Existentialism is a philosophy that emphasizes individual existence, freedom, and choice. While it has its roots in the works of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, the term “existentialism” was first coined by Jean-Paul Sartre in the mid-20th century. Sartre’s views on existentialism were groundbreaking and have had a profound impact on modern philosophy.

What is Existentialism?

At its core, existentialism is concerned with individual existence and the challenges that come with it. According to Sartre, humans are unique in that we have an awareness of our own existence. This awareness gives us a sense of responsibility for our lives and actions.

The Absurdity of Existence

Sartre believed that human existence is inherently absurd. We are born into a world that has no inherent meaning or purpose. It is up to each individual to create their own meaning in life through their choices and actions.

This sense of absurdity can lead to feelings of anxiety and despair. We are faced with the realization that there is no ultimate purpose or direction in life, and we must create our own path.

Freedom and Choice

Despite the inherent absurdity of existence, Sartre believed that humans have an incredible amount of freedom and choice. We are not predetermined beings, but rather we create ourselves through our choices.

This freedom can be both liberating and terrifying. On one hand, it allows us to shape our lives according to our own values and desires. On the other hand, it means that we bear full responsibility for our choices and their consequences.

Authenticity

For Sartre, living an authentic life was essential to overcoming the absurdity of existence. Authenticity involves being true to oneself and one’s values rather than conforming to societal expectations or external influences.

Living authentically requires courage and a willingness to take responsibility for one’s choices. It also involves recognizing the freedom that we have to shape our own lives.

Conclusion

Jean-Paul Sartre’s views on existentialism have had a significant impact on modern philosophy. He emphasized the importance of individual existence, freedom, and choice in a world that can often feel absurd and meaningless.

By embracing our freedom and living authentically, we can create our own meaning in life and overcome the challenges of existence. Sartre’s ideas continue to inspire new generations of thinkers and offer a unique perspective on what it means to be human.