Kierkegaard vs Sartre: An Existentialist Approach.

Essay by Vixen2312College, UndergraduateA-, May 2003

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"Is live worth living? That depends on the liver," is quite an anonymous, but knowledgeable, quote. Though this may seem a more modern way of viewing life itself, this quote actually resembles that of a much older perspective: that of an existentialist. Existentialism, is, essentially, the philosophy that life is meaningless, unless one defines that life. Two philosophers actively involved in this position were Soren Kierkegaard and Jean-Paul Sartre. While both can be considered existentialists, in that the quote above encompasses much of their beliefs, both of these men have significant differences in the way in which they view all fields of philosophy (metaphysics, epistemology, and axiology). However, though I am not personally an existentialist, my life in terms of existentialism has been influenced by both Kierkegaard and Sartre, despite their discrepancies.

One major difference between the two is that Sartre is an atheist. This metaphysical position is the basis for many of Sartre's existentialist opinions on other aspects of philosophy.

To further explain, the fact that there is no God, leads to the fact that there is no such thing as human nature, and no common ground on which we would all be able to relate. In other words, human nature cannot be defined in advance, because it has not been thought out in advance by some higher being who would have created mankind. The fact that human nature does not exist indicates that each person's meaning in life is discovered on his/her own, and each person forges his/her own destiny. With this active role in life, each person retains an individual burden which affects all others. Sartre wrote, "Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does," and "Our responsibility is much greater than we might have...