Q1. What does “Existence Precedes Essence” mean?
Sartre used this phrase to support his argument on existentialism. This was in an effort to illustrate that the life of a human being surpasses their character, as opposed to earlier philosophical thoughts. In this ideology, Sartre believed that people dictate their way of life and values through perceptions (Sartre 23). Thus, the life of a human being becomes worthwhile depending on one’s personality and moral fiber. Moreover, over the years, many philosophers have incorporated this thought in their literature works in an effort to describe the relationship between a person’s character and their way of life.
Additionally, Sartre argues that the essence of human beings improves over time through interaction with one’s self and others. Through this ideology, he emphasizes that the choices people make in their daily lives are independent hence; everyone ought to embrace the repercussions. Moreover, according to Sartre, our decisions illustrate what we consider as valuable and moral. Nonetheless, he is quick to add that certain decisions are common among individuals in the same environment. Therefore, to some extent, our neighbors and society influence the choices we make.
Q2. What is the First Principle of Existentialism?
The first principle of existentialism states that all human beings have the liberty to make decisions concerning their life depending on their personality and values. Moreover, the moral restrictions in the society are only active in our minds, hence the limitations to choose with respect to certain aspects in our lives. This principle addresses individualism and the freedom experienced by human beings in decision-making. Furthermore, existentialism refutes social and religious concepts of morality, arguing that integrity depends on a person’s character and way of thinking (Sartre 40).
Q3. Why Did Sartre Claim, “In Choosing Myself, I Choose Man”?
Sartre believed that one’s choices also affect the society. He blamed people’s lack of knowledge regarding this massive responsibility for the indecency in the world (Sartre 45). In addition, this phrase formed the foundation of his argument on anguish and despair. He also used this statement to demonstrate that the decisions we make mold us in a certain way. This means that our actions communicate the life we wish to have, depending on our individual values. Likewise, this proclamation shows that our decisions cater for the entire community. Therefore, the accepted code of conduct in the society results from people’s choices. This is due to his belief that human beings make judgments based on what they consider as the best values. For this reason, one’s choices illustrate his or her view of an ideal society.
Q4. What Is Meant By “Anguish”?
Sartre defined anguish as a feeling related to the impact of one’s choices to the community. He relates this response to the freedom experienced by human beings regarding decision-making. According to Sartre, anguish occurs upon realization that one’s choices equates to the society’s standards. While supporting this argument, Sartre discusses the havoc that the world would experience if no one took responsibility for his or her actions. In his literature work he states,
“What if everyone acted that way; they shrug their shoulders and answer, ‘Everyone does not act that way’. But really, one should always ask himself, ‘What would happen if everyone looked at things that way?’ There is no escaping this disturbing thought except by a kind of double dealing” (Sartre 51).
Furthermore, according to his discussion of human anguish, he acknowledges the existence of self-deception. This aspect occurs when people deny that our decisions are a representation of community values. Denying this responsibility makes dishonesty an acceptable trait in the society. Moreover, this accountability is the exclusive influence of our existence. Consequently, this duty follows us throughout our lives. Nonetheless, Sartre acknowledges the difficulty of fulfilling this task effectively.
This is due to the lack of guidelines on decision-making. He supports this claim by stating, “How can we know what to do? How could Abraham know it was the voice of God who told him to sacrifice his son Isaac? There are no omens; there are no signs by which to decide” (Sartre 62). He also believes that the level of anguish depends on the intensity of the issue at hand. For example, military personnel experience anguish when they join the army despite the risk involved. However, they have to do so to protect their country.
Q5. What Does “Forlornness” Mean?
Forlornness, according to Sartre, relates to his belief that God’s existence is only in the mind. He disagrees with claims on the presence of a supreme being and supports this idea by arguing that we are responsible for all our actions and their consequences. This is evident when he asserts, “If God did not exist it would be necessary to invent Him” (Sartre 67). This abandonment results from the idea that man is the source of societal norms as no guidelines come from the Supreme Being in whom most people believe.
Moreover, he describes forlornness as an outcome of human despair. Unlike other philosophers, he disagrees with the belief on the existence of human nature by claiming that individuals are free to make all kinds of decisions without any external influence. For this reason, some excuses made by human beings lead to chaos in the society. For example, Sartre rubbishes the relation of certain choices to God’s commandments. Likewise, he disagrees with the argument that people are bound to make decisions based on human nature (Sartre 69).
Q6. Why Did Sartre Say We Are Condemned To Be Free?
In an attempt to make his argument on forlornness, Sartre asserts that human beings are destined to live a life full of freedom. This state of freedom is equal among all individuals although its use in decision-making depends on one’s character and standards. In support of this claim, he provides an example regarding one of his students. According to this story, the learner’s parents were not in clear terms. Moreover, the death of his elder brother depressed his mother who sought solace by dedicating her life to her youngest son. On the other hand, this student had a passion of protecting his country by joining the military. However, he had to choose between comforting his mother and defending his nation (Sartre 77).
Efforts to seek help from Christianity and Kantian Ethical philosophies bore no fruits. For example, the Christianity principle of loving one’s neighbors was confusing to the man, as he could not serve both parties at the same time. On the other hand, Kantian Ethics theory indicated that viewing his mother as an end would regard the military personnel as the means. Likewise, the value of his feelings did not provide the needed help. Sartre uses these examples of philosophies to illustrate their insufficiency in guiding human decisions. According to Sartre, the only solution was choosing himself. He supports this assertion by saying that all other parties would provide preset choices that would not be effective in solving the man’s dilemma. Sartre uses this illustration to argue that one symbol results into different decisions depending on a person’s perception of the issue.
Q7. What Does Sartre Mean By “Despair”?
According to Sartre’s philosophy, despair refers to the understanding that people impound themselves to estimations through their own spirit and prospects. Because of this, we are responsible for our achievements in life. Moreover, the probabilities within our reach can drive us to high levels depending on our zeal to achieve. Furthermore, Sartre argues that human beings lose hope because of the impossibility to understand the future with regard to our decisions and their consequences to the society (Sartre 81). Consequently, we ought to make proper decisions as failure to do so results to certain repercussions.
In addition, despair is due to lack of a superior body that guides the appropriateness of our decisions. As such, we choose based on our understanding of integrity. Moreover, the decision-making is not dependent on the consequences as no one can predict the outcome of our choices. For example, if one tries to stop a robber and in the process an innocent civilian is hurt, the decency of our actions is relative. Sartre’s philosophy indicates that anguish, forlornness and despair relate to people’s responsibility for choices.
Sartre, Jean-Paul, and Bernard Frechtman. Existentialism. New York: Philosophical Library, 1947. Print.
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