existentialism means some ideas from philosophers that explain the existence of human beings


The term existentialism means some ideas from philosophers that explain the existence of human beings. It refrains itself from the explanations offered by science or even ancient philosophy (Wikipedia 1). Its definition differs from one author to another though most of them disagree with the concept of referring them as existentialists in avoidance of people placing them into pre-defined categories. According to Sartre, a philosopher and an author, men are nothing but what the make themselves. Hence, there nothing in the genes that makes a man to behave in certain ways. In other words, when men make certain decisions they do so because they first have the will to act in such manner (Wikipedia 1). In this, Sartre means that everyone has the freedom to do his or her wish but since freedom exists in the world, the same world is its limit. However, making of decisions does not only affect the individual acting but rather the whole humanity.

In his essay, Sartre maintains that human beings are free to what they want. However, if they seek freedom they do not only seek freedom for themselves but also the must grant freedom to other people. That is, men make choices but in making those choices, they do make them for other people. Consequently, in a bid to create the person that each individual wants to be, he or she portrays an image of the people he or she ought to be (Roberts 14). In simple terms and looking into ideas posed by a number of philosophers existence precedes essence. Hence, the meaning in the statement by Sartre is that though individuals have the capacity to make decisions they not only make those decisions for themselves but also for other people (Plantinga 21). This is true given that most of the decisions that people make have impact on other people’s lives.

In to explain the concept further philosophers use the example of a Christian. When a man decides that they want to enter into Christianity they not only make that decision for themselves, they indicate the destiny of other human beings. Hence, they involve the whole humankind in their choices since they make a decision that human beings belong to another world called heaven together with God (Sartre 1021). The same case applies to a person deciding to engage in Muslim faith since they not only make individual choices because they include humanity in his or her Muslim faith. Consequently, the meaning that Sartre seeks to bring is that each individual contributes into the way the world runs today and the beliefs contained therein. If individuals seek to change their way of life they advocate that other people should also change their way of life.

Anguish is the responsibility that a man bears upon realizing that he or she is not making decisions for him or herself only but also for the whole humanity. They realize that most of the actions they partake affect humankind (Johnson 22). One of the consequences of this realization is quietism or inability to act. One such example is a village leader who realizes that when he makes the decision of sending warriors into a battlefield he will engage other people in his decisions. Though the choice he makes might be the right one the circumstances he might choose not to act or to succumb to quietism (Sartre 1220). Another idea is that of forlornness, a belief that God does not exist. Hence, if a group of individuals came to such a conclusion they have to live with the consequences. This is so given that all the laws that humankind stand with will no longer make any sense hence everything will became possible.

To make add more sense into the argument let us examine a hypothetical scenario whereby a man has to school his kids. In the society that the man resides people do not take their children to school but due to his travelling, he understands the importance of school. He decides that the right thing to do is take his children to school however, after sometime he realizes he made a choice for the whole village. The first thought is quietism or the inability to act to the realization but after sometime chooses to take the children to school. He not only portrays to the villagers that kids should attend school but he makes a decision for them and though debates might exist over the issue he is involving more people than his intentions.

It is evident from the discussion herein that it is difficult to make decisions without involving other people and when individuals make decisions they involve humanity in their decisions. Philosophers have tried to explain the concept regarding the existence of human beings with most of them presenting a number of ideas. Some of the ideas are in discussion herein and explain the concepts that philosopher Sartre is trying to portray in his essay about existentialism. Though there are a number of criticisms surrounding the work of the author cum philosopher, he sheds light in the subject of human existence.

Works Cited

Sartre, Jean-Paul .Existentialism is a humanism. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007.

Wikipedia. Existentialism, 2011. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ExistentialismJohnson, Ronald. Existentialism. American Behavioral scientist, 8, 3, 1964. DOI: 10.1177/000276426400800313

Plantinga, Alvin. On Existentialism. Philosophical studies, 44,1,1-20, 1982. DOI: 10.1007/BF00353411

Roberts, David. Existentialism and Religious beliefs. Pastoral Psychology, 8, 3, 45-51, 2000. DOI: 10.1007/BF01744321