Essay about Existentialism Discussion--Sartre

Submitted By ginamarie3
Words: 891
Pages: 4

What philosophical ideas does Sartre intend to convey to those who read his works of fiction? How do the formal literary dimensions of Nausea pertaining to its genre (i.e., as a pseudo-autobiographical novel in the style of diary entries) both contribute to and hinder the expression of Sartre’s philosophical ideas?

In the form of diary entries, philosopher Jean Paul Sartre’s Nausea is a fictional novel. The entries are by the main character, Antoine Roquentin. Roquentin develops a feeling of “Nausea” when considering the existence and essence of people and things around him. Through Roquentin’s exploration of his feelings, Sartre illustrates his existentialist ideas. These ideas include: existence precedes essence, essence precedes existence, responsibility, condemned to be free, abandonment, anguish, despair, and bad faith. The idea that existence precedes essence applies to human beings while the idea that essence precedes existence applies to objects or that which is nonhuman. Humans have the ability to create their essence based on the choices they make. Humans can make these choices because they are conscious beings. Unlike humans, objects are not conscious and therefore cannot create an essence. The essence of an object exists before the object exists itself. The following passage is an example of the human condition of existence. “I am, I exist, I think, therefore I am; I am because I think, why do I think? I don't want to think any more, I am because I think that I don't want to be, I think that I . . . because . . . ugh! I flee” (Sartre, 100-101). Here, Sartre conveys that existence precedes essence. Roquentin establishes that he is conscious. In his consciousness he thinks. He can think because he exists. In thinking he forms his essence. Contrarily, the contemplation of any object can articulate Sartre’s idea that essence precedes existence. For example, a knife is an object used to cut food or as a weapon. That is its essence. The creator of a knife must consider the essence of a knife prior to forging the object into existence. The essence of a knife precedes its existence. Another of Sartre’s philosophical ideas is that of responsibility. As humans we are responsible for everything we do. Everything we decide, everything we think, every action. Exploring the responsibility of thought, Roquentin writes, “it’s worse than the rest because I feel responsible and have complicity in it. For example, this sort of painful rumination: I exist, I am the one who keeps it up. I. The body lives by itself once it has begun. But thought—I am the one who continues it, unrolls it” (Sartre, 99). Roquentin is taking responsibility for his thoughts so severely that he feels by thinking he is doing something wrong. Sartre’s idea is expressed as Roquentin says that he is the one that continues thought; he claims responsibility. For Sartre freedom is what makes us unique as humans. We have the freedom to choose everything that we do, which is determined by nothing else. In Sartre’s philosophy that we are condemned to be free, he uses the word “condemned” because we did not create ourselves. No one can will them self into existence. Once one exists though, they must eternally choose. The feelings of abandonment, anguish, and despair characterize a person as being in “bad faith.” When one feels that they are alone, with no help from the world they feel abandoned.