In Existentialism is a Humanism, Sartre explains that in human beings, “existence precedes essence. ” Meaning, humans are created without any purpose, but with growth and maturing they find their purpose. J. P. Sartre gives the example of the paper clip, noting that this inanimate object was created with the intent of a purpose. Therefore, that idea lead to it’s creation. He uses this example to demonstrate “ essence precedes existence. ” He states, “ man is nothing else, but what he makes of himself. ” Simply put, us as humans are first born than we create our own paths in our lives and who we shall be in life.
This explains that through our actions and decisions we make in our lives, molds us into the beings we become. Further mentioning that we are the choices we make, are we responsible for who are as individuals because of that. Sartre goes on to say there are two kinds of existentialists. One of them being Christians, Catholics, or people who believe in God. As well as atheistic existentialists who do not believe in God such as himself. However, one thing they share is both groups believe in the idea of “ existence precedes essence.
” But, those who believe in God believes God was a superior power who created people with a purpose, which ties into the idea of the paper clip. With that being said, though men has diverse traits and characteristics, they share the same basic qualities because if human nature. On the other hand, the atheistic view believes God is nonexistent and a man starts as nothing and later defines himself. Therefore, Sartre states, “There is no determinism, man is free, man is freedom…. We have no values or commands to turn to which legitimize our conduct. ” In other words, we have no excuses, and we are entirely responsible for our decisions.
Therefore, there is no God to provide guidance on the proper way to live and we must find that out through our choices. He goes on the idea of subjectivism, saying that one man’s acts creates the image of every man as a whole. Which, develops the idea of what men ought to be as individuals. Sartre also replies that, “it is impossible for man to transcend human subjectivity. ” He isn’t saying “I prefer subjectivity over objectivity,” he’s asking, “how can we possibly not be subjective? ” Even the religious individual who believes that morality is absolute and comes from God must, at some point, choose to believe that this is the case.
Our responsibility is a blessing and a curse. It leads us to feel things like anguish and despair. We experience anguish in the face of our subjectivity, because by choosing what we are to do, we “choose for everyone”. When you make a decision you are saying “this is how anyone ought to behave given these circumstances. ” Many people don’t feel anguish, but this is because they are “fleeing from it. ” If you don’t feel a sense of anxiety when you make decisions, it’s because you are forgetting about your “total and deep responsibility” toward yourself and all of humanity.
Despair arises because we only have power to change things that are within our power to change, and there is a lot we cannot change. With that being said, reality is unbiased and out of our control, except for small aspects of it here and there. We despair because we can never have full control of the future. However, we are the rulers of our lives, we take the responsibility of our actions and ourselves in general. Regardless of what you believe, this cannot be any other way.