I shall try today to answer these different charges. Many people are going to be surprised at what is said here about humanism. We shall try to see in what sense it is to be understood. In any case, what can be said from the very beginning is that by existentialism we mean a doctrine which makes human life possible and, in addition, declares that every truth and every action implies a human setting and a human subjectivity.
Next Sartre's a notions of the spontaneous and reflective phases of consciousness will be my focus Upon discussing the reflective phase I will go into depth about the fundamental project, and why it is pursued, and I will give examples from No Exit.
Soren Kierkegaard is considered to be the father of existentialism.
Actually, it is the least scandalous, the most austere of doctrines. It is intended strictly for specialists and philosophers. Yet it can be defined easily. What complicates matters is that there are two kinds of existentialist; first, those who are Christian, among whom I would include Jaspers and Gabriel Marcel, both Catholic; and on the other hand the atheistic existentialists, among whom I class Heidegger, and then the French existentialists and myself. What they have in common is that they think that existence precedes essence, or, if you prefer, that subjectivity must be the starting point.
Critical Essays Sartrean Existentialism: Specific Principles
For instance, I do not grasp the exigency of the alarm clock (itscharacter as a demand) in a kind of disinterested perception but onlyin the very act of responding to it, of getting up. If I fail to get upthe alarm has, to that very extent, lost its exigency. Whymust I get up? At this point I may attempt to justify itsdemand by appeal to other elements of the situation with which thealarm is bound up: I must get up because I must go to work. From thispoint of view the alarm's demandappears—and is—justified, and such justificationwill often suffice to get me going again. But the question of thefoundation of value has simply been displaced: now it is my job that,in my active engagement, takes on the unquestioned exigency of ademand or value. But it too derives its being as a value from itsexigency—that is, from my unreflective engagement in the overallpractice of going to work.Ought I go to work? Why not be “irresponsible”?If a man's got to eat, why not rather take up a life of crime? Ifthese questions have answers that are themselves exigent it can onlybe because, at a still deeper level, I am engaged as having chosenmyself as a person of a certain sort: respectable,responsible. From within that choice there is an answer ofwhat I ought to do, but outside that choice there is none—whyshould I be respectable, law-abiding?—for it is onlybecause some choice has been made that anything at all canappear as compelling, as making a claim on me. Only if I amat some level engaged do values (and so justification interms of them) appear at all. The more I pull out of engagement towardreflection on and questioning of my situation, the more I amthreatened by ethical anguish—“which is the recognition ofthe ideality of values” (Sartre 1992: 76). And, as with allanguish, I do not escape this situation by discovering the true orderof values but by plunging back into action. If the idea that valuesare without foundation in being can be understood as a form ofnihilism, the existential response to this condition of the modernworld is to point out that meaning, value, is not first of all amatter of contemplative theory but a consequence of engagement andcommitment.
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As Sartre points out in great detail, anguish, as the consciousnessof freedom, is not something that human beings welcome; rather, we seekstability, identity, and adopt the language of freedom only when itsuits us: those acts are considered by me to be my free acts whichexactly match the self I want others to take me to be. We are“condemned to be free,” which means that we can never simplybe who we are but are separated from ourselves by thenothingness of having perpetually to re-choose, or re-commit, ourselvesto what we do. Characteristic of the existentialist outlook is the ideathat we spend much of lives devising strategies for denying or evadingthe anguish of freedom. One of these strategies is “bad faith.” Anotheris the appeal to values.