Re: I just need help understanding
- --- In theexistentialsociety@y..., "the_dirt_of_luck"
> Hey everyone, I'm 16, and i just joined. My teacher was talkingstill
> 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
> confused. I was just wondering if anyone could help me understandit
> a little bit better.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'.