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Existence Precedes Essence

In a 1945 public lecture that was later published in 1946 as Existentialism Is a Humanism to define and introduce what Sartre considered to be the philosophical foundation of existentialism, the phrase "Existence precedes essence" was first mentioned. Subsequently, for Sartre, "presence goes before embodiment" doesn't just characterize and choose his own existential reasoning or his own variant of existentialism, yet in addition each reasoning or philosophizing that reports itself as existential. It became the most quoted, repeated, and cited definition of existentialism and any non-theistic existential thinking, despite Sartre's later efforts to separate himself and his thinking from this statement and its implications.

Since "man is nothing else but what he makes of himself" and "there is no human nature since there is no God to conceive it," according to Sartre's Existentialism Is a Humanism, existence must precede essence. This indicates that humans first exist in the world and then define, decide, form, and determine themselves through their decisions, actions, thoughts, and choices. Humans then decide and choose themselves.

There is no God who determines us; There is no predetermined, established, or fixed nature, soul, essence, or self that shapes us and gives us our identity. We choose and decide ourselves uninhibitedly, ceaselessly, and totally; We are not constrained in any way, shape, or manner. Only we have the ability to give our existence any essence we choose.

By demonstrating that triangles and pens have particular, universal, and unchanging essences, functions, or forms that precede their concrete existences, Sartre clarifies and explains what he means when he says that "existence precedes essence." For instance, for something to be a triangle, it first needs to take on a particular shape that is necessary, essential, universal, and unchanging. Specifically, it must have three corners that add up to 180 degrees. What makes a triangle what it is—a triangle—is this form's universality, fixity, or essentiality.

In a similar vein, for something to be a pen, it needs to possess a certain fixed and determined essence within itself that makes writing possible and possible. That is, in order for something to be a pen and, as a result, write, it needs to have a consistent and universal form that makes writing possible; It has to have an essence that comes before its actual existence. On the other hand, according to Sartre, humans differ from triangles and pens in that they have their own unique way of being in the world. We first exist in the world, and then we choose our essence through our own unique way of being.

The beginning of Sartre's equation is Heidegger's Being and Time, where that's what heidegger says "the substance of Dasein lies in its presence". However, Heidegger distances himself in his Letter on Humanism from Sartre's understanding of existence, from Sartre's existentialism, and from existentialism itself, so there is a difference between what Heidegger and Sartre mean when they talk about existence and existing.

"Existence Precedes Essence" as a Reaction to the Conventional Qualification Among Embodiment and Presence

Sartre's recipe is a reaction to the customary differentiation in way of thinking among substance and presence, or at least, between the whatness of a thing and the simple presence of that thing. The essence, or whatness, of a thing in traditional philosophy is its universal and unchanging type, nature, form, or category. A thing's essence is its unchanging nature, which its very existence exemplifies. That which gives rise to and announces existence is the essence.

Since essences are the necessary, universal, and unchanging aspects of reality, they are traditionally positioned in opposition to existence. In contrast, existence is something that is fleeting, accidental, and contingent.

Therefore, in contrast to Plato and the entirety of Western metaphysical thought, Sartre asserts that human existence is not determined by a fixed, pre-established, or universal essence, self, or soul.

Because, according to Sartre, human beings do not possess any fixed or universal essence that could be in opposition to their existence, Sartre's formula is an attempt to disrupt this conventional juxtaposition of essences and existences. That is, humans are not governed and controlled by a predetermined nature or purpose. We have complete freedom to choose, create, and change who we are.

We are, in Sartre's view, our decisions, choices, and actions because existence comes first. The expression "existence precedes essence" refers to the fact that we decide and determine ourselves through our commitments, projects, and plans for the world. Prior to exiting, no essence can be known, determined, glimpsed, or decided. That is, we first exist on the planet and afterward characterize and conclude our own quintessence uninhibitedly as per the manner by which we pick we live. 

Existence Precedes Essence


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