Sartre attributes many existential emotions people feel as a consequence of their own actions, including that of despair; although he claims the individual is the starting point for his/herself, Sartre argues the choice an individual contends to all humanity. The following quote from “The Humanism of Existentialism” emphasizes this: “The essential consequence of our earlier remarks is that man being condemned to be free carries the weight of the whole world on his shoulders; he is responsible for the world and for himself as a way of being”- in other words man determines what he ought to be, and in general what humans ought to be. The quote itself is why the author suggests that the existential emotion of despair is apparent. Furthermore from this quote, Sartre seems to express his belief that the responsibility of the individual should not be confined to his or her self; moreover responsibility of the self’s actions will impact on humanity and therefore the individual self has an overriding responsibility to humanity. Sartre coins the term ‘self deception’ to the denial of the depth and breadth of individual responsibility. Consistent to this Sartre emphasizes action of the individuals in aiding humanity, as well having firm belief on the benefits of mental toughness.
By having the freedom and responsibility individuals do, Sartre further ascertains how such a situation can cause the existential emotion of anxiety. Faced by the many ‘free’ choices and the great responsibility, individuals are often worried about whether their actions are correct. Since in many cases they have to determine from possibilities and probabilities, humans often become excessively anxious as to whether their courses of action are correct, especially when they have no means of determining whether in actuality are or not. Incidentally the following the quote from his work characterizes the sentiments above ‘Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does’.
From discussing his philosophies in “Human of Existentialism”, several criticisms of Sartre can be conveyed with regards to the notions of responsibility and freedom, as well as his deduced perspective on life. The author seems to take an extreme stance as to the extent of human freedom, even suggesting that humans are free on participating in a war; as cited earlier, he believes that people still have the free choice of escaping this via suicide, something which one can clearly determine as extreme. Sartre also completely disregards the existence of God, which even from a philosophical perspective can be disputed. A further criticism is evident from Sartre’s somewhat pessimistic outlook on life and humanity, which can be drawn from previous analysis.
One of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s most noted papers was “Self Reliance”, which conveyed and integrated several aspects of his philosophical beliefs. Underpinning his philosophy in this work is the overriding belief that God has placed each individual in their respective lives, with an instinctive nature; he proposes that people should follow this: “Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. Accept the place the divine providence has found for you, the society of your contemporaries, the connection of events”.
Emerson emphasizes that a key responsibility that an individual has is to think for himself and not be discouraged by societal conformity; consistently he argues that individuals have the freedom to do this and as they wish, though he conveys the view that god knows what path each individual will ultimately choose. “Be yourself; no base imitator of another, but your best self. There is something which you can do better than another. Listen to the inward voice and bravely obey that. Do the things at which you are great, not what you were never made for”; the preceding quote emphasizes Emerson’s belief that individuals should pursue with the instinctive actions based on their ‘trust’ of god despite initial ‘unhappy nonconformism’ which may be experienced by such a course of action.
In contrast to the work of Sartre, the initial assertion Emerson clear places great emphasis on is his belief of God’s existence; the former dismisses all existence of God.
However, several comparatively similar ideas can be drawn from the respective works of the philosophers, in the literature being discussed. Emerson, analogous to Sartre, believes in the freedom of people to a great extent; both argue that humans are free to do and think as they please, though Emerson argues that God is aware of what each individual will do in what appears to be a stance resembling Predestination; since Sartre rejects the existence of god and furthermore the notion that an individual’s past actions may impact on his future actions (since he/she has free will at any time), he disputes any type of predestination.
In view of the ‘self’, Sartre argues that whilst individuals begin with themselves only, their actions should not be focused or confined; the impact of individual actions transpires to all humanity and therefore individual actions should embrace this. Emerson conveys a parallel belief with the notion that individuals begin with self reliance, but should not be confined to this. However contrastingly Emerson argues that the individual is first and foremost responsible for his or herself and should therefore be looking to improve themselves, via their own actions, instead of humanity.
A further disparity is found in the view that Emerson argues that God is responsible for certain ‘traits’ individuals have been given, where as Sartre suggests that ‘traits’ have entirely been determined by individuals respective choices.
Out of the philosophies presented by Sartre and Emerson in their respective works, “The Humanism of Existentialism” and “Self-Reliance”, I find Emerson’s philosophies and outlooks more compelling. Part of the reason I am more convinced more by Emerson’s work is because of the presence of what I perceive as flaws in the philosophies of Sartre, including his superficial stance on various aspects and his extreme views of freedom and responsibility. Many of the philosophies presented by Emerson seem to well-reasoned, moderated and incidentally firmly conform to my personal beliefs. As a believer in God perhaps my views maybe somewhat interpreted as biased. Regardless, I am believer that humans need to trust what has been placed in them and that certainly they enjoy a strong degree of freedom; I further find it more conspicuous that individuals have been given certain gifts, be it in the form of intuition, as opposed to being completely the formation of their own actions. I also reject the notion that individuals are able to override humanity via their own individualistic actions which is suggested by Sartre and consequently believe the greatest responsibility the individual can have is by placing emphasis on his or her actions, a view which Emerson strongly supported.
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