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Existential humanism

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Existential humanism is humanism that validates the human subject as struggling for self-knowledge and self-responsibility.[1]


Søren Kierkegaard suggested that the best use of our capacity for making choices is to freely choose to live a fully human life, rooted in a personal search for values, rather than an external code.[2]

Jean-Paul Sartre said "existentialism is a humanism" because it expresses the power of human beings to make freely-willed choices, independent of the influence of religion or society.[3] Unlike traditional humanisms, however, Sartre disavowed any reliance on an essential nature of man – on deriving values from the facts of human nature – but rather saw human value as self-created through undertaking projects in the world: experiments in living.[4]

Albert Camus, in his book The Plague, suggests that some of us may choose to be heroic, even knowing that it will bring us neither reward nor salvation;[citation needed] and Simone de Beauvoir, in her book The Ethics of Ambiguity, argues that embracing our own personal freedom requires us to fight for the freedoms of all humanity.[5]


Martin Heidegger attacked Sartre's concept of existential humanism in his Letter on Humanism of 1946, accusing Sartre of elevating Reason above Being.[6]

Michel Foucault followed Heidegger in attacking Sartre's humanism as a kind of theology of man,[7] though in his emphasis on the self-creation of the human being he has in fact been seen as very close to Sartre's existential humanism.[8]

See also


  1. ^ G. B. Messer/A. S. Gurman, Essential Psychotherapies (2011) p. 261-2
  2. ^ G. B. Messer/A. S. Gurman, Essential Psychotherapies (2011) p. 261-2
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ B. Leiter/M. Rosen eds., The Oxford Handbook of Continental Philosophy (2007) p. 674-7 and p. 691
  5. ^ Ethics of Ambiguity by Simone de Beauvoir
  6. ^ E. Roudinesco, Jacques Lacan (2005) p. 16
  7. ^ G. Gutting ed., The Cambridge Companion to Foucault (2003) p. 161
  8. ^ B. Leiter/M. Rosen eds., The Oxford Handbook of Continental Philosophy (2007) p. 702

External links

This page was last edited on 7 December 2019, at 18:02
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