Jean-Paul Sartre

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Sartre says "when we say that a man is responsible for himself, we don not only mean that he is responsible for his own individuality," but he also says "when we say that a man is responsible for himself, we do not only mean that he is responsible for his own individuality, but that he is responsible for all men" (paragraph 1). Write an essay explaining how, in the framework of Existentialist beliefs, this paradoxical statement is true.

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Kale Emmerich eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Sartre's quote here seems paradoxical in that it equates one's self and identity to that of the race of humanity as a whole. Obviously, to say that someone's responsibility over their self is indicative of their responsibility over their identity and person is commonsense and straight forward, but the philosopher extends the responsibility outwards.

In existentialist philosophy, the self is a microcosm of humanity as a whole, because each individual reflects their environment—their existence is intertwined intimately with humanity at large. Because of this, a person's responsibility over themselves is a reflection on how that person will be towards society, as well as a reflection on how society is in general. When an individual takes responsibility over their own person and identity, they are taking responsibility for the way they interact with society, and they are using the morals and wisdom that they have drawn from humanity at large. In that way, their responsibility...

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Jason Lulos eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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