What is Philosophy

Philosophy and Philosophers

Philosophy is a field of study that focuses on issues such as language, nature, mind, reason, beliefs, and understanding. Philosophers are people who research issues relevant to the above topics and aim to learn more about wisdom, understanding, and intellectual culture. This essay aims to explore the philosophical views of the different philosophers discussed in the course, as well as the similarities and differences between them.

Jean-Paul Sartre

Jean-Paul Sartre was born in Paris in 1905 as the family's only child. His father worked in the French Navy as a lieutenant. Following his father's death, he was raised by his mother in Meudon. He became interested in philosophy in the 1920s as a teenager when he began reading the works of philosophers and eventually ventured into studying it.

Sartre was a philosopher from France, and he was among the major scholars who associated with the philosophy of phenomenology and existentialism. His philosophical work has been used in sociology, literary studies, post-colonial theory, and critical theory. Sartre is also a biographer, political activist, literary critic, novelist, and a playwright, making his work be utilized in these fields.

Together with Simone de Beauvoir, Sartre challenged the social and cultural assumptions as well as the prospects of upbringings. These two philosophers considered these assumptions as bourgeois with regard to thought and lifestyle. His early work was dominated by the theme of 'authentic way of being' evident in "Being and Nothingness," a philosophical work he wrote in 1943. His further work included "Humanism and Existentialism" written in 1946, which earned him a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1964, which he declined, claiming that he doesn't appreciate official honors which would turn him into an institution rather than the writer he was.

Existence Precedes Essence

"Existence precedes essence" is the core claim in existentialism, which transforms the traditional view that nature is more crucial and does not change compared to existence. Existentialists believe in creating their own values that help them determine the meaning of their lives since people do not inherit identity and values. Therefore, these philosophers claim that individuals create their character and values in the struggle to make their existence more important.

Sartre believes that people are condemned to be free, and he bases his argument on the absence of a creator which he illustrates by the use of a paper cutter. He argues that human beings are rational beings and selfish and that there is no model designed to apply in building the personality of an individual. Thus, it is the people themselves who choose to develop their personalities in a particular way.

The philosopher also states that human beings define themselves. Therefore, people have the freedom to choose what they wish to become. However, Sartre considers this to be bad faith meaning that he is capable of acting and becoming responsible for their actions. He wants us to understand that our freedom is present in our own hands and that only we can choose to create our own identity as well as place our values on our actions. On the other hand, Sartre states that humans do not object to being used by any administration or by any supernatural being in society and that everyone is made up of the choices they make.


Humanism refers to any theory that puts human beings in the middle of all things. Sartre rejects the humanism that recognizes the presence of a God in society that is central to all creation. He emphasizes the dignity of humans and stresses that human beings are central to the creation and that they have the choice to create their own values. Thus he says that man creates his own future and is responsible for the decisions they make and the actions they embark on.

In his response to criticisms based on his literature works, Sartre describes various concepts which, apart from their regular usage in real life, he views them as positive and optimistic depending on the usage in his argument. These concepts are discussed below:


According to Sartre, abandonment refers to the act of completely leaving God. By this concept, the philosopher reveals the realization of the absence of a god and that the choices of humans are guided by what they believe in rather than being guided by the divinity with the aim of achieving salvation. To discourage the culture of atheists following through Christian morals, he came up with a theory on the implications of freedom and the relationship with anguish.

This philosopher believes in his theory of anguish that declares that man is free and at the same time he is freedom itself. This theory states that man is human beings are responsible for what they are. Man cannot choose his past, but he has the ability to decide what they feel and how they choose their emotions. Despair is also described as another concept which refers to the attitude of an existentialist. According to Sartre, human beings should act with hope, and they should stop relying on things that are not within their control. He also argues that people should commit themselves to a course of action since reality can only be found in action.


Dostoevsky is a Russian writer and philosopher whose works include poetry, suspense, short stories, epistolary novels, spy fiction, novel, and novellas. The central theme prevalent in his literature works is religion after being released from prison while naturalism and realism dominated his previous works. He also focused on social issues such as the examination of the differences between the rich and the poor in society.

Dostoyevsky's personal struggle with the question of the existence of God and faith lead him to begin the journey of examination of these aspects. In his literature works, the philosopher's doubts as a believer are revealed as he focuses mostly on the analysis of the Christian doctrine. Additionally, Dostoevsky seeks to eliminate the doubt in the existence of God by referring to the presence of suffering in the world, yet it is believed that "God loves everybody". The philosopher does not dispute the existence of God, but he rejects the universe that God created. He also explores the freedom of choosing God and that of choosing God.

Existentialism describes the philosophical movement involved in understanding the humanity of a human being. It is based on the examination of a person struggling to understand self within the universe that is difficult to understand. Existentialist philosophers strive to identify their full responsibility for their actions without being barred by the set guidelines and values on of morality present in society. Philosophers believe that as people exist alone in the universe, they should seek to define themselves so that they can appreciate humanity as well as the nature of life. Existentialism seeks to understand the aspect of "being" rather than just "existing". Dostoyevsky believes in the full responsibility for human beings in creating the meaning of their lives. He describes the struggles of a man to put himself in the world as he tries to find a connection with the rest of the world. He states that man wishes to exist freely from the morality hindrances and subjugation to the nature of human beings. However, the person described by this philosopher is a lonely, sickly and spiteful man existing in an intensely independent and cruel universe isolated from all humans. This reveals that Dostoyevsky disapproves the concept of existentialism that person should live in the world as a free being without following any guidelines. He also states that humans struggle to define themselves and place them in the real world in which they lack a sense of belonging. More so, a man strives to create a connection with the outside world, yet he demands to exist freely at the same time.

Therefore, it is evident that philosophy seeks to understand the nature and existence of human beings on earth. However, different philosophers portray diverse views concerning various concepts of existence. For instance, in this essay, the two scholars explored provide divergent views on the existentialism of human beings in the universe and the existence of a central power, which is the center of all things.

Works Cited

Dostoevsky, Fyodor. Notes from Underground. England: Penguin Books, 2003.

Gordon Marino. “Existentialism and Human Emotions”. Basic Writings of Existentialism. Ed.. New York: Modern Library, 2004. 341-367.

Sartre, Jean-Paul. “Being and Nothingness.” Basic Writings of Existentialism. Ed. Gordon

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