Existentialism Is a Humanism

Condemned to Be Free?: Sartre's Beliefs in "Existentialism Is a Humanism" College

‘What do we mean by saying that existence precedes essence? We mean that man first of all exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world – and defines himself afterwards. 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. Thus, there is no human nature, because there is no God to have a conception of it. Man simply is. Not that he is simply what he conceives himself to be, but he is what he wills, and as he conceives himself after already existing – as he wills to be after that leap towards existence. Man is nothing else but that which he makes of himself. That is the first principle of existentialism.’ (Sartre, 1946)

Jean-Paul Sartre, in his 1946 work Existentialism is a Humanism, discusses ideas of existentialism, freedom and fundamental questions about the human condition. His ideas were based on a lecture he gave in Paris in 1945; these ideas are believed to be one of the most famous starting-points in the loosely connected sphere of existentialism.

Most of Sartre’s beliefs revolve around the key idea that existence precedes essence. He tries to argue that man is responsible for what he is,...

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