What Is the Main Idea of Existentialism Is a Humanism?


Martha Robinson

Existentialism is a philosophical movement that emerged in the 20th century, primarily in Europe. It emphasizes individual freedom and choice, as well as the inherent meaninglessness of life. One of the most famous works on existentialism is Jean-Paul Sartre’s lecture and essay “Existentialism Is a Humanism.”

In this work, Sartre argues that existentialism is a philosophy of action and freedom. He contends that humans have no pre-existing essence or nature, but rather are defined by their choices and actions. This means that individuals must take responsibility for their lives and create their own meaning through their choices.

Sartre also criticizes other forms of philosophy, such as Christianity and Marxism, for denying human freedom. He asserts that these belief systems impose external values and goals on individuals, which can lead to a sense of alienation and despair.

To illustrate his points, Sartre provides several examples throughout the essay. He describes the story of a young man who must choose between staying home with his mother or joining the resistance during World War II. Sartre argues that this decision is significant because it demonstrates how individuals create their own values through their actions.

Another key concept in “Existentialism Is a Humanism” is authenticity. Sartre contends that individuals must be true to themselves and their own values in order to live an authentic life. This means rejecting external standards and living according to one’s own principles.

Overall, Sartre’s main idea in “Existentialism Is a Humanism” is that humans are free beings who must take responsibility for their lives. By embracing this freedom and creating their own meaning, individuals can live authentic lives filled with purpose and fulfillment.

In conclusion, Existentialism Is a Humanism is an important work in philosophical literature as it laid out the basic principles of existentialism in clear terms. It emphasized the importance of human freedom and choice while rejecting external values and standards.

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