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Sartre And The Meaning Of Human Existence

844 words - 3 pages

Where the Meaning of Human Existence is Located According to Sartre

The word philosophy comes from Greek and literally means "love of wisdom." The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines philosophy as "a critical study of fundamental beliefs and the grounds for them." Both explanations of philosophy are correct and concrete. The meaning of human existence has no such concrete answer, but in this paper we will examine where Sartre believes it to be.

Sartre's existentialism is a philosophy, which deals with man. It states that man is that which he makes of himself and that he has to make his own choices in a state of anguish. Man chooses in anguish, because he has no external guidelines to help him and must rely on his own morals and beliefs. Man chooses completely want he wants to do. His existence depends on this. And this is where I believe Sartre locates the meaning to mans' existence. According to Sartre mans' existence only takes on meaning through his actions.

The Sartrian existentialist finds it extremely troubling that God does not exist because with Him vanishes all hope of finding values in an intelligible heaven. "As Dostoevsky once said, "If God did not exist, then everything would be permitted."(pg 22) Sartre claims this to be the existentialist starting point. This is the reason that Sartre talks about anguish, because "one cannot find anything to depend upon either within or outside himself." It must necessarily follow that man is to be forlorn; he can't find anything to depend upon either internally or externally. He therefore lacks excuses. We cannot explain our actions in terms of or in reference to..."given and specific human nature." (pg 23)

This rules out of the possibility of predetermination. "Man is free, man is freedom."(pg 23) For non-existentialists, passion and fate may be an excuse for their actions; but for existentialists, taking responsibility for one's choices is a central belief. Fate is overruled and passions hold no power. An existentialist will never view a great passion as a destructive agent, or blame fate for making a man commit certain actions. Again pointing to mans' existence being defined by his choices and actions.
Since Sartre claims that existence precedes essence, an existentialist will also deny the support of an organized religion. As a result there is an absence of values. The existentialists' world is one of being forsaken and abandoned. In this sense, abandonment can mean that we ourselves decide our...

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