23:53 Mon 06 Feb 2006. Updated: 07:21 08 Jan 2007
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This evening Seth and I finally restarted our reading project, and began *Essays in Existentialism*, a collection of Sartre essays. We did the first section, “The Humanism of Existentialism”. I’ve read it before, a long time ago, probably 1993. I recall that my initial reaction to it was one of recognition. This time, I had the same feeling, or a stronger version of the same feeling. Many of the fundamental tenets of existentialism as laid out by Sartre are and were bedrock beliefs of mine. “Man is nothing but what he makes of himself.”—check. “There is no reality except in action.”—check. Fundamental personal responsibility—check.

And so on. It’s not all familiar and comfortable, in fact some of it is profoundly uncomfortable precisely because of how much I agree with it, and some of it absolutely requires further thought, but overall it’s like reading a philosophy that’s based on much-less-well-thought-out principles of mine.

Of course, the culture in which I live, and have lived my entire life, was deeply influenced by existentialism, and while I didn’t read Sartre per se until college, I was certainly exposed to existentialist concepts (presented as such or not) from an early age.

And, of course, there are very significant ways in which I am not an existentialist, not in that I disagree with the philosophy, but in that I do not act on it. There are many ways in which I do not act as an example for all of humanity, and I cannot hold up my actions with my belief behind them that they are exemplary in absolute terms. Fundamentally, this is due to cowardice, and this cowardice is both completely understandable and completely unforgivable.

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