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 and absurdity of human existence.

One of the most famous existentialist works is Jean-Paul Sartre’s essay “Existentialism Is a Humanism,” which argues that existentialism is a philosophy of optimism and action. In this article, we will explore why existentialism is a humanism.

The Absurdity of Human Existence

According to existentialist thought, human existence is fundamentally absurd. This is because we are born into a world that has no inherent meaning or purpose. We are essentially free to create our own meaning through our choices and actions, but this freedom can be overwhelming and terrifying.

Existential Freedom

However, this freedom also gives us the opportunity to create our own values and goals. We are not constrained by external factors like religion or tradition; instead, we are free to choose our own path in life. This means that we are responsible for our own lives and must take ownership of our decisions.

The Importance of Action

Existentialists also emphasize the importance of action. We cannot simply wait for meaning or purpose to come to us; instead, we must actively seek it out through our choices and actions. This requires courage and a willingness to take risks, but it also gives us the opportunity to shape our own lives.

The Humanism of Existentialism

Despite its emphasis on the absurdity of human existence, existentialism is ultimately a philosophy of optimism and action. By embracing our freedom and taking responsibility for our lives, we can create meaning and purpose in an otherwise meaningless world.

The Dignity of Human Beings

Moreover, existentialists believe in the inherent dignity of human beings. We are not merely objects or machines; we are conscious beings with the capacity for self-awareness and reflection. This means that we have the ability to transcend our circumstances and create something meaningful out of our lives.

The Importance of Empathy

Finally, existentialists emphasize the importance of empathy and compassion. Because we are all fundamentally in the same situation – facing a meaningless world with freedom and responsibility – we have an obligation to treat each other with kindness and understanding.


In conclusion, existentialism is a humanism because it emphasizes individual freedom and choice, action, dignity, and empathy. By embracing these values, we can create meaning and purpose in an otherwise meaningless world. While existentialism may seem bleak at first glance, it ultimately offers a philosophy of optimism and possibility.