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What Does Sartre Means When He Insists That Existence Precedes Essence? Do You Agree with Him?

Autor:   •  September 4, 2016  •  Term Paper  •  2,075 Words (9 Pages)  •  315 Views

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Q 4B: What does Sartre means when he insists that existence precedes essence? Do you agree with him?

Answer: According to Sartre the core of existentialism is the idea that, for human being existence precedes essence. It is an idea, which turns traditional metaphysics on its head because through western philosophy it’s always assumed that the essence or nature of the thing is more fundamental and eternal than its existence. So if we want to understand a thing, we should learn about its essence.- Introduction talk about Metaphysics

Essence refers to philosophical idea that all things have a pre-defined, ideal set of characteristics. For instance the essence of a chair is that it has four legs, a back and the purpose for people to sit on it. However not everything matches the essence. We might have a chair with three legs or a broken back. The actual details of a particular chair make up its existence. So when Sartre gives the example of the paper knife, he can understand its nature by listing its properties and examining the purpose that it exists to cut letters. It would not exist if it did not have a purpose to it. “We wouldn’t produce a paper knife without knowing what it’s for” So if you use it to stab somebody, that’s not good because that’s not its purpose.  So, in this case, essence precedes existence.- What is essence ?

Sartre’s belief that as human beings, we exist first and then we do things that define ourselves and live our lives in whatever way we choose. This determines our essence. Through existing we create our essence. According to traditional Christian mythology and many atheists, humanity or human beings were created by God with specific purpose in mind. They assumed that human beings possessed some special human nature and characteristics, that they all have some essence that precedes their existence. It means human beings have a pre-defined purpose or essence before their existence. – Traditional philosophy

Sartre abandons the concept of God and also abandons any concept derived from and was dependent upon the idea of God. He believes that we live in a godless universe where there are no absolute objective guidelines, morality and belief. He said that there is no given human nature common to everyone. Human beings develop, define and decide their nature or essence through an engagement with themselves, their society and the natural world around them. There are no pre-defined patterns that human beings must fit into. We exist as human beings because we are conscious and can propel ourselves into the future. We are not being-in- ourselves, we are being-for-ourselves.- No God and Ex p Es

The way we should live from the idea “existence precedes essence” is that we aren’t isolated individuals but rather the member of communities and of the human race. Our responsibility is thus much greater than we normally suppose, it concerns the mankind as well. For example if one choose to marry, one choose for oneself, for one partner and for the institution of marriage. We need to set examples and pattern our lives so that other will follow. Our choices not only affect ourselves, but they also affect others. Those who are affected have every right to evaluate those choices and comment if they are based upon error, bad faith, self-deception, ill will etc. We have to create value because there are no pre-defined values prior to our existence. Whatever we choose to do others will be affected and they are free to react.- Community


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