Ideas Of Existentialism In The Works Of Jean-Paul Sartre

Jean-Paul Sartre expresses his ideological and philosophical views all throughout his writings. He emphasizes his existentialist ideas in his essay “Existentialism is a Humanism. ” Sartre defines existentialism by saying “that man first exists, encounters himself and emerges in the world to be defined afterwards”. This is the idea that you are born with a clean slate; having no predetermined purpose, and with it depending on each of us to shape who we are and to find meaning through the ways in which we choose to live. Sartre goes on to argue that human nature is created by human actions rather than of God or a higher power, “it is man who conceives himself towards existence”. Here he emphasizes that God has nothing to do with human nature because it can only be defined by ‘humans’ which is a form God has never taken, therefore it cannot be the reasoning behind the things that people do. Sartre continues by saying “We are alone, without excuses”, meaning that people are to be responsible for the consequences of their own decisions. The “excuses” he refers to could also include the beliefs of fate and destiny because he believes that all humans are born with free will; “There is no predefined picture, and no-one can say what the painting of tomorrow should be”. This kind of thinking also brings to light the question many people these days ask themselves What the meaning in life truly is and of existing if there’s no outside force already giving them a purpose. It encourages people to go through life to question everything to find the purpose.

Without having any higher or outside force influencing your growth through life this idea encourages the questioning of the meaning of life the act of finding one’s purpose as well as finding purpose in everything you do.

“The Wall” by Jean-Paul Sartre closely reflects his existentialist beliefs in the way each character in each unique short story questions their meaning yet still enforces the idea that they do have meaning. For example, in Erostatus, the narrator expresses his feelings towards other people, how they make him feel weak and insignificant thus leading him to have the idea of wanting to shoot someone. Towards the beginning of the chapter, the narrator says “One night I got the idea of shooting people”. Though it is something very unsettling, the narrator had found his own meaning for life through his experiences of the past, and so he will now do everything in his power to accomplish this. What interested me the most about this chapter is the fact that he planned everything out even the fact that he will shoot himself after he succeeded yet, in the end, he found no reason to do it in it unless someone else was to come after him. ‘“What were they waiting for?” I wondered. “If they pushed against the door and broke it down right away I wouldn’t have to kill myself and they would take me alive. ” But they were in no hurry; they gave me all the time in the world to die. ’ This gives the reader an idea of Sartre's existentialist beliefs by giving the sense that even though the narrator thought his plan was over, there might be something else to it and there was no purpose in killing himself now if it didn't serve some purpose.

Albert Camus expresses a very different philosophy of life. He explains how life has no meaning and that it would be absurd for someone to try to find one. In his essay “Absurdity and Suicide & Myth of Sisyphus” he starts with a bold statement saying “There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy”. Camus comes to say that in a way when people begin to think philosophically about life, they will come to the realization that there is no point. He gives the idea that since life has no meaning there's nothing to worry about, and whether you take your life now or not it really wouldn't matter in the end because it would be the same either way.

10 October 2020
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