Mark's Reviews > Existentialism Is a Humanism

Existentialism Is a Humanism by Jean-Paul Sartre
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
1641150
's review
Nov 12, 08

bookshelves: philosophy
Read in November, 2008

Existentialism Is a Humanism is mainly a defense of Existentialism from its growing number of critics in the period after the end of WWII, a group which included Marxists and communists as well as various Christian sects. The text was originally delivered as a lecture (impressively, without any notes!) and, aside from translation, underwent relatively few edits. Also included is the short question-and-answer session that followed the event, as well as A Commentary on The Stranger, which appeared a few years earlier in Les Cahiers du sud. The commentary on Camus's work was the original reason that I picked up the book, yet I did not feel like it furthered my understanding of the novel more than it simply summed it up in the context of Existential theory. If one was not already familiar with such themes, as was his original audience, it may have proven more elucidating.

The main work, due mainly to its mode of delivery, is easy to follow and understand -- something not so easily applied to Sartre's academic writings. Sartre does a reasonable job of claiming that, despite frequent uses of words such as 'anguish', 'abandonment', and 'despair', Existentialism is, at heart, a positive theory due to its foundation in human freedom. This freedom and associated accountability ultimately provides a conception of morality based on "action and commitment." However, despite his arguments, Sartre does not adequately dispose the issue of subjectivism, at least with regards to the moral sphere. Still, the book is a nice distillation of Existential theory and provides for many powerful statements such as:

"In life man commits himself and draws his own portrait, outside of which there is nothing. No doubt this thought may seem harsh to someone who has not made a success of his life. But on the other hand, it helps people to understand that reality alone counts, and that dreams, expectations, and hopes only serve to define a man as a broken dream, aborted hopes, and futile expectations..."

Upon finishing, it was realist passages like these that left the most lasting impressions in my thoughts. The book is an interesting review and defense of Sartre's theories and provides a unique historic view of the public perception of Existentialism at its time of recital.
likeflag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Existentialism Is a Humanism.
sign in »

Quotes Mark Liked

Jean-Paul Sartre
“In life man commits himself and draws his own portrait, outside of which there is nothing. No doubt this thought may seem harsh to someone who has not made a success of his life. But on the other hand, it helps people to understand that reality alone counts, and that dreams, expectations and hopes only serve to define a man as a broken dream, aborted hopes, and futile expectations.”
Jean-Paul Sartre, Existentialism Is a Humanism


No comments have been added yet.