Existentialism Is a Humanism - Jean-Paul Sartre 1946

On the other hand, the choice to which existential psychoanalysis will lead us, precisely because it is a choice, accounts for its original contingency, for the contingency of the choice is the reverse side of its freedom. Furthermore, inasmuch as it is established on the lack of being, conceived as a fundamental characteristic of being, it receives its legitimacy as a choice, and we know that we do not have to push further. Each result then will be at once fully contingent and legitimately irreducible. Moreover it will always remain particular; that is, we will not achieve as the ultimate goal of our investigation and the foundation of all behavior an abstract, general term, libido for example, which would be differentiated and made concrete first in complexes and then in detailed acts of conduct, due to the action of external facts and the history of the subject. On the contrary, it will be a choice which remains unique and which is from the start absolute concreteness. Details of behavior can express or particularize this choice, but they cannot make it more concrete than is already known in a self-evident intuition. The libido or the will to power is in us. That is because the choice is nothing other than the being of each human reality; this amounts to saying that a particular partial behavior is or expresses the original choice of this human reality since for human reality there is no difference between existing and choosing for itself. From this fact we understand that existential psychoanalysis does not have to proceed from the fundamental "complex," which is exactly the choice of being, to an abstraction like the libido which would explain it. The complex is the ultimate choice, it is the choice of being and makes itself such. Bringing it into the light will reveal it each time as evidently irreducible. It follows necessarily that the libido and the will to power will appear to existential psychoanalysis neither as general characteristics common to all mankind nor as irreducibles. At most it will be possible after the investigation to establish that they express by virtue of particular ensembles in certain subjects a fundamental choice which cannot be reduced to either one of them. We have seen in fact that desire and sexuality in general express an original effort of the for-itself to recover its being which has become estranged through contact with the Other. The will to power also originally supposes being-for-others, the comprehension of the Other, and the choice of winning its own salvation by means of the Other. The foundation of this attitude must be an original choice which would make us understand the radical identification of being-in-itself-for-itself with being-for-others.

The philosophical term, Existentialism, came from Jean Paul Sartre, a French philosopher.

It is sometimes suggested, therefore, that existentialism just is thisbygone cultural movement rather than an identifiable philosophicalposition; or, alternatively, that the term should be restricted toSartre's philosophy alone. But while a philosophical definition ofexistentialism may not entirely ignore the cultural fate of the term,and while Sartre's thought must loom large in any account ofexistentialism, the concept does pick out a distinctive cluster ofphilosophical problems and helpfully identifies a relatively distinctcurrent of twentieth- and now twenty-first-century philosophicalinquiry, one that has had significant impact on fields such astheology (through Rudolf Bultmann, Paul Tillich, Karl Barth, andothers) and psychology (from Ludwig Binswanger and Medard Boss to OttoRank, R. D. Laing, and Viktor Frankl). What makes this current ofinquiry distinct is not its concern with “existence” ingeneral, but rather its claim that thinking about humanexistence requires new categories not found in the conceptualrepertoire of ancient or modern thought; human beings can beunderstood neither as substances with fixed properties, nor assubjects interacting with a world of objects.


Sartre's famous lecture in defence of Existentialism

Jean Paul Sartre wrote 'No Exit', where he portrayed his philosophy negatively.

Atheistic existentialism, which I represent, is more coherent. It states that if God does not exist, there is at least one being in whom existence precedes essence, a being who exists before he can be defined by any concept, and that this being is man, or, as Heidegger says, human reality. What is meant here by saying that existence precedes essence? It means that, first of all, man exists, turns up, appears on the scene, and, only afterwards, defines himself. If man, as the existentialist conceives him, is indefinable, it is because at first he is nothing. Only afterward will he be something, and he himself will have made what he will be. Thus, there is no human nature, since there is no God to conceive it. Not only is man what he conceives himself to be, but he is also only what he wills himself to be after this thrust toward existence.