Existentialism and Existence Precedes Essence

Topics: Existentialism, Jean-Paul Sartre, Martin Heidegger Pages: 7 (2517 words) Published: January 22, 2011
Accounting Theory
What is Existentialism?
Born in 1905, and the writer of many plays, novels and literature , Jean Paul Sartre became a famous philosophical writer on existentialism post world war 2. (wikipedia) He mainly dealt with three areas of study and they were existentialism, Marxism and Anarchism.(Basic Writings)

This paper is an attempt to describe Jean Paul Sartre’s existentialist view. It discusses Sartre’s development of existentialism and the idea that destiny depends solely upon the individual choices.(Existentialism –Jean Paul Sartre)The other related concepts also discussed in this paper are of being –in-itself, being-for-itself, being-for-others and bad faith. The second part of the paper identifies how existentialist ethics are useful in an individual’s life and in an accounting profession.

To begin with, the ideology of existentialist thinkers focuses on individuality, subjectivity, freedom and choice.(What is Existentialism-Trends and Ideas) However overtime, philosophers have varied their understanding about an individual’s purpose in life , and the obstacles and consequences that entails them to achieve their objective. (Wikipedia)

As such there are two kinds of existentialists. There are the Christians namely, Jasper Gabriel Marcel, professed Catholics and Heidegger and the French existentialist like Sartre. Many writers claims that the word existentialism cannot be defined rather it is a shared thought. It was Jean Paul Sartre who first coined the definition of the concept existentialism in his essay “Existentialism is Humanism”.(Sartre for beginners) To Sartre existentialism is a doctrine that renders human life possible, a doctrine that affirms the truth and based on human subjectivitiy (Existentialism is in Humanism)

The main ideology of Sartre’s existentialist thoughts are that existence precedes essence. However this could be better understood if we reverse the situation essence precedes existence. (Existentialism is in Humanism) To explain this, Sartre uses the example of a paper knife made by an artisan who in his mind the ideology behind creating the paperknife. Together with the artisan’s ideas and the production techniques a paper knife was created. Even though the paper knife is created, it is man who should know its functionality and purpose. Hence Sartre claims that the paper knife is an essence (being in itself) And the ideas and production techniques precedes its existence.

Jean Paul Sartre believed that existentialism does not involve any supreme being thus there is no need to ponder about the existence of god. (Athiesm and Existentialism) He regards that it is man who lays down the foundations of morality and he is the best boss of any choices he makes in his life. This is the first principle of Existentialism. (Existentialism is in Humanism) According to Sartre , since God doesn’t exist then there is at least one being whose existence comes before God and that being s man. (Existentialism is in Humanism) Or as Heidegger puts it , it is human reality.

As such, I will briefly explain Sartre’s ontology ( the theory of being or existence), in relation to being in itself, being for itself and being for others. (Stevens Chris) Sartre identifies being –in-itself as the unconscious being, while the being- for –itself as a conscious being. (wikepedia) Being in itself is like an object that lacks the ability to change, isn’t aware of itself and is concrete. For example a tree is like an object as it doesn’t have the ability to change or lacks any consciousness.(www.sparknotes.com) Further on, Sartre identifies being-in-itself as the essence of things such as the idea of the thing, defining the thing, its nature and functions. (Sartre for beginners)

In his book “Being and Nothingness” Sartre identifies 3 characteristics in relation to being-in-itself. •Being in itself (It is not caused rather is self-contained) •It is (not applicable to the principles of sufficient...
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