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Existentialism is a Humanism
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Rachel Louise Atkin | 54 comments Mod
In March we'll be reading Existentialism is a Humanism by Jean Paul Sartre (sometimes called Existentialism & Humanism). This is an essay by Sartre in response to backlash received from both Christians and Communists, and he explains the notion of 'existence before essence' and other vital aspects of existentialism. We thought it was about time we read something of his.

It's quite short and accessible to everyone so hope you'll enjoy this. Feel free to leave comments/discussion/questions below!


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Michael (knowledgelost) | 16 comments Mod
I can't wait to get to this one and discuss it.


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Rachel Louise wrote: "In March we'll be reading Existentialism is a Humanism by Jean Paul Sartre (sometimes called Existentialism & Humanism). This is an essay by Sartre in response to backlash received from both Christ..."

I have this and I've read it. It's short, so I swear I'm going to read this one and finally take part! Life *sigh* I've only read 4 books this year so far.


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Michael (knowledgelost) | 16 comments Mod
Someone recently told me of a lady who, when she let slip a vulgar word in a moment of irritation, excused herself by saying, “I guess I’m becoming an existentialist.”

I need to start using this


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Michael wrote: "Someone recently told me of a lady who, when she let slip a vulgar word in a moment of irritation, excused herself by saying, “I guess I’m becoming an existentialist.”

I need to start using this"



I agree! That should be slipped into conversation whenever possible, haha.


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Amy wrote: "Rachel Louise wrote: "In March we'll be reading Existentialism is a Humanism by Jean Paul Sartre (sometimes called Existentialism & Humanism). This is an essay by Sartre in response to backlash rec..."

Tomorrow is March 1st. I suppose that's my cue to pick this up and begin again :)


Rachel Louise Atkin | 54 comments Mod
Amy wrote: "Michael wrote: "Someone recently told me of a lady who, when she let slip a vulgar word in a moment of irritation, excused herself by saying, “I guess I’m becoming an existentialist.”

I need to st..."


Yes! Go ahead. I'm excited to see what everyone thinks of this one.


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I finished reading this today. Definitely easier to get through than the first time I read it. There's something about Sartre's conception of existentialism in this work that I find so intriguing.

I found his paper-knife metaphor very helpful toward understanding the existence precedes essence argument. That is perhaps the most important idea presented in the lecture. I'm curious to know whether everyone agrees with this idea. I know I do, which is why I find existentialism so fascinating.

As I mentioned, this was a re-read for me. When I encountered the concepts of "Anguish" and "Abandonment" again, my thoughts were immediately drawn to two of the Simone de Beauvoir novels that I've read in 2017. Although I didn't enjoy "The Blood of Others" as much as I've enjoyed her other works, Anguish is so present in that work. I almost wish I had waited to film my review of it until I after I read this because I feel as though I would have had so much more to say. As well, "Abandonment" and "Anguish" are both present in Simone's "All Men Are Mortal." I love how rereading this has caused me to think more critically about the literature I've read lately.

A few of my favourite quotes: (these spoke to me & I had to write them down in my notebook)

- "Feelings are developed through the actions we take; therefore I cannot use them as guidelines for action."
-"In reality, however for existentialists there is no love other than the deed of love; no potential for love other than that which is manifested in loving."
-"In life, a man commits himself and draws his own portrait, outside of which there is nothing."

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this lecture!


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Michael (knowledgelost) | 16 comments Mod
This was such an interesting read, I think I need to think about it a little and then go back and re-read it. I was actually surprised just how much the lecture was dedicated to talking religion.

Also I am curious about what Sartre might think of this lecture later in his life.


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Michael wrote: "This was such an interesting read, I think I need to think about it a little and then go back and re-read it. I was actually surprised just how much the lecture was dedicated to talking religion.
..."


I'm curious about that as well. The forward to my edition suggests he wasn't all that pleased with his decision to have it published, but that may just be one perspective.

I really like the focus on religion. That's part of why I enjoyed it so much.

I read the first dozen or so pages of Being and Nothingness today and it was about three times more difficult to try and understand, haha.

Looking forward to hearing more of your thoughts one you re-read!


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Michael (knowledgelost) | 16 comments Mod
I find Sartre's non-fiction to be a challenge, I remember reading What Is Literature? and that was a real struggle, but in the end I'm glad I read it...even if I only understood a small fraction of what he said.


Niels | 8 comments For some reason I never knew this classic essay what so short and well written, so I'm very glad this was on the reading list this month.

Sartre uses some very clear examples to support some of his key thoughts in this essay, most of which have me thinking for some days now (I read the essay last weekend). While this essay gave me a better understanding about the core principles of existentialism (at least how Sartre saw it), I'm not sure if I can agree with everything. Some things seemed to me to strongly put or black and white, but I can understand that essays like this are maybe not the place for nuances.

What's been haunting my thoughts mostly though is how Sartre very clearly explained what existentialism is to him in this essay, but later on boldly stood behind the Communist doctrine, while still considering himself an existentialist (to me these two schools of thought seem irreconcilable). I'm very curious if other members stand behind Sartre on this matter, and can explain how these two schools of thought can be united.


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Niels wrote: "For some reason I never knew this classic essay what so short and well written, so I'm very glad this was on the reading list this month.

Sartre uses some very clear examples to support some of h..."


From what I've read about Sartre he was very conflicted, politically. I think his attempts to make room for communism in the essay were more to reconcile his past support for communism with his philosophy, and to prevent attacks on himself by communists, than an actual belief on his part that communist doctrine and his philosophy were compatible. It's an interesting point to consider, definitly.


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Rachel Louise wrote: "In March we'll be reading Existentialism is a Humanism by Jean Paul Sartre (sometimes called Existentialism & Humanism). This is an essay by Sartre in response to backlash received from both Christ..."

Have you finished yet, Rachel, I'm interested in your thoughts on this :)


Rachel Louise Atkin | 54 comments Mod
Sorry I've been a bit AWOL, assignments have been killing me so I didn't get chance to re-read this. I read it in it's entirety about November time last year though straight after finishing Nausea, and I found that it really enhanced my understanding of that novel as a piece of fiction.
The lecture, though, was genuinely my first contact with the existentialist philosophy, and our tutors recommended reading it. I agree with you that his communication skills are near faultless, and despite not knowing much about existentialism before, the image of paper-knife is what really helped me to grasp it. It's really made me want to read more of his non-fiction.
I also think the anecdote about the son asking whether he should go to war or stay with his mother was very thought provoking. He does well in my opinion to help the reader insert existentialist philosophy into everyday life, and I honestly came out of the essay feeling truly absurd about basically everything. But it was a good thing.
It's interesting to see him mention Heidegger too, and after learning more about him from Bakewell's book I think I'm going to find the parts concerning Christianity more interesting, as there is such diversity surrounding existentialist belief and religion.
Sorry this isn't much of a great post but I'm trying to remember as much as I can. I'll be sure to post again once I've given it another reread which I hope will be relatively soon!
Also, just a side note, I'm wondering if anyone had any major problems with the lecture? Would be good to see some contrasting opinions.


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Britta Böhler On the last day of March, I finally (re)read this month's book. Yeah to me...

I still find some of Sarte's ideas fascinating, especially his main point that existence comes before essence, but I also recognize that morally, he often seems rather 'snobby' so to speak, and that much of his 'morality of acting' was driven by the experience of war and especially by the collaboration with the enemy etc.

And Heidegger, oh well, what can I say... For me, its very hard to find anything good in Heidegger's philosophy which was so infused with ideas of national-socialisme.


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John Graham Wilson | 37 comments Hi Britta, According to the biographies, Sartre was petit bourgeois before the war and his imprisonment galvanised his thinking into resistance and thereby an ethical position. But he still struggled to formulate a moral philosophy without success. What do you mean by snobby?


message 18: by Britta (last edited Apr 02, 2017 12:07AM) (new) - added it

Britta Böhler John wrote: "Hi Britta, According to the biographies, Sartre was petit bourgeois before the war and his imprisonment galvanised his thinking into resistance and thereby an ethical position. But he still struggl..."

By snobby I meant that Sartre is not very sympathetic towards people who struggle with moral decisions. For Sartre, everything is black or white, right or wrong, no greay areas. And there is only one way to life a morally 'good' life.


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Jan (jancornelis) | 7 comments Britta wrote: "And there is only one way to life a morally 'good' life."

Hey Britta, it is quite some while ago that I read this, but I cannot remember Sartre stating that there is only one way to lead a morally good life.

For me his whole point was that only the individual can decide what is good. I think that leaves room for us who struggle with moral decisions -- (i.e. 'I' think is is morally perfectly good to have lots of doubts ;))

Can you refer to the section where he states that there is just one way?


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