Existentialism is a philosophical movement that emphasizes individual freedom and choice. One of the most prominent figures in this movement was Jean-Paul Sartre, who famously declared that his existentialism was a humanism.
But what does this mean, and why did Sartre make this claim? Let’s explore.
The Basics of Sartrean Existentialism
At its core, Sartrean existentialism is concerned with the nature of human existence. According to Sartre, humans are fundamentally free and responsible for creating their own meaning in life. This means that there is no inherent purpose or meaning to life – we must create it for ourselves.
Sartre also believed that humans are alone in the universe. While we may experience love, friendship, and other forms of connection with others, ultimately we are each isolated individuals who must make our own choices.
Why Sartre Called His Existentialism a Humanism
Given these ideas, you might be wondering why Sartre would call his philosophy a humanism. After all, doesn’t existentialism emphasize individual freedom and isolation?
For Sartre, the answer lies in the fact that his existentialism is focused on the human experience. While humans may be fundamentally alone and responsible for creating their own meaning, they are still part of the same species with shared concerns and experiences.
In other words, while we each must create our own purpose in life, we do so as members of a larger community. We share common fears, desires, and struggles with others – even if ultimately it is up to us as individuals to address these issues.
What This Means for Ethics
One area where Sartre’s humanistic existentialism has significant implications is ethics. If individuals are completely free to create their own meaning in life without any inherent moral framework guiding them, how can we make ethical choices?
For Sartre, the answer lies in the fact that humans are fundamentally responsible for their choices. While there may be no objective ethical standard to follow, each person is still accountable for their actions and must take responsibility for the consequences.
This means that ethics become a matter of personal choice and responsibility – we must each decide what values we will uphold and what actions we will take based on our own understanding of what is right and wrong.
In calling his existentialism a humanism, Sartre was emphasizing the importance of the human experience in his philosophy. While individuals may be fundamentally alone and responsible for creating their own meaning in life, they are still part of a larger community with shared concerns and experiences.
This has important implications for ethics, as it means that each person must take responsibility for their choices and make ethical decisions based on their own understanding of what is right and wrong. Overall, Sartre’s humanistic existentialism offers a unique perspective on the nature of human existence and the role of individuals in creating meaning in life.