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1. Communists: Existentialism is a bourgeois philosophy of desperate quietism and luxurious contemplation that considers effective action in this world to be impossible (p. 31).
2. Communists and Catholics: Existentialism dwells on a one-sided, pessimistic, despairing, dark view of human nature that ignores human solidarity and advocates an atomistic, isolated form of individualism centered on pure subjectivity (pp. 31-2).
3. Christianity: Existentialism denies or trivializes human undertakings since it rejects transcendent standards without which man has no basis for willing, acting, and judging. As such, existentialism is a type of irrational voluntarism (pure caprice) and relativistic moral anarchy (p. 32).
4. Replies to Critics: (pp. 54-62)
II) Existentialism is a Humanism: Defining and Defending Existentialism
A. Types of Humanism
B. Sartre’s Atheistic Version of Existential Humanism
1. Definition of Existentialism
In any case, what can be said from the very beginning is that by existentialism we mean a doctrine that makes human life possible and, in addition, declares that every truth and every action implies a human setting and a human subjectivity. (p. 32)
Actually, it [existentialism] is the least scandalous, the most austere of doctrines. It is intended strictly for specialists and philosophers. Yet, it can be defined easily. What complicates matters is that there are two kinds of existentialism; first, those who are Christian, among whom I would include Jaspers and Gabriel Marcel, both Catholic; and on the other hand the atheistic existentialists among whom I class Heidegger, and then the French existentialists [presumably Camus, Merleau-Ponty, etc.] and myself. What they have in common is that they think that existence precedes essence, or, if you prefer, that subjectivity must be the starting point. (p. 34)
“Man is nothing else but what he makes of himself. Such is the first principle of existentialism…. [italics added] Thus, existentialism’s first move is to make every man aware of what he is and to make the full responsibility of his existence rest on him.” (p. 36)
The word subjectivism has two meanings, and our opponents play on the two. Subjectivism means, on the one hand, that an individual chooses and makes himself; and, on the other, that it is impossible for man to transcend human subjectivity. The second of these is the essential meaning of existentialism [Italics added]. (p. 37)
Dostoyevsky said, “If God didn’t exist, everything would be possible.” That is the very starting point of existentialism. Indeed, everything is permissible if God does not exist, and as a result man is forlorn, because neither within him nor without does he find anything to cling to [transcendent, absolute grounds]. (p. 41)
2. Essence and existence as ontological categories referring to specific modes of being.
a) Essence: “… essence—that is, the ensemble of both the production routines and the properties which enable it to be both produced and defined—precedes existence. Thus, the presence of the paper-cutter or book in front of me is determined. Therefore, we have here a technical view of the world whereby it be said that production precedes existence…. (p. 34)
Essence: fixed, pregiven, pre-established, predetermined, essential, necessary or involuntary nature
b) Essence Precedes Existence:
3. Existence precedes essence: subjectivity as philosophical starting point (anti-essentialist subjectivism)
a) Atheistic Existentialism: If God does not exists, then there is at least one being in whom existence precedes essence [hypothetical proposition] (p. 35).
b) Sartrean existence (being-for-itself = l’être-pour-soi) or Heideggerian Dasein (being-there, being-in-the-world) as preceding essence (pp. 35 ff.): non-coincidence with itself; self-surpassing or self-transcending (ekstasis) mode of being temporally oriented toward future projects (thrown project); one’s self as task and responsibility; freedom and consciousness, etc.
“Man is nothing else than his plan; he exists only to the extent that he fulfills himself; he is therefore nothing else than the ensemble of his acts, nothing else than his life.” (p. 47)
What we mean is that a man is nothing else than a series of undertakings, that he is the sum, the organization, the ensemble of the relationships which make up these undertakings. (pp. 48-9)