Sartre's Theory Of Existentialism

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Introduction

In this paper I will be investigating Sartre’s (Cahoone, 2003) ideas on freedom and responsibility against the backdrop of his theory of existentialism. Firstly, I will explain what atheistic existentialism is. The three themes central to this theory are, anguish, despair, and abandonment, so I will also be discussing these concepts, and the roles they play in, and understanding existentialism, and later on, freedom.
Secondly, I will explain how Sartre’s thoughts may be a response to Nietzsche’s ¨death of God ¨ declaration, since Sartre’s entire theory is based on the non-existence of God. I will discuss how through God’s non-existence, we as abandoned humans come to be self-determining beings. ¨Existence precedes Essence¨ is
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259). That is, a person’s own actions determine who that person is. A musician is not a musician simply based on him having formulated the perfect melody in his mind, just as an artist may not call himself an artist based on the idea of a masterpiece which he has not yet painted. In short, we are to be judged based on our actions, not mere presuppositions, chance, or circumstances.
Sartre says we have a choice in determining who we are to become, and our place in the world. Not only that, but we are wholly responsible for these choices and actions. One cannot simply say that a person is born a certain way. Sartre uses the example of cowards and heroes to illustrate this point, saying that a coward need not simply resign himself to the fact that he is born a coward. He can make the choice to stop being a coward, just as a hero can make the choice to stop being a hero by stop doing heroic acts. Sartre takes it a step further, saying that not only are we responsible for our own actions, but those of all mankind. This is reminiscent of Kant’s Categorical
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This is quickly remedied by looking back on one of the big themes throughout the essay, which is responsibility. In Sartre’s conception of freedom, we cannot uncouple it from responsibility. We already know that with our freedom, comes the burden of responsibility; the burden of shouldering the responsibility for not only our freedom and actions, but for the freedom of others. Surely the political situation at the time influenced Sartre’s views. It was the end of World War Two and one could imagine that the idea of freedom, sudden and new found freedom after a war, after being under occupation, would have been an interesting concept to debate. More so, the idea of taking freedom into one’s own hands, away from God, nature, or any institution. This is the freedom that Sartre
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