Archive for the ‘Sartre’ Category

That my whole being cries out for God I cannot forget

September 6, 2009

That God does not exist, I cannot deny, That my whole being cries out for God I cannot forget.

Jean-Paul Sartre

The Consequences of Atheism

August 17, 2009

When we speak of forlornness, we mean only that God does not exist and that we have to face all the consequences of this. The existentialist is strongly opposed to a certain kind of secular ethics which would like to abolish God with the least possible expense. About 1880, some French teachers tried to set up a secular ethics which went something like this: God is a useless and costly hypothesis; we are discarding it; but, meanwhile, in order for there to be an ethics, a society, a civilization, it is essential that certain values be taken seriously and that they be considered as having an a priori existence. It must be obligatory, a priori, to be honest, not to lie, not to beat your wife, to have children, etc., etc. So we’re going to try a little device which will make it possible to show that values exist all the same, inscribed in a heaven of ideas, though otherwise God not exist.

The existentialist thinks it very distressing that God does not exist, because all possibility of finding values in a heaven of ideas disappears along with Him; there can no longer an a priori Good, since there is no infinite and perfect consciousness to think it. Nowhere is it written that the Good exists, that we must be honest, that we must not lie; because the fact is we are on a plane where there are only men….Neither within him or without does man find anything to cling to. He can’t start making excuses for himself.

Jean-Paul Sartre. Existentialism and Human Emotions. (New Jersey: Citadel Press, Inc.1985) pp. 21-22.


August 17, 2009

atheistic existentialism, which I represent . . .states that if God does not exist, there is at least one being in whom existence precedes essence, a being who exists before he can be defined by any concept, and that this being is man… What is meant here by saying that existence precedes essence? It means that, first of all, man exists, turns up, appears on the scene, and, only afterwards, defines himself. If man, as the existentialist conceives him, is indefinable, it is because at first he is nothing. Only afterward will he be something, and he himself will have made what he will be. Thus, there is no human nature, since there is no God to conceive it. Not only is man what he conceives himself to be, but he is also only what he wills himself to be after this thrust toward existence.

Man is nothing else but what he makes of himself. Such is the first principle of existentialism


Sartre is correct to say that without God there is no fixed human nature. But with no God there is also no limit to what man may choose to do (in defining himself) – to other humans. Man is unaccountable to anyone but himself.

Sartre also said:

…man…realizes that he is not only the person he chooses to be, but also a law-maker who is, at the same time, choosing all mankind as well as himself, cannot help escape the feeling of his total and deep responsibility. Of course there are many people who are not anxious; but we claim they are hiding their anxiety, that they are fleeing from it….Anguish is evident, even when it conceals itself

But why, according to his Naturalism, are my decisions a law for anyone else? They choose for themselves. Sartre wants to import a kind of Kantian ethic that when we choose we ought to make it a universal. But his individualistic and Naturalistic philosophy contradicts this desire.

He seems to be frightened of the consequences of his atheism and is as hypocritial as the bourgeois professors who kept morality while rejecting God.

Ethical subjectivism in Sartre

August 7, 2009

To choose to be this or that is to affirm at the same time the value of what we choose, because we can never choose evil. We always choose the good, and nothing can be good for us without being good for all.

Jean-Paul Sartre, Existentialism and Human Emotions (lecture), 1966

He says that our choices are what we would want all men to be as an attempt to avoid radical relativism. But it is what ‘we’ want and so it ends up being an ethic of subjectivism and even of solipsism since we can only choose the good.