Not, however, what he may wish to be” (Sartre). In his essay Sartre is trying to express that man can only exist by purposeful action, choosing and finding a function in the world. Sartre is trying to teach an important lesson about mankind in saying that being is not the same as existing. Man must make individual choices and directed actions are the only way for a human being to exist. Every individual is responsible for their own self because of the choices that they make since we all possess free will.
Sartre lesson is one that must never be forgotten, because regardless of the situation that is thrust upon someone, they are still the one that has to make certain choices to see how the situation will unfurl. Viktor Frankl demonstrated a clear example of the philosophy of existentialism when he was placed in a concentration death camp at Auschwitz. Even in the degradation and abject misery of a concentration camp, Frankl found that he was still able to practice the most important freedom of all, the freedom to determine one’s own attitude and spiritual well being.
In his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning”, Frankl states that, “Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible” (Frankl 172). The core of Frankl’s theory revolved on the principle that the primary motivational force in a human being’s life is the search for meaning. Even if placed into a situation of absolute despair and hopelessness, it is still possible to overcome by searching for meaning in one’s life.
Whether performing a task, or from interaction with another human or even a die-hard, attitude of never surrender, these are all things to help one find meaning in their life. Frankl’s lesson may be the most important of all because it teaches that life comes with unavoidable suffering and by finding a personal meaning in life and maintaining a positive attitude, it is possible to triumph in even the most despairing situations. The horrible events that transpired throughout the era known as the Holocaust, is something that humanity should never want to see repeated and must strive with all our might to keep from occurring ever again.
Amidst all this chaos and brutality however, knowledge and necessary lessons emerge from three prominent individuals at the time. Adolf Hitler, one of history’s greatest geniuses and madman, used his book Mein Kampf to propagate and impose his thinking on the people of Germany. Because of the blind faith people placed in Hitler with their herd mentality, the terrible events of the Holocaust occurred. French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, sometimes referred to as the father of Existentialism, tries to teach a new lesson in his essay “Existentialism is a Humanism”.
The lesson is one of choices and of the individual decisions that every person has to make as a result of their own free will, ultimately placing them in full control of their life. This theory is put into practice by Viktor Frankl during his stay at one of the many death camps of the Holocaust. Frankl makes a conscious decision to stay alive and chronicles these events in his book “Man’s Search for Meaning”. His search for meaning in his life ultimately gives meaning to his life and he is able to overcome his adversities.
In an era of hatred and wanton destruction, it seems as if human life has relinquished all value. However, in the darkness, the light of hope can always be found. As shown by these three individuals, the only way for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.
Works Cited Sartre, Jean-Paul. Existentialism is a Humanism. 2003. <http://www. marxists. org/reference/archive/sartre/works/exist/sartre. htm>. Hitler, Adolf. Mein Kampf. London: Hurst and Blackett Ltd. , 1939. Frankl, Viktor. Man’s Search for Meaning. Boston. Washington Square Press, 1997.