Such fundamental questions as life meaning, freedom, spiritual and physical existence were important to philosophers during all periods of history. Unlike divine conceptions addressed to the religion, predetermination, unity of purpose and destiny of a man, Sartre’s existentialism is the unique philosophical movement that considers a man as a creator of his or her destiny. According to his theory, an individual should take principles of personal freedom as the obligation to choose how to act in life and to be accountable for his or her deeds.
As the result of wars, depression and violence humanity became disoriented about the meaning of human life. In the context of this issue, Sartre suggests the unique conception: there is no sense of life unless an individual gives the meaning, becomes the creator for oneself, and decides what is good and what is evil according to self-defined values. Realizing the immateriality of fate, a man takes the responsibility for his/her own destiny and the destiny of mankind, the freedom from which human being tends to hide because of the desire to excuse inactivity by higher powers.
Sartre’s philosophical approach encourages people to accept their freedom, acting according to their own perceptions of morality. Moreover, once individual understand that his fate has never been predetermined, it will be clear that the chain of events, happened with him is nothing more than consequences of his actions. Considering religion as a set of values and principles dictated by society, Sartre proclaimed, that divine conception of a human life is the way to hide from blame, avoiding self-consciousness. In addition, religion considers mortal life as the rehearsal before the eternity in heaven, which is only the shell of the fear to accept the responsibility for actions and mistakes (Diagle, 2010).
The main conception of the philosopher, according to which existence precedes essence, means that not the intended purpose bring a man into the world, but people come into the world without goals, reasons and purposes, creating their own destiny and choosing whether to live for achievements, emotions or higher purpose (Wang, 2009). Drawing the first breath, a person starts to live his/her own life that depends on personal decisions, and does not follow what was intended by other forces.
Defining essence as the spiritual being, and existence as a physical entity, one can understand how their interaction influences the life perception. To cite an example, an object, essence of which precedes its existence, is a candle. It comes into the world with the exact destination, and disappears after burning down. Whereas the preceding existence, in accordance with the views of Sartre, can be compared to a sheet of paper that appeared white, and only subsequently acquired meaning and purpose. It could be filled with text, becoming part of the book, or remain white, not finding its place in the world.
Denying religion as the supreme law of morality, Sartre places the responsibility of forming fundamental ethical questions on an individual. Relying on personal perception of good and evil, a man is free to build his or her own hierarchy of values, and to act in accordance with it. Following the dialectical law, Sartre emphasizes practical devaluation of intention not embodied in reality, focusing on results, actions, and external expression of human will, while divine conception presumes the importance of purity of thought, remorse and regret. In addition, adopting Sartre’s conception one can conclude, that even assuming the existence of God, an individual should make his/her own principles (Howels, 2009). Therefore, the situations of actual absence of the high powers and the uncertainty of their existence are equal.
Making decisions and accepting the responsibility for the consequences, an individual becomes honest with himself, forms his/her own understanding of what is good and bad, denying principles alien to his or her nature, and create personal scale of values. However, the unity of the moral values of individuals forms a universal human morality, which makes every person responsible for their own actions. However, the realization of meaninglessness and abandonment of the human being in the world is an incredible stress for the person, and by raising this question, Sartre agrees with its difficulty. The author also focuses on the horror, disgust and futility of life that seize a man’s consciousness (Howels, 2009). Furthermore, the human’s loneliness in the Universe requires awareness of the life meaning, and leads to the reappraisal of values and different world perception.
As the source of spirituality, Sartre suggests a human mind, which is capable to release incredible reserves of personal potential, hidden under the unwillingness to take responsibility for destiny (Wang, 2009). When the materialistic veil drops, all hollow and meaningless objects become apparent for the person. Consequently, panic goes ahead with the insight and reveals the perfect reserve of the will, mind and spirit.
In conclusion, the fundamental position of Sartre is understanding people as masters of their own destiny, during which the will overcome the circumstances, and actions are more important, than words. A man has the right to decide, whether something is good or bad, forming his/her own ethical values. Nevertheless, the freedom of will goes side by side with the responsibility that should influence individual’s deeds, not excusing his inaction. Man creates himself, and decides whether to become a source of strength, wisdom, love, progress, or to live according to predetermined fate and hope that in the second life he/she will have another chance to live happily.