Thursday, September 19, 2013

Essential not Existential

In the 1940's though 1960's, and sometimes even into today, the philosophy of Existentialism was established which according to one early proponent; Jean-Paul Sartre, who famously refused the Nobel Prize for literature because he worried it would influence his prose, suggests that "existence comes before essence."  At least when it comes to humans anyway.  This is of course wrong, despite the works of reputable scientists like Steven Pinker and his book The Blank Slate and despite psychological heroes such as B. F. Skinner, the founder of  behaviorism who quipped, "give me a child and I will shape him into anything."  Despite being an interesting way to view the world, existentialism is wrong and below I discuss why.