so much on the choices of the individual it ignores the solidarity of humankind, a criticism made by Marxists and Christians alike. Yet another line of criticism came from those who saw existentialism as licensing the most heinous crimes in the name of free existential choice.
These words have specific meanings for him — he uses them as technical terms and their connotations are significantly different from those they have in ordinary usage. All three terms in everyday usage typically connote helplessness and suffering of various kinds; for Sartre, although they preserve some of these negative associations, they also have a positive and optimistic aspect, one which a superficial reading of the text might not reveal.
Nietzsche did not mean that God had once been alive, but rather that the belief in God was no longer a tenable position in the late nineteenth century. The choice of word stresses the solitary position of human beings alone in the universe with no external source of objective value.
The main consequence of abandonment is, as we have seen, the absence of any objective source of moral law: In order to meet the criticism that without God there can be no morality, Sartre develops his theory about the implications of freedom and the associated state of anguish.
Anguish Sartre believes wholeheartedly in the freedom of the will: Although he rejects the idea that human beings have any essence, he takes the essence of human beings to be that they are free when he declares:Existentialism.
The founders of existentialism made little reference to education and the role of the teacher, the learner, the environment or the curriculum. The mission of existentialism "analyzes the basic character of human existence and calls the attention of [people] to their freedom" (Wingo, , p.
). Critical Essays Sartrean Existentialism: An Overview Bookmark this page Manage My Reading List In learning about Sartrean existentialism, it is helpful to recall data .
Immediately download the Existentialism summary, chapter-by-chapter analysis, book notes, essays, quotes, character descriptions, lesson plans, and more - everything you need for studying or teaching Existentialism.
Sartre introduces Being and Nothingness, his single greatest articulation of his existentialist philosophy, as “an essay in phenomenological ontology.” Essentially, it is a study of the consciousness of being. Existentialism is a philosophy, a theory or point of view about the meaning of things.
Like all philosophies, it first states its premise, its assumptions, and then lays out the logical actions for. Nevertheless Existentialism and Humanism provides a good introduction to a number of key themes in his major work of the same period, Being and Nothingness, and to some of the fundamental questions about human existence which are the starting point for most people’s interest in philosophy at all.