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Re: I just need help understanding

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  • ralphmctavish
    ... still ... it ... Sartre s succinct aphorism Existence precedes Essence I believe is central to the concept of existentialism. What he means by this (and
    Message 1 of 2 , Apr 26, 2002
      --- In theexistentialsociety@y..., "the_dirt_of_luck"
      <thedirtofluck@a...> wrote:
      > Hey everyone, I'm 16, and i just joined. My teacher was talking
      > about existentialism a few weeks back. I and a friend of mine have
      > been reading into it (Nietzche,Kant, and Barret) and I know I'm
      still
      > confused. I was just wondering if anyone could help me understand
      it
      > a little bit better.
      > Russell


      Sartre's succinct aphorism "Existence precedes Essence" I believe is
      central to the concept of existentialism. What he means by this (and
      believes that all so-called existentialists share an adherence to
      this concept) is that Man's existence comes before his nature or if
      you will, his intrinsic function or definition. Sartre uses the
      example of a knife (he terms it a `being in itself') the essence of
      which precedes its existence, in that the concept or purpose of the
      knife comes before its manufacture or existence. Man, Sartre
      believes, has no real `human nature' but developes something akin to
      this through his ongoing existence. The upshot of all this is that
      values including morality are relative as opposed to absolute.

      Sartre is insisting on the importance of existence being prior to
      essence which revolves around the concept of meaning in one's life.
      Many religious people take it as obvious that their lives are
      purposeful, that they were created by a God who had a prior concept
      of them (their essence was primary). These people would say
      that `essence precedes existence' their purpose (not their own petty
      accrued mundane purpose) but their real purpose in the grander scheme
      of things, was primary. Their lives have for them an ultimate meaning
      pre-existing them; they come into the world with a `human nature'.
      Sartre has no problem with individuals developing through their
      existence a human nature or essence, he just doesn't accept that they
      are givens (they are part of our free choice) for him man is the
      measure of all things in this sense. All values to Sartre are
      effectively arbitrary, we cannot not choose, yet our choices have no
      solid foundation, in a nutshell, `all existence is contingent'.
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