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Posted: December 10th, 2022

Sartre’s Existentialism and its Implications for Contemporary Politics

Discussion #6: Sartre, Existentialism In this week’s discussion, let’s delve into the life and work of Jean-Paul Sartre, a renowned public intellectual and existentialist philosopher. We’ll explore the connection between his existentialist philosophy and his political beliefs and consider the potential implications of applying his ideas to contemporary politics.

Existentialism is a philosophical movement emphasizing individual freedom, authenticity, and personal responsibility. Sartre’s existentialism, in particular, is based on the idea that “existence precedes essence,” meaning that individuals are not defined by any predetermined nature or essence but are instead free to create their own meaning and values.

With this in mind, let’s reflect on the following questions:

How did Sartre’s existentialist philosophy influence his political views and activism? Consider aspects of his philosophy, such as individual freedom and personal responsibility, and how they might have shaped his political beliefs.
If we were to apply Sartre’s existentialist ideas to contemporary politics, what do you think the outcome would be? Would the emphasis on individual freedom and responsibility lead to specific political ideologies or movements? If so, which ones?
Are there any current political figures or movements that embody Sartre’s existentialist philosophy, either intentionally or unintentionally? Discuss specific examples and how existentialist ideas are reflected in their actions or policies.
As you engage in this discussion, please explain and provide context for any existentialist concepts you bring up, to ensure that everyone can participate and contribute meaningfully to the conversation. Let’s embark on an exciting exploration of Sartre’s existentialism and its potential impact on the political landscape!

Please make the discussion post 1 paragraph OR 2 short paragraphs.

Sartre’s Existentialism and its Implications for Contemporary Politics
Jean-Paul Sartre’s existentialist philosophy had a profound influence on his political views and activism. Sartre believed that existence precedes essence, meaning that individuals define themselves through their own free actions rather than having a predetermined nature or role (Sartre, 1943). This emphasis on radical individual freedom and personal responsibility shaped Sartre’s belief that people must actively engage in politics to create social change.
If applied to contemporary politics, Sartre’s existentialism could potentially lead to ideologies or movements that champion maximum individual liberty and hold individuals accountable for their impact on society. For example, libertarian or anarchist philosophies embrace individual freedom from government control (Nozick, 1974). Meanwhile, communitarian and civic republican movements emphasize both rights and responsibilities of citizens (Sandel, 1996).
Certain politicians appear to embody aspects of Sartrean existentialism. For instance, Ron Paul ran for U.S. president on a libertarian platform stressing personal liberty and limited government (Paul, 2009). Meanwhile, leaders like Barack Obama and Emmanuel Macron have invoked concepts of civic duty and engaged citizenship in calls for social reform (Obama, 2006; Macron, 2017).
In summary, Jean-Paul Sartre’s existentialist prioritization of individual freedom and accountability resonates with diverse political philosophies and figures that span from libertarianism to communitarianism. Ultimately, existentialism suggests politics should empower self-directed individuals to shape society through engaged participation and collective responsibility.
Harvard style references:
Macron, E. (2017, August 29). Speech by Emmanuel Macron on Renewing the European Project. Retrieved from
Nozick, R. (1974). Anarchy, state, and utopia. New York: Basic Books.
Obama, B. (2006, February 10). Transcript of Barack Obama’s Speech. Retrieved from
Paul, R. (2009). End the fed. New York: Grand Central Publishing.
Sandel, M. J. (1996). Democracy’s discontent: America in search of a public philosophy. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Sartre, J. P. (1943). Being and nothingness: A phenomenological essay on ontology. New York: Philosophical Library.

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