Existentialism is a philosophical movement that emphasizes individual freedom and choice. It emerged in the late 19th and early 20th century in response to the social and political upheavals of the time.
One of the most influential thinkers of this movement was Jean-Paul Sartre, who famously declared that “Existentialism is humanism”. But who exactly said that?
The answer is Jean-Paul Sartre himself. In 1945, Sartre gave a lecture at Club Maintenant in Paris, which was later published as an essay titled “Existentialism Is a Humanism”. In this essay, Sartre sought to clarify his philosophy and refute some of the misunderstandings and criticisms that had been leveled against it.
Sartre argued that existentialism is a form of humanism because it places human beings at the center of its concerns. Unlike other philosophies that prioritize abstract concepts like reason or nature, existentialism focuses on the lived experience of individuals. It recognizes that each person is unique and must create their own meaning in life.
According to Sartre, this emphasis on human freedom and choice can be both liberating and terrifying. On one hand, it means that we are not bound by any predetermined destiny or external authority.
We are free to choose our own path in life and determine our own values. On the other hand, this freedom also means that we bear full responsibility for our choices and cannot blame anyone else for our failures or shortcomings.
Sartre’s essay became widely popular and helped to establish existentialism as a major philosophical movement in the 20th century. However, it also attracted criticism from some quarters.
Some accused Sartre of promoting a selfish individualism that ignored social responsibilities or political engagement. Others argued that his focus on subjective experience neglected objective reality or universal values.
Despite these criticisms, Sartre’s ideas continue to influence contemporary philosophy, literature, and culture. His emphasis on human freedom and responsibility resonates with many people today who seek to live authentic and meaningful lives in a world that can often seem chaotic and meaningless.
In conclusion, Jean-Paul Sartre was the philosopher who famously declared that “Existentialism is humanism”. He argued that existentialism places human beings at the center of its concerns and emphasizes individual freedom and choice. His ideas continue to inspire and challenge us to this day.