Existentialism defined • existence precedes essence • in order to make a table, the artisan must first have a conception of the table • not so with human beings; we come into the world existent but without a nature, without essence; we define ourselves while existing • we are the sum of our experiences
Characteristics of Existentialism • reaction against rationalism • existentialist Angst • German for “dread” • a recurrent state of disquiet concerning one’s life • choice • you must make choices; nothing forces you to do anything: “I have to go to class today”--Sartre argues “you want to go to class today
What are life and death? • life is choice • all one can experience is life; death is absence of experience; therefore it has no reality • “Hell is other people” (No Exit)
Freedom • any situation in which one finds oneself is his own creation • therefore, one creates his own world by supplying the meanings, the interpretations, the significance for things and events • since the world is the product of my choice, I and and I alone bear responsibility for the world
Bad Faith • not a value judgment (bad vs. good) • Sartre’s conception of self-deception • the deliberate creation in oneself of the appearance of a belief which one in fact knows to be false • people oftentimes lie to themselves: “I am not an alcoholic,” says the alcoholic • determinism is really the root of bad faith
Nothingness • not nihilism • part of the argument hinges on discussions of matter and reality; can we ever actually have “nothing”? If we are thinking and existing, then the answer must be “no.” • but …..
Nothing, Something, Whatever • human existence has no ground • it arises from nothing • it ends in nothing • its meaning consists in anticipation of death • but Sartre does argue that human being consists in nothing; this is why we can talk about the absence of a guest
Meaning and Life • “There is no ultimate meaning or purpose inherent in human life; in this sense life is ‘absurd.’” • Sartre insists that the only foundation for values is human freedom; there can be no external objective justification for the values one chooses to adopt
“Radical Freedom”? • Radical Freedom is a: • A condition of human existence: we must commit ourselves at every moment. • Not characteristic of human nature. • Who we are is a function of the choices we make, not vice-versa.
More of Sartre’s ideas, on . . . • FREEDOM is the central and unique potentiality which constitutes us as human. Sartre rejects determinism, saying that it is our choice how we respond to determining tendencies. • CHOICE. I am my choices. I cannot not choose. If I do not choose, that is still a choice. If faced with inevitable circumstances, we still choose how we are in those circumstances.
RESPONSIBILITY. Each of us is responsible for everything we do. If we seek advice from others, we choose our advisor and have some idea of the course he or she will recommend. "I am responsible for my very desire of fleeing responsibilities."
PAST DETERMINANTS SELDOM TELL US THE CRUCIAL INFORMATION. We transform past determining tendencies through our choices. Explanations in terms of family, socioeconomic status, etc., do not tell us why a person makes the crucial choices we are most interested in. • OUR ACTS DEFINE US. "In life, a man commits himself, draws his own portrait, and there is nothing but that portrait.“ Our illusions and imaginings about ourselves, about what we could have been, are nothing but self-deception.
WE CONTINUALLY MAKE OURSELVES AS WE ARE. A "brave" person is simply someone who usually acts bravely. Each act contributes to defining us as we are, and at any moment we can begin to act differently and draw a different portrait of ourselves. There is always a possibility to change, to start making a different kind of choice. OUR POWER TO CREATE OURSELVES. We have the power of transforming ourselves indefinitely.