Tuesday, April 25, 2017
Jean Paul Sartre and Existentialism
Have you ever wondered what the point of life was? What you should do with your life? Whether you should take someone else's advice or decide something on your own? Fundamental questions that we don't often reflect upon day to day, but who's answer affects us each as human beings. Subjects such as these have been what peaked my interest in Sartre and Existentialism, and is who I am covering today in my first post.
Existentialism is defined as a philosophical theory or approach that emphasizes the existence of the individual person as a free and responsible agent determining their own development through acts of their will. For many this is a terrifying concept and Sartre even refers to human life as a life full of anguish. The anguish coming from the fact that we are free and responsible to make our own decisions and the outcome of them are our fault good or bad. I, however, have come to align myself with this outlook on life, and find it freeing.
We live in America, land of the free, but how many of us actually know we are free? To look through the world in a Sartrean philosophy is to first realize we exist, then later decide what we want to do. We are not destined for one thing, as he refers to the waiter in the cafe who seems to think he is first a waiter and only second a living being. To think in the manner of Sartre we have to mentally remove ourselves from our current situation. Friends, parents, siblings, coworkers, all can have an impact on the decisions we make and who we let ourselves turn out to be. So we can either choose to listen to them, try to please those around us, make everyone happy and live a "normal" life. Or we can change the meaning of "normal", live a way that we personally want to and make decisions on our own. I do not personally believe we were given the intelligence, insight, and faculty that we have has human beings just to completely conform to society and get lost in the monotony of everyday life, coasting through on some sort of auto pilot that just does what those around them do.
Finally, Sartre talks about the absurdity of the world. Sort of like when you think about a word too much and it loses it's meaning, or look at an every day object in a different light and it puzzles you for some reason. This video does a good job explaining what I mean and uses a good analogy. This is why many people may find this type of philosophy depressing, to think that the world has no meaning except what we give it, and that in turn our lives have no actual meaning except what meaning we perceive it to have. But this can be taken as a negative or a positive. Personally, I see this as a positive, life doesn't have meaning, so get out there and find the meaning that you want it to have! Live your life truly free and embrace the responsibility of freedom that we are all afforded, don't run from it.