In his defense of existentialism, Sartre first defines the unifying factor of existentialism, (for both atheist and deist alike), as the belief that existence precedes essence. To help illustrate his point he presents the example of a paper knife, an object that possess a set of qualities that enable it to carry out its purpose. He states that it would not have been created without a particular purpose, therefore its essence precedes its existence. (Sartre) Sartre rejects this idea when it comes to mankind and declares that humans in themselves have no nature and define themselves after coming into existence. This stems from his atheistic worldview, in which the rejection of a higher power leads him to accept the fact that humans are the “Creator”, the first to exist, and it is our job to give meaning to the rest of the world.
Sartre’s existentialist ideas are mostly closely tied to the theory of free will. If existence precedes essence, that is if there is no purpose to why we are here, this grants humans ultimate free will (and ultimate responsibility) to create themselves, the world and fill it with meaning. I disagree with Sartre’s claim that existence precedes essence, and furthermore that free will can still exist outside these boundaries.
My primary problem to existentialism stems from Sartre’s claim “We mean that man first of all exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world – and defines himself afterwards.” (Sartre) He argues that human existence came before all, that we came into being and then gave meaning to everything. This argument appears to oppose biological science, from an evolutionist and creationist standpoint.
Evolutionary science supports the claim that humans came into being over millions of years of genetic mutation and its ancestry can be traced back to monkeys, fish, and at its core, single-celled microorganism. This theory opposes Sartre by stating that humans were not the first to exist, nonetheless the first higher functioning organism. If the human essence follows its existence and then gives meaning to life, this is to say that every life form that existed before humanity was of no meaning or had no purpose. If everything in the world is defined by the meaning humanity ascribes to it, then the world pre humanity, by default would be meaningless or nonexistent.
From a creationist stand point, existentialism is challenged in a similar aspect. It begs us to ask the question “where did humanity come from?”. It is foolish to deny the fact that biologically, humans are incredibly complex and had to have originated from somewhere, whether that be a higher power or a series of mutations. Sartre’s claim that humans were the first to exist leads us to accept that humans are in a sense “god” or the first to exist without being bound by limits of time, space or reason. This in itself is a contradiction seeing as how humans are mortal...