Existentialism

Philosophy 23 (84):19 - 37 (1948)
Abstract
To treat existentialism as a philosophy is no more possible than to treat idealism as a philosophy. The reason is obvious. Jean-Paul Sartre is an existentialist and Gabriel Marcel is also an existentialist; but the philosophy of Sartre is not the same as the philosophy of Marcel. One can no more speak of the philosophy of Kierkegaard, Jaspers, Heidegger, Sartre, Marcel and Berdyaev, as though they maintained the same system, than one could speak of the philosophy of Plato, Berkeley and Hegel, as though one philosophy was common to the three thinkers. Of course, if one took idealism in the sense in which the Marxist uses the term, as meaning the doctrine that mind is prior to matter, i.e. as opposed to materialism , one would have a definite theme to consider; but one would be forced to recognize as idealists thinkers who would never call themselves by that name and who would not be generally recognized as such. Similarly, if one said that existentialism is the doctrine that man is free and that what he makes of himself depends on himself, on his free choices, one would doubtless have mentioned a doctrine which is common to the existentialists and which they insist upon; but one would at the same time be forced to include in the ranks of the existentialists philosophers whose inclusion would be manifestly absurd
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