Sartre and the Meaning of Human Existence

Where the Meaning of Human Existence is Located According to Sartre

The word philosophy comes from Greek and literally means "love of wisdom." The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines philosophy as "a critical study of fundamental beliefs and the grounds for them." Both explanations of philosophy are correct and concrete. The meaning of human existence has no such concrete answer, but in this paper we will examine where Sartre believes it to be.

Sartre's existentialism is a philosophy, which deals with man. It states that man is that which he makes of himself and that he has to make his own choices in a state of anguish. Man chooses in anguish, because he has no external guidelines to help him and must rely on his own morals and beliefs. Man chooses completely want he wants to do. His existence depends on this. And this is where I believe Sartre locates the meaning to mans' existence. According to Sartre mans' existence only takes on meaning through his actions.

The Sartrian existentialist finds it extremely troubling that God does not exist because with Him vanishes all hope of finding values in an intelligible heaven. "As Dostoevsky once said, "If God did not exist, then everything would be permitted."(pg 22) Sartre claims this to be the existentialist starting point. This is the reason that Sartre talks about anguish, because "one cannot find anything to depend upon either within or outside himself." It must necessarily follow that man is to be forlorn; he can't find anything to depend upon either internally or externally. He therefore lacks excuses. We cannot explain our actions in terms of or in reference to..."given and specific human nature." (pg 23)

This rules out of the possibility of predetermination. "...

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...ialism is that one must first make a choice and then act upon the commitment, according to the formula that Sartre provides us with. For the existentialist, hope is a passion that gets him nowhere. He must face life in his abandoned state, with courage and self-affirmation.

Sartre's existentialism is unique in its individualistic outlook, its detachment, its lack of reliance of an outer code to manage behavior, and its emphasis on man's self-reliance. Existentialism, as exemplified in the work of Sartre, deals with fundamental issues of life and how he finds mans' existence within the choices and actions that define him. Since Sartre believes that there is no transcendent this theory causes man to be alone. Man has only himself to fall back on. Man makes his own future through the actions that he makes. This is where man is defined, and his existence finds meaning.
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