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Existentialist vs. Traditional Essentialist Concepts

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There are several differences existing between traditional essentialist concept of being human and the existentialist concept. Existentialism in itself is a humanism. However, many believe that existentialism is a philosophical concept that does not render human happiness and life possible. This doctrine also implies that every action and truth has impacts on the environment and offer subjectivity to human existence. On the other hand, traditional essentialist concept of the person believes that all true human essences exist. This is one major difference between the two. The essence of a ‘thing’ is its property for which its absence results in disappearance. In other words the ‘thing’ will cease to exist on its own. Each and every ‘thing’ is has an essence which defines it. This is a very important element and should not occur accidentally (Doniger 56).

 

Existentialism is a concept defining the occurrence of the thing. It argues that something will exist on its own even without the ‘essence’ aspect. Nature and beauty is profoundly attached to essentialism while ugliness is connected with existentialism. Traditional essentialists believe that man cannot be himself without this essence which every ‘thing’ should have. They assert that the objects will derive their intelligibility and coherence from the homogeneity and ‘unchangeability’ of their underlying essences. Essence therefore belongs simply and primarily to substance (Sartre 8).

The existentialist concept rejects essentialism as an account of human being, something opposed by traditional essentialist. The reason for this rejection is because existentialism is humanism in itself having only two views: the sacred and atheistic.  It argues that ‘Man simply is’. He is what he thinks himself to be and what he wills upon the conception that he already exists. Therefore, man is nothing more but what he himself wills. This is in itself pure Humanism.

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Another reason why existentialism rejects essentialism is because it nothing better but a traditional and metaphysical principle without comprehensible meaning. It opposes it on the grounds that it does not offer satisfactory information and evidence on the human person. This principle is also greatly ridiculed by existentialism because it attributes an essence to human beings. This is referred as the first ‘power’ that will give a human being his existence. Sartre  argues that essentialism fails to consider metaphysical existence of people in its explanation for existence (4). Therefore, existentialist deliberately rejects essentialist for its traditional symbolism and lack of concrete or clear-cut meaning. 

However, there are a number of strengths and weaknesses with this kind of rejection. The fact that essentialist concept fails to offer metaphysical agreement is a justified strength of existentialism. The issue of ‘essence’ as a very important element for a ‘thing’ to live on its own and exist as an individual entity is also meaningless in the eyes of existentialism. Existentialism proves the purpose of human life and existence (Doniger 82). It undertakes to prove the foundations behind human life. Humanism is also amplified by existentialism. Human life has a humanistic aspect on its own, and because human beings exist as individual entities, we can refer existentialism or ‘humanism’. This is the opposite of essentialism which details a thing as an ‘essence’ and without this essence it ceases to exist. This is one weakness of the existentialist concept.

Existentialism is a reality and conforms to all rules of metaphysics. It offers the benefits of being an ‘existence’ despite what has been achieved in life or not. It is that not a must for one to have achieved things or have an ‘essence’ to exist on his or her own. Man is therefore what he or she conceives himself to be and what he wills (Sartre 11). This is what draws man closer to his nature of existence. Existentialists reject traditional essentialism as an account of human being or person because it adds an extra element, or the essence, to life. Essentialist argues for an essence if a ‘thing’ is to exist on its own something not welcomed by existentialists.

 

Also, Essentialist creates an ‘Exit’ governed by the essence. In that case, existentialist creates the sense of ‘No Exit.’ Existentialism is nothing more but the attempt of drawing from a consistently humanistic foundation. Its intention is not at all to plunge men into despair but to make them as they would like to. This is exactly what can be learned from a deeper understanding of existentialist concept. Sartre's strong association with the existentialism philosophy is exemplified in “No Exit”.  

From his opinion, Sartre’s (12) presents a reputable understanding of existentialist concept of human being and this helps the reader comprehend the sense of ‘No Exit’(12). In his portrayal, Sartre presents existentialism as the concept detailing human life on earth. To present a better understanding, he portrays life in Hell to be the same thing as life on our present earth, and the only difference is on that the travesties of hell or greatly modified (Doniger 123). Hell is a presentation of a place of ‘No Exit’. Through his work, Sartre was able to explain the differences of existentialism and essentialism and why the latter is rejected.

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