A student’s guide to Jean-Paul Sartre’s Existentialism and Humanism | Issue 15 | Philosophy Now
In the conclusion part, the relationship of Beckett and Sartre is summed up with their .. Now that the negative of being is nothingness, Vladimir and Estragon end up with (Clov goes to back wall, leans against it with his forehead and hands.). The Story of a Friendship and the Quarrel that Ended It responses to each other express the literary and philosophical kinship that underlay their relationship. In February , in reviewing Sartre's collection of stories The Wall, Camus. From Literary and Philosophical Essays of Jean-Paul Sartre (New York, ). Translated by Annette People told each other that it was “the best book since the end of the war.” Amidst the .. The relationship between the two styles is obvious. Both men write in Then we stood aside to make room for the body to pass.
Only months before he had refused to accept the label: But what precisely is existentialism? What he meant by this was that, in contrast to a designed object such as a penknife — the blueprint and purpose of which pre-exist the actual physical thing — human beings have no pre-established purpose or nature, nor anything that we have to or ought to be.
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Sartre was an ardent atheist and so believed that there could be no Divine Artisan in whose mind our essential properties had been conceived. Nor did he believe there to be any other external source of values: The basic given of the human predicament is that we are forced to choose what we will become, to define ourselves by our choice of action: If man as the existentialist sees him is not definable, it is because to begin with he is nothing.
He will not be anything until later, and then he will be what he makes of himself p. So for the penknife essence comes before existence; whereas for human beings the reverse is true — Sartre has nothing to say about the status of non-human animals in this scheme of things. This emphasis on our freedom to choose what we are is characteristic of all existentialist thinkers. Although Sartre was himself an atheist, some existentialists, including Gabriel Marcel, have been Christians: Humanism It is important to get clear what Sartre meant by humanism.
Humanism is a very general term usually used to refer to any theory which puts human beings at the centre of things: Humanism has the positive connotation of being humane and is generally associated with an optimistic outlook. One version of humanism that Sartre rejects as absurd is the self-congratulatory revelling in the achievements of the human race pp. The humanism that he endorses emphasises the dignity of human beings; it also stresses the centrality of human choice to the creation of all values.
Others chided the existentialists for being overly pessimistic and for concentrating on all that is ignominious in the human condition — Sartre quotes a Catholic critic, Mlle Mercier, who accused him of forgetting how an infant smiles p.
This criticism gains some substance from the fact that in Being and Nothingness Sartre had declared that man was a useless passion and that all forms of sexual love were doomed to be either forms of masochism or sadism.
From another quarter came the criticism that because existentialism concentrates so much on the choices of the individual it ignores the solidarity of humankind, a criticism made by Marxists and Christians alike.
Yet another line of criticism came from those who saw existentialism as licensing the most heinous crimes in the name of free existential choice. These words have specific meanings for him — he uses them as technical terms and their connotations are significantly different from those they have in ordinary usage. All three terms in everyday usage typically connote helplessness and suffering of various kinds; for Sartre, although they preserve some of these negative associations, they also have a positive and optimistic aspect, one which a superficial reading of the text might not reveal.
Nietzsche did not mean that God had once been alive, but rather that the belief in God was no longer a tenable position in the late nineteenth century. The choice of word stresses the solitary position of human beings alone in the universe with no external source of objective value. The main consequence of abandonment is, as we have seen, the absence of any objective source of moral law: In order to meet the criticism that without God there can be no morality, Sartre develops his theory about the implications of freedom and the associated state of anguish.
Anguish Sartre believes wholeheartedly in the freedom of the will: Although he rejects the idea that human beings have any essence, he takes the essence of human beings to be that they are free when he declares: Recognition of the choices available to each of us entails recognition of our responsibility for what we do and are: Sartre believes that we are responsible for everything that we really are.
Obviously we cannot choose who our parents were, where we were born, whether we will die, and so on; but Sartre does go so far as to say that we are responsible for how we feel, that we choose our emotions, and that to deny this is bad faith. In fact Sartre goes beyond even this. So, to take an example Sartre uses, if I choose to marry and to have children I thereby commit not only myself but the whole of humankind to the practice of this form of monogamy.
This is in many ways reminiscent of Immanuel Kant's concept of universalisability: Like Abraham whom God instructed to sacrifice his son, we are in a state of anguish performing actions, the outcome of which we cannot ascertain, with a great weight of responsibility: Despair Despair, like abandonment and anguish, is an emotive term.
Whatever I desire to do, other people or external events may thwart. The attitude of despair is one of stoic indifference to the way things turn out: We cannot rely on anything which is outside our control, but this does not mean we should abandon ourselves to inaction: As Sartre puts it: He tells the story of a pupil of his who was faced with a genuine moral dilemma: He was forced to choose between filial loyalty and the preservation of his country.
Sartre first of all shows the poverty of traditional Christian and Kantian moral doctrines in dealing with such a dilemma.
Christian doctrine would tell the youth to act with charity, love his neighbour and be prepared to sacrifice himself for the sake of others. However this gives little help since he still would have to decide whether he owed more love to his mother or to his country.
The For-itself, in fact, is nothing but the pure nihilation of the In-itself; it is like a hole of being at the heart of Being. Man is always separated from what he is by all the breadth of the being which he is not. He makes himself known to himself from the other side of the world and he looks from the horizon toward himself to recover his inner being. Generally speaking there is no irreducible taste or inclination. They all represent a certain appropriative choice of being.
It is up to existential psychoanalysis to compare and classify them. Ontology abandons us here; it has merely enabled us to determine the ultimate ends of human reality, its fundamental possibilities, and the value which haunts it. The Flies [ edit ] Les mouches The Flies But [your crime] will be there, one hundred times denied, always there, dragging itself behind you.
Then you will finally know that you have committed your life with one throw of the die, once and for all, and there is nothing you can do but tug our crime along until your death. Such is the law, just and unjust, of repentance. Then we will see what will become of your young pride. Clytemnestra to her daughter Electra, Act 1 Be quiet! Anyone can spit in my face, and call me a criminal and a prostitute. But no one has the right to judge my remorse.
If I have gained anything by damning myself, it is that I no longer have anything to fear. Act 1 Admit it, it is your youth that you regret, more even than your crime; it is my youth you hate, even more than my innocence.
Electra to her mother Clytemnestra, Act 1 Some men are born committed to action: Act 1 They are in bad faith — they are afraid — and fear, bad faith have an aroma that the gods find delicious. Yes, the gods like that, the pitiful souls.
Do not judge the gods, young man, they have painful secrets. Jupiter, Act 1 Yes, I am so free. And what a superb absence is my soul. Orestes, Act 1 You must be afraid, my son. That is how one becomes an honest citizen. Mother to her young son, Act 1 Her face seems ravaged by both lightning and hail. But on yours there is something like the promise of a storm: I was waiting for the other.
I thought only of his strength and never of my weakness. And now here you are, Orestes, it was you. I look at you and I see that we are two orphans. Electra to her brother Orestes, Act 2 A man who is free is like a mangy sheep in a herd. He will contaminate my entire kingdom and ruin my work. King Aegistheus, Act 2 Nicias, do you think you can erase with good deeds the wrongs you committed against your mother? What good deed will ever reach her?
Her soul is a scorching noon time, without a single breath of a breeze, nothing moves, nothing changes, nothing lives there; a great emaciated sun, an immobile sun eternally consumes her. Justice is a human issue, and I do not need a god to teach it to me. Orestes, Act 2 Commoners are weightless. But he was a royal bon vivant who, no matter what, always weighed kilos.
King Aegistheus to Jupiter, Act 2 Blood doubly unites us, for we share the same blood and we have spilled blood. Orestes to Electra, Act 2 But, if it will help ease your irritated souls, please know, dearly departed, that you have ruined our lives.
Aegistheus, Act 2 It is for the sake of order that I seduced Clytemnestra, for the sake of order that I killed my king. I wanted for order to rule and that it rule through me.
I have lived without desire, without love, without hope: Aegistheus, Act 2 Understand me: I wish to be a man from somewhere, a man among men. You see, a slave, when he passes by, weary and surly, carrying a heavy load, limping along and looking down at his feet, only at his feet to avoid falling down; he is in his town, like a leaf in greenery, like a tree in a forest, argos surrounds him, heavy and warm, full of herself; I want to be that slave, Electra, I want to pull the city around me and to roll myself up in it like a blanket.
I will not leave. Orestes to Electra, Act 2 I have no need for good souls: Electra to her brother Orestes, Act 2 He is dead, and my hatred has died with him. Electra, before the dead Aegistheus, Act 2 Jupiter: I committed the first crime by creating men as mortals.
After that, what more could you do, you the murderers? Come on; they already had death in them: How I hate the crimes of the new generation: Jupiter to Orestes, Act 2 The painful secret of gods and kings is that men are free, Aegistheus.
You know it and they do not. Jupiter, Act 2 Aegistheus, the kings have another secret Once liberty has exploded in the soul of a man, the Gods can do nothing against that man.
It is a matter for men to handle amongst themselves, and it is up to other men — and to them alone — to let him flee or to destroy him. Orestes to Electra, Act 2 Jupiter: I gave you the liberty to serve me. That is possible, but it has turned against you and there is nothing either one of us can do about it. Act 3 I came to claim my kingdom and you refused me because I was not one of you.
Now I am one of you, my subjects, we are bound by blood, and I deserve to be your king. Your sins and your remorse, your mighty anguish, I take all upon myself. Fear your dead no more, they are my dead.
Orestes, Act 3 Remember, Orestes: Your liberty is nothing but a mange eating away at you, it is nothing but an exile. Jupiter, Act 3 We were too light, Electra. Now our feet press down in the earth like the wheels of a cart in its groove. Come with me, and we will walk heavily, bending under the weight of our heavy load. Orestes, Act 3 Your entire universe will not be enough to make me guilty. You are the king of the Gods, Jupiter, the king of the stones and of the stars, the king of the waves of the sea.
But you are not the king of men. Orestes, Act 3 Jupiter: I am not your king, impudent larva? Who then has created you? But you should not have created me free. Act 3 I am a man, Jupiter, and each man must invent his own path. Orestes, Act 3 You are a tiny little girl, Electra. Other little girls dreamed of being the richest or the most beautiful women of all. And you, fascinated by the horrid destiny of your people, you wished to become the most pained and the most criminal … At your age, children still play with dolls and they play hopscotch.
You, poor child, without toys or playmates, you played murder, because it is a game that one can play alone. Jupiter to Electra, Act 3 Characterizations of Existentialism [ edit ] A propos de l'existentialisme: Mise au Point Action, 29 December In a world, man must create his own essence: Man cannot will unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.
With despair, true optimism begins: Better one hundred bites, better the whip, vitriol, than this suffering in the head, this ghost of suffering which grazes and caresses and never hurts enough. We're in hell, my little friend, and there's never any mistake there. People are not damned for nothing. We are in hell, my dear, there is never a mistake and people are not damned for nothing.
Je n'aurais jamais cru Pas besoin de gril, l'enfer, c'est les autres. So that is what hell is. I would never have believed it. There is no need for torture: Hell is other people. Garcin, Act 1, sc.PHILOSOPHY - Sartre
Whom do you think you are fooling? Come on, everyone knows that I threw the baby out of the window. The crystal is shattered on earth, and I do not care. I am no longer anything but a skin, and my skin does not belong to you. The mouth you wear for hell. A flame in their hearts. When I am all alone, I am extinguished. When I cannot see myself, even though I touch myself, I wonder if I really exist.
Estelle, discovering that there are no mirrors in Hell, Act 1, sc. I feel you in my bones. Your silence screams in my ears. You may nail your mouth shut, you may cut out your tongue, can you keep yourself from existing?
Will you stop your thoughts. Tu n'es rien d'autre que ta vie. One always dies too soon — or too late. And yet, life is there, finished: You are nothing other than your life. Cowardly or not, as long as he is a good kisser. Estelle on Garcin, Act 1, sc. I refuse to let death hamper life. Death must enter life only to define it. On est ce qu'on veut. A man is what he wills himself to be. How entirely at ease he feels as a result.
How futile and frivolous discussions about the rights of the Jew appear to him. He has placed himself on other ground from the beginning. If out of courtesy he consents for a moment to defend his point of view, he lends himself but does not give himself. He tries simply to project his intuitive certainty onto the plane of discourse. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words.
They even like to play with discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors.