Existentialism Is a Hurnanism My purpose here is to defend existentialism against some charges that have been brought against it. First, it has been blamed for encouraging people to re- main in a state of quietism and despair. For if all solutions are barred, we have to regard any action in this world as futile, and so at last we arrive at a coiite~nplative philosophy. And inasmuch as contemplation is a luxury, we are only espotising yet another kind of bourgeois philosophy. These are the main reproaches made by the C o n m i s t s . Othershave condemned us for eil~~l~asizingwhat is despica- ble about humanity, for exposing all that is sordid, suspicious, or base, while ignoring beauty and the brighter side of human nature. For example, according to Miss Mercier, a Catholic critic, we have forgotten tl~e innocence of a child's smile. One g-roup after another censures us for overlooking- hu- manity's solidarity, and for considering man as a n isolated
tteing. Tliis, contend the Cornmlmists, is beiailse we base our doctrine on pure subjectivity-that is, on the Cartesian I think-on the very rnoment in ilrhich man fully comprehends his isolation, rendering us incapable of re- establishing solidarity with tllose who exist outside of the self, anti who are inaccessible to us through the cogto. Christians, on the other hand, reproach us for denying the reality and validity of human enterprise, for inas~liuch as we clroose to ignore Cod's command~iie~its ar~d all values thought to be eternal, all that remains is the strictly gratuitous; everyone can do whatever he pleases and is incapable, froni his o u ~ ~ srnall vanuge point, of finding faultwith the point5 ofview or actions of others. It is these various charges that I want to address today, which is why I have entitled this brief discourse "Existential- ism Is a Bumanisn~."Many will be surprised bywhat I have to say here about h~unanisn~. We shall attempt to discover in wllatsenseweunclerstandit. In any case, letus begin by saying that what are mean by "existentialism" is a doctrine that rnakes human life possible and also affirms that evely truth and every action imply an environment and a human suhjec- tivity. It is public knowledge that the funciarnental reproach brought against us is that we stress the dark side of h~iinan life. Recently someone told rile about a lady who, whenever she inadvertently utters some vulgar exl~ression in a moment of anger, excuses herself by saying: "I think I'm becoming an existentialist." So itwould appear that existentialism is associ- ated with something ugly, which is why seine people call us naturalists. If we are, it is strange that we should frighten or shock people far more than naturalism per se frightens or offends thern.'l'hose who easily stoniiach a Zola nuvellike The Eal-th are siclcened when they open an existentialist novel.