Kierkegaard and Sartre

The philosopher who deals with the existential concept of humanism is called an existentialist. This term is used for those philosophers who focus on the conditions and circumstances of the existence of an individual which also include their emotions, actions, responsibilities, and thoughts. These are the things that existentialist philosophers like to delve on. Such philosophers who subscribe to this school of thought include thinkers such as Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) and Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980).  Although their philosophical theories are under the same school of thought, their approach to the topic of existentialism differs from each another.

In his work, Fear and Trembling, Kierkegaards (1985) notion of individuality is one of the two types of criticism. This notion of the mutually constitutive character of the individual and the community could shed some light into Kierkegaards claim about how ones individuality takes precedence over others and yet not demean it. If a persons individuality is inherently relational, then there should be no conflict between the individual and the community. The relational self is not predicted on the account of a unique one-to-one relation between an individual and God. On this interpretation, the main relation would only serve to reinforce and under-grid ones duties to the community. Nevertheless, Kierkegaard (1985) claims that the God-relation does not undermine ones relation to others (pp.65-67).

According to Kierkegaard (1985), a person is entitled to his individuality, special talents, and interests. Similar to Christian equality, this notion provides people, not just as incumbents and clients of a corporate state, but in whatever interpersonal relationships they are involved with the basis for the mutual furtherance of others interests. In addition to the Christianity aspects of Kierkegaard, the relationship with God disappears when an individual focuses only on him- or herself and never believe in the existence of spirituality. As individuals, we must ask ourselves the risk of every choice we make and we must learn to exercise the judgment part of us in seeing whether a situation falls under morally relevant from the description or concept of Christianity. A wrong judgment or decision might lead to loss of life, so we need to recognize all the risks before we make a serious decision. The morality is not just a matter of letting willingness in the right way of individuality. It has a conception of an answer which is to be objectively right (Kierkegaard, 1985, p.73).

On the other hand, Sartre (1993) takes an approach that is different from that of Kierkegaard.  While Kierkegaard is optimistic as evidenced by his emphasis on the need for the individual to have a relationship with God, Sartre leaves God out his ideas and focuses primarily on the individual. He believes that ideas are the results of ones experiences in real-life situations. In his work, Being and Nothingness, as the name suggests, Sartre wants to emphasize that consciousness is an act of negation.  Sartre contends that human existence is a conundrum whereby each of us exists, for as long as we live, within an overall condition of nothingness that ultimately allows for free consciousness, and that one way to be truly free is to go through the motions of life. By doing so, nothingness is replaced by order (Sartre, 1993, pp. 99-107).

In conclusion, both Sartre and Kierkegaard focus on the individual despite the differences in their approaches.  Existentialism explains that it is the responsibility of the individual to give him- or herself a meaningful life and to spend it wisely. Despite some negative traits that may affect ones life, these are expected since these are obstacles which need to be overcome.


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