My first exposure to Existentialism is a Humanism
was in our faculty book fair when I was the second year student of engineering. I bought this book and another book Hajj
written by Ali Shariati. I was totally a blockhead. I knew almost nothing about literature, philosophy, theology, God and whatever else which wasn't science. All I knew was that I was a Muslim, growing up in a religious family and society, but I always wished to choose my beliefs by myself, I mean I wish to have some well thought and examined ideas based on good books that I needed to read. The very first step for a journey of self discovery was to find someone to help me understand at least from which way I had to start. I needed a motive force; an initial velocity or initial condition. But actually the most difficult part was that. To read an atheistic philosophy or a religious book in order to reinforce the basis of your beliefs. The latter was the one that I used to hear from people around myself. You should first read books about your own religion then read other kind of philosophies in order to critic them by your own reasons. Obviously, that way wasn't correct. If my religious thoughts were correct they shouldn't be changed after reading other kind of books. And now that I think about it, my situation was just like the man in that example of Sartre in this book who wasn't sure about which way he had to choose. And Sartre's suggestion was: "You are free, so choose; in other words, invent. No general code of ethics can tell you what you ought to do; there are no signs in the world"
. Even, I was free in choosing my guidance. Reading Existentialism is a Humanism
?! That was the question. It was not actually that simple. For a long time I felt I was a suspended particle, with no special orientation. A point in the Cartesian system with no coordinates with a very random and accidental motion.
I chose Sartre.
I chose him not that I knew him or the impression of a friend or someone else encouraged me to read him. All I knew about him was that he was a great philosopher of 20th century. His philosophy affected many things in many countries and my own region of world was not an exception. I needed to feel that I was "Free" . My friends kept saying "Do not engage yourself with Sartre, it will plunge you into despair." Indeed it did. It was officially the first time in my life that I was reading a book saying there was no need to consider God in life, it was extremely different from what we had "proudly" been taught at schools. Existentialism is a Humanism
was indeed among one of top ten books which change my life. A new window. A new way of thinking. A new way of living.
This is the third time that I read it and if I get any time I will read it again. Not that this is too difficult to understand, I think this book needs a general background of philosophy. Surely, I now understand it better that 8 years ago, but still I can't totally connect all the parts and come to one conclusion, for instance I do not know anything about phenomenology, materialism or philosophy of Marx.
The first part of the book is a speech about Existentialism, then two Q&As that the first one still very philosophical and the second one is more about Sartre himself in his 70.
I have already highlighted every sentence of this book. I think this is a precise explanation of Existentialism, a good start in order to read his other work "Being and Nothingness".