"According to Sartre, humans are the only beings that dont have an essence."

Do't look a little "weird" J.P Sartre, tells that the "Man is comdemned to be free", in case conjuring that, the freedom are a aspect kinda "natural" to the man in its social aspect, and preponderant rational, and him philosophy express a concept that's gonna a on the counterpoint, about the speech of social determinism, once a time that, the concept of Social and natural Determinism speech that: "Man has a natural aspect, in your essence". Its kinda like a paradox, like he tells: Dont build paradoxes, but hes own build one. A point about the existentialism, that's go on the other way of the existentialism.

Although the terms that the existencialism by Sartre, be concepts that goes simultaneously, on the natural sciences and on the Social life of the human, on him aspect, sometimes its a little confuse understand everything what this conviction means "truly"


1 Answer 1


What Sartre has in mind is that every other being in nature has a developmental pattern intrinsic to it. It has an essential nature, or 'essence', and its nature fixes its future development. Acorns become oak trees. Lambs become sheep. Uniquely, human beings as persons or agents have no such inherent developmental pattern or essence. As Sartre slightly gnomically puts it, our existence precedes our essence. In other words, we exist and create our own nature; we decide on our own essence in the sense that there is nothing, no kind of person, that it is proper or natural for us to become. Religious views typically contradict this, of course : God creates us with the intention that we should pursue certain goals or values.

For Sartre there is no escaping this 'radical freedom' in choosing our own goals or values. Even if we take a religious view and hold that God has created us to pursue certain purposes, the adoption of this view is itself an example of radical freedom. We have created a self-image as a being that serves and is meant divine purposes. To do this is not to recognise and act on a truth but to exercise radical freedom in this particular direction. It is 'bad faith' - a denial of our radical freedom - to suppose otherwise.

We are 'condemned to be free'. This means that we are totally responsible for every action and non-action. We cannot lean back on any such excuse as that we are 'naturally' this or that way or that society has conditioned us to possess and exercise certain dispositions. We cannot rid ourselves of our radical freedom while we remain human beings. Life might be a lot easier if we could.

I don't endorse Sartre's views here, for all the superb psychological insight he shows elsewhere. I am giving an account of Sartre's meaning, so far as I understand it, and not endorsing this part of his view of human beings.

In particular, I can't square Sartre's account of human beings exercising their radical freedom as persons or agents with what behavioural genetics tells us about human beings as living organisms. The connection between the two accounts is studded with paradox.

Sartre could, of course, retort that the image of human beings created by behavioural genetics is yet another mask or image which we create in bad faith in yet another denial of radical freedom. I enter no farther into the maze.

  • "The connection between the two", the phenomenologic perspective and the scientific perspective, cannot be formed in principle. We are organisms, a part of the (natural) world, but, as consciousnesses, we are not a part of a world amidst which we found ourselves, - according to Sartre.
    – ttnphns
    Sep 1, 2019 at 18:38
  • To make a slight point of notice on your comment about human genetics refuting Sartle, and with respect to your comment about not entering the maze, I would suggest that any modern philosopher committed to Sartre's view would be from one of the schools that express scepticism about the scientific view of the world, and particularly of humans, as something other than one ideology among many. I could be wrong on this point, but it seems to me to be the only way Sartre's ideas can escape a straightforward contradiction with facts. Sep 1, 2019 at 23:00
  • David : Thank you. I think I'm inclined to say that **I cannot reconcile - interlock - the two perspectives rather than that the failure of reconcilation refutes Sartre. But you make a thought-provoking comment for which I am most obliged. Best - Geoffrey
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Sep 2, 2019 at 2:35
  • @Daniel, with your permission, I partly agree. But note, Sartre(anism) does not deny facts and enter in no contradiction with them. But note yet again that as long as consciousness comes onto the scene, facts are no longer facts as the are, they are facts within human projects. They appear articulated and having meaning or importance only to the extent they are for some purpose.
    – ttnphns
    Sep 2, 2019 at 7:58
  • (cont.) For example, without my engagement, say, with my stomack pains and the interest to get rid of it the fact that diet X or pills Y is effective due to its such or such action or chemistry would ontologically not be a fact (truth); it would be a clot of undifferentiated Being. Since distinct facts can be found in the world only on the roads of human projects, it is a leap of faith (albeit practically useful faith) to pose their existence as independent of human.
    – ttnphns
    Sep 2, 2019 at 7:58

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