The dissertation will make an attempt to understand Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus’ Existential Dualism

The dissertation will make an attempt to understand Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus’ Existential Dualism, Individuality and Meaning of existence by analysing their selected works of fiction. In the mid-20th century, fictional and scholarly works of Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus and other existentialists contributed in the development of the philosophy of Existentialism. It is important to first understand the term Existentialism before delving into the philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. Existentialism is “a philosophical theory or approach which emphasises on the existence of the individual person as a free and responsible agent determining their own development through acts of the will” (Oxford Dictionary). In other words, existentialism deals with the existence of an individual and believes that the individual is free and therefore, he must take the responsibility of his actions. But Existentialism is vast term and is difficult to be understood in a single sentence. It is a movement, which shows or portrays the tendency to emphasise the freedom, freewill and free choices of an individual and most importantly the meaning to exist, as the stress is on ‘exist’ in the term existentialism.
Sartre believes that individuals live in anguish throughout their life, not because they find life to be miserable but because individuals are ‘condemned to be free’. According to Sartre the circumstances and situations of the birth and the upbringing of an individual is not in his control, but the moment the individual becomes conscious and self-aware, he has to make choice and take decisions. The choices taken and decision made defines the essence of an individual. The base of Sartre’s philosophy of existentialism is, ‘existence precedes essence’, which means existing and acting in a certain way gives meaning to an individual’s life. He also believes that the essence of an individual is not fixed, it keeps on changing with time and situation. Living an absurd, undefined life with no purpose and meaning and accepting the absurdities of life are what Camus calls freedom. Whereas, lack of predefined meaning and purpose with absurd existence, which opens infinite choices to an individual, is what Sartre calls the ‘anguish of freedom’. Camus and Sartre believes that an individual must take his own decisions, make his own choices and act according to his own wish in order to define himself, his existence and create an essence, to become what he wants to, not what the society and people around him wants him to become. According to Sartre this freedom comes with responsibility, which a free individual has to bear on his shoulders and face the constant anguish.
The philosophy of Sartre’s ‘being’, will be discussed, where he divides ‘being’ in Being-in-itself and Being-for-itself, and also he gives the third type of being, Being-for-others. This research will provide the development of the dualism of being along with the key concepts of Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus within the fictional framework. As the main focus of the dissertation is to explore the meaning of an individual’s life, where the individual does not let the society confine his existence by forcing the him to surrender to the set standards of the society, where the individual has to settle with the set rules in order to make his place secure in the society.
In order to further understand existentialism, it is understood that the idea or philosophy of existentialism was developed in the 19th century and could be seen as the analogue of Romanticism. As both the movements basically focusses on the recognition of the life as a whole and try to reduce the complex ideas of life and its meaning according to the human beings in a more simplistic and intelligible way. But both the movements differ because Romanticism flourished before the horrors of 20th century whereas, Existentialism was flourished amidst the horror of massacre, slaughter, racial killings, etc. Therefore, Romanticism focusses on nature as a whole and human beings as a part of the wider picture, whereas, Existentialism majorly paints the sufferings and the difficult choices of human beings into the main canvas.
In layman’s language, Existentialism is divided amongst the Existential writers and existential philosophers and the existentialist philosophers are further divided into atheistic and religious philosophers. When we talk about the existential philosophers, the first name that comes is, Soren Kierkegaard (5 May 1813 – 11 November 1855), who is also known as the father of Existentialism. He is a neutral philosopher called as the anti-Christianity Christian. He was a Danish Philosopher, social critic, poet, theologian and religious author. He wrote many critical texts on Christendom, ethics, morality, Philosophy of Religion, organised religion and psychology, displaying his love for irony, metaphors and parables. His major philosophical works deals with the issues of how one live the life as a ‘single Individual’ highlighting the importance of his personal commitments and his choices and giving the priority to the reality over abstract thinking. He was against those critics who defined the idealist philosophers and intellectuals of his times and claimed that they were understood way too easily and quickly by the scholars. Many of Kierkegaard’s works were published under pseudonym, especially during early 19th century, so as to portray the viewpoints of the other rather than the author’s own, to give room to readers interpretation and their conversation with their inner self. The recurrent theme of his works and philosophy is the importance of ‘Subjectivity’, which emphasises on the people who relate themselves with the objective truth. In Kierkegaard’s book, Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments (1846), he states that, ‘Subjectivity is truth’ and ‘Truth is the subjectivity’, where subjectivity is referred to the inner self of an individual and objectivity is referred to the outside facts of the individual. He also gave the three stages of the way of life, which is the answer to his great question, ‘What ought I do?’ The first stage is ‘Aesthetic Stage’, where the individual quests for the intellectual and sensual pleasures, which leads him to boredom followed by suicide. The second stage is the ‘Ethical Stage’, which is better than the previous one. Here an individual begins to take the true direction and take the responsibility of good and evil and also align himself to the moral laws. The third and the final stage is the ‘Religious Stage’, which is intimately related to the ‘Ethical stage’. As the individual can be ethically serious without being religious but a religious individual is also ethical. In this stage an individual becomes more inclined towards God and to his commands, leaving behind the moral habits.