Reaction on Existentialism is Humanism

The phrase ‘existence comes before essence’ means that an individual’s actual life is a constituent of what would be called their essence and not the predetermined essence that is offered regarding a definition of what it means to be human. The phrase only applies to human existence because through own consciences, human beings create values and meaning to their lives. It is only a person who is able to define him/herself. Sartre uses the example to explain that even if an individual is said to have certain physical characteristics like an artifact does, the person is responsible of either drawing meaning from the characteristics or negating them thus sending a clear message to others (Sartre 207).

Sartre notes that fundamental philosophers in the eighteenth century still upheld the preceding expression because they lived in an atheistic world that coincided with the given view. Some of these philosophers include Voltaire, Kant and Diderot and they argue that man possesses a human nature, which is the conception of the being found in every individual. Spontaneous decisions are those that make up an action that is usually judged in accordance to a person’s will. These decisions are made for critical matters in a human’s life that is why they are taken with so much seriousness and impact to be called a person’s will. Sartre believes that every person is responsible for all decisions due to the concept of subjectivity since in decisions that people make, they choose the better for themselves. When this holds as a rational act, the decisions are also better for every person. He further explains that he believes this view because when a person makes a decision, even if it is a personal one, it is bound to affect other people directly or indirectly.

Abraham’s position is one where the patriarch held the key to a critical decision by believing that an angel had spoken to him. At the end of the day, it was left to him to make the decision whether bad or good and its effects would be upon his will to make the given decision. This is similar in every human’s life. The position relates to the anguish that a person who holds responsibilities bears. For instance, in the example given about the army general, he holds the decision of sending men, regardless of the number to the battlefield where they would possibly lose their lives. When Sartre says that he wishes to follow the consequences of atheism to the end he means that if people are to choose that God is not present then they should follow this to the end. The philosopher means that with the lack of belief that God is existent, man should be able to define good values without them being determined by religion and God as noted in compromise within the eighteenth century (Sartre 209).

Sartre also means that good intentions should come from persons themselves and the belief that God is aware of man’s future should be ignored. This is because in this school of thought, man acts as the future of man. This means that whatever actions the past men did resulted to what we know today and what we shall do today shall shape the world for man in the future. When Sartre says that we are condemned to be free he means that whatever a man thinks he can accomplish, and that everything is possible. Moreover, values are not consequential to actions and choices that people make.

The young man encounters a hard decision of leaving his mother and joining fellow combatants in the army to avenge his brother or staying at home with his mother and protect her while the others fight on his behalf and on behalf of the country in warfare. This decision is coined in the argument that one should always see their brother as an end and not as a means. Therefore, the question in the mind of the young man was whether to make his mother the end and the soldiers the means or the vice versa. The feeling of staying with his mother due to sympathy had no valid meaning in itself; however, the fact that he chose it infused an attribute of value towards it (Sartre 212).



















Works Cited

Flynn, Thomas. Sartre and Marxist Existentialism: The Test Case of Collective Responsibility. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986. Print.

Kaufmann, Walter. Existentialism from Dostoevsky to Sartre. Los Angeles: University of California, 2009. Print.

Sartre, Jean-Paul, and Elkaim-Sartre Arlette. Existentialism is a humanism. New York: Yale University Press, 2007. Print.

Sartre, Jean-Paul. Essays in existentialism. New York: Citadel Press, 1993. Print.

Solomon, Robert. Existentialism. New York: Modern Library, 2007. Print.


The reaction paper on Jean-Paul Sartre’s from existentialism is a humanism is based on the reading questions, which are attached

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