Reading Response 6
Sartre’s “Existentialism is a Humanism”
1. Sartre defines existentialism as the belief that for human beings existence comes before essence. He
contrasts this with the state of objects, where production (or essence) precedes existence.
a. What does Sartre mean by this expression, existence precedes essence?
b. How does this distinguish a subject from an object?
c. In what manner, does the idea of God as creator reduce the human being to an object?
2. In respect to the notion of an “atheistic existentialism,” Sartre writes that existentialism “place the entire
responsibility for his existence squarely upon his shoulders.”
a. What does he mean when he says the human being is solely responsible for his existence?
b. How does an atheist have more responsibility than a theist?
c. How is an atheistic existentialist responsible for “all men”?
3. Sartre writes: “First I ought to commit myself and then act my commitment, according to the time-honored
formula that ‘one need not hope in order to undertake one’s work.’” His suggestion is that we should act
a. What does it mean to act with hope?
b. Why does Sartre argue that we should act without hope, that we live a more responsible and fuller
life without hope?
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