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Sartre's Defense of Existentialism - Essay Example

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Nevertheless, Sartre’s response to the objection that his existentialism makes all choice arbitrary is not only good but also sensible. Sartre interprets the objection that confronts him and his existentialism – “It does not matter what you do” – in three ways: “First they tax us with anarchy; then they say, ‘You cannot judge others, for there is no reason for preferring one purpose to another’; finally, they may say, ‘Everything being merely voluntary in this choice of yours, you give away with one hand what you pretend to gain with the other’” (Sartre 13). The first objection – the idea that “they tax us with anarchy” – translates as “to say that it does not matter what you choose is not correct” (14). Sartre then responds to this objection by using logic: “If I do not choose, that is still a choice” and one therefore “cannot avoid choosing” (14). To this, Sartre adds the idea that “it is impossible for [one]…not to take complete responsibility for making a choice” (14). The people who object Sartre’s existentialism tell him one thing – that there must be some definite law that governs decision-making and that true free will does not exist. For example, they may argue that when a man comes face to face with a lion, then the idea of free will is somehow overridden by the instinct to run, and therefore one can say that there is no free choice in such a situation. Free choice, for these people who oppose Sartre, may only be confined to everyday decisions about petty things such as which clothes to wear and which food to eat. Nevertheless, how Sartre responds to them is not only good but also sensible in that logic tells us that when one flees from a lion, then one definitely still makes a choice – the choice of fleeing. Although the idea of instinct may somehow seem to negate free choice in this particular situation, it actually does not because the only thing visible is the choice to flee for whatever basis there is to it. Whether there is a basis for such a choice or not, for Sartre, it is not important and that one’s choice may be “determined by no a priori value” (14), and can therefore be an irrational one. Others may partly agree that an action such as fleeing a lion is indeed a choice but they would then require reason for it, or something a priori on which the choice must be based. Nevertheless, Sartre is sensible enough to say that not all choices may be based on anything a priori such as reason. Why? What is the problem with having an a priori basis for a choice? Sartre explains this through the story of a pupil of his who has chosen to live with his mother instead of fighting the enemy (7). Those people who object to Sartre’s existentialism believe that there must be a basis to every choice, but they do not recognize that whatever basis they use, it is still they who make that choice of using that basis, as Sartre contends. Sartre’s method of refuting this objection is excellent: he explains the vagueness of the Christian doctrine as well as Kant’s Categorical Imperative if these two established doctrines were used as an a priori principle on which the young man’s decision must be based. Sartre points out that although the Christian doctrine teaches one to “act with charity,” ...Show more


(Name) (Professor) (Subject) (Date) Sartre’s Defense of Existentialism Why do we do the things we do? Do we do these things for a reason or do we do this because of a principle on which we believe our actions and decisions must be based? The 20th century French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre believed that these a priori principles did not exist and that, in whatever situation man is in, he is left alone to make a choice and that this is his freedom…
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Sartres Defense of Existentialism essay example
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