Existentialism developed as an effort to come up with a genuine action to the existential angst of modern-day male looking for his identity and location in presence. Possibly the very first existentialist thinker and philosopher in history, Socrates, put fundamental stress on the enquiry of the question “Who am I?” On the other hand, the twentieth century thinker with whom the motion of existentialism is most frequently connected with, Sartre, states that with male, existence precedes essence. That is to state, there is no essence as such which guy can find inside his being.
He needs to produce it, as it were, from nothing, through his efforts and options. This is the central tenet of Sartre’s brand name of existentialism. In a method, it sounds really cynical, however at the very same time, such an observation can lead us to realize the flexibility of man’s being, inspiring us to obtain higher meaning in our lives. Sartre’s position appears to be very brave, and his mindset can fill us with brand-new energy to act and produce.
However, as we shall see, considered simply on a sensible and philosophical basis, his theory rings entirely hollow, certainly as hollow as the “nothingness” he talks about.
In his essay “Existentialism as Humanism” Sartre most eloquently sets out to clarify just what is meant by existentialism in the proper sense of the word. This he makes with fantastic simplicity, putting the essence of the philosophical system of which he is one of primary advocates just in 3 words: presence precedes essence. If God does not exist, there is at least one remaining in whom existence precedes essence, a being who exists prior to he can be specified by any concept, and that this being is guy, or, as Heidegger states, human truth. (p. 349).
Sartre proceeds to explain us the meaning of these 2 principles essence and presence and the 2 view points based on them, particularly “essence precedes existence” and “existence precedes essence,” in a really lucid style. Sartre offers the example of a basic item, a paper cutter, to show how in the case of this things essence precedes existence, and how it is the other way around in people. To participate in a “conversation” with Sartre, however, I want to offer the example of a basic device here, a typewriter, to show the same point.
Like a paper cutter, a typewriter too is mass-produced, according to a predetermined model. Therefore, a typewriter is clearly an instance of essence preceding existence. Now let us take a very high power computer. This computer is as much mass-produced and made according to a preexisting model as a simple typewriter, here too essence precedes existence. However, whereas a typewriter can do only one thing in a fairly rigid manner, a computer can do a million things in an absolutely flexible style. A typewriter is like an animal, a one-dimensional creature.
A powerful computer, on the other hand, is more like a human being, a multidimensional entity. An existentialist like Sartre could easily make a claim that in the case of typewriter, essence precedes existence, and in the case of the computer, existence precedes essence. But this is patently wrong. A computer is also made on a pre-existing model, as much as a typewriter is. The existence of a computer is also based on the premise of essence preceding existence as much as that of any manufactured object.
Only, the specific nature of tasks it is going to perform depends on the software loaded unto it, and other ways it is programmed. The computer cannot just do absolutely anything, it has its limitations. Human beings too have their limitations, but within these limitations they have an immense choice and freedom to determine what they are going to do and what they are going to be. The statement that “Man is nothing but what he makes of himself” may sound very good in pep talk, campaign speech or inspirational poetry. But it could be plain absurd, when we consider its philosophical implications.
Man has a given “nature” – his freedom, limitations and identity are defined by it. For instance, what can man think, achieve, or create without the enormous intelligence endowed to him. Man is intelligent, by nature – there is nothing man has done about it. He can further sharpen his intelligence and use it to the best of his ability, or stop using it and become stupid — only this much freedom and scope exists with man. Simply because such scope and freedom exists, one cannot claim that in human beings existence precedes essence.
Existence preceding essence would imply that humans are nothing by themselves, that whatever they want to make of themselves they have to strive to become that. Sartre and other existentialists seem to be completely unfamiliar with any basic concepts of psychology. In fact if existentialism were true, there cannot exist any subject called human psychology. Because, according to Sartre, there is nothing like pre-existing human nature. 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 himself. That is the first principle of existentialism. And this is what people call its “subjectivity” using the word as a reproach against us. (p. 349) The assertion that “Man simply is” is simply delusional. I would not call this viewpoint by the term ‘subjectivity’, whatever it means.
I would call it plain nonsense. If there is no human nature, then what are all psychologists studying and exploring? In fact, by the time of Sartre, there already was a William James, a Freud, and a Jung – not to speak of Pavlov, Watson and other behaviorists who equate man to an animal; the study of human psychology was very much diversified and in a rather mature stage. Yet, here comes Sartre and declares that man is free, that he can make absolutely anything out of himself just as he wills – almost magically, as it were!
Cite this essay
Existence Precedes Essence. (2017, Apr 12). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/critique-of-sartres-concept-of-existence-precedes-essence-essay