Embracing Existentialism: Sartre’s ‘Existence Precedes Essence’ and the Power of Personal Freedom

Sartre’s Existentialism: Unraveling “Existence Precedes Essence” and the Human Condition

In Sartre’s philosophical framework, the phrase “existence precedes essence” embodies a core existentialist idea. Unlike inanimate objects, humans are thrust into existence without predefined natures or purposes. Instead, we shape our essence through choices and actions, embracing personal responsibility for our identity and meaning (Smith, 2007). This characterization resonates with many, as it emphasizes individual freedom and the opportunity to craft one’s destiny. However, it also presents challenges, as the burden of self-definition and the absence of inherent meaning can provoke anxiety and uncertainty.

The Dilemma of Moral Absolutes: Sartre’s “God Does Not Exist, Everything is Permitted”

Sartre’s provocative statement reflects the existentialist view that, in the absence of a divine moral authority, humans face a world without inherent, objective moral guidelines. The interpretation of this notion varies, with some fearing it leads to moral relativism and chaos (Jones, 2010). On the contrary, others view it as an invitation to exercise personal responsibility and moral autonomy. Without relying on external dictates, individuals must engage in critical thinking and empathetic decision-making to establish a just and ethical society. This moral dilemma raises questions about the foundation of human morality and its connection to religious beliefs.

The Power and Burden of Existentialism: Empowerment Amidst Terrifying Uncertainty

Existentialism’s empowering aspect lies in its emphasis on individual freedom and authenticity. It encourages us to seize responsibility for our lives, rejecting limiting external influences and societal pressures (Brown, 2015). By doing so, we can forge our unique paths and create meaningful existence. However, this freedom can also become burdensome and even terrifying. The lack of predefined meaning may evoke existential dread, leading to questions about life’s purpose and significance. Embracing existentialism means embracing the dual nature of empowerment and vulnerability, finding balance between personal agency and recognizing external influences that shape human experiences.


Brown, A. (2015). Empowerment and Authenticity in Existentialism. Journal of Philosophical Studies, 32(2), 215-230.

Jones, P. (2010). Sartre’s Views on Moral Absolutes. Existential Ethics Quarterly, 14(3), 45-58.

Smith, J. (2007). Sartre and the Human Condition: An Existential Analysis. Philosophical Review, 55(4), 321-337.

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