Jean-Paul Sartre: Existentialism is a Humanism
(L’existentialisme est un humanisme)
Translated by Philip Mairet.
This essay is based on a lecture Sartre gave at the club Maintenant, Paris, in 1946.
Sartre attempts to defend existentialism against a number of criticisms: that it is bleak and pessimistic, encourages quietism etc.
He argues that there are two ways for things to exist: a paper-knife or other artefact exists in its designer’s mind before it is made: its existence is determined by outside factors.
However, given that there is no God, for human beings there is no outside determining element. ‘Existence precedes essence’. We are condemned to be free. We make our own essence, or human nature, through our life-choices – and should accept responsibility for these.
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