But everyone might first wonder, "Is it really an angel, and am I really Abraham? What proof do I have? There was a madwoman who had hallucinations; someone used to speak to her on the telephone and give her orders. Her doctor asked her, "Who is it who talks to you?
If an angel comes to me, what proof is there that it's an angel? And if I hear voices, what proof is there that they come from heaven and not from hell, or from the subconscious, or a pathological condition? What proves that they are addressed to me? What proof is there that I have been appointed to impose my choice and my conception of man on humanity?
I'll never find any proof or sign to convince me of that. If a voice addresses me, it is always for me to decide that this is the angel's voice; if I consider that such an act is a good one, it is I who will choose to say that it is good rather than bad.
Now, I'm not being singled out as an Abraham, and yet at every moment I'm obliged to perform exemplary acts. For every man, everything happens as if all mankind had its eyes fixed on him and were guiding itself by what he does.
And every man ought to say to himself, "Am I really the kind of man who has the right to act in such a way that humanity might guide itself by my actions? There is no question here of the kind of anguish which would lead to quietism, to inaction. It is a matter of a simple sort of anguish that anybody who has had responsibilities is familiar with. For example, when a military officer takes the responsibility for an attack and sends a certain number of men to death, he chooses to do so, and in the main he alone makes the choice.
Doubtless, orders come from above, but they are too broad; he interprets them, and on this interpretation depend the lives of ten or fourteen or twenty men. In making a decision he can not help having a certain anguish.
All leaders know this anguish. That doesn't keep them from acting; on the contrary, it is the very condition of their action. For it implies that they envisage a number of possibilities, and when they choose one, they realize that it has value only because it is chosen. We shall see that this kind of anguish, which is the kind that existentialism describes, is explained, in addition, by a direct responsibility to the other men whom it involves. It is not a curtain separating us from action, but is part of action itself.
When we speak of forlornness, a term Heidegger was fond of, we mean only that God does not exist and that we have to face all the consequences of this. The existentialist is strongly opposed to a certain kind of secular ethics which would like to abolish God with the least possible expense. About , some French teachers tried to set up a secular ethics which went something like this: God is a useless and costly hypothesis; we are discarding it; but, meanwhile, in order for there to be an ethics, a society, a civilization, it is essential that certain values be taken seriously and that they be considered as having an a priori existence.
It must be obligatory, a priori, to be honest, not to lie, not to beat your wife, to have children, etc. So we're going to try a little device which will make it possible to show that values exist all the same, inscribed in a heaven of ideas, though otherwise God does not exist.
In other words — and this, I believe, is the tendency of everything called reformism in France — nothing will be changed if God does not exist.
We shall find ourselves with the same norms of honesty, progress, and humanism, and we shall have made of God an outdated hypothesis which will peacefully die off by itself. The existentialist, on the contrary, thinks it very distressing that God does not exist, because all possibility of finding values in a heaven of ideas disappears along with Him; there can no longer be an a priori Good, since there is no infinite and perfect consciousness to think it.
Nowhere is it written that the Good exists, that we must be honest, that we must not lie; because the fact is we are on a plane where there are only men. Dostoyevsky said, "If God didn't exist, everything would be possible. Indeed, everything is permissible if God does not exist, and as a result man is forlorn, because neither within him nor without does he find anything to cling to.
He can't start making excuses for himself. If existence really does precede essence, there is no explaining things away by reference to a fixed and given human nature. In other words, there is no determinism, man is free, man is freedom.
On the other hand, if God does not exist, we find no values or commands to turn to which legitimize our conduct. So, in the bright realm of values, we have no excuse behind us, nor justification before us. We are alone, with no excuses. That is the idea I shall try to convey when I say that man is condemned to be free. Condemned, because he did not create himself, yet, in other respects is free; because, once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.
The existentialist does not believe in the power of passion. He will never agree that a sweeping passion is a ravaging torrent which fatally leads a man to certain acts and is therefore an excuse. He thinks that man is responsible for his passion. The existentialist does not think that man is going to help himself by finding in the world some omen by which to orient himself.
Because he thinks that man will interpret the omen to suit himself. Therefore, he thinks that man, with no support and no aid, is condemned every moment to invent man.
Ponge, in a very fine article, has said, "Man is the future of man. But if it is taken to mean that this future is recorded in heaven, that God sees it, then it is false, because it would really no longer be a future.
If it is taken to mean that, whatever a man may be, there is a future to be forged, a virgin future before him, then this remark is sound. But then we are forlorn. To give you an example which will enable you to understand forlornness better, I shall cite the case of one of my students who came to see me under the following circumstances: His mother lived alone with him, very much upset by the half-treason of her husband and the death of her older son; the boy was her only consolation.
The boy was faced with the choice of leaving for England and joining the Free French Forces — that is, leaving his mother — behind or remaining with his mother and helping her to carryon. He was fully aware that the woman lived only for him and that his going-off — and perhaps his death — would plunge her into despair.
He was also aware that every act that he did for his mother's sake was a sure thing, in the sense that it was helping her to carry on, whereas every effort he made toward going off and fighting was an uncertain move which might run aground and prove completely useless; for example, on his way to England he might, while passing through Spain, be detained indefinitely in a Spanish camp; he might reach England or Algiers and be stuck in an office at a desk job.
As a result, he was faced with two very different kinds of action: And, at the same time, he was wavering between two kinds of ethics. On the one hand, an ethics of sympathy, of personal devotion; on the other, a broader ethics, but one whose efficacy was more dubious.
He had to choose between the two. Who could help him choose? Christian doctrine says, "Be charitable, love your neighbor, take the more rugged path, etc. Whom should he love as a brother? The fighting man or his mother? Which does the greater good, the vague act of fighting in a group, or the concrete one of helping a particular human being to go on living? Who can decide a priori? No book of ethics can tell him.
The Kantian ethics says, "Never treat any person as a means, but as an end. If values are vague, and if they are always too broad for the concrete and specific case that we are considering, the only thing left for us is to trust our instincts. That's what this young man tried to do; and when I saw him, he said, "In the end, feeling is what counts.
I ought to choose whichever pushes me in one direction. If I feel that I love my mother enough to sacrifice everything else for her — my desire for vengeance, for action, for adventure — then I'll stay with her. If, on the contrary, I feel that my love for my mother isn't enough, I'll leave. But how is the value of a feeling determined? What gives his feeling for his mother value? Precisely the fact that he remained with her.
I may say that I like so-and-so well enough to sacrifice a certain amount of money for him, but I may say so only if I've done it. I may say "I love my mother well enough to remain with her" if I have remained with her. The only way to determine the value of this affection is, precisely, to perform an act which confirms and defines it. But, since I require this affection to justify my act, I find myself caught in a vicious circle. On the other hand, Gide has well said that a mock feeling and a true feeling are almost indistinguishable; to decide that I love my mother and will remain with her, or to remain with her by putting on an act, amount some.
Which means that I can neither seek within myself the true condition which will impel me to act, nor apply to a system of ethics for concepts which will permit me to act. You will say, "At least, he did go to a teacher for advice. In other words, choosing your adviser is involving yourself. The proof of this is that if you are a Christian, you will say, "Consult a priest. If the young man chooses a priest who is resisting or collaborating, he has already decided on the kind of advice he's going to get.
Therefore, in coming to see me he knew the answer I was going to give him, and I had only one answer to give: The Catholics will reply, "But there are. When I was a prisoner, I knew a rather remarkable young man who was a Jesuit. He had entered the Jesuit order in the following way: This young fellow might well have felt that he had botched everything.
It was a sign of something, but of what? He might have taken refuge in bitterness or despair. But he very wisely looked upon all this as a sign that he was not made for secular triumphs, and that only the triumphs of religion, holiness, and faith were open to him. He saw the hand of God in all this, and so he entered the order.
Who can help seeing that he alone decided what the sign meant? Some other interpretation might have been drawn from this series of setbacks; for example, that he might have done better to turn carpenter or revolutionist. Therefore, he is fully responsible for the interpretation. Forlornness implies that we ourselves choose our being. Forlornness and anguish go together. As for despair, the term has a very simple meaning. It means that we shall confine ourselves to reckoning only with what depends upon our will, or on the ensemble of probabilities which make our action possible.
When we want something, we always have to reckon with probabilities. I may be counting on the arrival of a friend. The friend is coming by rail or street-car; this supposes that the train will arrive on schedule, or that the street-car will not jump the track. I am left in the realm of possibility; but possibilities are to be reckoned with only to the point where my action comports with the ensemble of these possibilities, and no further. The moment the possibilities I am considering are not rigorously involved by my action, I ought to disengage myself from them, because no God, no scheme, can adapt the world and its possibilities to my will.
When Descartes said, "Conquer yourself rather than the world," he meant essentially the same thing. The Marxists to whom I have spoken reply "You can rely on the support of others in your action, which obviously has certain limits because you're not going to live forever. You even have to rely upon that, otherwise you're immoral" I reply at once that I will always rely on fellow-fighters insofar as. In such a situation, relying on the unity and will of the party is exactly like counting on the fact that the train will arrive on time or that the car won't jump the track.
But, given that man is free and that there is no human nature for me to depend on, I can not count on men whom I do not know by relying on human goodness or man's concern for the good of society. I don't know what will become of the Russian revolution; I may make an example of it to the extent that at the present time it is apparent that the proletariat plays a part in Russia that it plays in no other nation.
But I can't swear that this will inevitably lead to a triumph of the proletariat. I've got to limit myself to what I see. Given that men are free and that tomorrow they will freely decide what man will be, I can not be sure that, after my death, fellow-fighters will carry on my work to bring it to its maximum perfection.
Tomorrow, after my death, some men may decide to set up Fascism, and the others may be cowardly and muddled enough to let them do it. Fascism will then be the human reality, so much the worse for us. Actually, things will be as man will have decided they are to be. Does that mean that I should abandon myself to quietism?
First, I should involve myself; then, act on the old saw, "Nothing ventured, nothing gained. For example, suppose I ask myself, "Will socialization, as such, ever come about? All I know is that I'm going to do everything in my power to bring it about.
Beyond that, I can't count on anything. Quietism is the attitude of people who say, "Let others do what I can't do. According to this, we can understand why our doctrine horrifies certain people. Because often the only way they can bear their wretchedness is to think, "Circumstances have been against me.
What I've been and done doesn't show my true worth. To be sure, I've had no great love, no great friendship, but that's because I haven't met a man or woman who was worthy.
The books I've written haven't been very good because I haven't had the proper leisure. 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: What is existentialism exactly and how did it influence lives to shape our culture into what it is today? After World War I, the enthusiastic spirit people once had was destroyed because of the war.
The Second World War that followed did not help recuperate the spirit there was before. Contrary to popular belief existentialism is not an atheistic philosophy — which comes from the notion that most followers are atheists. In fact the precursors were religious men. Kierkegaard and Nietzsche were religious philosophers back in the 19 th century Age, The credit goes to Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus, both writers and atheists who popularized the philosophy with their works. Existentialism reached its zenith after the wars and it became a popular theme in the literature world.
Needless to say existentialism is not about religion; anyone with religious or non-religious beliefs is free to be enamored with the philosophy Flynn, Let us take an example of existentialism in the film world. You may be familiar with Forrest Gump staring Tom Hanks.
This story emphasized existentialism in the theme. It depicts a mentally handicapped man — but capable nonetheless - to try define his existence as an individual. His journey sent him into successful careers in college football, as a soldier across Asia , as a player in ping-pong, as a shrimp fisher, as an inspiring runner, and finally into a dotting father.
Both stories underline the message of individuals unbound with fate. There is no fate. Forrest was never to become an invalid like his condition dictated him to be. And in American Beauty, we see that life has literarily has no meaning and that people, like stated earlier, are cursed to determine their own fortune. There are a lot of film and novels themed with existentialism like the ones above. After that, this philosophy remained to be a popular way of thinking in Western culture.
We can say existentialism was a movement back then, inspiring people to rethink about their lives and the choices they made. Think about the rise of the gay community, of them gaining the courage to come out in the open. Think about the new style of music that offended the conservatives: Think about the evolution of fashion in the last decades; of skirts becoming skimpier and skimpier and people not ashamed to show skin anymore.
It is hard to deny existentialism motivated individuals to become more liberal, or freer from society rules. Existentialism also helped reshaped what we think is ethical or not as well. Back in the conservative era, majority of individuals are bound to the laws of religion. Religion defined what is right or wrong, and it was a factor that determined which path people chose to live.
Free existentialism papers, essays, and research papers. Existentialism in Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis - Existentialism in Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis In Franz Kafka’s short story, Metamorphosis, the idea of existentialism is brought out in .
Existentialism is a philosophy whose popularity was greatest in the 20th century, particularly during and after World War II. Existentialist thought was introduced through literary works written.
Free Essays from Bartleby | Determinism and Existentialism in view of same-sex marriage The traditional determinism principle states that anything that. In existentialism, human person and his freedom are given great importance. In it the ancient personal value stressed by stoics and epicureans and exemplified in Socrates' hemlock drinking has been Short Essay on Existentialism.
An Essay by Jean-Paul Sartre. Philosophymagazine. Existentialism. Freedom and Responsibility. —Jean-Paul Sartre. Existentialism. I should like on this occasion to defend existentialism against some charges which have been brought against it. First, it has been charged with inviting people to remain in a kind of desperate quietism . Mar 30, · Existentialism Essay existentialism research paper - Words Existentialism is a philosophy the prospered throughout the twentieth century and holds a variety of important ideals such as Freedom, Individualism, and Existence and Essence.