I haven't had children to devote myself to because I didn't find a man with whom I could have spent my life. So there remains within me, unused and quite viable, a host of propensities, inclinations, possibilities, that one wouldn't guess from the mere series of things I've done. There is no genius other than one which is expressed in works of an; the genius of Proust is the sum of Proust's works; the genius of Racine is his series of tragedies.
Outside of that, there is nothing. Why say that Racine could have written another tragedy, when he didn't write it? A man is involved in life, leaves his impress on it, and outside of that there is nothing. To be sure, this may seem a harsh thought to someone whose life hasn't been a success. But, on the other hand, it prompts people to understand that reality alone is what counts, that dreams, expectations, and hopes warrant no more than to define a man as a disappointed dream, as miscarried hopes, as vain expectations.
In other words, to define him negatively and not positively. However, when we say, "You are nothing else than your life," that does not imply that the artist will be judged solely on the basis of his works of art; a thousand other things will contribute toward summing him up.
What we mean is that a man is nothing else than a series of undertakings, that he is the sum, the organization, the ensemble of the relationships which make up these undertakings. When all is said and done, what we are accused of, at bottom, is not our pessimism, but an optimistic toughness. If people throw up to us our works of fiction in which we write about people who are soft, weak, cowardly, and sometimes even downright bad, it's not because these people are soft, weak, cowardly, or bad; because if we were to say, as Zola did, that they are that way because of heredity, the workings of environment, society, because of biological or psychological determinism, people would be reassured.
They would say, "Well, that's what we're like, no one can do anything about it. He's not like that because he has a cowardly heart or lung or brain; he's not like that on account of his physiological make-up; but he's like that because he has made himself a coward by his acts. There's no such thing as a cowardly constitution; there are nervous constitutions; there is poor blood, as the common people say, or strong constitutions.
But the man whose blood is poor is not a coward on that account, for what makes cowardice is the act of renouncing or yielding. A constitution is not an act; the coward is defined on the basis of the acts he performs. People feel, in a vague sort of way, that this coward we're talking about is guilty of being a coward, and the thought frightens them, What people would like is that a coward or a hero be born that way. One of the complaints most frequently made about The Ways of Freedom.
That's what people really want to think. If you're born cowardly, you may set your mind perfectly at rest; there's nothing you can do about it; you'll be cowardly all your life, whatever you may do. If you're born a hero, you may set your mind just as much at rest; you'll be a hero all your life; you'll drink like a hero and eat like a hero.
What the existentialist says is that the coward makes himself cowardly, that the hero makes himself heroic. There's always a possibility for the coward not to be cowardly any more and for the hero to stop being heroic.
What counts is total involvement; some one particular action or set of circumstances is not total involvement. Thus, I think we have answered a number of the charges concerning existentialism. You see that it can not be taken for a philosophy of quietism, since it defines man in terms of action; nor for a pessimistic description of man — there is no doctrine more optimistic, since man's destiny is within himself; nor for an attempt to discourage man from acting, since it tells him that the only hope is in his acting and that action is the only thing that enables a man to live.
Consequently, we are dealing here with an ethics of action and involvement. Nevertheless, on the basis of a few notions like these, we are still charged with immuring man in his private subjectivity. There again we're very much misunderstood. Subjectivity of the individual is indeed our point of departure, and this for strictly philosophic reasons. Not because we are bourgeois, but because we want a doctrine based on truth and not a lot of fine theories, full of hope but with no real basis.
There can be no other truth to take off from than this: I think, therefore I exist. There we have the absolute truth of consciousness becoming aware of itself. Every theory which takes man out of the moment in which he becomes aware of himself is, at its very beginning, a theory which confounds truth, for outside the Cartesian cogito , all views are only probable, and a doctrine of probability which is not bound to a truth dissolves into thin air. In order to describe the probable, you must have a firm hold on the true.
Therefore, before there can be any truth whatsoever, there must be an absolute truth; and this one is simple and easily arrived at; it's on everyone's doorstep; it's a matter of grasping it directly.
Secondly, this theory is the only one which gives man dignity, the only one which does not reduce him to an object. The effect of all materialism is to treat all men, including the one philosophizing, as objects, that is, as an ensemble of determined reactions in no way distinguished from the ensemble of qualities and phenomena which constitute a table or a chair or a stone.
We definitely wish to establish the human realm as an ensemble of values distinct from the material realm. But the subjectivity that we have thus arrived at, and which we have claimed to be truth, is not a strictly individual subjectivity, for we have demonstrated that one discovers in the cogito not only himself, but others as well. The philosophies of Descartes and Kant to the contrary, through the I think we reach our own self in the presence of others, and the others are just as real to us as our own self.
Thus, the man who becomes aware of himself through the cogito also perceives all others, and he perceives them as the condition of his own existence. He realizes that he can not be anything in the sense that we say that someone is witty or nasty or jealous unless others recognize it as such. In order to get any truth about myself, I must have contact with another person. The other is indispensable to my own existence, as well as to my knowledge about myself.
This being so, in discovering my inner being I discover the other person at the same time, like a freedom placed in front of me which thinks and wills only for or against mc. Hence, let us at once announce the discovery of a world which we shall call intersubjectivity; this is the world in which man decides what he is and what others are. Besides, if it is impossible to find in every man some universal essence which would be human nature, yet there does exist a universal human condition.
It's not by chance that today's thinkers speak more readily of man's condition than of his nature. By condition they mean, more or less definitely, the a priori limits which outline man's fundamental situation in the universe.
Historical situations vary; a man may be born a slave in a pagan society or a feudal lord or a proletarian. What does not vary is the necessity for him to exist in the world, to be at work there, to be there in the midst of other people, and to be mortal there. The limits are neither subjective nor objective, or, rather, they have an objective and a subjective side.
Objective because they are to be found everywhere and are recognizable everywhere; subjective because they are lived and are nothing if man does not live them, that is, freely determine his existence with reference to them. And though the configurations may differ, at least none of them are completely strange to me, because they all appear as attempts either to pass beyond these limit or recede from them or deny them or adapt to them.
Consequently, every configuration, however individual it may be, has a universal value. Every configuration, even the Chinese, the Indian, or the Negro, can be understood by a Westerner. Every configuration has universality in the sense that every configuration can be understood by every man. This does not at all mean that this configuration defines man forever, but that it can be met with again. There is always a way to understand the idiot, the child, the savage, the foreigner, provided one has the necessary information.
In this sense we may say that there is a universality of man; but it is not given, it is perpetually being made. I build the universal in choosing myself; I build it in understanding the configuration of every other man, whatever age he might have lived in.
This absoluteness of choice does not do away with the relativeness of each epoch. At heart, what existentialism shows is the connection between the absolute character of free involvement, by virtue of which every man realizes himself in realizing a type of mankind, an involvement always comprehensible in any age whatsoever and by any person whosoever, and the relativeness of the cultural ensemble which may result from such a choice; it must be stressed that the relativity of Cartesianism and the absolute character of Cartesian involvement go together.
In this sense, you may, if you like, say that each of us performs an absolute act in breathing, eating, sleeping, or behaving in any way whatever. There is no difference between being free. There is no difference between being an absolute temporarily localized, that is, localized in history, and being universally comprehensible. This does not entirely settle the objection to subjectivism. In fact, the objection still takes several forms.
First, there is the following: First we are accused of anarchy; then they say, "You're unable to pass judgment on others, because there's no reason to prefer one configuration to another"; finally they tell us, "Everything is arbitrary in this choosing of yours. Yon take something from one pocket and pretend you're putting it into the other. These three objections aren't very serious.
Take the first objection. In one sense choice is possible, but what is not possible is not to choose. I can always choose, but I ought to know that if I do not choose, I am still choosing. Though this may seem purely formal, it is highly important for keeping fantasy and caprice within bounds.
If it is true that in facing a situation, for example, one in which, as a person capable of having sexual relations, of having children, I am obliged to choose an attitude, and if I in any way assume responsibility for a choice which, in involving myself, also involves all mankind, this has nothing to do with caprice, even if no a priori value determines my choice. If anybody thinks that he recognizes here Gide's theory of the arbitrary act, he fails to see the enormous difference between this doctrine and Gide's.
Gide does not know what a situation is. He acts out of pure caprice. For us, on the contrary, man is in an organized situation in which he himself is involved. Through his choice, he involves all mankind, and he can not avoid making a choice: Doubtless, he chooses without referring to pre-established values, but it is unfair to accuse him of caprice.
Instead, let us say that moral choice is to be compared to the making of a work of art. And before going any further, let it be said at once that we are not dealing here with an aesthetic ethics, because our opponents are so dishonest that they even accuse us of that.
The example I've chosen is a comparison only. Having said that, may I ask whether anyone has ever accused an artist who has painted a picture of not having drawn his inspiration from rules set up a priori. Has anyone ever asked, "What painting ought he to make?
It is clearly understood that there are no a priori aesthetic values, but that there are values which appear subsequently in the coherence of the painting, in the correspondence between what the artist intended and the result. Nobody can tell what the painting of tomorrow will be like. Painting can be judged only after it has once been made. What connection does that have with ethics?
We are in the same creative situation. We never say that a work of art is arbitrary. When we speak of a canvas of Picasso, we never say that it is arbitrary; we understand quite well that he was making himself what he is at the very time he was painting, that the ensemble of his work is embodied in his life.
The same holds on the ethical plane. What art and ethics have in common is that we have creation and invention in both cases. We can not decide a priori what there is to be done. I think that I pointed that out quite sufficiently when I mentioned the case of the student who came to see me, and who might have applied to all the ethical systems, Kantian or otherwise, without getting any sort of guidance.
He was obliged to devise his law himself. Never let it be said by us that this man — who, taking affection, individual action, and kind-heartedness toward a specific person as his ethical first principle, chooses to remain with his mother, or who, preferring to make a sacrifice, chooses to go to England — has made an arbitrary choice. He isn't ready made at the start. In choosing his ethics, he makes himself, and force of circumstances is such that he can not abstain from choosing one.
We define man only in relationship to involvement. It is therefore absurd to charge us with arbitrariness of choice. In the second place, it is said that we are unable to pass judgment on others.
In a way this is true, and in another way, false. It is true in this sense, that, whenever a man sanely and sincerely involves himself and chooses his configuration, it is impossible for him to prefer another configuration, regardless of what his own may be in other respects.
It is true in this sense, that we do not believe in progress. Man is always the same. The situation confronting him varies. Choice always remains a choice in a situation. The problem has not changed since the time one could choose between those for and those against slavery, for example, at the time of the Civil War, and the present time, when one can side with the Maquis Resistance Party, or with the Communists.
But, nevertheless, one can still pass judgment, for, as I have said, one makes a choice in relationship to others. First, one can judge and this is perhaps not a judgment of value, but a logical judgment that certain choices are based on error and others on truth. If we have defined man's situation as a free choice, with no excuses and no recourse, every man who takes refuge behind the excuse of his passions, every man who sets up a determinism, is a dishonest man.
The objection may be raised, "But why mayn't he choose himself dishonestly? One can not help considering the truth of the matter. Dishonesty is obviously a falsehood because it belies the complete freedom of involvement.
On the same grounds, I maintain that there is also dishonesty if I choose to state that certain values exist prior to me; it is self-contradictory for me to want them and at the same state that they are imposed on me. Suppose someone says to me, "What if I want to be dishonest? Besides, I can bring moral judgment to bear. When I declare that freedom in every concrete circumstance can have no other aim than to want itself, if man has once become aware that in his forlornness he imposes values, he can no longer want but one thing, and that is freedom, as the basis of all values.
That doesn't mean that he wants it in the abstract. It means simply that the ultimate meaning of the acts of honest men is the quest for freedom as such. A man who belongs to a communist or revolutionary union wants concrete goals; these goals imply an abstract desire for freedom; but this freedom is wanted in something concrete.
We want freedom for freedom's sake and in every particular circumstance. And in wanting freedom we discover that it depends entirely on the freedom of others, and that the freedom of others depends on ours.
Of course, freedom as the definition of man does not depend on others, but as soon as there is involvement, I am obliged to want others to have freedom at the same time that I want my own freedom. I can take freedom as my goal only if I take that of others as a goal as well. Consequently, when, in all honesty, I've recognized that man is a being in whom existence precedes essence, that he is a free being who, in various circumstances, can want only his freedom, I have at the same time recognized that I can want only the freedom of others.
Therefore, in the name of this will for freedom, which freedom itself implies, I may pass judgment on those who seek to hide from themselves the complete arbitrariness and the complete freedom of their existence. Those who hide their complete freedom from themselves out of a spirit of seriousness or by means of deterministic excuses, I shall call cowards; those who try to show that their existence was necessary, when it is the very contingency of man's appearance on earth, I shall call stinkers.
But cowards or stinkers can be judged only from a strictly unbiased point of view. Therefore though the content of ethics is variable, a certain form of it is universal. Kant says that freedom desires both itself and the freedom of others. But he believes that the formal and the universal are enough to constitute an ethics. We, on the other hand, think that principles which are too abstract run aground in trying to decide action. Once again, take the case of the student. In the name of what, in the name of what great moral maxim do you think he could have decided, in perfect peace of mind, to abandon his mother or to stay with her?
There is no way of judging. The content is always concrete and thereby unforeseeable; there is always the element of invention. The one thing that counts is knowing whether the inventing that has been done, has been done in the name of freedom.
For example, let us look at the following two cases. You will see to what extent they correspond, yet differ. Take The Mill on the Floss. We find a certain young girl, Maggie Tulliver, who is an embodiment of the value of passion and who is aware of it. She is in love with a young man, Stephen, who is engaged to an insignificant young girl. This Maggie Tulliver, instead of heedlessly preferring her own happiness, chooses, in the name of human solidarity, to sacrifice herself and give up the man she loves.
On the other hand, Sanseverina, in The Charterhouse of Parma , believing that passion is man's true value, would say that a great love deserves sacrifices; that it is to be preferred to the banality of the conjugal love that would tie Stephen to the young ninny he had to marry.
She would choose to sacrifice the girl and fulfill her happiness; and, as Stendhal shows, she is even ready to sacrifice herself for the sake of passion, if this life demands it.
Here we are in the presence of two strictly opposed moralities. I claim that they are much the same thing; in both cases what has been set up as the goal is freedom. You can imagine two highly similar attitudes: On the surface these two actions resemble those we've just described.
However, they are completely different. Sanseverina's attitude is much nearer that of Maggie Tulliver, one of heedless rapacity. Thus, you see that the second charge is true and, at the same time, false. One may choose anything if it is on the grounds of free involvement.
The third objection is the following: That is, fundamentally, values aren't serious, since you choose them. You've got to take things as they are. Moreover, to say that we invent values means nothing else but this: Before you come alive, life is nothing; it's up to you to give it a meaning, and value is nothing else but the meaning that you choose. In that way, you see, there is a possibility of creating a human community.
I've been reproached for asking whether existentialism is humanistic. You made fun of a certain kind of humanist. Why come back to it now? By humanism one can mean a theory which takes man as an end and as a higher value. Humanism in this sense can be found in Cocteau's tale Around the World in Eighty Hours when a character, because he is flying over some mountains in an airplane, declares, "Man is simply amazing.
This would imply that we ascribe a value to man on the basis of the highest deeds of certain men. This humanism is absurd, because only the dog or the horse would be able to make such an over-all judgment about man, which they are careful not to do, at least to my knowledge.
But it can not be granted that a man may make a judgment about man. Existentialism spares him from any such judgment. The existentialist will never consider man as an end because he is always in the making. Nor should we believe that there is a mankind to which we might set up a cult in the manner of Auguste Comte. The cult of mankind ends in the self-enclosed humanism of Comte, and, let it be said, of fascism. This kind of humanism we can do without.
But there is another meaning of humanism. Fundamentally it is this: There is no universe other than a human universe, the universe of human subjectivity. This connection between transcendency, as a constituent element of man — not in the sense that God is transcendent, but in the sense of passing beyond — and subjectivity, in the sense that man is not closed in on himself but is always present in a human universe, is what we call existentialism humanism.
Humanism, because we remind man that there is no law-maker other than himself, and that in his forlornness he will decide by himself; because we point out that man will fulfill himself as man, not in turning toward himself, but in seeking outside of himself a goal which is just this liberation, just this particular fulfillment.
From these few reflections it is evident that nothing is more unjust than the objections that have been raised against us. Existentialism is nothing else than an attempt to draw all the consequences of a coherent atheistic position. It isn't trying to plunge man into despair at all. But if one calls every attitude of unbelief despair, like the Christians, then the word is not being used in its original sense.
Existentialism isn't so atheistic that it wears itself out showing that God doesn't exist. Rather, it declares that even if God did exist, that would change nothing. There you've got our point of view. Not that we believe that God exists, but we think that the problem of His existence is not the issue. In this sense existentialism is optimistic, a doctrine of action, and it is plain dishonesty for Christians to make no distinction between their own despair and ours and then to call us despairing.
Any man who sets up a determinism is a dishonest man. Those who hide their complete freedom from themselves out of a spirit of seriousness or by means of deterministic excuses, I shall call cowards. There can be no other truth to take off from this—I think, therefore I exist—ie. Every theory which takes man out of the moment in which he becomes aware of himself is, at its very beginning, a theory which confounds the truth, for outside the Cartesian cogito , all views are only probable, and a doctrine of probability which is not bound to a truth dissolves into thin air.
Therefore, before there can be any truth whatsoever, there must be an absolute truth; and this one is easily arrived at; it is on everyone's doorstep; it is a matter of grasping it directly. Existential psychoanalysis is guided from the start toward a comprehension of being and must not assign itself any other goal than to discover being and the mode of being of the being confronting this being. It is forbidden to stop before attaining this goal.
Although the considerations which are about to follow are of interest primarily to the ethicist, it may nevertheless be worthwhile after these descriptions and arguments to return to the freedom of the for-itself and to try to understand what the fact of this freedom represents for human destiny. The essential consequence of our earlier remarks is that man being condemned to be free carries the weight of the whole world on his shoulders; he is responsible for the world and for himself as a way of being.
We are taking the word "responsibility" in its ordinary sense as "consciousness of being the incontestable author of an event or of an object. He must assume the situation with the proud consciousness of being the author of it, for the very worst disadvantages or the worst threats which can endanger my person have meaning only in and through my project; and it is on the ground of the engagement which I am that they appear.
It is therefore senseless to think of complaining since nothing foreign has decided what we feel, what we live, or what we are. Furthermore this absolute responsibility is not resignation; it is simply the logical requirement of the consequences of our freedom. What happens to me happens through me, and I can neither affect myself with it nor revolt against it nor resign myself to it. However, he has no way of knowing what the outcome will actually be — only God knows what will happen in the end.
So Abraham proceeds with the genuine intent of murdering his son, but at the same time he believes that God will keep Isaac alive. By such strong faith in the face of extreme anguish and anxiety, Abraham received rather than lost: By faith Abraham did not renounce Isaac, but by faith Abraham received Isaac. I will conclude by making clear how the two philosophers differed in terms of defining anguish.
Sartre claims that anguish is a result of our realization that we are obligated to choose from limitless possibilities without any knowledge of what the consequences will be. Yet, we must take full responsibility for the consequences knowing that whatever we choose impacts not just ourselves individually, but all of humanity.
For Kierkegaard, anguish results from freely choosing in the face of uncertainty, accepting the risk and responsibilities of our actions, and having faith in God that things will work out for the better.
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Through knowledge, one builds a life day to day. Rather than illustrating their messages through argumentation and persuasion, as other philosophies have done, existentialists use the venue of stories to propagate their message. They do this because they believe that "life is not the unfolding of a logical plan; one cannot argue from trustworthy premises what a life should be like or how it should be lived…meaning is created as we live our lives reflectively.
Characters generally face a life of "angst, anxiety and alienation in an absurd universe" Gutek, , p. The mission of existentialism "analyzes the basic character of human existence and calls the attention of [people] to their freedom" Wingo, , p.
However, much can be gleaned from the original words of thinkers that apply to the state of an existentialist education, as education has come to be seen as "a foundation of human progress" Park, , p.
Furthermore, a "careful" understanding of existentialism reveals "strong qualitative ties which provide a framework for understanding the roles individuals play, and how they struggle with those roles in educational institutions" Duemer, A few modern philosophers, including Van Cleve Morris and George Kneller, have written extensively, applying existential thought to education.
In an existentialist school, individualism must be "the center of educational endeavor" Knight, , p. Van Cleve Morris sees education as a way "to awaken awareness in the learner," with the task of education falling chiefly on secondary schools at a time when schools provide "occasions and circumstances for the awakening and intensification of awareness" Park, , p.
He says that prior to puberty a time called the Pre-Existential Period , children are not really aware of the human condition or yet conscious of their personal identity and should learn the basics of education. After puberty, young adolescents experience their Existential Moment, when they become more aware of themselves in relation to the world Gutek, To Morris, school should be concerned with developing "that integrity in [students] necessary to the task of making personal choices of action, and taking personal responsibility for these choices, whether the culture smiles or frowns" , p.
School policy that supports the existentialist philosophy focuses on the individual student, as teachers enter the "private world" of the student. The here and now life experiences are more important than the messages from To existentialists, the world is … an indifferent phenomenon, which, while it may not be antagonistic to human purposes, is nonetheless devoid of personal meaning… in this world, each person is born, lives, chooses his or her course and creates the meaning of his or her own existence Gutek, , p.
Connecting Elements of Existential Thought Existentialism is best illustrated by the common elements of thought attributed to existentialist thinkers. Noddings relates the example of the perception of two people listening to a speech:
Existentialism - In his essay Existentialism, Jean-Paul Sartre undertakes the task of defending existentialism against what he defines as “charges” () brought against it. Sartre begins to outline the “charges” brought against existentialism and further, existentialists.
If you are studying existentialism and have an exam coming up, the best way to prepare for it is to write lots of practice essays. Doing this helps you to recall the texts and the ideas you have studied; it helps you to organize your knowledge of these; and it often triggers original or critical insights of your own.
Existentialism in Night In his essay “Existentialism”, Jean Paul Sartre discusses the main beliefs of existentialism. Perhaps the most important belief of existentialism is . Essay: Existentialism Jean-Paul Sartre and Soren Kierkegaard are two widely known existentialists who agree on many of the main principles of existentialism, but also disagree on several of the finer details.
Mar 30, · 2. Existentialism Essay on writing - Words. when Raymond, a friend in his apartment complex, asks him to help write a letter to a writing by stephan king is a great work of literature. In The Stranger by Albert Camus, Camus uses his main character Meursault to portray the . The Existentialism is one of the most popular assignments among students' documents. If you are stuck with writing or missing ideas, scroll down and find inspiration in the best samples. Existentialism is quite a rare and popular topic for writing an essay, but it certainly is in our database.