7 lessons from Sartre that are highly relevant for the modern era

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There’s a clear distinction between reading philosophy and applying it to our day-to-day lives.

Jean-Paul Sartre, a leading figure in 20th century existentialism, has left us with lessons that are incredibly applicable in today’s world. Even though his ideas were conceived decades ago, they hold great relevance in our contemporary society.

Sartre’s philosophy is all about taking responsibility, embracing freedom, and living authentically. And believe me, these are not just abstract concepts but practical tools that can immensely guide us in our personal and professional life.

Here, I am going to share seven key lessons from Sartre that could radically shift your perspective of the modern era. So let’s dive in!

1) Embrace your freedom

One of the most profound teachings from Sartre is his emphasis on personal freedom.

Sartre argued that we are “condemned to be free,” meaning that we are always free to make our own choices, no matter the circumstances. This concept might initially seem distressing, but it’s actually quite empowering.

Think about it. Every day, we are faced with decisions – small or large, trivial or critical. And it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, like we’re victims of circumstance or fate.

But Sartre suggests a different perspective. He teaches us that we always have a choice. We are not just passive recipients of life but active participants shaping our destiny.

This lesson is particularly relevant in the modern era, where we often feel pressured by societal expectations and norms. Sartre challenges us to embrace our freedom and make conscious decisions that align with our authentic selves.

Just remember, with great freedom comes great responsibility. So use this power wisely!

2) Responsibility comes with freedom

While Sartre’s philosophy emphasizes the freedom we have in making our own choices, it also underscores the responsibility that accompanies this freedom.

According to Sartre, since we are free to make our own decisions, we must also bear the consequences of those decisions. We can’t blame circumstances, fate, or other people for the outcomes of our choices.

This lesson is especially significant in today’s era, where it’s common to shift blame onto external factors. Sartre encourages us to take full ownership of our actions and their repercussions.

So remember, with every choice you make, you’re shaping your life’s trajectory. Choose wisely and stand by your decisions – that’s the essence of personal responsibility.

Our choices, made freely, are the very expressions of our genuine selves. Sartre’s emphasis on freedom paves the way for a deeper understanding of ourselves; it suggests that truly embracing our freedom is a stepping stone to living authentically.

3) Authenticity is the key

Sartre’s emphasis on authenticity is another lesson that resonates deeply with me.

I remember a time in my life when I was working a corporate job that paid well but didn’t make me happy. I spent my days in a cubicle, doing work that didn’t inspire me, simply because it was what I thought I was supposed to do.

Sartre’s philosophy challenged this way of thinking. He argues that living inauthentically – that is, not in line with our true desires and values – is a form of ‘bad faith.’

The concept of ‘bad faith’ made me reflect on my situation. Was I living my life authentically? Was I making choices based on my own values, or was I just conforming to what society expected of me?

This led me to make one of the most significant decisions of my life. I left my secure corporate job and pursued a career that genuinely excited me.

In today’s world, where societal pressures and expectations are immense, Sartre’s emphasis on authenticity is more relevant than ever. It reminds us to stay true to ourselves and make choices that align with our own values, not just those imposed by others.

After considering how authenticity shapes our lives, we now turn to the idea that life, in its essence, lacks a predefined meaning.

4) Absurdity of existence

Sartre’s existentialist philosophy explores the inherent absurdity of human existence. He believed that life, in its essence, has no pre-defined meaning or purpose.

This may sound a bit bleak, but it’s actually a liberating concept. It means that we are not bound by any predetermined rules or paths. The purpose of our lives isn’t something we discover; it’s something we create.

This idea echoes in the words of renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson who once said, “The universe is under no obligation to make sense to you.”

In our modern world, where we’re constantly seeking answers and explanations, Sartre’s lesson on the fundamental absurdity of existence encourages us to find comfort in uncertainty and embrace the freedom to create our own meaning.

Understanding this lesson brings us to a related thought: we define ourselves through our actions…

5) Existence precedes essence

One of Sartre’s most famous sayings is “existence precedes essence,” a fundamental principle of existentialism.

What does it mean? Well, in simple terms, it means that we first exist, and then through our own actions and choices, we define who we are. We are not born with a predetermined nature or destiny; we construct our own essence through our lived experiences.

This notion is close to my heart as it reassures us that we are not defined by our past or our circumstances. Each day presents a new opportunity to redefine who we are and what we stand for.

In a world where many feel trapped by their past or anxious about the future, Sartre’s philosophy offers hope. It empowers us to shape our own destiny and reminds us that it’s never too late to change our path or redefine ourselves.

Having delved into the idea that our existence shapes our essence, it’s interesting to consider how this self-crafted identity interacts with the perspectives of those around us…

6) Confronting the ‘Other’

Sartre’s philosophy also delves into our relationship with the ‘Other’ – anyone outside ourselves. He believed that the way we perceive others and how they perceive us significantly shapes our reality.

This idea is particularly relevant in our modern, connected world. We constantly encounter diverse perspectives and have to navigate complex social dynamics, both offline and online.

Sartre teaches us that while we cannot control how others perceive us, we can control how we react to their perceptions. It’s a lesson about maintaining our authenticity and not allowing external judgments to define who we are.

So the next time you feel judged or misunderstood, remember Sartre’s lesson. It’s not about changing others’ perceptions but about staying true to yourself amidst them.

Having explored six lessons from existentialism, let’s now look at the broader impact of this philosophy in shaping our life’s story.

7) The power of existentialism

Sartre’s existentialist philosophy is not just about understanding the world; it’s a powerful tool for self-analysis and introspection. At the heart of his philosophy lies the belief that life is what we make of it. There are no predefined paths or destinies; we are the authors of our own story.

This is perhaps the most important lesson from Sartre’s existentialism. It empowers us, reminding us of our ability to shape our lives through our choices and actions.

In an era where we often feel overwhelmed by external factors, this lesson is a beacon of hope. It reiterates that no matter what challenges we face, we always have the power to craft our own narrative.

Instead of defining ourselves by societal standards or others’ expectations, Sartre’s existentialism urges us to look inward and define our own values.

So embrace the freedom, take responsibility, and create a life that reflects your true self. Because according to Sartre, that’s what life is all about.

Final reflection: Sartre’s enduring relevance

Sartre’s existential philosophy, steeped in notions of freedom, authenticity, and personal responsibility, holds profound relevance for our contemporary society.

In a world often characterized by external pressures and societal expectations, the lessons from Sartre can be a compass guiding us to live more authentically.

Whether it’s embracing our inherent freedom, acknowledging our personal responsibility, or striving to live authentically, these lessons remind us of our potential to shape our own narratives.

As Sartre once said, “Man is not the sum of what he has already, but rather the sum of what he does not yet have, of what he could have.”

This powerful assertion encapsulates the essence of his philosophy – we are not defined by what we are at present but by what we can become.

So as we navigate the complexities of the modern era, let’s carry these lessons with us. Let’s use them to reflect, to question, and most importantly, to grow. After all, as Sartre teaches us, life is what we make of it.

Lost Your Sense of Purpose?

In this age of information overload and pressure to meet others’ expectations, many struggle to connect with their core purpose and values. It’s easy to lose your inner compass.

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With your values clearly anchored, you’ll gain direction, motivation and the compass to navigate decisions from your best self – rather than fleeting emotion or outside influences.

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Tina Fey

I'm Tina Fey, the founder of the blog Love Connection. I've extremely passionate about sharing relationship advice. I've studied psychology and have my Masters in marital, family, and relationship counseling. I hope with all my heart to help you improve your relationships, and I hope that even if one thing I write helps you, it means more to me than just about anything else in the world. Check out my blog Love Connection, and if you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter

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