Philosophy Made Easy

Sartre is my favorite philosopher. He is relatively easy to understand and his ideas make a sense to me. Sartre’s statement that “existence precedes essence” is the foundation for existentialism. It basically means that you are what you do and that there is nothing at the basis of human existence but freedom. I don’t completely agree with this idea.

I believe that we are born with certain inclinations toward everything and that we can be molded by outside influences, like parents, friends, teachers, or really anyone. As for our inborn inclinations, I am going to use myself as an example. I have always been somewhat of an introvert. I was always shy around everyone until I got to know them better and grew more comfortable around them. Sartre believes that I was born completely free, which would mean that I could have made the decision of who I wanted to be and how I wanted to act around people. As a child, I don’t remember having those choices. I remember feeling shy and not knowing why I felt that way.
I believe that I was born with an inclination toward being introverted. Because of this, I feel that children are not absolutely free; this is mainly because of the fact that the mind of a child is not capable of making the decisions Sartre talks about. I believe that Sartre’s statement that “existence precedes essence” is partially true for people who are old enough to make decisions for themselves. As I’ve grown older, I’ve made the choice to try to be more outgoing, but I am naturally inclined to do the opposite, so it’s difficult for me. I can’t help that I feel shy around people, I just do. I can choose to put myself in a situation that is outside my comfort level in an attempt to make myself more extroverted, but I will always have my natural inclinations to contend with. This is why I don’t completely agree with Sartre.

As for my second statement, that we have no choice as to whether we are molded by outside influences, Sartre would agree with me. Do we really have a choice as to whether or not we are affected by something we experience? As children, I don’t think that we have a choice as to whether or not we are influenced by our upbringing, our environment, or anything else. Once again, I feel that we are not yet old enough to decide whether or not something or someone affects us. When we are old enough to make decisions on our own, we can’t choose whether or not someone or something affects us. We can only choose how much it affects us. For example, if I am held up at gun point, it’s going to have an affect on me whether I like it or not. When it’s over (provided that I am alive), I can decide to how much I am going to let it affect me. I may think about what happened and decide that it’s no big deal, or I may freak out and decide that I need a body guard with me at all times for my protection. I guess that the amount that something affects you depends on the mental strength of the person.

In conclusion, I believe that people are born with natural inclinations and can choose whether or not to go with them when they are old enough. I also believe that the amount of effect that something has on you is determined by the mental strength of the person and their choice as to how much it will affect them.