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Existentialism & Humanism: By Jean-Paul Sartre,
This review is from: Existentialism Is a Humanism (Paperback)
This delightful little booklet is based upon a lecture that the Existentialist philosopher - Jean-Paul Sartre (1906-1980) - delivered at the Club Maintenant in 1945, as a defence for Existentialism as a true representation of Humanism. This lecture was consequently repeated privately so that those who disagreed with Sartre could formulate their objections - these objections appear in the final section of the book as a 'question & answer' session between Sartre and these critics.
The paperback (1973) edition contains 70 numbered pages, and although the book does not contain an 'index' of contents, it can be divided into the following sections;
1) Introduction by Philip Mairet Pages 5-19.
2) Existentialism and Humanism - Sarte's Lecture - Pages 21-56.
3) Discussion - Sartre answers his critics - Pages 57-70.
Philip Mairet has translated this text (into English) from the original French document, and provides a very thorough Introduction in the field of German philosophy. He explains that Sartre owes much to the work of Heidigger, Husserl, and Kant, as well as that of the Danish thinker Soren Kierkegaard. He further explains how virtually every philosopher owes a debt of creative gratitude (for the development of their respective philosophies), to the pivotal work (and genius) of Hegel. Despite the interesting content in this Introduction, Mairet omits any mention of the influence of the work of Karl Marx upon Sartre, even though Sartre mentions Marx (and Marxism) a number of times throughout his lecture. Indeed, so influencial has Marx been upon Sartre and Existentialist thought since 1945 - that Existentialism is often presented as a school of post-Marxist thinking.
What is Sartre arguing in this text? This text is fundamentally a re-stating of basic Existentialist thinking. The entire edifice of the text evolves around the following statements;
1) Existence precedes essence.
2) Humanity is free - so choose.
The criticism levelled at Sartre's approach is that Existentialism denies man a collective brilliance. It renders irrelevant all the technonological, cultural and political achievements of humanity, and instead focuses upon the freedom of the individual to act and grow in accordance with an inner need and an outer requirement. Sartre states that true 'Humanism' is not necessarily the celebration of the greed of humanity as it strives to materially survive in a hostile world, but rather that the 'true' celebration of 'Humanism' as a distinct state, is nothing more than the acknowledgement that regardless of the limitations of outer circumstance - each indiviual is 'free' to think and behave as he or she sees fit . Although the Existentialist position is atheistic, nevertheless, to acknowledge this freedom and to look within to see the essence created by physical existence, empowers individuals to transcend the tyranny of matter in such a way that no purely materialist philosophy can convincingly explain. A wonderful and lucid outpourng.
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