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PHIL 375 - Existentialism is a Humanism

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McGill University
PHIL 375
Susan Judith Hoffmann

“What do we mean by saying that existence precedes essence? We mean that man first of all exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world – and defines himself afterwards. If man as the existential sees him is not definable it is because to begin with he is nothing. He will not be anything until later, and then he will be what he makes of himself... ...Man is nothing else but that which he makes of himself. That is the first principle of existentialism.” Subjectivism in existentialism means that we cannot pass beyond human subjectivity. When we choose for ourselves, we also choose for all men. All our actions are simultaneously creative of an image of man as he ought to be. To choose is to affirm the value of the chosen, and we cannot choose the worse. Furthermore, because existence precedes the essence we fashion, that image is valid for all. “In truth, one ought always to ask oneself what would happen if everyone did as one is doing.” “Man is free, man is freedom.” Feeling is a result of our actions; it cannot be a guide for our actions. Despair: “we limit ourselves to a reliance upon that which is within our wills, or within the sum of the probabilities which render our action feasible.” That is, “I only know that whatever may be in my power to make it so, I shall do; beyond that, I
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