I Have Returned, Bearing Gifts from Sartre!

nerdfighters rules Hello Fellow BookNerds!

I have managed to catch up, for the most part, with my workload, which means that I can make time to post for you all without feeling guilty ^_^ Not that we should ever fell guilty about doing the things we enjoy, but there is a time and place for it – usually when I’m not in the middle of finishing a major paper. With this in mind, I have been struck by the inspiration to kill two birds with one stone – don’t worry, no birds were injured – by combining this post with the lecture I need to study for my exam tomorrow. So once again, prepare to have your mind blown, for you are about to witness a view of the world that may cause you to question your very existence *suspenseful music plays*!


One of my previous posts outlined the different philosophical theorists who sought to understand the nature of human existence, in terms of our consciousness and how we determine what is, in fact, real. The philosophers ranged from Descartes to John Locke, and each theory proposed a different way of explaining out interactions within our environment, as well as within ourselves. This week, we will be looking at Sartre and the debate of whether or self identity is something we choose, or something which was decided for us at birth.

Jean-Paul Sartre There are two main components to his theory: “Factility” and “Transcendence”. ‘Factility’ is the set of facts which are easily identifiable, and what you have been, objectively, up until the present (ie. body, born, male/female). These facts are not something we get to choose; they simply are what they are. “Transcendence”, on the other hand, goes beyond these basic facts and focuses more on the individuals aspirations, wishes, goals, fantasies, and most importantly, ‘purpose’. The reason why ‘purpose’ is emphasized here is because most people live with the idea that they need to fulfill a purpose in order for their life to be worthwhile.

For those who believe in God, they trust that He has given them a purpose, and it is that purpose which defines who they are. However, for those who do not believe in God, where does this purpose come from? In class, we used the example of a man who wanted to eat a steak, but he had no way to eat it. He knew he needed something, so he created the knife; “essence preceeds existence”. In other words, the purpose or ‘need’ comes before the actually creation of the thing which will fulfill that purpose/need. This makes perfect sense, but if there are suddenly no more people on the earth to use the knife, then can it still be considered a knife? According to Sartre, without a purpose, a knife is no longer a knife, but merely an object.

As humans, we do not want to fall into the trap of being viewed as nothing more than an ‘object’, which is why we seek out a purpose for our existence. We are ‘action – oriented’ beings who crave to overcome what we are in order to become something better. The biggest obstacle in the way of this, however, is when we try to overcome out ‘facts’ without acknowledging those facts in the first place. This self-denial falls into 2 categories: ‘Denying the Facts’ and ‘Denying our Freedom’. When we are denying the facts, we are essentially denying a part of ourselves, refusing to accept the truth. For example, some girls will wear high heel shoes so that they look taller, refusing to accept the fact that they are short. When we are denying our freedom, we are giving up the hope of becoming anything more than what we already are, claiming that ‘this is all I will ever be’.

Transcendence can only be achieved if we accept our own facts, and then strive to overcome them based on what it is we truly want. In the end, it is our reaction to our individual ‘facts’ which determines how much importance we place on them, and whether we will accept them as they are our seek a higher purpose.


Out of all the theories we have discussed in my philosophy class, I find this one to be the easiest to grasp, and it also has an undeniable logic to it. He definitely stands apart from other theorists, that’s for sure, but more importantly, I hope I can contain all of this information within my mind long enough to write my test tomorrow ^_^

That’s all for today. Enjoy the coming of Spring everyone, and as always, happy reading!




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