Sunday, 15 January 2012

Existentialist Terms

In Jean Paul Sartre’s existentialist terms, the fact that ‘every person makes himself what he is and is condemned to be free’1 shows us that we have a choice as artists. If an artist truly believes in themselves and their work, then there is no reason for them not to progress; if they do not, they will not as they have already made this decision by ignoring their own freedom and remaining oppressed by their own thoughts. Sartre was not the only philosopher to touch upon the idea of self, for example Nietzsche allows us to gain a sense of liberation, to convince us what it is to feel free and how to achieve such freedom through his writing: Be your own source of experience! Throw off your discontent about your nature; forgive yourself your own self, for you have in it a ladder with a hundred rungs, on which you can climb to knowledge.2 You have it in your power to merge everything you have lived through – attempts, false starts, errors, delusions, passions, your love and your hope – into your goal, with nothing left over.3

Sartre believed that personal freedom was often threatened by other people; in his play ‘No Exit’ this idea can be clearly observed. The play is a depiction of the afterlife in which three deceased characters are punished by being locked into a room together for eternity, and is the source of one of Sartre's most famous quotations, ‘l'enfer, c'est les autres’ or ‘hell is other people’.4 Personal freedom is important when it comes to creating art as without it we are not being true to ourselves and therefore not able to create true works of art.

1. Ashton, Dore, The New York School: A Cultural Reckoning (London: Penguin, 1972) 181.
2. Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm, Human, All Too Human (U of Nebraska Press, 1996) 174.
3. Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm, Human, All Too Human (U of Nebraska Press, 1996) 175.
4. (Accessed 5th November 2011)