Defining And Evaluating Existentialism

Existentialism is a Humanism, to be human is defined by an existence (physical existence) that precedes its essence (true nature). As such, if existence is problematic, and it is towards the development of a full existentialist theory of what it is to be human that Sartre’s work logically evolves. In relation to what will become Being and Nothingness, Sartre’s early works can be seen as providing important preparatory material for an existential account of being human. But the distinctiveness of Sartre’s approach to understanding human existence is ultimately guided by his ethical interest. Thus the nature of Sartre’s topics of analysis, his theory of the ego and his ethical aims all characterise the development of an existential phenomenology.

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The general concern of existentialism is to give an account of what it is like to exist as a human being in the world. Existentialism is a philosophical movement emphasizing individualism, individual freedom, and subjectivity. Epistemologically, it is denied that there can be an absolutely objective description of the world as it is without the intervention of human interests and actions. The world is a ‘given’ and there is no epistemological scepticism about its existence; it has to be described in relation to ourselves. There is no fixed essence to which beings have to conform in order to qualify as human beings; we are what we decide to be. The issue of freedom and choice are of crucial importance in existentialism. Sartre thinks that authentic choices are completely undetermined. If we make our decisions merely by reference to an external moral code or set of procedures, then we are, similarly, not arriving at authentic choices.

Key Points of Jean Paul Sartre’s (1905 – 1980) existentialist Philosophy:
1.”Existence precedes and rules essence”

Satire’s ethical behavior acknowledges our freedom in the world. We cannot hide behind the safety of tradition, culture and the moral code. Among the most famous and influential existentialist propositions is Sartre’s dictum, “existence precedes and rules essence”, which is generally taken to mean that there is no pre-defined essence to humanity except that which we make for ourselves. Since Sartrean existentialism does not acknowledge the existence of a god or of any other determining principle, human beings are free to do as they choose. To live according to these principles means to live in “bad faith” and is unethical

Since there is no predefined human nature or ultimate evaluation beyond that which humans project onto the world, people may only be judged or defined by their actions and choices, and human choices are the ultimate evaluator. The concept of Existence preceding essence is important because it describes the only conceivable reality as the judge of good or evil. If things simply “are”, without directive, purpose or overall truth, then truth (or essence) is only the projection of that which is a product of existence, or collective experiences. For truth to exist, existence has to exist before it, making it not only the predecessor but the ‘ruler’ of its own objectivity.”

2. Anguish

In Sartre’s Existentialism, anguish is the feeling one gets when one recognizes that one is responsible not only for oneself, but for all of mankind. Along with many of the other emotional states described by existentialists, anguish can be paralytic, and one of the goals of existentialism is to push people toward action even in the face of these emotions.

3. Bad faith

Satre basically not acknowledging that as a human being our existence precedes our essence in the world and so not acknowledging our own ability create our self through our choices. The “bad faith” stories, “young woman” and a “waiter”, the young woman delaying her moment of choice in a way that for inauthentic and the waiter failing to acknowledge to be a waiter and he has his choice to choose not to be a waiter. Both the young woman and the waiter put essence before existence but they are slightly different in their choices.

4. Being – in – itself

Being in itself is the self-contained and fully realized being of objects. It is to be contrasted with the being, or existence, of people. from the young woman story Ivich treats both Delarue and her own body as “being-in-itself”. According to Sartre, human beings want to attain being in itself while retaining their freedom, a tendency he dubs “the desire to be God”.

5. Being – for – others

Being for others, in Sartrean existentialism, is that part of human existence that is social and socially defined. From the story of waiter he treat him/her self first and primarily as a “being-for-others”. One path to bad faith is to view all of one’s existence as disclosed through others.

6. Being – for – self

To act in good faith we must treat self and others primarily. Existentialism is not a complete philosophy and many arguments can be made against it. An accountant also a human being, sometimes he do accounting and sometimes do other things. A Existentialism, is that part – part, though inseparable from the rest – of human existence that is self-defined. Viewing human existence as entirely self-defined is one way toward bad faith.

7. Despair

Sartre defines despair the feeling resulting from the realization that there is no sure footing in the world, and we can never know the results of our actions beforehand.


Existentialism is not a perfect and complete philosophy and many arguments can be made against it. The philosopher Marcues criticized that if avery one is already free and they are walking on the roads they why bother to fight for freedom? The opponents of existentialism assert that it fosters the particularization of human beings, stripping them of a universal sense of identity, which is entirely consistent with the claims of existentialists that the only universal allowed for human beings is their fundamental freedom. An another view is simply that existentialists are insane, which, many existentialists would reply, is correct, but, they would retort, only if you considered a lack of desire to live the traditional office life as reducible to insanity.


The existentialism is not a complete philosophy. It is philosophy which combines with Virtue ethics and deontology. Existentialist understanding of what it is to be human can be summarised in his view that the underlying motivation for action is to be found in the nature of consciousness which is a desire for being. It is up to each agent to exercise his freedom in such a way that he does not lose sight of his existence as a facticity, as well as a free human being. In so doing, he will come to understand more about the original choice which his whole life represents, and thus about the values that are thereby projected. Such an understanding is only obtained through living this particular life and avoiding the pitfalls of strategies of self-deceit such as bad faith. This authentic option for human life represents the realisation of a universal in the singularity of a human life. Existentialism declares that the individual must choose his way; there

is no predetermination. Since the universe is meaningless and absurd, people

must set their own ethical standards. The universe does not predetermine moral

rules. Each person strives toward a unique moral perfection. Existentialists believe that morality depends on the

individual, rather than a supreme being.