Man is nothing else but that which he makes of himself.

Man is nothing else but that which he makes of himself. That is the first principle of existentialism.

Jean-Paul Sartre, Existentialism and Humanism

…there is no human nature, since there is no God to conceive it. It is man who conceives himself, who propels himself towards existence. Man becomes nothing other than what is actually done, not what he will want to be.

Jean-Paul Sartre, Existentialism is a Humanism

Man is a useless passion.

Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness

Having no essence, man, so Sartre presupposed, was what he made himself through action. Such a life become authentic. But this left Sartre with the problem of how to protest ‘immoral’ action. After all, there is, according to him, only authentic and inauthentic action. Hitler was authentic, so too Mao, Pol Pot, Charles Manson perhaps.

Sartre hated Nazism but his philosophy had no antidote to it, no reason to resist it. He had no ‘man in the image of God’ to counter Hitler’s characterization of the Jews as untermensch (sub-human) and therefore disposable.

Sartre should have reexamined his presuppositions. Thereby he would have avoided the bind his philosophy will always have on those who seriously accept it.


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3 Responses to “Man is nothing else but that which he makes of himself.”

  1. Vincent Dioquino Says:


  2. janelle Says:

    I am writing an essay on existentialism and Sartre and I am using the first two quotes from this page. I was wondering if you knew the page number that these quotes came from? This would be a BIG help it is due tomorrow thanks so much

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